The Wrong Move?

The Wrong Move?

This weekend just gone, myself and a group of fellow Pistol Shrimps found ourselves on a Zoom call to wish a teammate a happy birthday, and talk invariably turned to the future. May 2021 should have seen the Shrimps competing in their 10ᵗʰ Aber 7s, but the COVID-19 pandemic has left us stuck on 8, with last year’s tournament cancelled and this year’s likely not going ahead either.

And yet the professional tournaments for “elite” players continue, despite people going down with COVID left, right and centre. Squads are currently being named for the Six Nations, despite the most recent 2 rounds of European rugby being canned due to France taking a stand against the pandemic. The whole build-up seems like a farce and after the boredom of the Autumn Nations Cup – with it’s empty stadiums and matches cancelled due to COVID outbreaks – I have never found myself less enthused about the start of the Six Nations.

I am a die-hard rugby fan, but right here, right now, the health of the population – in every country – is much more important. And yet as each round of Premiership rugby goes on, we hear of more players testing positive. Celebrations for scoring a try become limited, but if you can’t high five someone from your own bubble, why should you be able to scrum down against someone from outside your bubble? I understand that rugby needs to keep going as much as possible to avoid financial trouble, but the league is a farce when teams are getting more points for having to cancel due to COVID than teams who are successfully avoiding outbreaks, while the wrong people having to isolate can prove costly.

To me, rugby should be stopping its elite competitions right now and creating more localised bubbles containing a handful of local teams (Premiership teams could link with Championship teams) for smaller exhibition tournaments and effectively use this season as a long preseason ahead of next season, by which point we should be in a better place.

Taking players to the Six Nations is just a recipe for spreading the disease among a wider group, so I sincerely feel that the Six Nations should be missed this year, and I also find it hard to imagine that rugby will be ready for the Lions Tour to South Africa in the summer.

 

Right now, it’s hard to feel that professional rugby has any credibility, with money appearing to be much more important than health, safety or even the integrity of the game. I can’t help feel that if we look back at the end of 2021, I can’t help feel that we would agree that a break from competition ended up being the right call.

In the meantime, I will just continue to look ahead to the return of the COVID-free Super Rugby Aotearoa.

FREE AGENT FRENZY: Who Will Each Manager Pick?

FREE AGENT FRENZY: Who Will Each Manager Pick?

With the voting closed for the Schmoedown Awards, which will be announced shrtly, it’s time to start looking ahead to season 8 and all-out WAR. Stage 1 of the war will begin 1 week after the Awards show in a Free Agent Special, which will end with each of the 8 factions having secured the services of 3 Schmoedown Pros ahead of the 2021 Draft.

But who will end up where? It’s not just a matter of the manager wanting a certain Schmoedown Pro, that person has to also decide that said manager is the right one for them. My predictions for tournament brackets were woefully off in season 7, so hopefully I can kick off season 8 with a bit more accuracy.

KOrruption

Not really a prediction here as Shannon Barney’s prize for winning the Faction Championship last season was the chance to lock in her 3 before Free Agency even opened for any other manager. In no real shock, Shannon chose to keep hold of Mike Kalinowski, Chance Ellison and Adam Collins, securing herself 2 triple-threats, one of the 3 longest-tenured teams (and arguably one of the elite teams) remaining in the league and the undefeated Singles Champion, who will be a solid lead to a second team.

Stars

I’m making Roxy the first of my actual predictions as I can’t help feel that her trio is pretty obvious. I’m assuming that with big names like Chris Jericho there will be some unspoken agreement that other managers won’t come after them allowing Roxy to not have to use one of her 3 spots on him and being able to pick him up a couple of rounds into the draft. This will allow Roxy to pick up her 3 champions in Jeff Sneider, Marc Andreyko and Alex Damon. While Andreyko may only be featuring in Teams so may be on the bench early in the season, it gives Roxy an elite team once that division gets going, with a strong chance of defending for big points, while Sneider already has a #1 Contender Match scheduled. Similarly, Alex will likely still be the favourite in his upcoming title match, and can also look to push on after a great first season in IG and could also be a solid B player on a team, utilising the IG-specific wheel slices.

