El Niche Cache

April 30, 2021

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TNC Variety Show - Episode 15

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The Niche Cast - Pithy Wisdom (Player Recruitment Yarns)

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Scotty’s Word

Blues Dude…

Wtf, extremely underwhelming.

NZ Warriors Signing Prospects…

Big news came through yesterday with NZ Warriors signing Zyon Maiu’u and Jacob Laban. Not really big news though and this serves as another jumping off point to understand the world of NRL prospects and junior pathways. This starts with the Warriors narrative of ‘keeping kiwi players’ which has understandably been amplified with Phil Gould coming on board and Peter O’Sullivan working behind the scenes.

Based off the Warriors release and how these headlines were delivered in the mainstream media, one would think that these are epic signings for the Warriors. Regular email readers know the vibe as I often repeat myself and this isn’t against the Warriors, this is just about understanding the landscape; there is more than enough talent for everyone.

Junior rep finals over in Australia and above are the lads recruited from Aotearoa named to play in the Queensland and Sydney finals. I’ve touched on Canberra Raiders a lot in these emails and here’s their kiwi involvement named in NSW Cup (reserve grade)…

With regards to Maiu’u and Laban specifically…

Laban is from Wellington, but he’s been in the Warriors system since 2019 when he played in a Future Warriors game and was named Wellington’s Rugby League Player of the Year (College Sport). Laban attended another Warriors camp in 2020 and in what is now a definite trend, the Warriors appear to have moved Laban up to Auckland to live with Maiu’u and attend Kelston Boys High School.

A couple lads from Rotorua have moved to Auckland in recent years, while the Warriors now have a lot of their junior talent playing 1st 15 rugby in Auckland. All the big 1st 15 schools in Auckland recruit from rugby league and now we are seeing the Warriors use these schools to house their talent.

I found a KBHS 1st 15 team list from 2019 with Maiu’u starting at #8, making the Auckland Blues U17 squad that year. Right now, Maiu’u is 17-years-old and won the NZRL Under 20s MVP award - bonkers.

The Warriors press release had O’Sullivan saying “It’s also a great story for Kelston Boys’ High School and our working relationship with the school.”

That same KBHS 1st 15 team list from 2019 had Naufahu Whyte starting in the midfield as co-captain and he’s named to start for North Sydney Bears (Roosters reserve grade) this weekend. I posted this (below) a few months ago, now it’s a bit funkier as the Roosters snared Whyte and Aso Fretton from KBHS - both are climbing the Rooster ranks.

The Roosters have the Graham-Taufa twins (MAGS/Marist Saints) in their system as well, plus Bayleigh Bentley-Hape who the Roosters recruited from Kawakawa (Far North) in 2015 and is roughly 20yrs now playing Jersey Flegg (U21) - the Roosters have their shit sorted when it comes to recruiting out of Aotearoa.

This year the Roosters have Cassius Tia (MAGS/Marist Saints) playing in one of their SG Ball teams and Benaiah Ioelu in their other SG Ball team - Roosters can afford two SG Ball teams while most NSW clubs have one.

Ioelu only went to Sydney to play SG Ball and returned to Tangaroa College where he’ll finish the school year. Who is pulling all these recent Roosters strings? Daniel Anderson - this snap was taken a few weeks ago with Anderson and Ioelu at a Roosters camp in Auckland (via Sport Vision/NRL Player Agent

Maiu’u and Laban forecast as really good NRL prospects for the Warriors. The Warriors made their signings official and awesome, yet even within the Warriors there are plenty of good prospects that haven’t had such headline status. There are lads like Ali Leiataua and Francis Manulelua playing Kings College 1st 15, then we have the small army of players who the Warriors moved over to Redcliffe Dolphins - all of whom were in Auckland/NZ last year.

Last week the Dolphins U21 team had William Fakatoumafi, Viliami Vailea, the Kepu twins, Taniela Otukolo and Lleyton Finau. Former Kings College 1st 15 player Eric Va’afusuaga and Sebastyan Jack played for Redcliffe Dolphins U18s this year. All of these lads except for Fakatoumafi played for NZ Warriors SG Ball last year.

