The old A to Z is a tried-and-true device, but I steadfastedly refuse to bow to such blatant populism


s it happens, occasionally someone suggests the idea of an A to Z column, a journey of sorts through all the things that have piqued the interest so far this season.

But, readers will agree that to be so simplistic would surely be an affront to their intelligence.

Careful as I may be, there is just no way that you could begin to put things in such order, and besides, by doing so I may inadvertently imply priority by the very act of alphabetising, and that would be unfair.


Dare I say it, there are things that straight away jump out about this year's tournament, not least of which is the defensive form of Manawatu's Callum Gibbins who, as he did for the entire 2012 season, leads the tackle count after some dominant displays in a struggling Turbos side.

Even the most casual fan understands the importance of players who are prepared to put their bodies on the line when it comes to making the tackles that count, and Gibbins will no doubt go through another regular season atop the table in this department.

Forgetting the defensive end for the moment, what about the form of new Highlanders recruit Patrick Osborne for Canterbury?

Good players know how to shine in good teams and Osborne, running about like a giant schoolkid on lunch break with the ball in one hand and his socks down, has been scintillating for the five-time defending champions, running the most metres, making the most offloads and trailing Wellington's Matt Proctor by a half break in terms of defenders beaten.

How are you supposed to put Osborne's attack all the way down an alphabetical list when it deserves such a high mention?

I am, on another note, still recovering from Sunday, where it became obvious that Tony Brown should stop having parties.

Just think about it - he's had two at his place, 12 years apart and both of them have been crashed.

Kind of makes you think twice about having another one, doesn't it?

Let it be said though, that Hawkes Bay's fanatical Magpies fans will have to jam themselves into McLean Park like anchovies in oil tomorrow if they hope to go close to recreating the atmosphere of Forsyth Barr Stadium, and you know they will.

Mike Coman, while we're on Hawkes Bay, is another who deserves to be on any list when it comes to the ITM Cup because if there was a man playing footy who looks like he could have been in Hawkes Bay's last Shield team it is the man known as Moo.

Never let it be said that the days of the classic white battler are over.

Oh no, Coman is a leader and a bleeder and for that we salute him!

Perhaps we should also salute Northland's defensive duo of Dan Pryor and Jack Ram, who between them have enough hair to make wigs for all the world's retired cricketers and who are both making around 15 tackles a game.

Questions may be asked about the inability of the Taniwha to close out games, but never let it be said these two are shirking their responsibilities, in coiffure or in commitment.

Really, as you can see it is impossible to rank by letter the things that thrill and delight in this competition, from Fumiaki Tanaka's emotion at becoming the first Japanese player to win (and lose) the Ranfurly Shield, to Ihaia West's raw talent and youthful confidence in what is fast becoming his ritualistic ability to spark a winning play.

Surely no one expects me to separate by 13 Latin characters the lineout catching ability of North Harbour's Chris Smith from the peerless lineout throwing ability of Tasman's Quentin MacDonald?

There is much merit, too, in a discussion about the offloading ability of MacDonald's Tasman team, which boasts a full six players in the competition's top 25.

Unless I am very much mistaken, it might be time to operate a double-team defence on Tasman's ball-runners, though given the no-ruck switch they pulled off last week against Counties Manukau, I doubt that would help much.

Valuable contributions from Victor Vito should be noted, given the fringe All Black is leading the ball-carrying count after being told to go back to Wellington and prove his worth as a dominant forward.

While it may be a long road back for big Vic, he's certainly refuelled the motor.

X-factor is not something often associated with frontrowers, but how can you argue with big Jeff Toomaga-Allen when he's all puffed up and running at the line, or young Brendon Edmonds and Ben Funnell, who both rank in the top eight turnover winners in the Cup?

You may think it as easy task to write an A to Z of the ITM Cup, but there's no way I can do it.

Zip, nada,no chance.