Our footballin' odyssey has come to an end with the Football Ferns knocked out of their World Cup after failing to progress out of the Group stage. The Under 20 lads went one better, making it through to the round of 16 and while both teams would be largely disappointed with the results, football in Aotearoa has come a long way.
It is with that, that I propose a toast; to kiwi football. Chur.
The Football Ferns tried desperately to get that winning goal against China, but they couldn't quite manage it and without a win in three games, let's be fair, they didn't quite deserve to progress. But that is where any sort of negativity stops, the Ferns showed signs that they have potential to move up a few levels in the world of women's football and despite seeing the ladies tearing up, the reality of their result against China sinking in, it was hard to not feel proud.
Proud of, not only this team of Ferns but proud how far football has come. There's been many previous players and teams who have come before this group, to set a platform for this group and they didn't let anyone down, they just continued to take steps forward. You've got to salute Abby Erceg as one of our best and someone who can lead this Ferns team on their next mission; Olympic semi-glory. She is only 25 years old, and if we take a look at other key players, it's a similar trend; fellow defender Rebekah Stott is 21, Ria Percival - 25, Ali Riley is 27 (that's the whole line of defence), Annalie Longo is 23, Hannah Wilkinson is 23 while Betsy Hassett is 24.
I smell progress and growth, they should all be there in Rio as well as the next World Cup, so booyakasha.
It's a pity that Tony Readings' handshake no-deal, has taken most of the headlines, especially in our own media. I'm sure that Readings, if he had his time over again would probably shake China's coaches hand, but it's hard to be critical. Heat of the moment, just suffered defeat, you're out of the World Cup, the China coach has been a bit of a dick, yeah, I might not shake hands either. Not ideal, but whatever.
The ugly head of 'funding' as also popped up, which I fucking hate with a passion. So many sports with potential to put Aotearoa on the map as one of the greatest sporting nations in the world, are hamstrung by the decisions of a few. If you don't perform to the 'required' level in a tournament, then you get less funding which makes it bloody hard to make any progress or continue on your mission.
Sure, it wasn't long ago that kiwi youth football players had to fork out their own money to pay to represent their nation, which is disgraceful and I understand that there is only so much cash floating around our small nation. I encourage NZ Football not to rely on High Performance Sport NZ or whoever those jokers are, in fact I encourage every sporting organisation to think outside the box and to find ways to further develop their teams without relying on the opinions of a few.
Big shout to the Football Ferns, you did us proud and you've shown that women's football in Aotearoa has the potential to be a great success.
Wait, you're telling me that only a short time ago youth players had to pay to play, and now we've got two teams performing admirably in World Cups? They definitely aren't linked, but it does show that football is on the rise, or common sense is just filtering through.
Equality, as much as we like to tell ourselves that it exists, clearly it doesn't as the BBC have put the salaries of some of the world's best ladies in perspective. It is borderline laughable how great we think we are, when in reality it's all about the men.
Here's some goodies from the women's World Cup...
Corey Webster is testing himself in the United States as the NZ Breaker looks to try slide on in to the NBA. Webster's signed a new deal with the Breakers, but in an all round nicely worked deal, there's a clause to allow Webster to leave for the NBA, but right now Webster is just getting some work done before he joins the Indiana Pacers for a cheeky mini-camp.
It's only for three days and doesn't seal any sort of deal, but Webster's at least got his foot in the door. The camp is going down right now, so we'll see if there are any developments afterwards. It does raise a wider thought about the Breakers; have they figured out the best way to handle contracts?
The situation that the Breakers find themselves in is reflected throughout a variety of codes and clubs in Aotearoa and their eagerness (not sure if that's the right word, but hey) to see their players go and try level up is great to see. It's not just confined to pursuing an NBA dream either, the Breakers have been really flexible in allowing players to venture to Europe and earn some coin as well as playing a different brand/higher level of basketball. It's a win win win win situation as these players are contracted to the Breakers, so they have to play for the Breakers, but over our winter they can go better themselves as men and players while also boosting their bank balance.
Sticking with the b-ball, Lance Stephenson is heading to the Los Angeles Clippers.
And the NBA finals roll on today with the Golden State Warriors up 3-2 over the Cleveland Cavaliers. Steph Curry went slightly mental in game five and it's going to take a similar performance from LeBron James to push the series to seven games.
Hat tip to the Chicago Blackhawks who have won their third Stanley Cup in six years after they grabbed a 2-0 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning. For any team, in a league where the salary cap exists to win multiple championships in a short time span is truly one of the wonders of sport and there's only one way to do it.
You've got to have a group of players who are all on the same page, no dickheads and plenty of hard work. The Blackhawks turned themselves around a few years back after plenty of lean years and they are showing that you can sustain success, you've just got to play smart.
Alex Song, of Arsenal, Barcelona and West Ham fame, has the swag