This is merely a wee snapshot of the Kiwi-NRL takeover at the junior level. The Warriors are filling their needs and officially signing Maiu’u and Laban on three year deals ensures that as they enter the NRL mix, they are under contract. In the NRL you want your best prospects on at least two year deals (longer the better) to get the best salary cap value and to keep other clubs away. Brisbane Broncos are in a spot of bother because their best young talent is off contract and open for other clubs to come knocking - Reece Walsh to Warriors, Tom Deardon to Cowboys.

Look around the NRL and you’ll find the Warriors filling their junior rosters, as well as other NRL clubs getting their Kiwi-NRL fix. Whether it’s the Roosters using their resources to fly players in and out of Sydney, Canberra Raiders recruiting 1st 15 players from Aotearoa or North Queensland Cowboys recruiting from regional Aotearoa; the Kiwi-NRL takeover is lit.

Do a kickflip…


Wildcard’s Notebook

The Wellington Phoenix are gonna play their May 22 game against Western United in Wellington. That’s 433 days since they last played a game in Aotearoa but guess what it’ll only be eight days before they play there again with the May 30 game against Perth Glory also now confirmed as a home-home game... this one at Eden Park in Auckland. The Glory did kick up a fuss about that for not insignificant reasons given they’re the furthest team away but I guess that doesn’t compare to playing an entire season away from home now does it? Stink one for Perth that it coincides with them and not a Sydney team who could make the trip easier but it’s not like they’re gonna make the finals anyway. Bit awkward for the Nix too given they’ve got a midweek away game vs Western Sydney in between but all goods. They’ll still be floating after a triumphant win in front of 15k+ at Sky Stadium... hopefully.

So that’s awesome. What’s more though is those games are shaping up to be absolutely massive in terms of the playoff race. The Phoenix are two points behind Western as we speak – the sixth placed team – having played two games more. There are seven games left for the Nix in their campaign and that’s the fourth of them. The Perth game is then number six and given it’s their last remaining game against a team currently below them on points there are no excuses but to get a W there. Two must-win games and that’s assuming they can keep up the pace in the three weeks in between now and then... which includes an away game against league-leaders Melbourne City.

The Nix are coming good with 10 points from the last three. They’re gonna need plenty more where that came from but the good news is that they look as likely now as they ever have. Steven Taylor has made a noticeable difference to the backline. You’ve got Ben Waine in killer form while Tomer Hemed is back fit and has shown a tendency to be able to score even when he plays rubbish. No dramas there: he was signed for goals and goals only. He doesn’t need to be a baller. Reno Piscopo should be back fit soon. Guys like Clayton Lewis, Tim Payne, and Oli Sail have been in sharp form. Ulises Davila, goes without saying. It’s do-able. There’s not a lot of wiggle room left but it’s do-able. Here’s what’s left (all NZT)...

  • Brisbane Roar vs Wellington Phoenix, Saturday 1 May at 7.05pm

  • Adelaide United vs Wellington Phoenix, Friday 7 May at 9.35pm

  • Melbourne City vs Wellington Phoenix, Sunday 16 May at 6.05pm

  • Wellington Phoenix vs Western United, Saturday 22 May TBD

  • Western Sydney Wanderers vs Wellington Phoenix, Wednesday 26 May at 9.05pm

  • Wellington Phoenix vs Perth Glory, Sunday 30 May at 3.30pm

  • Macarthur vs Wellington Phoenix, TBD

It’s getting frisky for sure. Seven games is not a lot of time though, having said that, it’s still anyone’s game. The Nix are closer to second place (6 points) than they are to tenth (7 points). Perth, Melbourne Victory, and Newcastle are out of the hunt, while Melbourne City are starting to break away at the top. The Nix play once against a team from each of those contrasts to the other five are all against teams in or around them on the table. Good fun should ensue.

Now we swap over to the plight of the New Zealand Breakers who were beaten 90-76 by the surging Melbourne United the other night. 10 wins in a row for United and even if the Breakers do crack the top four then they’re most likely to have to play Melbourne again and get smoked (they’re 0-4 against them in the regular season). This plight would already be over were this last season but there’s an extra round this time so each team plays 36 games – two home and two away against every other side... not that the words home or away have any had any meaning for the Breakers at the moment.

