Sometimes the Diggity Doc and the Wildcard talk to each other...
Diggity Doc: Mate po-tatey, we don't often talk rugby but now is as good a time as ever. I won't make you drop a full World Cup squad and there isn't much to debate with regards to the starting side, but who plays fullback for you... and then, of course, who plays right wing?
Wildcard: Howdy Doc. I've gotta say that if I were coach (blasphemy, sorry Shag) then it's not even a debate I need to have. It's black and... well, black. Because All Blacks. Ben Smith plays fullback, Nehe Milner-Scudder plays right wing. Israel Dagg will have to play outside back utility on the bench, no biggie. Smith has played so well so often, he should be used in his best position, he's earned that. Plus he's been the best performer there too in recent games. As for NMS, how can you possibly deny him after his Super season and his first couple games? What's really funny with the team selection is how people automatically assumed before the international season that the likes of Dan Carter and Ma'a Nonu (not Richie though) were over the hill and might struggle to hold their spots. Ah, nah. Turns out, as they say, that class in permanent after all.
DD: I agree but I also like this dual-fullback idea that I have which would see Smith and Dagg play together. It's an idea that I haven't quite fully explored but if Shag's feeling funky I would happily educate him on how it would work. Well cast your mind back to that Aaron Cruden bloke and if he wasn't injured then who knows what Carter would be doing right now.
WC: Honestly, I think nothing changes. Cruden would be battling Barrett for a bench spot. DC may be getting older but he's still DC and there's nobody I feel more confident in at first-five. Except maybe... no. It cannot be said, I don't wanna jinx it. But suffice to say... the Beaver is back. That sound you hear is the collective migration of whitebait the nation over.
DD: Are there any contentious positions? I guess the bench stands out, especially the backs with SBW, Barrett, Fekitoa, Piutau and Perenara all competing for maybe three positions on that bench. I don't really care about those wider squad positions.
WC: Nah, I think the coaching staff have done their jobs perfectly in that we pretty much know our top 15 now. The bench will always be contentious, but that's a sign of good depth more than anything else. I noticed they had a rugby world cup liftout draw in the paper this morning, I guess we're nearing that time when all other news falls by the wayside as RWC becomes the single-minded focus of New Zealand. In some ways it's fun to know that we're all in this together because our country cares so much about a game that humans have been playing for a small fraction of their existence. In others, well... it's a good time to pencil in that ignominious court case if you're some small time celebrity with PR problems, ya know?
DD: Like Manchester United not getting Pedro?
WC: Pfft, we didn't even want him! Louis Van Gaal pulled the plug, mate. Mourinho's just feeding on our scraps is all. Actually, it's a real interesting situation because there's a bit of chicken/egg about it. Which came first, right? Did LVG back out because he decided after agreeing personal terms that it wasn't really worth it, or did he back out because Chelsea sparked up their interest in the wake of their recent results and Louis saw the writing on the wall? It almost feels like Van Gaal's acting a bit like that drunk buddy that everyone has, who'll pull out all the lines on some chick on the town only to get promptly rejected and next thing he's all: "yeah whatever, she's not that pretty anyway." But there's definitely a case to be made for the fact that this saga seemed to drag on way longer than necessary in the first place. Like, United coulda had him three weeks ago and instead they were bargaining over a few million pounds difference in valuation. The dude had a release clause. You meet that clause and Barca HAD to accept it. Chelsea did, now he's a Chelsea player. As a neutral, do you have a sequence of events in your mind as you think they happened? I'm not upset at missing out on him and I don't think United *need* anymore signings the way that so many others seem to for granted think. I'm just a lil concerned that the same day that Pedro joins Chelsea, Otamendi joins City. Both guys linked to MUFC recently.
DD: You mean how did Chelsea sneak in there and make what I see as a massive signing right now?
WC: Well, chicken or egg. Who do you think bossed the deal and who's just trying to save face? (Ps. He's just the Spanish Ashley Young, nothing massive about that).
DD: Given that Chelsea do appear to require a fresh face, I reckon it will end up being a quality buy. Your Ashley Young comparison is coming from a scorned place.
WC: Yeah but that release clause was there all summer. Chelsea only went after it having gone winless in their first three games of the season. Plus there are rumours that a high ranking member of their staff was against the move, which only makes sense if that dude was Mourinho. Except Mourinho was key in helping sell Chelsea to Pedro, so who knows. Calls from Cesc Fabregas and also a call between Pedro & Cescy's significant lady friends also smoothed the deal. Sounds like Pedro was put of Not-So-Lucky Louis by his treatment of Spanish buds David De Gea and Victor Valdes. His loss. Most people who choose to talk about the fact that the transfer window carries into the season complain about it, but here's a devil's advocate view: I like it. It's really entertaining seeing all these people scramble around when they realise after 180 minutes that their team still sucks despite all the pre-season work and they go all in for crazy/desperate late buys. It's another challenge of the job is all, nobody said it oughta be easy.
