Kirwan brings Auckland pride
The first thing you have to understand about John Kirwan is that he's immensely proud of where he comes from. The things about Auckland and Aucklanders that might draw sneers from the rest of the country, he revels in. Like the love of a good coffee. So the Blues have a barista at their training ground, turning beans into little cups of magic. Kirwan loves it, the players love it and, increasingly, the media are starting to love it too. Long macchiato, please.
Avoiding the clone wars
The other thing about Kirwan is that he was desperate not to turn the Blues into a clone of the Crusaders, something he feared too many New Zealand teams tried to do at the detriment of finding their own personality and place in the world. He encourages his players to dress in a manner that reflects their uniqueness. So Kirwan turned up to the Blues' opener in Wellington against the Hurricanes wearing an expensive-looking three-piece suit and ... trainers. When asked about the curious combination, he shrugged, smiled, and said: "It's the Italian style."
Yes, they really love Auckland
To continue the Blues/Auckland lovefest, it is worth noting that Kirwan's infectious love of the place has rubbed off on his captain. Said Ali Williams of Auckland in yesterday's 12 Questions interview in the Herald: "It's the greatest place in the world to live." This version of SuperShorts is not quite as categoric, but it'd be in the top three along with Aix-en-Provence and New Plymouth.
Hansen on photo duty
Perhaps not quite as sartorially splendid, but Steve Hansen was a cheerful presence at the Auckland Cup at Ellerslie on Wednesday, graciously posing for an endless round of photo-ops with increasingly pickled members of the public.
Open up the Cup
On the subject of the Auckland Cup, while it might be a great day for corporate networking and schmoozing, we suspect it's never going to hit the high notes it should with the wider public unless it is wedded to a public holiday. Rather than give reasons for why it's too hard, Auckland Racing and the town burghers need to come up with ways to make it happen.
It would be nice to think that the revelations at Cronulla might ease the fear some apologists for sports cheats had that the Australian Crime Commission's report was just a beat-up and a needless smear on all of those who play the great game. It now appears increasingly likely that the ACC didn't just drop the bombshell in February for the sheer fun of it, for fits and giggles. Who'da thunk it?
The fact Cronulla was the first team to be put under the spotlight has proven a boon for Australian headline writers (see pictures).
Sex.com takes on worthy cause
Hot on the heels of Magic Johnson stumping up US$1 million ($1.2 million) if LeBron James enters next season's NBA dunk contest, a pornographic website has dipped a little bit deeper into their pockets, according to Sports Illustrated's Hot Clicks. "Sex.com is offering $5m to the charity of Kobe Bryant's choosing for his participation in the 2014 NBA Slam Dunk Contest. However, this offer is conditional. It depends on Lebron James entering the 2014 NBA Slam Dunk Contest with Bryant. We at Sex.com feel it is important for the sport of basketball that Kobe and Lebron face off in the dunk contest and we want to be part of this historic event," says Sex.com's Director of Marketing JL Marcoux. How noble.
What goes around ...
Thanks to football365's Mediawatch column, we learn that this is what Alex Ferguson said after Fulham were denied a clear penalty against Manchester United last year: "Every club gets breaks here and there, you get good ones and bad ones. It evens itself out over the season, that will never change." This is what Fergy said after United were bundled out of the Champions League following a controversial red card against Nani: "." The poor man was too distraught to face the press.
They said it:
"Doug is very sorry for any inconvenience he has caused his teammates and members of the public, and he has apologised to his neighbour in Napier."
New Zealand manager Mike Sandle, on behalf of NZ cricketer Doug Bracewell, who got the booze guilts.
"I am sorry for my behaviour that evening and I accept that it was totally inappropriate for me to be out drinking during a match where I was representing my country."'
- NZ cricketer Jeetan Patel gets the booze guilts.
"My behaviour was completely unprofessional in going out and I should have spent time with Jeetan in another way."
- NZ cricketer Daniel Vettori gets the booze guilts.
"We've got really good standards in terms of the expectations we have on our players."
- NZ coach Mike Hesson insists there is no booze culture in the sport here.
"It was always going to be a tough start to the competition and this was really an arm wrestle, a dog fight and one of the toughest derbies you can get - it was almost like a test match out there."
- Stormers coach Allister Coetzee attempts to break a world cliche record in explaining away his side's loss to the Sharks.
"I think in the long run, Friday will be a blessing in disguise. It was like it just sort of released a valve, and all that pressure that I've been putting on myself just went away. And I was like, 'Just go out and have fun. It's not life or death out there. It's only a game.' I had sort of forgotten that this year."
- Rory McIlroy fronts the media following last Friday's shock withdrawal from the Honda Classic.
"His entry into union has been very good. It's not easy going from AFL to union, so he's shown enough encouraging signs and we'll just keep watching."
- Wallabies coach Robbie Deans talks up Israel Folau's chances of a test rugby debut.
"Monty [Panesar] always looks a really good player right up to the moment he gets out."
- Tweet from the Guardian's erudite cricket correspondent Mike Selvey.
"Sharks fans and all rugby league supporters can be assured the club has been very proactive in fully co-operating with ASADA and taking other measures that prioritise the integrity of our club and the welfare of our playing group."
- NRL club Cronulla responds to news that up to 14 of their players are implicated in an anti-doping probe.
"Joe has a little way to go. He's not fully fit, I think the coast-to-coast took a bit out of him."
- Rowing NZ high performance manager Alan Cotter on the omission of Olympic gold medallist Joseph Sullivan from the squad for the World Cup in Sydney.