Charting Blackcaps Depth
H&F Blackcaps Depth Chart, Olympic Football Squadies + NZ Warriors sign Matt Lodge
TNC Variety Show - Episode 23
Almost Daily Blackcaps Podcast: Series Debrief
Flying Kiwis – June 30 (Football)
Blackcaps Depth Chart…
Alright, lots of ponderings about what the Blackcaps could look like moving into the next World Test Championship cycle. I’m going to pull together a big ol’ yarn about this topic and below is a brainstorm to get the juices flowing. None of the blokes named below played in the WTC Final and the names aren’t listed in any specific order. There are blokes who will can do a job for a Test or two when required and there are blokes who will be Test factors over multiple years - that’s a low key depth thing as we balance the need which depends on conditions, opposition and team context.
Ultimately, I reckon a lot of the bases are covered fairly nicely. The wicket-keeping depth is an interesting pocket as I’ve listed three wicket-keepers who can all serve as solid back ups to Tom Blundell even though I had them all lumped together a few years ago prior to Blundell getting the call up. Blundell, Cleaver and Fletcher were among 13 batsmen to score 400+ runs in last summer’s Plunket Shield.
The lack of a funky young spinner is the only real hole and perhaps a lefty-seamer. CD Stags lefty Raymond Toole was ranked 6th for bowlers in last summer’s Plunket Shield and Ed Nuttall’s been doing a hearty job for Canterbury with his whippy lefties. Canterbury’s Theo van Woerkom was the only genuinely young spinner to be on the Plunket Shield wickets leaderboard and the Plunket Shield has become the land of the veteran spinner or batsmen who bowl spin; Rachin Ravindra, Michael Bracewell, Cole McConchie, Brad Schmulian and Michael Rippon are all all-rounders who finished ahead of van Woerkom in PS wickets.
Any way, make of this what you will and jam a comment or something with your own thoughts…
Batsmen: Will Young, Daryl Mitchell, Glenn Phillips, Mark Chapman, Rachin Ravindra, Michael Bracewell, Hamish Rutherford, Jeet Raval.
Seamers: Lockie Ferguson, Jacob Duffy, Doug Bracewell, Matt Henry, Blair Tickner, Scott Kuggeleijn, Ed Nuttall.
Wicket-Keepers: Dane Cleaver, Tim Seifert, Cameron Fletcher.
Spinners: Ajaz Patel, Mitchell Santner, Ish Sodhi, Michael Rippon, Will Somerville.
Youngins/Up and Comers…
Batsmen: Henry Cooper, Joe Carter, Leo Carter, Ken McClure, O’Donnell bros, Finn Allen.
Bowlers: Sean Davey, Ben Sears, Fraser Sheat, Will Williams, Raymond Toole.
All-Rounders: Nathan Smith, Luke Georgeson.
NZ Warriors Sign Matt Lodge…
Another week and another fleecing of an Australian NRL club by NZ Warriors. Ah, but Matt Lodge comes with some baggage and that’s where we have to start as everyone loves to get in their ethical pockets - without actually doing anything. A few emails ago I wrote about action and leading with action if you have any major disagreements with what a business or organisation is doing. If you have any major disagreement with signing Lodge for his previous legal issues, lead with action and spend your money elsewhere - that’s how you’ll have the biggest impact on NZ Warriors.
I’m an old soul trying to figure out how to exist in 2021 and thus, I choose not to partake in celebrating my ethics/morals over others. I literally don’t use this platform to tell folks that my ethics and morals should be followed or taken as noteworthy. I’m just a guy who like Lodge and any other human has battled the ups and downs of life, while working towards my personal visions of peace.
Who am I to drag anyone down for their previous actions?
Everyone’s different though and I’m not going to drag anyone else down for not wanting Lodge at the Warriors - that person has to come to grips with the reality of what’s happening within their own heart and soul. Such narratives are present around the world in sports and business, with the NBA enjoying such discussions around the appointments of Chauncy Billups and Jason Kidd as head coaches.
