Sometimes the Diggity Doc and Wildcard talk to each other...
Diggity Doc - El Wildcardo, I had planned to discuss Dick Tonks and get into some depth about what makes a good coach, then ol' Jose went and got the flick. Talk about a spanner in the works, you're the footy expert so gimme some goss on Jose Mourinho's sacking.
Wildcard - Ah, Doc, where do we start? The worst title defence in memory, nine defeats in 16 PL games. We had that drama with the medical staff and his various press conference outbursts and I guess it all just got too much for Roman Abramovich and co. Which is odd because Roman and Jose are meant to be good buds. I disagree with this. I think it's too late to do this, to be honest. It's not even half way through the season but, like, they're not gonna make the top four in all likelihood, they may as well throw this season away and let Jose start the rebuilding process that I'm pretty sure he wanted to do in the summer anyway. What better manager are they gonna get at this stage? Carlo Ancelotti? Nope, they already sacked him a couple years back. Oh, maybe Brendan Rodgers. This may be a sado-masochistic task, but imagine you're a Chelsea fan. Are you down with firing your greatest ever manager seven months after winning the league?
DD - It's always a case of who is better. As you said, Chelsea now need a manager to lead one of the biggest clubs in the world through what is probably their toughest period in the past decade. Finding a manager who can handle the Chelsea job is hard enough - just look at who has come and gone in Mourinho's absence - let alone a manager who can get them as far away from relegation as possible. So no, dumb move and I now hope more than ever that Chelsea get relegated.
WC - Haha, you know what? I've never once considered that they might get relegated despite it all but now that you say that I pretty much agree. Send them down. Give them a year in the Championship getting beaten up by Chris Wood and the lads to get their priorities in order. I don't think the rebound for the rest of this season will be worth dumping their best ever when he has another four years on his contract. Especially when, for the first time in his career, he seemed fully committed in the long term. There's a rumour that he's turned down all but one year of his compensation package to save the club the funds (and he can always get a new job by then) and also - keep this one quiet - I've heard he shed a few tears. But then the flipside is that we don't know what the relationship is like with the players but I'd suggest it's pretty toxic based on their limp performances. At some point that becomes too hard to overcome and a mass clearout in January is tough to do.
DD - So do you think that the majority of Chelsea's players are happy to now see the back of Mourinho? I think when the new manager comes in and Chelsea slide down into relegation the players will be sorry ... or just off to other clubs.
WC - Yeah I think plenty of them are. He's got this reputation as a bit of a slave-driver where he demands the absolute most from players and he takes losing very, very hard. So I've gotta imagine that when the losses start coming thick and fast, the illusion is very quickly broken and I don't know that rebuilding players' confidence is his strength - he tends to sell them by that stage. I can definitely see a few players leaving, more than a few of them deserve to after how they've played. Mourinho said after his final game that he felt 'betrayed' or something like that... that's cold, man. He's right in many ways but once again the manager is the one that gets axed. So it usually goes in football, we saw a similar thing in Swansea to a lesser scale. Makes you wonder how much of the responsibility is at the coach's feet to fire up the players and how much is at the players' feet as professionals to have more pride than that. But then players know that a month or two of poor results can have an unwanted manager sacked... not that I'm accusing anyone here. Whoever they replace him with will tell a big story as to what went wrong and what direction they wanna head in.
DD - Great news for us as non-Chelsea dumbos right? Chelsea have been a walking distraction so far this season and more drama means more silly attention paid to them instead of our clubs and others.
WC - Yeah but it'd be nice if people would leave Man United alone to work through their current problems in peace and anonymity except it won't happen. And you can be you'll hear all about it if Arsenal get pumped by City this weekend at the Emirates. I made a note in my NFL picks this week that the American media are so swept up by narratives that they ignore things that deserve more attention in order to go all in on the more dramatic stuff. Hence everyone is all over Tom Brady and Cam Newton but Alex Smith's 312 passes without an interception barely got a mention, nor the Chiefs' seven game win streak and their incredible season turnaround. The English media are much better at spreading the wealth, unfortunately. But at least this one gives us all a nice reprieve for a while. Did you hear Ben Sigmund's retiring at the end of the season? Phoenix Legend Ben Sigmund, I should say.
DD - Ben Sigmund is the epitome of the Nix ain't he? Typical kiwi ruggedness but certainly amongst the league's best defenders and part of the best defensive combo in the league. I used to dislike Siggy as he was very agricultural yet what I now love about him is how he's grown as a player. He's found new levels/gears, reflecting the path of the Nix.
WC - Can't say a poor word about Siggy, even though my path with him went about the same way as yours. But you learn to love a guy like that who came from an unusual path (he gave up footy one year to play club rugby!) only to then make it as a pro at an age when most guys have given up hope. You notice the quality he brings when he isn't there, he's been such a perfect foil for Durante (good cop/bad cop). Popped up with a few handy goals too in his time too. You need players at any club who'll turn up and play with their heart on their sleeve no matter the circumstances (take note, Chelsea Football Club) and I'm a little bit worried where the Nix go next season after this. But he's still got this season and it could yet be a great season. Would he crack your Welly Nix Top Five? Ifill, Dura, Smeltz... there are a few luminaries in there.
DD - My top five at the moment would include Sigmund for sure ... which leaves one spot to fill with Siggy, Ifill, Durante and Smeltz holding it down. Who ya got?
WC - Those three I mentioned for with Ifill, Dura and Smeltz. Guys like Muscat, Brown, Daniel, Brockie, Moss, Paston... they all come close. Even Roly deserves some mention in only his second season. But yeah for longevity and sustained performance I'd chuck Siggy in there too. And while this next dude wasn't there for that long, I reckon he gets the final spot based on how far he's gone since and what that has meant for the Phoenix's academy credibility since and that man... is Marco Rojas.