Quirky Mercs

Next up is Coy Jandreau, as he is in a relatively similar situation to Roxy. Like Jericho, I am assuming that Coy will be able to pick up Kevin Smith in the draft, allowing him to get quality cover for 3 divisions with his 3 picks. Keeping hold of the Shazam! pairing of William Bibbiani and Brendan Meyer appears a no-brainer for all parties involved – Coy gets an elite team and 2 elite Singles competitors (as well as the master of FreeForAlls, while Shazam stick with the manager who got them over the hump and helped them win their first Team Title. For his final pick, I see Coy sticking with his top 3 from last year’s draft by picking Mara Knopic, who has a Title Match early in the season, and I can see Mara showing some loyalty to Coy for keeping her on the faction through season 7 despite being inactive.

S.W.A.G.

This is where things get interesting. Winston Marshall and Chandru Dhandapani look like a solid match so I envision the Innergeekdom Champion sticking with S.W.A.G. Paul Oyama looked revitalised with Winston and is a former champion with solid strategy, so I can see the pair also agreeing to stick together. However, I can see Final Exam coming to an end after twice failing to get the win against the elite teams, with Winston Marshall bringing in Ben Bateman as his third pick. I feel that Bateman will respect the effort that Winston puts into the league and his players, while a pairing with Oyama would cover some of his weaker areas like Classics and family movies, while he knows that Oyama will put in the same effort he will. Don’t be shocked to see Winston looking to secure Ace in the opening round of the draft.

The Den

The Den was hard to call as it feels like there will be big changes here with Kate now having a year of experience under her belt. Ben Goddard impressed over 3 divisions before being left out in the second half of the season, but I think that a fired-up Kate could convince him to stay as one of the leads within the faction. I wouldn’t be shocked to see Paul Preston move on after a disappointing season, but I think that she could convince him to stay by proving she has learned from last season and pairing him with the GOAT Dan Murrell. A shock move for Murrell? Maybe, but the faction feels like it has good quality and was just missing an elite veteran to lead them.

Finstock Exchange

What a difference a year makes. Tom Dagnino kicked off 2020 by drafting all 4 Horsemen and future star “The Barbarian”. Now hehas to start almost from scratch after losing the support of Ben Bateman and then throwing out Dan Murrell. By doing so though, he appears to have secured the services of John Rocha to lead the faction. Early in the offseason, I had thoughts that Ben Bateman may convince The Barbarian to follow him to a new faction where they could pair up, but I now see Dagnino holding onto him by offering him a partnership with Rocha as the lead team. Barbarian’s ability to also cover IG means that Dagnino will look to cover all 4 divisions with his 3 picks by holding onto Andrew Dimalanta, who has a guaranteed title shot early in the season.

Usual Suspects

So much was expected from the Suspects last season, but the early retirement of Drew McWeeny and the impact of COVID seriously hampered their season. One good thing did come of it though: a trade with the Burning Droogs that involved Ethan Erwin joining the Suspects at the cost of their 1ˢᵗ round draft pick. Well the dissolution of the Droogs has allowed Samm to keep his draft pick and I’m sure he will also be keeping Ethan Erwin. However, it looks like he may be getting a new partner as Andrew Ghai has been MIA on the Schmoedown scene since Spectacular, while he has also previously talked about how he is focused on Teams but struggles in the online environment. For that reason, I see Samm looking for a new partner for Erwin, and who better than someone who he already knows well: Liz Shannon Miller, who had a great run in the Singles Tournament. For the final spot, I see Samm also showing faith in someone whose 1-2 record this season does not match up with her quality, Jeannine “The Machine”, who could become a legitimate triple threat if she looks to carry on from her foray into the IG tournament.

