Dylan Cleaver's Midweek Fixture

What a steamingly silly week in sport.

A fascinating, sometimes glorious, week, but certifiably crazy all the same.

It was contagious. As my mind wrapped itself around a few ideas for a weekly cold take it found itself becoming increasingly addled, much like Phil Mickelson's on the 13th hole at Shinnecock Hills.


Unable to focus on a target, I've chosen to take a swipe at a few moving ones instead.

Much like every other armchair spectator, my stomach churned when Beauden Barrett's aeronautic show at the Caketin ended in a nosedive. Like many people, I have become acutely aware of the dangers – both short and long term – of concussion and applaud any attempts to minimise the risks associated with head injuries.

Unlike a number of concussion worriers, however, I believe the most effective work in elite rugby will be done in rehabilitation, not prevention.

At junior and recreational level prevention should be paramount, but the elite game is a fast-moving collision sport based around the ongoing battle for possession of a small ovoid. Add in the fact it is played by physical superhumans and you have a recipe for occasional trouble.

That is not to say rugby's lawmakers shouldn't try to make it safer, or that macho attitudes shouldn't change with the times, but the real advances will come with increased awareness of how to treat players, like Barrett on Saturday, who meet trouble.

Twice in two weeks players have be helped from the field with potentially serious head injuries. On neither occasion can you hand on heart say there was any malice from Benjamin Fall or Ofa Tuungafasi. In fact, on both occasions, I believe they were put in poor positions by fouls that occurred a split second earlier: Sam Cane's fractionally high tackle on the luckless Remy Grosso and Anton Lienert-Brown's moving block on Fall.

(How the officials missed the Lienert-Brown intervention remains an enduring mystery and also raises the question: Should he have been red carded for the foul that ended with his teammate's head buried into the turf? That really would have capped a crazy week.)

The one good thing about all this is we're talking, mostly sensibly, about rugby safety. The crazy thing is that in this rush for punitive action against offenders real or, in Fall's case, imagined, we're forgetting that a) rugby is inherently risky, and b) there have been some seriously positive advances over the past few years.

Like this one: you don't have to go back too far to a time when Barrett, the All Blacks' playmaking fulcrum, would have been given until the last minute to try to prove his fitness for the third test.

Arise, the members of the USGA, the organisers and arbiters of this week's bats*** crazy US Open. There are a lot of big-time sports administrations under the gun at the moment – Fifa, World Rugby, the International Cricket Council – but you've planted your flag in the rock-hard ground of Shinnecock Hills and said, "Don't forget about us!"

Fair play to you too.

In invoking rule 14-5 instead of 1-2 in a successful bid to keep a popular player in their tournament, they ensured that Mickelson's wee tanty momentarily distracted wealthy white men from the atrocities happening daily in America.

The USGA's madness didn't stop there, either.

The US Open is a strange tournament, the only week of the American golfing year when the course is set up to humble the athletes who walk upon it.

The purists love it because shots in the rough are penalised, the proletariat love it because there is nothing quite like seeing an American golfer suffer, and the golfers love it because… actually, the golfers don't love it much.

Not on Saturday, when the wind blew, the greens totally dried out and the pin placements were so sadistic poor Phil tried to putt a moving ball all the way back to the safety of his rented Hamptons condo.

This was all cracking good fun until the players' whines reached a crescendo and out came the USGA's hoses and down came the scores.

What do you call a tournament where Tommy Fleetwood shoots 78 on Saturday and 63 on Sunday, where Rickie Fowler hits 84 then 65?

Utter lunacy is what you call it.

Doesn't it feel, in a suitably weird way, that New Zealand football might finally achieve something through having a full-blown toxic-culture crisis.

It might be that Austrian Andreas Heraf's legacy is short and spectacular. If I was to lay a wager right now I'd say his position is untenable and following him closely out the door will be "Nothing-to-see-here" CEO Andy Martin.

With a bit of luck, that will lead to a complete overhaul of NZF's flaccid executive committee and a total redrawing of how the way the sport is administered and structured in New Zealand.

Football is a global behemoth and should be a big, big player in this country. It has the numbers here, it has the volunteers and it has a core demographic that should be hugely attractive to corporates and other advertisers.

Yet it can't put out a compelling product and instead gives the impression that it's happier to grizzle about rugby's pre-eminence rather than do something about it.

A new top-down administration might start to unshackle the giant. Might.

Never thought I'd see this headline in an English newspaper: "Costly Eddie Jones is only option for England," rang out The Times after the Red Rose's sixth loss in succession last weekend.

The argument is that paying Jones off would cost close to $2 million and that members of his network of support staff would also require money that the Rugby Football Union don't have due to the redevelopment of Twickenham.

It's an extraordinary fall from grace for the Australian with a love for mind games.

Here's another headline from a similarly august English publication: "Eddie Jones contract extension is a good bit of business for RFU," shouted the Telegraph.

How far back do you have to travel in the misty recesses of time to find that? Not far – January 17, 2018, to be exact.

England, a different England, just scored 481 in a one-day international. 481! It wasn't against a minnow either, but the once-mighty Australia.

That's crazy with a cherry on top.

With the Jones' conundrum and the flogging at the hands of Jonny Bairstow, Alex Hales and Eoin Morgan, you can take it as read that now is not a good time to be an Australian in England.

Some people say the best way to promote the simple joys of international league is to send a compromised Kiwis team to play England at altitude in Denver, Colorado.

Some people say good on them. Why not give the US a crack? The All Blacks have drawn excellent crowds in Chicago so there is a market for at least one flavour of rugby there.

Some people are worried that some of the ticket-buying locals might actually have purchased in the belief they were going to watch the All Blacks.

Some people think the whole thing is preposterous.

Some of us are sitting on the mile-high fence on this one.

So all it took was a crazy Canuck to send Brendon Hartley into a wall five corners into the Canadian GP for the Kiwi to save a job that was hanging by the width of a carbon fibre suspension strut.

"If the trajectory had not improved, then we would have had to look somewhere for an alternative," Red Bull Racing consultant Dr Helmut Marko said.

You have to be pleased for Hartley, who deserves an elongated shot at the big time, but that's hell of a trajectory… and an appropriately bonkers way to end this.


No, I haven't forgotten the World Cup is on. Here's a couple of pieces to keep you in the mood for football. The Economist asks a question New Zealand football should be asking: How do you get good at this game?

Here's a deep dive into the World Cup corruption scandal, from Buzzfeed.