A Nichey Niche Convo

Sometimes the Diggity Doc and Wildcard talk to each other...

Diggity Doc - The Wildcard, you like myself have only lived through rather mediocre World Cup campaigns. Here we are with the Black Caps 6/6 in pool play and we got precisely the game we were after against Bangladesh. We're going to hear all those 'one game at a time' type of answers from the Black Caps, but right now, what's your gut feeling about them? Because they can win this World Cup ... that's my gut feeling anywho.

Wildcard - I wouldn't say only mediocre ones. The difference now is that expectations are greater, deservedly too, and making the semis is no longer the ceiling... it's the demand. Make the semis or it's a failure. Well, after winning six straight, we're now just one game away from that. Two games away from a first ever trip to the final, which I think constitutes a success. If we win it, that's incredible, but just making the final after so many semi-final losses is the line in the sand between heads held high and missed opportunities. And I've watched enough playoff sport in my time to know that the best team doesn't always win. Without second or third chances, the cream will not necessarily rise to the top. Whoever wins will be the rightful winners, sure, but that doesn't make them the most talented side. In a 38 game English Premier League, the best team always wins. In a shortened NFL-style playoff system, not so much. So us not winning shouldn't be held against the team unless there's a horrendous choke job or we don't get ourselves into position to compete for it. So that's my gut feeling. We're good enough to compete in a semi final and hopefully a final and that's all I can ask. Can we win? Yes. As long as we get ourselves into the mix then, as a great and tall man once said: 'ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE!'

DD - That's why I have to side with the mentality of the players and coaching staff who went into each pool game just wanting to win. That mindset was clear in every game; if we're on top, get ya foot on the throat and if they're on top, try something whether it's a bowling change, field change or Fred Flinstone-twinkle toes down the wicket to get on top. No matter the opposition or the game situation, it's 'what are we going to do right now to win'. For me, that's more beneficial than getting guys in form because form goes hand in hand with the lottery of knockout cricket.

WC - Yeah that's the great thing about what this side's doing - they're learning how to win. Not just how to play good cricket, score runs, take wickets, but how to WIN. Putting it all together in a way that will end cricket games in their favour. And so I'm super scared to throw the jinx on them by talking them up. What I will say though, is that I did a little research before over tiebreakers and such, and if a knockout game is rained out, they award it to the highest placed team in the group stages. If the final is rained out, it's a joint-win. Well, it just so happens that there's a cyclone headed our ways. If we get two weeks of non-stop rain, we'll be joint World Champions with India. Imagine that. Not how we wanna win it, but a funny situation all the same.

DD - That's weird that in a tournament that takes so long, there's no way to play rained out games huh? What's also highly beneficial is that we know our strongest side and we're figuring things out. We know that Southee and Boult do their job, Vettori is well and truly up to par while we also know that somehow amongst B-Mac, Ronchi and Anderson we have power to chase anything and finish games ... we also know that all our batsmen are smart lads who can adapt to a situation

WC - It's borderline madness but that's what happens when the whole thing is mortgaged for TV rights.

True, I wonder how many others know their top side. The Aussies have messed around with Clarke & Watson, shuffling batting orders, the South Africans sorta had it forced on them with Philander's injury but now he's back and being squeezed in. India seem to know what's up, their problem will be winning in the conditions once they come up against us or Australia or even South Africa whose guys are pretty well suited for down under. And within our top XI, we're still seeing different guys stepping up each time. Guptill with the tonner against Bangladesh, Rossco getting a few on the board too, plus our triple-threat bowling attack. Three guys in the top six or seven on the wicket taking list, four in the top fifteen. No other team can match that. Runs-wise we don't compete with the most prolific guys out there, but that's mostly coz we never bloody bat first.

Here's a potential undercover world cup key factor: Fielding. 
Your thoughts?

DD - Indeed my friend, it's one thing to be undefeated and it's another to be undefeated with the same team. Fielding is super important but only when establishing the top dogs from the others. Our fielding, give or take a bad performance is fantastic but it's not much better than Australia and South Africa, even India. Many asked why B-Mac throws himself around in the field so much but a World Cup changes things slightly. Teams will be doing plenty of homework on which fielders they can target for a single or run two on the arm and it's hard to pick a fielder for the Black Caps who will cost a run or two or stand out in video sessions as a weaker fielder. Australia are the same while SA have someone like Imran Tahir who you can pick on. India have *insert pace bowler here* but those a very specific, little things. On the whole these teams are all decent in the field, you won't win a World Cup otherwise.

WC - India are a weird one because they have some superb fielders and some pretty average ones. And it's not just ground-fielding, they dropped several catches against Zimbabwe that you can't afford to let go by in a semi-final.

Anyway, so much cricket. I have something even more difficult to understand that I'm gonna bring up: NFL Free Agency. So much craziness. You'll be happy to know that I read the Indianapolis Colts are being talked up as early favourites after nabbing a running back and a couple defensive names. The current champ Patriots are predictably letting every costly free agent walk so they can sign some more cheap guys and turn them into world beaters, the Seahawks are losing fellas as well, mostly on their lauded defence, but are stocking up massively on offence. The Jets have re-signed their old legendary cornerback duo, Philly traded away their two best offensive position players but replaced them with DeMarco Murray while the Cowboys let that man go and are acting strangely logical and responsibly for once. Players moving back and forth like ping pong balls, it's unpredictable and it's immensely entertaining. This is why the NRL needs a free agency period.

DD - Yeah I've been reading a few things (headlines) that said it was pretty cray cray, but I'm not all up in the know so I'll ask you a few questions that bridge that gap. First of all, in your mind what's the ideal way to build an NFL team? Some teams have top tier defence and a solid quarterback, other teams have a hall of fame quarterback and sling it around, while others just have solid squads?