But they will soon. Same as the Nix, that Trans-Tasman bubble has opened up possibilities and the Breakers are taking full advantage with an upcoming run of seven NZ games in 17 days. Only one of those will be at Spark but there are a couple at Trusts Arena and four are to be played outside Auckland at as of yet undecided locations. Outstanding. Gonna be a huge boost for fans and players alike to get to play actual home games with actual home crowds.

However... yeah those games aren’t quite gonna have the same relevance as the two Nix ones. It’s not much of an insight to say that a team which is currently 8-16 exactly two-thirds through their fixture list is unlikely to make the top four. South East Melbourne are fourth as it stands, having played three more games than the Breaks but with six more wins on the board. To be honest the top four feels pretty well set (and as kiwi basketball fans we definitely want SEM to get in there too as that team is stacked with kiwi influence) but let’s assume that the Breakers get it sizzling on that home stretch. Let’s assume that injuries hold up, that the Webster Bros are healthy and cooking, that Tom Abercrombie makes a legit case for the Defensive Player of the Year award that his team is campaigning so hard for him to win (like, he’s a solid defender, nice and versatile and doesn’t make many mistakes... but there are far more impactful defenders who play for teams that don’t lose two of every three games they play – eh, fingers crossed all the same).

  • NZ Breakers vs Perth Glory, Saturday 1 May at 7.30pm

  • NZ Breakers vs Illawarra Hawks, Monday 3 May at 9.30pm

  • Perth Wildcats vs NZ Breakers, Sunday 9 May at 7pm

  • SE Melbourne Phoenix vs NZ Breakers, Wednesday 12 May at 9.30pm

  • Illawarra Hawks vs NZ Breakers, Saturday 15 May at 10pm

  • NZ Breakers vs Sydney Kings, Thursday 20 May at 7.30pm

  • NZ Breakers vs Sydney Kings, Saturday 22 May at 7.30pm

  • NZ Breakers vs SE Melbourne Phoenix, Tuesday 25 May at 7.30pm

  • NZ Breakers vs Illawarra Hawks, Friday 28 May at 7.30pm

  • NZ Breakers vs Brisbane Bullets, Sunday 30 May at 7pm

  • NZ Breakers vs Adelaide 36ers, Wednesday 2 June at 7.30pm

  • NZ Breakers vs Cairns Taipans, Saturday 5 June at 7.30pm

Righto so what do they need to do to get top four? Probs gotta get to 18 wins which would be an even record. To do that they’ll have to win ten of their remaining dozen games and that includes six games against current top four teams. Not even sure it’s worth going any further on that train of thought but hey as Lenny once said: It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.

Now here’s ESPN giving Charlisse Leger-Walker some serious raps...

Which brings us to the final instalment in this bad boy...

Wildcard’s Album Per Annum Project – 2010s+

  • 2010: Frightened Rabbit – The Winter Of Mixed Drinks

  • 2011: Kurt Vile – Smoke Ring For My Halo

  • 2012: Fiona Apple – The Idler Wheel...

  • 2013: Cate Le Bon – Mug Museum

  • 2014: D’Angelo & The Vanguard – Black Messiah

  • 2015: Thee Oh Sees – Mutilator Defeated At Last

  • 2016: Frank Ocean - Blonde

  • 2017: Laura Marling – Semper Femina

  • 2018: IDLES – Joy As An Act Of Resistance

  • 2019: Sturgill Simpson – SOUND + FURY

  • 2020: Phoebe Bridgers - Punisher

  • (2021: Opposite Sex – High Drama)

Little bit sad that this is over now. I have been thinking that maybe I could do a movie version of the Albums Per Annum which could go like thirty years deeper although that’s a fair bit of work to figure out and I dunno if I’ve got the motivation. It’s an idea for the back-burner at least.