DD - So you're settling on Rojas? I'll go with Albert Riera who still has a wee way to go but I love him so he belongs in my top five. Heavy with the most recent guys but hey, the Nix have never been better. How you feeling about this whole Dick Tonks drama?
WC - Riera is definitely another in that conversation for sure. It's a new club, after all. Right, Dick Tonks, well I'll tell ya I'm not even sure what to think. It sounds like Tonksy is heading to the mattresses about the whole thing and it's not often that organisations back down on matters of principle. But then is Dick Tonks too good of a coach to lose, is that the question here? Chelsea didn't think that about Mourinho. I wonder what Rowing NZ think about Tonks, who apparently has a bit of a history of playing to his own tune.
DD - Rowing NZ should have coaches coming through and I'm sure they have mentioned succession planning. Tonks is obviously a great coach, although RNZ would look pretty silly if they backed down - like Wests Tigers. I think Mahe Drysdale will keep Tonks and RNZ working together (kinda) until the Olympics and then we'll see who's the next great rowing coach. A huge worry is that the next great rowing coach doesn't exist.
WC - Yup, that's it really. If Tonks is irreplaceable (and he realises this) then he holds all the power. Which then brings up another thought... is it such a bad idea that he's working with Chinese athletes as well? I get the conflict of interest idea but that's where a compromise would come into it. Then again I really don't think Tonks is so keen on a compromise and I think he's content with that. And the guy is 64 year old too, like you say you'd have to imagine that they have a succession plan. Easily the worst part of this is that it's turning into a mud-slinging contest.
DD - Tonks has done this in the past, which is all good because he has apparently been open about it. This time around the Chinese just showed up one day (according to RNZ) which is a bit weird. Mud-slinging never helps though and our last memory of Tonks could be this whole mess which is fairly shit.
WC - True and that leads me to the thing that's happening with Jonah and it always happens with famous people where all these stories come out about their tragic last days and all this. I remember all these Robin Williams stories, very similar, when that thing happened. Jonah was broke, Jonah was taken advantage of, Jonah was too generous... these are parasitic angles to take on the legacy of a legend. I'm with Sonny Bill on this one. We don't need all the dirty laundry now that he isn't here to defend himself, it's pretty disgusting, actually.
DD - I'm not sure if we all need to know about Jonah's financial situation. It's weird and I'm over it. Did you catch Shane Richardson's strategy thingy for rugby league?
WC - I saw bits of it, sure. I think the main thing that caught my eye was the focus on rookie players and contracts given how they've spoken in the past about the possibility of a rookie draft in the future, plus I like that they seem committed to cutting NZ in on the spoils. Run through your ideas and reaction for the dedicated NNC reader.
DD - I love it to be completely honest. Showing NZ more love is nice, not as nice as the general idea of growing rugby league internationally. Up to this point I think rugby league hasn't embraced the international side of things as much as they could have and if they don't in the future, rugby league will slowly die. There's nothing radical recommended, just having a more worldly approach is enough. As for the rookie contracts/draft? I think it's good for the welfare of the kids and the cream will still rise to the top - sure some kids might go to rugby but rugby league has snatched so many rugby kids with quicker development pathways so it will now be a more even playing field.
WC - I reckon we're seeing the NRL edge closer to the NFL way of doing things. Stronger definitions on contracts, set squad structures, restrictions on young players entering the league... I think it's a good thing too, actually. It also makes things clearer for us fans which is always beneficial for all involved. Saves people raging unknowingly about things and all that. I think the clearer paths to the top will help player development, even if it is more limited now. There are goals and targets. That's all positive in my mind.
DD - Larger squads is possibly the most necessary change as clubs have been unable to call up players to cover injuries as they have maxed out their 'second tier salary cap'. How's ya weekend looking Jack?
WC - Probably a whole lot of cricket (H-Town weather permitting). But you can add in some quality English footy, Chelsea without Jose, Arsenal vs Man City on Tues morn, and the Phoenix of course. The NY Jets vs Dallas Cowboys is on Sunday afternoon for some reason (NZ time). Kirk Penney's playing against the Breakers in that one, which is also Sunday arvo. But I'll probably miss those coz I'm gonna go see if this new Star Wars is worth the hype. And there's been a lot of hype.
DD - Woah woah woah - Steven Adams just dunked on LeBron James!? Knowing Steve, the Force was with him there. How you feeling about Star Wars before you go watch it?
WC - Mate, you sound surprised? Two things on that. 1) Adams is slowly becoming a more dominant player offensively around the rim. Doubt we'll see many jump shots from the dude with some of the shooters around him but that three-foot range is his business. 2) To be completely and utterly fair... LeBron doesn't really go hundies these day until the fourth quarters of games. Still one for the highlight reels though. As for Star Wars the whole bloody thing has been so shrouded in secrecy I'm trying not to take too much info into it. But I've heard it's good. It had better be, it takes a lot for me to buy into a Hollywood blockbuster these days. 'Cautiously optimistic' would be the phrase.
DD - Surprised? No. Amazed? Yes. Kiwi Steve, in the NBA, a double-double, dunking on LeBron ... it's all going pretty well and in sports, it tends not to be that way. Cautiously optimistic, I like that and similar to you, I'm very tempted to go catch it at the movies ... otherwise I'll watch it some other way. George Lucas called, he wants a few more Star Wars films to milk the cow dry. That requires peptides so I must bid you farewell, the Force/some oldish guy in America calls.
WC - Gotta all ya out on that one Doc before the SW fans get on ya, Lucas sold the farm to Disney so you can blame Mickey Mouse for the proliferation of movies coming our way every few months. But when a dude as rich as that calls for peps, you'd better oblige. May the force be with ya.