If you want to sit on your ethical/moral throne - all good, be yourself and love yourself.
The nitty gritty of this is amazing though. NZ Warriors signed Dallin Watene-Zelezniak via Bulldogs paying some (maybe half) of his salary and they have done the same with Lodge; all reports suggest the Broncos are also paying half of Lodge’s salary. None of which is officially public information, but the basic premise of Warriors taking on a salary cap hit that is only half of the player’s actual salary is pretty fun.
Unlike most Warriors signings, the Lodge one has been hinted at for months if not a year or two as Lodge is part of the O’Sullivan whanau; Peter O’Sullivan is the recruitment guru pulling all the strings, his son Sean will now be joined by Peter’s son in law Matt. I’d suggest that this signing has happened now because the Warriors reached a maximum leverage point where the salary stuff was heavily in their favour.
On top of those two signings, the Warriors signed Shaun Johnson for roughly half of what he was worth when he left ($1milly vs $500k). That’s two international players joining Warriors with their salary cap hit well below market value and then Lodge who doesn’t have the rep honours but…
Lodge averages 129m per game this season (for a horrible Broncos team) and that’s better than Tohu Harris’ 117m and Addin Fonua-Blake’s 125m. Lodge is tackling @ 90.9 percent efficiency which will work well around Harris (95.8%) and Fonua-Blake (94.7%).
Lodge is 6th in the entire NRL for average offloads per game with 2.2. The Warriors are already 5th in average offloads per game with 10.9 and no Warriors player averages more than Kane Evans’ 1.6 offloads per game. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak averages 1.44 offloads per game and even if these two new signings don’t hit their current averages, we can roughly estimate that the Warriors will add 3 offloads (2 from Lodge, 1 from DWZ) to their weekly tally.
Oh and Watene-Zelezniak is averaging a career-best 167m/game.
The Warriors have added Watene-Zelezniak, Lodge and Chad Townsend to their squad mid-season. That’s pretty damn solid and there may be signs of top-eight life to come, starting with tonight’s game vs Dragons which won’t feature Lodge. Wayde Egan’s return at hooker will certainly help the Warriors, while Kodi Nikorima is out of the team with Sean O’Sullivan coming into the halves alongside Townsend.
No Reece Walsh either and this will impact the funky attack of the Warriors, although I reckon this could be countered by dominating the physical contest. There is plenty of oomph in the backline to gain momentum through the middle and while Lodge isn’t playing just yet, the presence of Fonua-Blake, Harris, Ben Murdoch-Masila and every other forward will be compounding on top of the backs mahi.
The fun attacking stuff will swing back around with Walsh’s return. This game tonight though is one of those attitude/aggression/defensive effort gauge-games and for once I’m kinda confident in the physicality of this team.
Olympics Footy Squads Extended
Word on the street is that, same as with all these footy tournaments lately, the Olympics are going to extend their squads to include the four travelling reserves. As it is, that quartet can only play if somebody in the main group got injured and needed replacing for the remainder of the tourney. But if this goes through they’ll just be normal squadies. It’s late notice to be making this decision when most squads have already been named but these things aren’t always as well organised as they appear. Thus the squads would go from 18 players to 22 players – although you would still have to pick an 18-player matchday squad, so a seven-player bench.
Here are the lucky travellers who’ll get that boost up, note that there’s a very young/inexperienced/local tinge to both of the groups...
Football Ferns: Vic Esson (GK), Liz Anton (DEF), Marisa van der Meer (DEF), Mickey Robertson (FWD)
OlyWhites: Alex Paulsen (GK), Sam Sutton (MID), Ben Old (FWD), Myer Bevan (FWD)
MVDM and Roberston aren’t even capped. Esson has played three times and Anton five but each has only one Footy Ferns start. Then the fellas, there are three Phoenix lads there and two of them have never made a pro start.
