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Failed sports jock turned couch commentator Justin Latif casts his eye over all things sport in Auckland, and belches out his own take on the comings and goings of our city's finest athletes and teams.

Kirwan plays his Joker card

05:00am 14 Dec 2012


Sir John Kirwan has made his first big call as Blues coach and the appointment of Ali Williams has the potential to make or break his first year in charge.

It's a bold move for a number of reasons.

Firstly, Ali Williams has built not only a reputation as a larrikin but also turned it into a marketable brand by releasing his own book of jokes and funny stories. For someone who's cultivated the wacky image of a joker like Williams has, Kirwan's taken a gamble that this ageing lock can evolve into the sort of leader needed for this highly inexperienced squad.

Second, there is a question mark as to whether Comical Ali can hold his body together after being plagued by injury recently.

The Chiefs managed this tricky scenario by having dual leaders who could cover for the other in case one needed a rest. Liam Messam and Craig Clarke both took their play to a new level and complimented each other perfectly as dual captains. The Crusaders had Kieran Read as Richie McCaw's able assistant and given the long lay-off for the All Blacks' captain, Read was the main captain for much of the season.

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Player power no good for Black Caps

05:00am 07 Dec 2012


As the Black Caps lurch into another internal crisis like an angry drunk picking a fight on K Rd it raises a bigger question: how much power is too much power for one player?

In our cricketers' case, it seems one particularly influential player, Brendon McCullum, has formed a core of support around him which could jeopardise Ross Taylor's future as captain.

This is not the first time we've seen this, but the other codes have also served up a few examples where a team has wielded its collective power to let their coach excel, or expel them.

Rumours abound around the dismal season of the Warriors, in particular that the dressing room became numb to Bluey's rantings and stopped following the game plan in protest.

On the flip side, we've heard from Sir Graham Henry's latest book that he gave over more power to his players following their humiliating World Cup exit in 2007.

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Why Auckland sportspeople are soft

05:00am 30 Nov 2012


The city of sails truly comes alive in summer and for sporting folk there is a veritable abundance of options to fill the long warm evenings in our fine city.

But not only is Auckland the perfect sporting playground for the lean and athletic, it also has the largest pool of resources, population and sporting facilities.

They range from the Millennium Institute on the North Shore, to the world class cricket facilities at Eden Park, to the hockey turfs and athletic tracks dotted around our suburbs.

Aucklanders have few excuses when it comes to having places to hone their skills. So why is it then that we don't dominate every domestic and provincial competition?

The inhabitants of the Auckland out-number every other city by at least two or three times, yet somehow other centres seem to produce the majority of our country's best athletes.

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Bring on the NRL 2013

05:00am 16 Nov 2012


Despite kick-off being more than four months away, the NRL PR machine is in overdrive, hyping up fans like an unopened can of Coke.  

But our rugby players, on the other hand, are meandering aimlessly through Europe like the Viking barbarians of old, pillaging the helpless but with no real desire to stay and rule.

And this has highlighted to me the one good thing about rugby league's international competition being so weak. Instead of fans having to regularly switch allegiances between local, regional and national teams, we can focus on a single tournament and trophy, similar to the way NFL and NBA are seen as the pinnacle of their sports.

It also means the fans get a decent off-season to refresh before they gorge themselves again on a diet of non-stop footy from March to September.

But the ever-extending rugby season, following on from the euphoric Rugby World Cup, has left me completely uninterested in the All Blacks' current northern tour. Given the men in black are now well accepted as one of the greatest sides ever, and they've thrown off the four-yearly world cup monkey, it means they almost have nothing to play for except pride.

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Auckland Aces hold all the cards

05:00am 09 Nov 2012


The cricket season is upon us again and despite Radio Sport's Mark Watson pleading the contrary, cricket still holds its place as New Zealand's favourite summer pastime. 

Unfortunately, the fortunes of our international side are too predictable, so I'll focus on the domestic scene for now. 

I'm picking the Auckland Aces to reclaim their T20 title and go one better to take out the four-day Plunket Shield competition. 

They have a strong squad, with a tasty mix of young talent, seasoned campaigners and wise old heads like Lou Vincent.

What is most interesting as you trawl through the squads is how many Aucklanders have moved to other teams to further their careers.

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