DD: It won't have an impact on Arsenal winning the league but like it from Chelsea. Hey, in your lifetime have you ever known the NZRL to be an efficient, resourceful bunch? Besides when Jim Doyle was running it?
WC: Ah... their Kiwis team do alright but that's not related. Umm, not really. Won't say they're bad enough to single out amongst most governing bodies. That's a tough thing, getting all the many arms and legs of an organisation working in tandem, but that's why those are important roles. Gotta do it, no excuses. Yet bureaucratic messes keep getting in the way across all sports. What have the NZRL done this time to draw the ire?
DD: Well not for the first time they don't have much money; not enough money to send our best schoolboys to play their Aussie counterparts. They haven't done anything as such, it's just frustrating that they can't be wise with their finances and planning. Doyle did a good job to get them up to standard but now as soon as he has gone, they are struggling.
WC: It's hard to believe there's a shortage of intelligent businessmen and women out there. Probably another case of old boys clubs getting in the way, but I don't wanna speculate. That's a shame, that. Those schoolboy games are always great occasions for the players involved. No doubt if this gets enough publicity then some private investor is gonna come through and make something happen but that's just plaster on the cracks. It's a shame, too, that money seems to be such a recurring issue in NZ sports. Players going overseas for bigger cheques, stadium dilemmas because we spent way too much money doing up Eden Park, complaints about government funding and advertising dollars... I know we're a small nation with limited $$$ but it's endlessly frustrating. At least Uncle John's hard at work with the TPPA stuff. Should be far more money in the country when we start letting foreign corporations change our laws for us. Hey, the banks are still making profits though, hmmm.
DD: Yeah it is just a bit dumb and I don't really like talking about dumbos... 1-0 in the cricket, how ya feeling Wildcard?
WC: And there are lots of dumbos to go around unfortunately. The cricket, it's about what I figured. I doubt many people expect us to win but as long as we're competitive with the South Africans then all good. This is a development series, effectively, as we've talked about at length before. We'll see the big guns come out when we play Australia later (a series which seems even more enticing post-Ashes). I thought the scoreboard flattered NZ in the first ODI. Not often you say that about a cricket scoreboard, but from what I managed to see/listen to/read/follow, it didn't appear we were ever on top aside maybe from the Latham/Williamson partnership. Fair play. What should we be watching for over the next few games? Any sneaky storylines?
DD: Not really, besides seeing how our younger lads go which is pretty much the whole team now. There is no Mitchell Santner so we get to see what Ish Sodhi can do against better batsmen in ODIs. I think we should also be a little bit worries about Luke Ronchi who hasn't scored many runs so far in Africa. I say worried but I would rather see a younger keeper there so I'm not too fussed.
WC: We're seeing younger players get a go in other positions. Young pacemen, young spinners, young batsmen... Who are the young keepers to learn the names of before they become household? You keep a closer eye on the domestic stuff than I do. I wanna be able to brag about knowing these guys before they get picked.
DD: There are a few, not all of them are super young but there is certainly a group of keepers who will be putting pressure on Ronchi. Brad Cachopa from Auckland and Derek de Border from Otago are both a bit older but deserve a chance while Cameron Fletcher from Canterbury is a youngster who will need to earn his shot but he has the goods as well. BJ Watling has the Test spot locked so why not throw caution to the wind in limited overs cricket right?
WC: Yeah, I'd love a bit of Watling in the limited overs stuff. Feels like he's been unfairly pigeon-holed, as happens to guys in his position quite often. One more thing: with the table really starting to clear up now, would you care to put your expert reputation at stake and pick which two of the Dragons, Sea Eagles and Bulldogs will make the NRL finals? Personally you know I'm leaning towards the Dragons but at least their remaining fixtures back me up. And I reckon the Dogs might edge it too. Which is a lovely situation for me, because the only thing more satisfying than finding Manly left their run too late would be them leaping over the Bulldogs and knocking them out. Basically, I can't lose... unless the Dragons lose and then it's worst case scenario. Ah, bollocks.
DD: Yeah ideally Watling does the job in all formats but they don't seem to be keen on that which is a bummer. I am all in behind the Sea Eagles as they are my favourite team right now thanks to some sublime attack and a rugged forward pack. I'm sorry but I can't back the Dragons over the Doggies, but would love to see the Dragons there over the Dogs.
WC: Nobody's backing the Dragons, Doc, and I'm perfectly fine with that. Better than how they were massively built up after the first third of the season only so that they could be even more dramatically knocked down again. The most consistent team in the NRL, I reckon. Now that the season's smoothed out anyway. What I mean by that is: they'll beat the teams below them and lose to those above. I reckon the Dragons will sweep home against the Titans and Tigers and lose by 30 to the Storm in the playoffs. Lock it in.
DD: Reckon your Dragons might need some peptides then?
WC: Let's just say it wouldn't go astray.
DD: They are lucky to have you as a fan then sir.
WC: Cheers Doc. Appreciate it. I'll owe you one for that, but in the meantime, fare thee well.
DD: Good luck in your fandom.