A Nichey Niche Convo - Follow the River (Stay Out of the Paddling Pool)

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

Diggity Doc - Mr Wildcard, we touched on this a month or so ago but with the Eels finally releasing Chris Sandow and word on the street being that Geoff Toovey will be sacked pretty soon, who stands out for you as some horribly-run professional sports teams?

Wildcard - G'day Doc. Yeah, the Parramatta Eels are an unmitigated disaster, which is well known, and Sandow joins the list of players getting paid not to play for them. But the Manly Sea Eagles are funny coz they're such a well-run team on the park. A couple decades of competitive teams, winning titles, producing talent... it's just a shambles in the boardroom if the rumours are to be believed. Umm, who did we name last time? The likes of Newcastle United, the Cleveland Browns and the Auckland Blues, presumably. Lots of teams make dumb decisions, but only a few special ones keep repeating them. Tut, tut, tut.

Also, a note to Aussie NRL 'experts': Calling him 'Chrissie' Sandow doesn't lessen the blow when you then slam his attitude to the club.

DD - Oh mate I think you've added the Auckland Blues to the list, how do they fit in there? (... go on). I definitely wouldn't be putting the Sea Eagles in there, but it has to be said that they just haven't dealt with this transition period very well - handing the team over from the old crew to Daly Cherry-Evans, they've made a meal of it. Ah, but Wildcard, Chrissie Sandow is such a talent.

WC - Yeah, such a talent. The kind of player that'll win you a game single handedly. You know... "on his day". Did we not have the Blues last time? Well dammit, we've got them this time. The whole JK era was pretty awful. Not even blaming Kirwin either, look at the players they've let slip. Biggest talent pool in NZ and they can't find a bloody first-five! Plus the boardroom dramas over coaching, all that bollocks. The Sea Eagles don't belong in this company but they're doing silly things that's compromising them. What sets them apart is that they're still actually a pretty decent side. If they could have the first half of their season back again they might be threatening the eight but as is I'm happy to write them off for this year. Though, only for this year.

DD - How Auckland Rugby somehow managed to mess up and not bring through their copious amounts of young players really is quite mind-boggling and is testament to how dumb they are. Alternatively, you could argue that these young players aren't taking the next step, which reflects just as poorly. It's all quite funny to me because Auckland Rugby is the epitome of the 'old boys club' and well, that's working out for them isn't it?

How do you see the rebuilding of the Sea Eagles panning out? Because a lot of noise has been made about clearing the decks, but are there really that many players out there who you could bring in to help you win right now? Let's take the American look at things - are Manly going to try win now, or take a long term approach having sealed DCE for the long term.

WC - The old boys clubs never work that well. The old boys just get older and older. As for Manly, first of all: bugger them. It's about time they suffered a bit. Second of all: the clearing the deck thing is one I don't really understand. Like, any sports organisation has to have an eye on the long term - not doing that is something all those other sloppy teams have in common. Except that the American way is to bottom out and get a high draft pick. There aren't any draft picks in the NRL so there's no reason to ever be deliberately terrible. Daly's on the books, why can't they be back in the top 4 next season? You'll know better than me, do the problems stretch beyond a few upset players and an under-pressure coach (excluding boardroom stuff)? They're losing a couple dudes, Foran specifically, but they're getting one or two handy fellas too. The way I see it, any team with DCE, Jamie Lyon, Steve Matai and Brett Stewart should be competing. Get a new coach and some forwards and there ya go. Right? ... or wrong?

DD - Ah, I personally think the 'problems' at Manly have been blown up a little bit. From all accounts the only semi-rift was between DCE and Brett Stewart for obvious reasons but that looks to have been settled in a professional matter. The only major issue has been their lack of punch in the forwards, hence the clean out. I'm just not sure that they can pick up enough forwards to fill that void. It's exciting though because they don't have much cap space given the DCE deal Nate Myles' deal, so they will have to get funky and get a few 'value for money' forwards.

Would you mind/do you have the will to help me understand what's happening in the world of football right now? All the major clubs are overseas and there's dealings all over the show, so what should I be focussing on?

WC - Well, I spent some time watching a couple kiwis in the Europa League qualifiers, that's something. Actually, only one kiwi, Marco Rojas, who helped his FC Thun side to a win over an Israeli team. Winston Reid was gonna play for West Ham but he picked up a knock and sat it out. West Ham (featuring 0 new signings) went and lost 1-0 to a Maltese side (shout out to Manny Muscat, who had a couple international teammates playing) but progressed on penalties. There are two more rounds before the groups - which Bill Tuiloma's Marseille side has already qualified for. Tyler Boyd's Portuguese side join in this next round. Fun stuff, could be four kiwis in Europe. Buuuuut the Europa League is a second fiddle continental show. There's also exhibition stuff all over the planet and that vague world of Transfer Business to follow. Plus fantasy league. Nothing really matters that much at this stage, try to do what I'm doing and just focus on that tingling feeling of anticipation for the new season.

DD - What would be your ideal pre-season schedule if you were a manager of a Man Utd, Chelsea, Arsenal, etc.? They've got to have this money-grabbing tours don't they?

WC - Yup, it's a necessity in the so-called modern game. Even the Championship battlers get to travel Europe and sample the 'culture'. Personally I like the idea of variety. If it were me playing (not giving up hope just yet, gimme a call Louis!) then I'd want to get to some new place each year. Apparently Australia's the new go, plus there'll always be plenty lining up in America. But Americans are obnoxious and Aussies are annoying. East Asia would be fantastic, that's where Wenger's off to at the moment. Options are probably limited though, since you do need a certain level of facility/opposition.

