A Nichey Niche Convo - Lord Nightingale, The Great Battler

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

Diggity Doc - Ah, Mr Wildcard I see you've convinced Jason Nightingale to say. You must be chuffed to have him on a bargain deal? Probably more chuffed than Warriors fans would have been, paying overs for a battler, albeit a top tier battler.

Wildcard - Battler!? That's no way to talk about one of the premier wingers in the NRL! Buuut I see what you're getting at, Doc. Wingers aren't a rare commodity in rugby league these days, definitely not at the Warriors, so it was weird to see them apparently prepared to offer top dollar for a 28 year old. Bloody Jim Doyle trying to turn the Warriors into the Kiwis.

Still, I'm not sure how legit it all was, even now. The only public evidence was that Nightingale met with Doyle & McFadden while he was in Auckland, which was played down by all parties. But NZ media are stupid when it comes to Warriors signings, baying for journalism blood after the RTS/Luke stuff. And that one shred of evidence became self-perpetuating. Dumb. But you don't want me to preach the high ground over and over. Who's winning State of Origin three?

DD - I wonder how many more Kiwi players Doyle has been in touch with or met. There must be a fair few because it feels like he's casting his rod into Lake Taupo, as opposed to the Tamaki Estuary.  I don't think there's much wrong with it, I would just love to see the balance of high quality NRL professionals and young local talent remain. Ah, Queensland but it's far more complex than it's ever been. Yourself?

WC  - I'm sure he's got a line on a couple others down the road, but there are only so many dollars in the cap, ya know? Umm... I actually don't know any more. If both teams play to their potential then I reckon NSW will take it. No Slater, possibly no Cronk again. Except the game's at Sunny Suncorp and I have zero pretensions that the Blues won't throw up a massive choke job. It's funny coz I was huge in favour of getting Paul Gallen back in there but after game two I don't actually think he makes much difference. He was heroic and all that, playing with a busted rib, but he was also probably overshadowed by a whole bunch of other NSW forwards. His biggest boost to the team seems to be in the sledging stakes (and that's not to be underrated).

DD - Yeah if game two if anything to go by then I think both teams are super evenly matched. It's funny you say that about Gallen because after game two, much of the talk has been about the young NSW forwards getting over the old dogs for Queensland, and I'm not sure where Gallen fits in there. Cronk has to be on the peptides, (not that I know or anything) to be fit for game three because he's the key cog that QLD were missing. Question: if Cronk plays, do you keep Michael Morgan on the bench or have Daly Cherry-Evans there?

WC - I'd keep Morgan, he's in better form and he has a ready-made combo with Thurston, which JT and DCE have clearly struggled with. Interesting point about Gallen too. He was a mainstay through the losing years too, it's not like he's the key to victory. But he's also a fantastic player in his own right, so it'll be a point of curiosity to see if they rush him in half-fit, because I didn't think Robbie Farah had a particularly good game playing under an injury could himself.

DD - That's where the three game series, in the middle of an NRL season makes this so much more fun. Injuries happen, things change swiftly and dramatically which only enhances the drama and theatre. Going down a slightly different tangent here, the Melbourne Storm mustn't be too happy with Billy Slater's eagerness to play Origin, thus ruling him out for the rest of the season. If we take that and apply it to the Sharks and Wests Tigers who have Gallen and Farah battling injuries but risking their seasons in Origin, how would you feel as the Tigers or Sharks coach about those two?

WC - It's a thing that they just have to deal with, though I doubt any of them are happy about it. At least they're both Sydney clubs so there's always the chance that coaching and management are die-hard Blues themselves, as they all seem to be. You can add the Warriors to that list too, with Ryan Hoffman's concussions. The difference, I guess, is that Gallen and Farah are so massively influential for their teams that without them they're in a fair bit of trouble. Something neither club is unfamiliar with. 

Ah, we don't care about The John Kirwan Saga, so we'll leave that on the table, instead: How many more unassuming superstars are there in sports than Steph Curry? Dude sinks threes smoother than any man who's ever lived yet all he cares about is his team and his family. A deserved champ if ever there was one.

DD - HOW DARE YOU BREEZE OVER JOHN KIRWAN AND THE AUCKLAND BLUES! Look mate there's Super Rugby playoffs, so it's only right that w're talking about the auckland blues ... right? 

Nah fuck 'em.

Yeah I feel ya there mate, Curry is easily the most likeable NBA star ain't he? But the Warriors were also the best team which is probably related to Curry's personality huh?