The Dungeon

And so that brings us to The Dungeon, who probably have a little more wiggle room here as they own the 1ˢᵗ overall pick in the draft to supplement their 3 picks here. Last season, Kaiser chose to try dominating the IG Division with his early draft picks, picking up Kevin Smets and Robert Parker with his first 2 picks. Well Smets will be inactive this year as he continues to smash cancer, so I see Robert Parker stepping into the role of the team’s IG leader. I expect the IG focus to continue though with the acquisition of Brandon Hanna, who is the 4ᵗʰ most accurate of all time in IG (min 5 matches) and hinted at his quality outside the division with his foray into Teams with Jader Paramo. Hanna is an underrated player and as a triple threat, he could cause some havoc under Kaiser’s tutelage. For his final spot, I can see Kaiser showing loyalty with one of his originals and holding onto Eric Zipper, who is another legitimate triple threat and has improved year on year. Don’t be shocked to see Kaiser looking to pick up the best available Singles/Teams competitor on the board with his opening pick to pair with Zipper/Hanna.

 

So those are my predictions. Who you think each manager will pick up?

Premier League 2020/21: December

Premier League 2020/21: December

Happy New Year Premier League fans!

Before I get into this, I have a sincere apology to make, to my good friend Chris and all Spurs fans. It was beginning to look like this would finally be their season, but it would appear that I jinxed them by praising them so much in last month’s article, as they promptly went off the boil and dropped right out of the Champions League qualifying spots.

Tottenham were replaced at the top of the table by Liverpool, who led the league at Christmas as saw in the new year at the top spot, though Manchester United finished the month just3 points behind with a game in hand. Leicester and Everton filled out the top 4, though Villa are just 3 points behind, with a game in hand on Everton and 2 on the Foxes. The rest of the big name teams (other than 13ᵗʰ-placed Arsenal) fill out the rest of the top 8, with Chelsea, Spurs and Manchester City all finishing the month on the same number of points as Villa, though games in hand favour City and Villa.

At the bottom of the table, Chris Wilder’s seat must be feeling pretty toasty, as Sheffield United’s 1-1 draw at Brighton saw them double their points tally for the season, 6 points behind West Brom, who have turned to Sam Allardyce to keep them up. Fulham fill the final spot in the relegation zone, but they are only 2 points behind Brighton with a game in hand, while Burnley will hope that their improved form helps continue to pull them away from danger.


The race is on!

The race for the Golden Boot: Mohamed Salah (Liverpool) – 13 goals; Son Heung-Min (Tottenham), Dominic Calvert-Lewin (Everton) & Jamie Vardy (Leicester) – 11 goals

The race for Playmaker of the Season: Harry Kane (Tottenham) – 10 assists; Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City) & Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United) – 7 assists

The race for the Golden Glove: Emiliano Martínez (Aston Villa) – 8 clean sheets; Ederson (Manchester City) & Alex McCarthy (Southampton) – 7 clean sheets


Rewarding honesty

Anyone who has been reading my Premier League thoughts for years will know that I hate diving. It’s cheating, pure and simple, a way to deceive the officials into giving a penalty or a free kick.

Now, we’re certainly in a much better place then we were a few season ago, but there are still far too many occasions where you see players either going to ground without being touched or feeling the slightest brush from a defender and Launching themselves through the air as if they were taking flight.

This issue (and the obvious solution) was highlighted to me as I watched 2 matches on 5ᵗʰ December: Chelsea’s 3-1 win over Leeds and Manchester City’s 2-0 win over Fulham. With the score 2-1 at Stamford Bridge, Ian Poveda was caught in the box by Ben Chilwell. Rather than go to ground, he stayed on his feet in an attempt to still make something from the situation, but the chance was now gone. What should have been a clear penalty to Leeds ended up being nothing. Meanwhile at the Etihad, Fulham defender Joachim Andersen caught Raheem Sterling in the box. Though there was less contact than in the Poveda incident, Raheem didn’t hesitate in throwing his legs into the air and doing a dramatic belly flop, and the penalty was awarded for Kevin De Bruyne to double the score and secure the win.

And herein lies the issue and the reason that players will continue to dive: if they are honest and stay on their feet, officials will not react. Officials need to go back to basics and look at what constitutes a foul – it does not need to include the player going to floor. If they start rewarding the honesty of players by awarding a free kick or penalty even when the player keeps their feet, then players will not have to dive in order to win the decision they are due – and anyone who continues to can be rightly vilified!

