OPINION: Call it a fantasy, but a Central North Island Super conglomerate might work.
Behind the scenes, we hear of activity which might see another Super Rugby franchise born come expansion time in 2016.
Call it a conspiracy theory or pie in the sky, but here goes. It all seems to have emanated from Taranaki with un-named backers and a strong interest from Hawke's Bay.
Manawatu wouldn't have the dosh but it is a first-division union with a healthy player catchment.
And remember, all three provinces are all but divorced from the Hurricanes, who are now totally Wellington backed and since the partial privatisation have shed all of their provincial board members.
All three unions declined to take a stake in the new Canes.
So it makes sense for the others to be thinking of themselves. Now there is a monopoly of capital capitalists on the Canes board, it also makes sense for their interests to be totally positively Wellington.
They are bound to want almost all of their players in Wellington colours.
One of the new Hurricanes investors was heard to say his area "covers from Taranaki to East Coast Bays".
Our informants tell us they have been greeted by the nuclear "neither-confirm-nor-deny" reaction from the New Zealand Rugby Union. The black suits would have to say that and remember they "parked" Taranaki's Super expression of interest in March.
But with Sanzar publicly committed to expansion, the only area in New Zealand with the potential to host a Super 18 side is between New Plymouth and Napier.
Taranaki apparently have the roubles, petro-dollars or the milky way, or whatever, to be serious bidders.
And between Taranaki, the Magpies and Turbos, they have a good number of their best men at the Chiefs.
Sanzar have said they would like 18 teams by 2016. The South Africans are not going to tolerate their biggest city, Johannesburg, being bereft of a side for too long.
Forget Australia, they are over extended now with five, so a sixth New Zealand franchise could work, even if Sanzar prefer Argentina, Japan or the United States (and their potential billion-dollar TV deals).
The Hurricanes have lost their wider provincial identity and the provinces are now lukewarm about hosting them. They certainly won't entertain hosting them if it leaves then financially in the poo.
But the provinces do need big games and they have the stadiums - the World Cup saw to that.
Wellington can get by without the peripheral entities. They have oodles of talent.
The question is whether Sanzar would allow a six-team conference, whether NZ has 180 players of Super calibre and if a new franchise was born, the Highlanders repository would surely suffer. But dig this, official expansion talks start in a year's time.
When the final whistle blew on Sunday after the YoungHeart footballers had been heavily out-gunned by Waitakere City, one of the younger home players strode straight off. It appeared he wasn't hanging around to warm down with his mates, nor to shake hands with the victors, or nature called.
Manawatu coach Stu Jacobs was awake to this and should be admired for his quick action. He walked into the dressingroom and seconds later the player reappeared and joined the team.
No-one has a clue how to resuscitate New Zealand cricket.
But it does appear to be heading toward the sort of mediocrity in which NZ Tennis finds itself these days.
The heavy defeats, consistent losses inside three days in test matches, mean the players have two days a test to devote to their iPhones.
There was a time when our test cricketers hit the ball along the grass so the enemy didn't catch them out, or Mark Richardson bored us for hours by staying put with his straight bat.
It seems the swashbuckling Twenty20 has turned our batsmen into whirling dervishes. Or maybe many of them are just not good enough. No-one seems to know - so let's do a review.
- Manawatu Standard
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