WC - Probably/Possibly/Maybe. Who even knows how to make a great team these days? But it definitely helped that Steph Curry went from an underrated high school recruit to the 7th overall pick in 2009 to the 2014/15 MVP. Plus they've been assembling really quality role guys alongside him for ages. Guys like Andy Bogut (at an injury-forced career crossroads when traded to GSW), Shaun Livingston (same deal, but a free agent), Andre Iguodala (taking a lesser role on a better team) and then fellas like Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Harrison Barnes who they drafted. Their success this season was absolutely a massive leap above expectations but they'd been giving themselves the best chance for a couple seasons now. Supposing Draymond re-signs (as everyone thinks he will) then maybe we'll have a dynasty on our hands?

And there's a lot to be said about having a star player that guys wanna play with. Look at Kobe's reputation these days (older, injured Kobe of course, he never had this problem while he was winning championships) and how the LA Lakers keep fluffing on free agents (partly for tanking reasons, granted). Though to be fair to your boys, I think this is the year they start turning it around. Sign Jimmy Butler, maybe Kevin Love. Another lottery pick. See where things stand then with a fit-again Kobe Bryant. A looong way to go to catch Golden State though. 

It's kinda dick-ish to announce the Kirwan thing on the eve of that Highlanders vs Chiefs game, I wonder if they naively thought that it'd be overshadowed by it? Silly buggers, nothing sells newspapers like personalities from the 80s - it's directly marketing to the nostalgia of the editors making the decisions!

DD - Yeah building a championship team fascinates me; how would you go about it in a very general sense. Wait, you're telling me that the Blues thought they'd slide through the shadows? I think the opposite, I think they know that they have the local media wrapped around their little finger and wanted some limelight. Desperate times call for classy measures like this.

WC - Nothing they do these days is good for their image though. Nothing short of winning rugby games and that's out of the question for a little while. 

I'm fascinated by how winning teams are formed too. I like to think I'd do it different than most. Like, for example there's this great quote by the footballer Xavi where he says "The result is an impostor". The Cleveland Cavaliers are probably thinking of tearing things up again because they didn't win (more likely the Clippers, Rockets and Thunder too) but if you believe that you're giving your side the best possible chance to win then you have to ride it through. Another thing is that I believe winning is a culture, and so I would never advocate the American trend of tanking. Find another way to get that high draft pick, otherwise you're left with one talented player and a whole bunch of losers. Unless that dude's LeBron then you've got a long way to go. There's also that thing of having the right players for the right team, sometimes a fantastic player just doesn't fit a system or something, sometimes a battler becomes great for the right coach who knows how to use them. It's all judgement and there's no definitive answer but it's really fun to thin about. I mean, I don't wanna brag here or anything, but I'm preeetty bleeding good at Football Manager.

DD - See if you're a GM or club boss you would have to back your ability to scout and develop players, especially if you have a salary cap. I like the winning culture and having a team that stays in the top tier, not up and down like the kiwi Warriors. Get a few star players who set the tone and then back yourself and your systems to find guys who will do a great job. Then you might even get those job-doers step it up a notch. That's why I love a good salary cap because it becomes a competition between the guys in the office to get the best squad.

WC - Yeah and when you have that winning core, it's so much easier to develop better players around them and also to fit less-talented players into the roles that best suit them. Look at the San Antonio Spurs, New England Patriots and Melbourne Storm and all the underrated performers they always seem to find, the way they resurrect careers and the mixed bag of players that leave them either to great success or great failure. But it's hardly a shock in hindsight that a guy goes from catching passes from Tom Brady to catching passes from Joe Battler and suddenly isn't as good. Ditto for playing around Tim Duncan or outside Cronk/Smith/Slater. And on the 'results are impostors' thing, that trio of teams don't win every year. Not even close. But the fact that they consistently compete near the top of the ladder season after season is why they're examples of impeccably run teams. Massive connecting factor: They all have long-serving, legendary coaches. And scouting is key, as you say. They don't throw any old blighter on the wing for the Storm, their scouts will have known exactly what they were getting in Marika Koroibete. His breakout season is no surprise to them. Plus, sparing no expense in scouting is what I put my own Football Manager success down to - a lesson for the kids out there.

DD - Remind me to retire from spreading the gospel on the interwebs to buy a sports team. I'l save up my peptide money and make you the uniform guy, namaste Ser Wildcard

WC - Cheers bud. Appreciate the promotion. I'll moneyball the hell out of this team and next thing ya know we'll be making it rain winners' medals. Farewell for now, Doc.