Here is my advice to Air New Zealand Cup teams: get rid of your coach. They only stuff things up, walking around with their high-falutin' ideas, thinking they're so great.
Bay of Plenty followed this plan and is sitting at the top of the table with three wins from three games and don't think that I'm not really fucking pleased about that. Especially because the last win was against Wellington, a team I had picked to make the final.
To be fair, as much as I love that my team is the only unbeaten team in competition (had I mentioned that?) I can't see them staying there. Though it wouldn't be a stretch to see them in the finals (assuming they keep playing how they are).
The most interesting thing about this season of the Air New Zealand Cup might not be who wins (I had Canterbury vs Wellington in the final, with Hawke's Bay as my wildcard), but who is in the bottom four. These wooden-spooners will already be 20% behind when it comes to selecting which teams stay in next year's Premier Division.
I can see no tears being shed if Taranaki, North Harbour, Bay of Plenty or Hawkes Bay (the best of the non-Super 14 bases) were dropped down. But imagine the whinging we'll be subjected to if Otago goes or Waikato (both currently 1-2 on the season).
And what about Big Auck? Auckland look to be taking up one of those basement spots and even after a dismal display last season will their population base be too big for them to be relegated? And what happens if they, once again, end up at the bottom of the table in 2010? Can you relegate the province with the largest population base?
If Steve Tew thought his press conferences were tough now, wait until he has to defend relegating a Super 14 franchisee.
I have to say though I had a wonderful time at the Auckland v Canterbury game a couple of weeks ago. The crowd seemed larger packed into only two stands (the skeletons of new loomed behind the coaches' pre-fab shelters) and were much more vocal than the last Auckland match I attended (some time around the turn of the century).
There was a loud kid somewhere near us who really knew his rugby and talkative Brit behind us. Mr Brown even did a fair bit of yelling himself. I will admit to feeling a little worried about possibly yelling too much, but in the end Auckland needed yelling at (no up-field vision, stupid option taking, and useless kicking).
Two big things from that match was that no matter how much the ball looked like it would go out in the north-west corner the ball would bounce back into play. I think three times in total the ball would bounce right to the edge of the line and then bobble back into play.
The other thing was when I went to buy beer in the second half. I was 50 cents short and there were no eftpos facilities. The woman at the till said that some had dropped a coin behind the cash register and it may have been a 50. She moved it to reveal a 10c piece. So now I'm 40c short. She asks the other vendor who says she has 40c in her jacket pocket and goes to get it. In the meantime a passing St John's Ambulance worker walks past and offers a dollar coin. At which point the drunk guy with dreads (who had been chatting to the second vendor) said to the Ambulance man "put that away! You guys are collecting for money. Here" and he passed over the required 40c. I thanked everyone and said that they were various shades of awesome to which the first vendor said "No worries you have fun!"
I'm still looking for an opportunity to pay the favour forward.
Also comparing the crowd in Auckland to the crowd in Wellington for the Otago Ranfurly Shield Challenge I would have to say Auckland fans > Wellington fans.
In the international game we've got a "revamped" All Black squad prepping to play the Wallabies. The naming of the team brought up an interesting issue for me: the lack of decent nicknames for rugby players. And I don't mean some of the brilliant ones Jedi comes up with.
Joe Rokocoko may be having a form slump but his nicknames (Joey Rockets et al) are some of the best in recent years. Last night Steve Hansen talked about Kieran Read replacing Rodney So'oialo. He referred to Read by his nickname, "Read-o". Seriously, Read with an O at the end.
No "Dr K". No "Read Write". No "Kieren Bear".
I loved it when, a year or so ago, it was revealed that Jason Eaton was called "Pig". There's something familial about it.