NZME's award winning* football blog Goalmouth Scramble is back. Our rotating stable of football writers will offer daily hot takes on all the action from the World Cup in Russia. Today, Joel Kulasingham wishes the All Blacks played football instead of rugby.
We may be in the middle of a thrilling World Cup in Russia, but the best football story from last week – in my view – came during an All Blacks press conference.
In the lead up to their third test against France on Saturday, it was revealed that All Blacks rookie Shannon Frizell was a football goalkeeper and represented Tonga at age-grade level before switching codes to rugby.
The mind-blowing revelation was a combination of three of my favourite things: football, the All Blacks and sporting what-ifs.
What if Frizell continued to work on his craft as a goalkeeper instead of becoming a world class loose forward? Could he have been an All White? Could he have helped the All Whites qualify for the World Cup? Is it rugby's fault that New Zealand aren't at the World Cup?!!
No. The answer to all those questions is no, because it turns out Frizell wasn't that good. During a match for the Tongan under-17 team, he conceded 17 goals. Yes, 17 goals in one match. Safe to say, he made the right choice.
Regardless, it sent my mind on a journey, making me think about the rest of the All Blacks and their potential footballing careers, ultimately leading me to the ridiculous idea for this blog post.
So here it is: a pointless exercise of picking a team of 11 All Blacks who I think could've been good footballers, maybe.
Rules (because this is extremely important and not a waste of time at all):
1. Players eligible for this made-up fantasy draft have to be from the All Blacks squad named to face France. Injury replacements are ok.
2. The formation this imaginary team will line up in will be 4-2-3-1 because it feels like the type of formation Steve Hansen would be into.
3. The picks will be mostly based on potential (who could've been a great footballer instead of who may actually be the best footballer in the squad).
Goalkeeper: Shannon Frizell
Frizell represented Tonga at the OFC under-17 championships in 2011 and played as goalkeeper in every game of the tournament. Unfortunately for Frizell and Tonga, they got destroyed, shipping 46 goals and only scoring two in four games. Their biggest thrashing was a 17-0 defeat at the hands of well-known footballing powerhouse New Caledonia. Despite that, Frizell is still the only All Black – to my knowledge – who has represented his country as a goalie on the international stage, so he gets the nod.
World Cup equivalent: Panama's goalkeeper Jamie Penedo, who has conceded the most goals in Russia so far, including six goals against England.
Left back: Nehe Milner-Skudder
Milner-Skudder would've grown up playing on the wing, later adapting to the left back position because of his versatility, and because he's a team player. I'm getting Patrice Evra vibes for some reason.
World Cup equivalent: England's winger turned left back Ashley Young.
Centre back: Brodie Retallick
Retallick would be a tall, ball-playing defender who loves to go on marauding runs from the back.
World Cup equivalent: Belgium and Tottenham's Jan Vertongen.
Centre back: Sam Cane
Cane would be a tough-tackling leader who is not afraid to do the dirty work for the team.
World Cup equivalent: Uruguay's hard-nosed captain Diego Godin.
Right back: Jack Goodhue
Goodhue would have that spark going forward, but would be equally good tracking back.
World Cup equivalent: If Conrad Smith is Philip Lahm, then Goodhue is Germany's right back Joshua Kimmich – a player with the potential to become the best in the world at his position.
Defensive midfield: Aaron Smith
Like he does for the All Blacks, Smith would've been the quarterback on the football pitch, the starting point to most attacking moves.
World Cup equivalent: Croatia's feisty midfield maestro Luka Modric.
Defensive midfield: Ben Smith
Smith would've never given the ball away, and would have been the most consistent player on the field – also capable of moments of brilliance.
World Cup equivalent: Spain's Andres Iniesta – has never had a bad game in his life.
Right midfield: Rieko Ioane
Ioane would've been the speedy trickster who defenders would dread facing. He would've also been a prolific goal scorer.
World Cup equivalent: Egypt's Mo Salah – a speed merchant who just came off a fantastic goal scoring season.
Left midfield: Ryan Crotty
He would've been an 8/10 every game and would've had one of the highest football IQ's in the team. No one's sure exactly what he's excellent at but he's good at most things.
World Cup equivalent: Germany's footballing enigma Thomas Muller.
Attacking midfield: Beauden Barrett
Barrett would've been the playmaker, capable of finding the tiniest of gaps with his passing, while also pitching in with his share of goals.
World Cup equivalent: Belgium's playmaking all-rounder Kevin De Bruyne.
Striker: Damian McKenzie
McKenzie would've been able to play anywhere across the front line, and would've been an exciting attacking talent.
World Cup equivalent: French forward Antoine Griezmann – who's also known for his cheeky smile.
• There was no room for cross-code star Sonny Bill Williams. He is simply too buff to be a footballer, and I couldn't imagine a universe where he wasn't. Sidenote: Williams would be a perfect representative for rugby in the much-debated rugby bod vs football bod argument. SBW vs CR7 would be one hell of a match up.
• I am aware my logic was all over the place when it came to the picks and justifications. If I were logical, I would not have written this objectively dumb piece.
• If you made it this far, you deserve a medal.
*Goalmouth Scramble's 'award' was more of an inter-company acknowledgement in an email from 2012.
Previously, on Goalmouth Scramble:
Chris Rattue: Bring on the penalty shootouts
Niall Anderson: So, uh, which of these World Cup teams are actually good?
Steven Holloway: Funbag: Messi and World Cup conspiracy theories
Michael Burgess: Why I'm missing Sepp Blatter
Cam McMillan: The far too early second round projections
David Leggat: A few things you need to know about the World Cup
Damien Venuto: Messi - The Argentinean Andrew Mehrtens?
Cam McMillan: Why Brazil will (and won't) win the World Cup
Niall Anderson: The best (and worst) games to watch
Chris Rattue: Funny footballs and goalkeepers
Chris Rattue: The big World Cup questions
Steven Holloway: Fancy a punt? The World Cup's best bets