Friday Frills - Heaven Forbid We Fight

Yesterday I educated myself on beanball ... sort of like baseball but instead of trying to throw strikes, you try and nail the hitter. Beanball dictates that should one of your players get hit by a pitch with some malice behind that pitch, that you go out and return the favour, an eye for an eye.

Adopting an eye for an eye leads you down a slippery slope, you just go round in circles trying to hurt each other but it generally leads to those epic moments in baseball when the benches are cleared. We've all seen it, the news will show a scuffle from the MLB and videos go viral, but it's all part of baseball, it's an ancient tradition of a great American past time so it's just business.

Ice hockey, the sport where two men are allowed to trade blows should they desire to while the rest of the team chills out. Sometimes all five skaters from each team jump in and it's a bit of a royal rumble and they all cop their little penalties on the chin and get on with it. I wouldn't say that fighting in ice hockey and in this specific case, the NHL is encouraged, but it's a fact of life and no one really has any major issue with it. Once again, it's a part of the fabric of the sport and fighting is actually often viewed as a skill - you're team's a bit flat, so it's your job to spark 'em up and get some momentum, do what you gotta do son.

These are two of the biggest sporting leagues in America, two leagues that cast a massive shadow over our sporting competitions and two leagues that accept that grown men are going to be grown men. They accept that there's certain traditions of their sport that need to be kept, no matter how many mums are watching. 

I quickly cast my mind back to rugby and rugby league, two sports which require equal if not far more testosterone fueled chest puffing than baseball and ice hockey, yet here they are distancing themselves from the old school. All in the name of making the sport more marketable, more family friendly, more politically correct ... any phrase with 'p-o-l-i-t-i-c' is disgusting. Does a bench clearing scuffle in the MLB or a fight in the NHL scare of the children in the crowd? Um, definitely not and nor does it push the mummys away? Um, no, they're probably the loudest in the stands, cheering on their guy.

It just got me thinking on this chilly Friday ya know? There's two sports, two leagues were fighting is just part and parcel of the action, it's not shunned nor looked down upon because they know that shit happens in the sporting arena. 

Yet here we are in our little slice of paradise where men who run into each other for a living, who ooze testosterone, who to some extent try to hurt each other with every contact are supposed to suddenly flip the script.

It's just a bit, odd.

The Black Sticks look likely to run through pool play in their World Hockey League Semi Finals unbeaten after a 2-0 win over their trans-Tasman rivals. Anita Punt became the top goal scorer for the Black Sticks, ever with her drag flick goal which goes down as goal number 78 while she also set up the second slipping a nice reverse pass to Ella Gunson in the circle who knocked it home.

Speed, the Black Sticks have a great chance of a strong finish in these Semi Finals thanks to how relentlessly fast the play. A lot of this centres around Punt who's a nippy midfielder and carries the ball strongly through the midfield but the likes of Stacey Michelsen are also very skilled ball carriers and Pippa Hayward created a great chance with her weaving dribble. 

They now face Belgium in their last pool game, who Australia beat 2-0 so you would imagine by sporting mathematics that the kiwi ladies should be too good for Belgium. That would probably see the Black Sticks face either Japan or Korea in the quarter finals, but I'm eyeing up a clash against the Netherlands as one to hopefully note down later on in the tournament.

We've got Super Rugby semi finals and with all due respect to the South Africans, you can't do much better than two Aussie and two kiwi teams in the semi's. The Highlanders take on the Waratahs in Sydney and it's an interesting match up given that the Highlanders won't have their rampant support while the Waratahs are a win away from sealing their second home final in two years. Israel Folau has the most metres of any player in the competition with 1606 while Highlanders winger and All Black squad member Waisake Naholo is the leading try scorer with 11.

Keep an eye on the battle between Michael Hooper for the Waratahs and James Lentjes for the Highlanders in the seven jersey. Hooper is a certified international seven while Lentjes made his debut for the Highlanders this season and with two exciting backlines looking to impact the game, these two will be fighting for the footy at every ruck.

There is also the Hurricanes vs the Brumbies in Wellington, an equally tasty encounter. Thanks to the genius Super Rugby bosses, we haven't seen the Brumbies and the Hurricanes go at it this season and the Hurricanes' last win against the Brumbies came way back in 2010. There's two dynamic halfbacks on show with TJ Perenara second on the try scoring list and Brumbies nine Nic White has set up 15 tries. 

It's another match up heaven with David Pocock up against youngin' Ardie Savea, while Beaden Barrett returns to the 10 jersey and will be looking to show Christian Lealiifano a few tricks.

How about this Under-23 All Whites squad which features seven blokes who have already played for the senior team and a dozen who took part in the Under-20 World Cup. This squad will form a large part of the senior team moving forward as they look to qualify for the 2018 World Cup  and it gives coach Anthony Hudson who is also in charge of the All Whites the opportunity to work with a bunch of these players for a substantial period of time. 

This squad will compete in the Oceania qualifying tournament in Papa New Guinea at the Pacific Games with a spot at the 2016 Rio Olympic games on the line. We should all be able to recognise plenty of these names which you'd think not only serves us well for Olympic qualification but also the ultimate goal of getting to another World Cup.

Goalkeepers
Max Crocombe – Oxford United FC/ENG
Oliver Sail – Wellington Phoenix/NZL
Nik Tzanev – Brentford FC/ENG

Defenders
Luke Adams – South Melbourne FC/AUS
Sam Brotherton – Wanderers SC/NZL
Kip Colvey – California Polytechnic State/USA
Liam Higgins – WaiBOP United/NZL
Harshae Raniga – Waitakere United/NZL
Storm Roux – Central Coast Mariners/NZL
Alec Solomons – Waitakere United/NZL
Deklan Wynne – Wanderers SC/NZL

Midfielders
Andrew Blake – Wellington Phoenix/NZL
Sam Burfoot – Auckland City FC/NZL
Moses Dyer – Wanderers SC/NZL
Louis Fenton – Wellington Phoenix/NZL
Clayton Lewis – Wanderers SC/NZL
Luka Prelevic – Melbourne City FC/AUS
Bill Tuiloma – Olympique Marseille/FRA
Te Atawhai Hudson-Wihongi – Wanderers SC/NZL

Forwards
Monty Patterson – Ipswich Town FC/ENG
Logan Rogerson – Wellington Phoenix/NZL
Alex Rufer – Wellington Phoenix/NZL
Joel Stevens – Wellington Phoenix/NZL

Quarter final time in the Women's World Cup and each game looks to be a humdinger on paper. Germany will face France tomorrow along with China and the USA going toe to toe while Sunday will see Australia vs Japan and England vs Canada.

The NBA Draft will be going down this afternoon, always a nice university-holidays-watch. My Los Angeles Lakers have got a nice second pick which is pretty freaking exciting, but I'll let Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless share their thoughts on how the draft will pan out.

And from the Brendan Rodgers just signed Brazilian Firmino for Liverpool desk...

Oh that NBA Draft thing, the Lakers might be keen on DeMarcus Cousins from the Sacramento Kings ... so from the I-don't-wanna-shake-your-hand desk...

Yeah, fuck the Clippers.

Yeah, boss life...

And you should probably give this a listen, anytime you can hear a winning coach speak candidly is a great time.