Back on the Frightened Rabbit buzz for 2011, I fluctuate between Midnight Organ Flight and Winter of Mixed Drinks because they’re both equal masterpieces and everything that applied to the first one that I wrote on Monday applies to this one too. It’s anthemic. It’s profound. It’s tragic. It’s gorgeous. Moving on to a much more subtle record as Kurt Vile’s breakthrough saw him living in that lo-fi zone making slacker king tunes that showcase his delicate finger-picking and breezy aesthetic. Something that he’s stretched out in more electric ways since... KV never lets you down so don’t worry about that. This was one of my major uni days albums, chilling on the train with my headphones on.

Fiona Apple doesn’t release an abundance of music, the follow up to Idler Wheel only came out last year, but everything she does is astounding. Idler Wheel, mate, it’s indescribable. Words do not suffice. Like, honestly, I don’t even know what to say. So I might just leave it at that and move onto Cate Le Bon who takes the 2013 cake as a bit of an upset over a few other prospects but I looked deep into my soul and accepted that this is the album I listen to the most and love the most. Le Bon’s Welsh accent goes hard with her lovely underrated guitar lines and the mild psychedelia of her songs. Sort of like Syd Barrett mixed with Joni Mitchell. Not saying that lightly either because CLB is a certified genius.

I remember doing my albums of the year list for 2014 and this D’Angelo album came out of nowhere in early December and I had no choice but to chuck it in the top ten. Didn’t even take a full listen before that was abundantly clear, it’s as funky and soulful as you’d expect. It’s also got this world weary wisdom thing going on which I guess is what happens when you go 14 years in between album releases. The closing track Another Life is transcendent with the way it all swells up, the only thing I can think of that compares is the Beach Boys’ God Only Knows. Not even joking.

Okay, righto, now if you dig crunchy guitar riffs and double drummer line-ups and dungeons and dragons inspired imagery and that good garage-punk relentlessness then you surely already know the greatness of the ceaselessly prolific John Dwyer. Mutilator Defeated At Last is, in my humble opinion, one of the finest rock and roll albums that has ever been made. Many people will scoff at that assertion. Maybe one or two of you will actually go and listen and realise the truth of what I’m saying. Withered Hand is where it’s at.

Frank Ocean’s Blonde is the best thing released by anybody this millennium. This is well understood. Then Laura Marling’s Semper Femina serves up poetic folk musings that kinda position her as a female Leonard Cohen figure and that’s the ultimate praise. The whole thing is deep and full of beauty but pretty sure the track Nothing, Not Nearly contains the actual legit meaning of life within it’s runtime. And IDLES basically served up the most righteous, fist-pumping, shout-along, get-that-into-ya rock album in recent years. You simply cannot help yourself from screaming along with those “yadda yadda yadda yadda hey hey hey hey’s”. Plus they manage to deliver a timely political message through their tunes in a way that doesn’t come off as preachy or distracting which is maybe the album’s top achievement.

I love all of Sturgill Simpson’s work (including Cuttin’ Grass, damn that one slams) and I especially dig that he’s willing to do something entirely different each time. I’m under no illusions that the aesthetic of SOUND + FURY is ever gonna be repeated but that scuzzy sleazy synth-rock (reminiscent of ZZ Top’s Eliminator which made it onto the Albums Per Annum Project in the 80s) is so intensely thrilling to me. Plus the anime visual netflix special is wicked fun too. Finally Phoebe Bridgers gets the nod from last year. Heaps of competition but Punisher just felt like the most of the most. Similar to a few others in the 2010’s list – technically this one is the start of the 2020s but you get the idea – there’s an astonishing closer here (I Know The End) which will knock your socks off, friend. Hey and although we’re only four months into this year it’d be rude not to pick the running champ of 2021 and honestly that belt has to go to Opposite Sex’s High Drama... shout out to the Dunedin sound in the modern era. Deliciously vicious post-punk goodness. Listen to Combine Harvester next time you need to blow off some steam.

(It definitely feels like my selections got weirder as they went along... more music listened to in real time, no time for the gatekeepers to establish classic status yet, etc... I have a few theories but I’m currently listening to High Drama again so I just don’t really care to think too much about anything at the mo’).