Classless

On 16ᵗʰ December, West Brom became the first Premier League team this season to part ways with their manager, with he announcement that they had sacked Slaven Bilić. That very same day, Sam Allardyce was announced as the new manager. It’s understandable why West Brom made the change, as they were 19ᵗʰ in the league on just 7 points. The problem is, this came less than 24 hours after the team held Manchester City to a 1-1 draw at the Etihad.

No offence to West Brom, but a draw at the Etihad is likely going to be one of the best results of the season, and the fact that both the sacking and the new appointment were announced the next day says to me that the decision was already made ahead of the match, so to sack a manager right after such a positive result shows a certain lack of class.

Big Sam may be an expert in keeping teams up, but this is a weak team in a strong league, and I can’t see this appointment paying off. Bilić will find another team and it would be a beautiful irony if West Brom drops to the Championship and Bilić manages in the Premier League before the Baggies make it back up.

Boom or bust

Leeds have been a breath of fresh air in the league this season. Under the watch of Marcelo Bielsa, the Whites have brought a flashy attack-minded gameplan that has surely been winning them the support of neutrals in a number of matches.

Of course, it hasn’t been all success for them, as their big wins (like 5-2 against Newcastle and 0-5 at West Brom) are a flip side to equally big losses, like the 6-2 loss at Old Trafford. They find themselves entering the new year with 7 wins, 7 losses and 2 draws, with 30 goals for and 30 goals against.

While this level of success will be enough to keep them up this year, they will need to find some way to adapt their game in the long-term, so that they can continue to be super dangerous in attack, but not at the expense of their defence. After all, a focus on attacking brilliance is fine, until your star striker gets hurt or hits a barren spell – I’ve learned that the hard way on FIFA!

Transfer talk

The new year means that the transfer window is open again, and some teams certainly need to be utilising it, as some teams have a clear need.

While Manchester City may finally be creeping back up the table, they are still feeling the impact of playing much of the season without a recognised striker. With Aguero and Jesus, they don’t need to break the bank on a superstar, but they need to get someone who has a striker’s natural instincts if they want to start winning the close games.

Other teams that are in desperate need of a striker are Wolves – who have really missed Raúl Jiménez since his head injury – and Brighton, who are rotating between Neal Maupay, Aaron Connolly, Florin Andone and Danny Welbeck of all people!

Meanwhile, Edinson Cavani has been a great option for Manchester United while Bruno Fernandes has helped drag the Red Devils into the title hunt, but they will need an elite winger and centreback if they legitimately want to win the league – though their early elimination from the Champions League will make it even harder for them to get that kind of quality, especially with Ed Woodward still in his role!

What other teams do you think have a burning need to fill during this transfer window?


Team of the Month

Everton

The Toffees get my vote for December as, following a drop in form, they returned with an unbeaten month. Things kicked off with a 1-1 draw at Burnley, and then they followed this up with 4 wins: 1-0 against Chelsea, 0-2 at Leicester, 2-1 against Arsenal and 0-1 at Sheffield United. That’s a 7-2 aggregate score in December, including wins against 2 of their rivals for European qualification and another big name team to boot!

They are certainly not the perfect team, with Jordan Pickford skittish between the sticks and summer loan signing Robin Olsen not sufficient competition, but in this season where nobody looks like they will run away with the league, a Champions League spot looks a real possibility, so long as they can stay consistent.


And the Award Goes to…

And the Award Goes to…

Happy New Year y’all! It’s time to start putting 2020 behind us, but before we completely forget about it, we need to take one more look at Season 7 in order to pick the winners for the 2020 Schmoedown Awards.

As a Patron of the Schmoedown, I had the honour of being involved in the voting process for this year’s awards, and wanted to take a moment to reflect on a bright point in a poor year and talk through my votes.

So without further ado, my votes went to:

PLAYER OF THE YEAR

  • Jeff Sneider (8-3 overall) 4-2 in singles, tournament finals, 4-1 in teams. Teams tournament winner, team champion)
  • Adam Collins (8-1 overall) (7-0 in singles, 1-1 in teams, FreeForAll Horror Winner)
  • Dan Murrell (4-1 in singles, 3-1 in title matches, defended title twice. 1-2 in teams)
  • Chance Ellison: 7-3 overall Won the IG tourney, went 4-0 in the tourney. 2-1 in teams, won teams titles. 1-1 in singles
  • Andres Cabrera 4-2 overall in Star Wars and IG, went 4-0 in Star Wars tourney from play in and won SW tourney

So most of the talk I have heard has been between Sneider and Collins for understandable reasons given their second half of the season. Ace did fantastic in the Star Wars Division, but only played 1 match (a loss) outside of the Division so I can’t give him the award. Murrell doesn’t have the same number of wins, but almost every match he played was for a title and an absolute thriller. Collins’ Singles run was fantastic, but like Ace he barely played outside of that division so misses out on the overall award. Sneider had a fantastic end to the season, finishing with a tournament victory, a Teams Title and another tournament final with an 8-3 record. However my vote goes to someone who I think has been criminally underlooked: Chance Ellison won a Teams title like Sneider (the only difference being Sneider hasn’t had a chance to lose it since) and finished with a similar record (7-3, just one match less) while also winning the IG tournament and fighting for that title, but what he did that nobody else on this list did is compete in 3 Divisions and find a degree of success in each – exactly what I’m looking for with the overall award.

SINGLES PLAYER OF THE YEAR

  • Adam Collins 7-0, 1 title win, singles tournament winner. 6-0 in tourney
  • Dan Murrell 4-1, one title win, 2 title defenses
  • Jeff Sneider 4-2, tournament finalist
  • Liz Shannon Miller 3-1, tournament semi finalist
  • Ethan Erwin 5-2, semi finalist

Let’s be honest, this is a pretty easy one. Jeff, Ethan and Liz had great campaigns, while Dan Murrell defeated Meyer, Bibbiani, Bateman (twice) and Erwin in stunning fashion. However, it’s hard to give this award to anyone other than Adam Collins, who took the league by storm and went unbeaten in the division, including defeating Murrell at Spectacular!

UPSET OF THE YEAR

  • Perri beats Kalinowski
  • Cabrera beats Laura Kelly
  • Collins beats Rocha
  • Chance beats Parker
  • Cabrera beats Dimalanta

So this may be a hot take, but I didn’t actually consider Cabrera the underdog against Dimalanta, so I can rule that one out. While Robert Parker’s loss to Chance was a shock, I think that maybe we expected too much too soon from a rookie. Perri beating Kalinowski and Collins beating Rocha were certainly shocks, but I think that both of the higher-ranked competitors were below their best, which is why I go for Kelly v Cabrera, as this was Laura Kelly at her best, missing just 1 question in the entire game, and Ace having to be at his very best to come away with the win.

TEAM OF THE YEAR

  • Odd Couple 4-1, tournament winners, one title win
  • Shazam 3-1 one title win
  • Final Exam 4-2, tournament finalists
  • KOrruption 2-1, 1 title win
  • Founding Fathers 1-2

So this was a pretty interesting one, with 4 teams having held the Teams Title in 2020. The fact that the Founding Fathers made the shortlist with a winning record says it all. When I make the pick here, I feel that you need to look at repeated success (so a high win-loss record), while having also won the title. KOrruption and Shazam both get ruled out due to Final Exam and Odd Couple having more wins, but as Final Exam could not win a belt, they also get ruled out and leaves the Odd Couple as my vote.

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

  • Adam Collins 8-1 over two divisions, Horror FreeForAll Winner
  • Barbarian 4-2 over two divisions
  • Goddard 4-2 over three divisions
  • Marisol McKee 2-2 over two divisions
  • Kevin Smith 2-0

Another one that ended up being a clear option. Credit to Marisol McKee, Kevin Smith and all the other rookies who showed their quality in 2020, but there was a clear top 3. Ben Goddard’s early success across 3 divisions had him leading the race and also in contention for Player of the Year, but not competing in the Teams or Singles tournaments cost him. Similarly, Craig “The Barbarian” Gaynier showed early success in Singles and IG, but not being in he Teams tournament hurt him. The clear winner here is Adam Collins. He may have only gone 1-1 in Teams but he still ended up with the same number of wins as Ben and the Barbarian combined with just 1 loss to his name and the Singles Belt around his waist.

COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR

  • Andres Cabrera SW tourney winner
  • Lon Harris Teams division come back and advancing in singles tourney
  • Liz Shannon Miller Semi finals in tourney
  • Jeff Sneider wins teams titles for 3rd time, makes it to singles finals
  • Perri Nemiroff: after long layoff, defeats Mike Kalinowski, pushes Reilly and pulls off biggest 3 round comeback in teams

So this is an interesting one with no clear winner to me. I don’t personally see what Ace’s “comeback” is from, as a loss to Team Champs in season 2 and a mauling in IG against Robert Parker is not enough to me. Likewise, Liz went 3-2 last season, with both losses coming to people on their run to the Singles Title. Sneider held a Teams Title and competed for the Singles Title in 2019, while Perri’s 2-2 record doesn’t seem award-worth to me. Lon Harris, however, limped to a 2-4 overall record last year while playing with 3 different teammates, but this year found success with Paul Oyama and SWAG, while also completely reinventing himself with his switch from Professor to Delinquent, and therefore gets my vote.

FACTION OF THE YEAR

  • KOrruption: Faction champions, singles title, teams title, IG tourney, singles tourney
  • SWAG: Second place, IG title, Star Wars tourney, teams finals
  • Roxstars: Third place, teams championship, Star Wars championship
  • Finstock Exchange: teams title, singles title
  • Quirky Mercs, teams title

For me, this was a 2-horse race between KOrruption and SWAG, who ran away with the Faction championship. While both had success, KOrruption won 2 titles to SWAG’s 1 during the season and also won 2 of the 4 tournaments and the Horror FreeForAll, on the way to winning the Faction Championship, so I have to give my vote to them.

FEUD OF THE YEAR

  • Roxy vs Shannon
  • Shannon vs Winston
  • Dagnino vs Bateman
  • Founding Fathers vs KOrruption
  • Chandru vs Smets

So for me, the feud needs to go on for a while and remain relevant, which gives the advantage to those between managers, so I’m ruling out the bottom two, while I also think that Tom v Ben has been mainly shots for long distance rather than face to face. So that leaves Shannon (shock!) vs either Roxy or Winston. But as I said, relevance is also important and – though it may sound harsh – the Roxstars were never a legitimate threat to KOrruption, whereas SWAG were, which gave the extra edge to Shannon v Winston.

MANAGER OF THE YEAR

  • Shannon Barney
  • Winston Marshall
  • Roxy Striar
  • Tom Dagnino
  • Coy Jandreau

Another that was really a two-horse race in my mind, but as Roxy has also got a lot of backing I will go through all 5. Bobby Gucci’s managing style doesn’t work online and he proved unable to adapt effectively to the new format forced upon us, whilst also allowing too much squabbling within the faction. Roxy Striar may be getting some love for her speeches to the Odd Couple and the fact that she had competitors in 3/6 Spectacular matches, but 2 of those matches were basically gifted to her by drafting Alex Damon at a sport where it would have been stupid to pick anyone else and having a connection to a famous name who wanted to play. I would put her above Dagnino, but I also question why such an experienced manager is still having to constantly give speeches to stop 2 experienced Schmoedown Pros from giving up, while I also can’t ignore the missteps with Josh Quevedo and Jim Vejvoda. Coy Jandreau takes third for doing well with his whole factin, with the Reel Rejects getting a win, Greg Alba turning heads in IG and Perri making an impressive return to the league, while he also got Shazam to the title. However, with the Mercs being so far behind in the faction Standings, there is then a big gap between him and the top 2.

And so it comes down to Winston v Shannon. Shannon has 2 titles won, 1 title lost and a missed title. Winston has 1 title won, a successful defence and a missed title. So we’re pretty even there. Shannon brought out the best in Laura Kelly and discovered Marisol and Adam, but also had the benefit of pre-made team in former Team Champions KOrruption. Winston however had to start from scratch and did a great job by pairing Paul Oyama and Lon Harris, who were both revitalised with changes to their character, while he also got the best out of Liz Shannon Miller and Andres Cabrera. Shannon may have come away with the Faction Championship, but I feel that she started with a step up by having 2 established and experienced triple threats to fall back on, so Winston Marshall gets my vote.

ENTRANCE OF THE YEAR

  • ZaFlertinFlouse (Vs Smith)
  • Reel Rejects (VS The Pride)
  • Bonnie Somerville (Vs Mckee)
  • Reel Rejects (VS Cuckoos Mess)
  • Shazam (VS Final Exam)

This is difficult, as the move to the online format took away a lot of the possible theatricality that we got in the early months of the season. The Reel Rejects’ entrance against The Pride was fun, but as I didn’t know Red Letter Media, it just didn’t hit as well with me. The Delinquent Kid was a fun bit from Shazam that played well an honoured their opponents. Bonnie’s steamy entrance certainly got pulses racing. After the joy of SEN Live’s descent into madness midway through the pandemic, the return of ZaFlertinFlouse was the true highlight of Spectacular. My vote however goes to the Reel Rejects v Cuckoo’s Mess, as the masks were a fun gimmick (and in hindsight, a premonition of our entire year), but it went to another level as John Rocha stormed out and took Greg’s Guy Fawkes mask – a jab at Rocha beating Greg to the award last year – only for John to remove his Jigsaw mask to reveal a second Guy Fawkes mask, which he removed and gave to Greg, unveiling a second Jigsaw mask! Perfection!

HEEL OF YEAR

  • Shannon Barney
  • Chandru Dhandapani
  • Brandon Hanna
  • Jeff Sneider
  • Eliot Dewberry
  • Laura Kelly

Laura Kelly and Eliot Dewberry’s heel turns this season were great, but unfortunately had limited screen time, while Sneider also doesn’t really stick in my mind for his heel antics this year, other than his rants about Innergeekdom. And so that leaves us with 3 very different heels. Shannon kicked things off with a bang by breaking up the Wildberries, and carried on the season as a highly entertaining villain, who I couldn’t wait to see what she did next. Brandon Hanna’s speeches helped cure my insomnia this season, while Chandru’s arrogance, dancing and disrespect made him someone you couldn’t help loathe. While I think the vote should go to Hanna or Chandru, I’ve always preferred the entertaining heels, so after losing out on Manager of the Year, Shannon Barney gets my vote here.

BABYFACE OF THE YEAR

  • The Kid
  • Kevin Smith
  • Coy Jandreau
  • Andres Cabrera
  • Perri Nemiroff

Coy and Ace both did a great job of playing faces while keeping the competitive edge. The Kid remained a fine young tenderoni even during his delinquent phase, and his heavy breathing in the tight moments was somewhat endearing, if annoying to the Chairman. Kevin Smith added his own brand to the league, but Perri Nemiroff just gets my vote as she looked to enjoy her return to the league and matches against people she knew well.

MOMENT OF THE YEAR

  • Murrell vs Collins Post interview
  • Shannon drafts Dewberry
  • Murrell disbelief says “I won” when beating Bateman after 6 point comeback
  • Bibbs and Andreyko have touching moment in post interview Spectacular
  • Kevin Smith gives Chris Jericho….Kevin Smith movies on Opponents choice

What a great set of moments here and all of them enjoyable for different reasons. For me though, it has to be the bombshell moment during the draft where Shannon Barney drafted Dewberry immediately after Winston drafted Macuga, thereby breaking up the Wildberries. It was so out of nowhere and showed that even as a rookie manager, Shannon was not going to hold back when it came to being a heel, and it is a shame that the move online due to the pandemic meant that much of the progression of this storyline – all from a heat of the moment decision by Shannon – was lost.

HEEL TEAM OF YEAR

  • KOrruption
  • The Pride
  • Deception
  • The Odd Couple
  • Category 9

So for this, I’ve decided to prioritise how they act rather than their success in matches. To be honest, I think this category really took a hit by the move online. