ANY GIVEN MONDAY
The Blues' season ended on the weekend. You may have heard.
They are the only New Zealand Super Rugby franchise to have failed to make the playoffs this year. This you may also already know. If you're a fan of history, you may have cottoned on to the fact that this scenario also presented itself last year.
And in 2017.
And in 2016.
The last time the Blues were joined on the post-season sidelines by another New Zealand franchise was way back in 2015 when, under a six-team playoff format, the Crusaders finished in seventh, one point out of the mix (they've gone alright since, apparently).
A lot has happened since the heady days of 2015. The All Blacks won their third Webb Ellis Cup. The UK voted to leave the European Union. Jacindamania hit. Tiger Woods roared back into relevance at the Masters. Liverpool roared back to relevance in the Champions League.
All the while the Blues have remained defiantly, ingloriously, hapless.
They finished the season beautifully to script, collapsing against a mildly enthusiastic crop of heavily hyphenated Hurricanes back-ups. The likes of Peter Umaga-Jensen, Isaia Walker-Leaware and Jackson Garden-Bachop have never had it so easy.
To watch Leon MacDonald with his head in hands was to watch a protagonist in a Mike Leigh film contemplating in grim silence the poor life choices he has made.
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Thankfully, MacDonald knows where to turn for advice. It's to us, of course: the public – the fans, the media and the great unwashed. If he just stopped to ask, this is what we'd tell him.
The talent ID is inept.
The drafting is flawed.
Too many over-the-hill players.
Too many inexperienced players.
The players are too soft.
The school competition in Auckland breeds lazy players.
They overthink things.
They're not thinking enough.
Their hair is too long.
Too many players still live with their mums.
They eat badly.
They train poorly.
They make dumb decisions under pressure.
They kick when they should pass.
They try to play too much footy.
The coaches don't understand Aucklanders.
The Aucklanders don't understand the coaches.
They need to be more like the Crusaders.
They need to be more like the Auckland NPC team.
They need to play fewer games at an empty Eden Park.
They need to turn Eden Park into a fortress.
Good players won't come because of the traffic.
Good players won't come because of the house prices.
They have to compete for talent with the Warriors.
The Warriors and Blues drag each other down.
The media is obsessed with the Blues' failings.
The media is too soft on the Blues.
The players need to become more self-sufficient.
They need better mentoring.
They need to change coaches.
They need to give their coaches more time.
They should be in the market for Joe Schmidt.
They need Warren Gatland.
This would never have happened if Fred the Needle was still around.
They're more interested in church than they are rugby.
If they'd just get their heads out of their latte bowls they'd improve.
There is no team culture at the Blues.
They've become too obsessed with culture.
You can't make a silk purse of a sow's ear.
You can make lemonade from lemons.
They need a world-class first five-eighth.
They need a decent first five-eighth.
They need a first five-eighth.
A good coach will be able to do something with all that sound advice. If MacDonald and company can't do something with that then they're not the men we thought they were.
Or perhaps the Blues, the anti-Crusaders, are exactly the team we need them to be to provide some balance in the sporting universe.
THE MONDAY LONG READ ...
In a week where the NBA's firmament was rocked by untimely injuries and an upstart Canadian team, this engrossing SI profile lets you into the world of the sport's ultimate kingmaker – Rich Paul .