DD - The best thing about these tours is that they give players the chance to see how worldwide their fanbase is. I doubt they need reminding but it must do something to ya to see 50,000 Aussies singing You'll Never Walk Alone... especially if you are a new signing.

WC - Yeah, it must be nice for the Liverpool players to feel loved beyond the confines of Anfield. Plus they have something special with that song, beyond a doubt. Probably they'd prefer a few trophies to go with it, but eh, what can ya do?

Hey, when's the next Ashes test? I'm starting to miss all those white-clothed jokers.

DD - Early nek week mate and we'll have some cricket don't worry. What's your gut feeling on Jonny Bairstow, the ginger? They almost followed your advice but not quite as Ian Bell's moving up to bat at 3 with Rooooootay at 4, which won't change much for me.

WC - Close enough for mine there. Root at four seems a fair compromise. Gets him in earlier to bat with better folks, but not too early that he's exposed by Adam Lyth's tendency to get out cheaply to left arm swing. Ian Bell's too good to be this bad for that long. He'll get a score soon. But I do fear for Jonny Bairstow. They already have a ginger in there in Ben Stokes. Another one and they may have just given the psychological edge firmly to Australia (as well as the momentum they gifted them last match). Two gingers? We all know the sledging prowess of the Aussies, geez ya can't be handing them material on a platter.

DD - Yeah two gingers in any sports team doesn't spell success does it? Unless they are related, then it's ok. I will say that we have only seen two extremes - each team at their best and worst, ya know? It would be nice to see who comes out on top after a few tough sessions of cricket. Who is your key man from both teams for this third Test?

WC - Erm, the Rootmeister and ol' Fidget. So far the team that's been able to lay on the scoreboard pressure has romped home each time, so I'm taking the best batsman on either side, Joe Root and Steve Smith. It's a massive, massive test because it'll swing the series regardless of what happens (even a draw makes things tricky at this stage). Any team that goes 2-1 down is staring down the barrell and on the biggest occasions you want your best guys to stand up. In that vein, I'll also admit that James Anderson is under immense pressure. Stu Broad and Moeen Ali cannot be your best bowlers. Broad's a very good player but damn, they need their swingers to get going. And Mark Wood just isn't that good at this level. How about yourself, Doc?

DD - I'm gonna roll with Nathan Lyon, aka Gavin, who is doing a great low key job of keeping things tight while the pace bowlers bring the ruckus. For England and Ian Bell has to do something at 3... something from you Sherminator.

And Mark Wood is an interesting case because what's if he doesn't perform? Then England are back to square one looking for a solid third seamer, just as they are now unsure about that number 3 batting spot.

WC - Yeah, they might've jumped the gun celebrating a series draw with a post-WC Blackcaps side. Hindsight and all that. But here's hoping they get something done, nobody wants to see the Baggy Greens all vindicated in their arrogance. Quick question: what's the origin of the nickname 'Gavin'? Cricketers have the best nicknames, that's a scientific fact.

DD - Mate, I love Aussie arrogance (within reason) so I don't mind seeing them demolish England. Ah, I'm not sure, I just remember hearing Brad Haddin - 'bowling Gav' behind the stumps... very similar to how Brendon McCullum used to call Jeetan Patel 'Dave' - 'bowling Dave'. Well that's what I think anyway, unconfirmed reports as they say.

A confirmed report just through is that Ngani Laumape has been granted a release to go play rugby union, which is funky. A few thoughts: injury struck, Kata was given a chance and never looked back as an example of how cruel sport can be. Also, I definitely wouldn't rule out Jim Doyle and the Warriors just giving Laumape a bit of encouragement to pursue other avenues, especially as he's what, the fourth best centre now? Doyle's clearing some space and cutting the fat - you would have to consider Laumape who was signed when he was one of the top two centre options for the Warriors, was now merely fat. Lastly, I'm not sure that he will be too successful, it's just not exciting and there's a whole heap of great rugby players in Aotearoa that he isn't better than. I'm feeling a bit depressed about his future to be honest Wildcard.

WC - And don't forget that he's a professional and he wants to play. He wasn't getting a lot of that at the Warriors and as you say it wasn't just injuries. Fair play, hopefully we see him marching out for the All Blacks some day, he's got the potential. But yes, while there are some big names that the Warriors system has let slip through their fingers in the past, there are also far more that never really went anywhere. By accounts he was a killer union player as a schoolboy so it could be a fish-in-water situation. Don't be too depressed Doc, if he's following his bliss then good luck to him. I just hope it was his call (which it sounds like) and not a push out the door, though I doubt Doyle/McFadden were overly upset or his release wouldn't have been granted.

DD - Well it doesn't need to be a push, just a nice little 'have a look around at what's out there mate' type of thing. As we've always said, the Warriors can't hold onto all these blokes, but they have tried and I think Doyle's keeping things moving. Ya know, like how a river or the ocean has a way of filtering itself with currents and what not where as a fake beach or pool, well the water sits there and gets yucky. I think the Warriors have been in that fake beach mode a bit too much, whereas now we're seeing the currents clean things. Is that understandable or have I been popping a few too many peptides? Either way, I think I need to go toilet, I might see ya next week, I might not. Pray for me.

WC - That's a gorgeous metaphor there, Doc. Nobody wants their club adopting the paddling pool approach to player recruitment. Consider yourself prayed for. Adios.