Second, what's the ideal method for this in terms of the NRL trying to figure out the best way to handle the mayhem? I imagine they'll do something dumb to rectify it but I definitely don't think it's as Wayne Bennett made it sound ... when Uncle Wayne talks we all still listen, which also makes for a great headline.

For me, it's not that hard like at the very least they could just bring the June 13 deadline (DCE and Foran's (??) deals aren't set in stone until then) forward to like ..... the end of March or just make it Jan-Feb ya know.

WC - I mean, there's no one ideal way to build a team. But talent attracts talent, so if you happen to be the Indy Colts with the best young quarterback in a generation, then guys like Andre Johnson and Frank Gore are gonna want to play around him. When you have a true franchise player like that, next step is to get the right system in place and watch it go. But getting an Andrew Luck means an absolute perfect alignment of the planets and that's not something you can bank on. I think too many teams are trying to find that perfect formula when the best option for most is to be as good as you can in the now and continually adapt as you go on. Trading away proven players for draft picks is a reckless gamble in my mind. Selling actual talent for potential talent, that doesn't make you good. I'm looking at you, New Orleans. Meanwhile what Philly were doing, trading away players for ones that will better suit a system, that looked reckless too... until they signed the offensive player of 2014. New England are another that build around a system with no sentimentality. Seattle got where they are on the back of a brilliant defence, Denver on the back of a huge free agent. There's no right way, just gotta keep your ear to the ground and always be adaptable.

As far as the NRL goes, it's pretty hard to stop players from talking to other teams, but set a date. Not a June date either, I don't even reckon a March one, but a November one. On that date, all final-year contracts expire and players are free to talk to suitors. Until they expire, no formal conversations can be had, no talk of money, no preliminary offers. Keep squads from blending into the following season. That way once you sign with another club, you're an actual member of that club, and immediately so. You get a full pre-season with them, no mixed messages or split loyalties. Problem solved, there ya go Uncy Wayne.

DD - Obviously the NFL is funky because most of it is the quarterback, get a good quarterback first and foremost huh?

So for example November 30? That gives a few months after the end of the season for the wheelin' and dealin' to take place ... wheelin' and dealin' will actually take place instead of just general mayhem. Teams know that they'll have this window so they can organise all the recruiting trips/hospitality, while players are able to pick their moments and wait until November 30 to make a decision, see which teams sneer who.

They have this whole 'I don't want it to be a distraction' thing which is a farce because it's always a distraction. If you're off contract after the season, then you get the 'contract year' scenario and instead of it being a distraction it's a fun circus to be a part of for a few months. Then as you said, you get the off season with your team and everyone's happy. 
I love the NRL but common sense is not synonymous with the NRL.

WC - Yes, exactly. Entire seasons where guys are playing for their next contract, trying to impress and get the best deal. But no time for wheelin' and dealin'. None of that until they hit the date. Nothing. November 1 or something, and that's when phones can start ringing. Obviously there'll be some illegal/informal talks that cannot be helped before then, but one step at a time, y'know. One thing that I love about the NRL is how they've taken some of the best aspects of American franchised sport and combined it with the grassroots nature of English football/rugby/league/etc., which had always been the dominant model in Aus/NZ until then. This is one more thing worth copying. Even the Premier League followed trend somewhat with transfer windows, though it's not such a big deal for them given that clubs are fine paying transfer fees and all that to buy a player out of his contract in the now. Look at how former player are treated by their old fans in England, imagine if Arsenal still had six more months of Robin Van Persie before he took up his contract with Man Utd? He'd literally be murdered before he got the chance.

DD - I reckon you can start as soon as the season ends, then it finishes November 30. Yeah it's not as thought shady business isn't going on right now so that's a dumb argument if anyone says that people will break the rules and what not.

OMG, if RVP said BRB I G2G ... but not until the end of the season I reckoned he'd be shanked. Imagine if Ashley Cole told everyone if he was going to Chelsea but played the rest of the season with Arsenal back in the day?

However, the flip side of that is, and this shows why something is wrong because I don't want Daly Cherry-Evans to leave Manly early. I want him to show the Manly fans that he means business and to put on a show, lead them out of this spot before he does go. The system is flawed because instead of it getting sorted after a season, he/his manager can fluff around until June. I read something from an Aussie paper that outlined that Foran could change his mind, or that he's more likely to change his mind than DCE because the Eels have a pretty murky boardroom situation themselves.

There's factions, there's people who don't want Brad Arthur as coach and what not ... Manly is far from being alone in the messy boardroom stakes. Foran looks like he's picked the Eels, but if anything changes he can backflip and no one can begrudge him because he's well within his right to do so.

WC - Bringing it back to the USA comparison, too many boardroom heroes treating their players like commodities. He's worth two first rounders and a bench player, we'll take that trade. That guy's worth this many dollars, we'll let him walk and spend that cash on a new backrower and maybe a hooker or two. The big trend, and this goes across all team sports, is that player agents seem to have too much power. Those guys represent the money and nothing else, not even the player's reputation which should be a huge factor for them. I still believe that all these things happen in patterns and cycles, so hopefully one day we'll see a return to coaches as the power brokers. The sooner the league officials start putting things in place for that to happen, the better for us fans. It's a goddamn travesty that Sea Eagles fans are left to rely on two playmakers who are ready to leave and turn their backs, but they probably won't do anything about it because it's not like viewership will be down or anything. Help us Uncy Wayne, you're our only hope...

DD - I've had enough of Uncle Wayne, I don't even want to give him free peptides. Peace out Wildcard

WCI still remember the good times, back when he never spoke to journalists except immediately after games. They were all scared of him anyway. Lad's lightened up since he left the Dragons. Anyway, catch ya later Doc. Pleasant days and sacred nights.