You do wonder if Sermanni/Hay mighta done picked those groups differently if they thought they’d be full squad members. Maybe not though. This would also be good news for former Phoenix midfielder Cam Devlin who officially signed with Newcastle Jets this week (why, Cam, just why?) and who was named among the travelling ressies for the Aussie squad. Reno Piscopo is part of the original 18 by the way.
Also of note is that West Ham, and subsequently New Zealand Football, have confirmed that Winston Reid will be a part of the group. Tim Payne had been pencilled as a replacement if Reid wasn’t able to get a release but honestly there wasn’t much reason for West Ham to hold him back given they don’t seem to really want him to play for them any more. He’s better off auditioning for new loan deals in Tokyo.
And he could well put on a showcase in a tournament where to be quite honest there isn’t a lot of high-end depth on show. Heaps of outstanding younger players but with Euros and Copa America on at the mo’ the overage players selected aren’t of the highest quality imaginable. Spain are an exception to the rule with several players crossing over from their Euros team. But France picked Florian Thauvin, André-Pierre Gignac, and Téji Savanier for example. Even Australia, they only picked two overage players and they are Ruon Tongyik and Mitch Duke. Both A-League players. And Tongyik only misses the eligibility date by three days so he’s barely overage.
Point being that the OlyWhites are in a group with arguably four of the six least fancied teams at this comp and even the more traditional powerhouse football nations are nowhere near fully serious about this thing. All I’m saying is that Chris Wood is going to have a lot of favourable match-ups and Winston Reid is a top defender. Not predicting anything. But I’m definitely excited.
Shout out to Henry Nicholls. Hank as he’s affectionately known (by me, at least). Gonna assume this interview was done several hours after all the presentations following the Blackcaps’ World Test Championship triumph because my man here is very clearly sauced. Like, he’s been tipping them back. Put a knife in him because he’s cooked. And the funniest part of all is that his brother is the media manager for the team, what a stitch-up lol...
Staying In The Mix
The Blackcaps won a World Test Championship just a couple years after agonisingly losing (/drawing) an ODI World Cup final. If ever there was a case study in the fine margins that decide championships then the Blackcaps are that. So many little moments that went against them in that World Cup final, so many moments that combined to suggest that it just wasn’t meant to be. And it stung at the time because opportunities to win trophies are few and far between for the New Zealand cricket team and to see one escape our grasp in such a cursed way was brutal to say the least.
But they remained level headed in defeat. They didn’t overreact to a game that could have gone either way even if the consequences of those fickle margins were extraordinarily contrasting. And two years later they went back to England, whupped the hosts in a two-Test series, and then beat the largest cricket-playing nation on the planet to win the WTC for the greatest tournament triumph in Aotearoa cricket history.
The way that sports culture talks about championships is a bit of a weird one, definitely an over simplification. There’s this tendency to speak on titles as the crowning achievements of a career/era and to be fair they are... but they aren’t necessarily won by the best team each time. We’ve all seen far too many examples to the contrary there. Injuries happen. Upsets happen. Complacency can happen. And the finest incarnation of a team during a winning era may not be the one that wins the championship.
Championships are more like lotteries than we give them credit for. You have to buy as many tickets as possible to increase your odds. Which, when we’re talking about seasonal sport, means you have to stay in the mix year after year. It’s those teams that are always contending who tend to win these things – having that big-time experience is one thing but it’s more than that. When folks say you’ve gotta lose one to win one, sure there’s a psychological factor at play. But it’s also probability. If you make two grand finals you’re twice as likely to win a comp as if you only make one, right?
The trick is that staying in contention year after year is the hardest thing to do in sports. Especially in team sports where that means having a constantly evolving squad and still somehow maintaining those high standards throughout. The Blackcaps made consecutive ODI World Cup finals before winning the Test Championship. They made consecutive semi-finals before that. They kept on getting closer and closer. They kept themselves in the conversation late in these tournaments. Eventually something had to break right – that’s how championships are won.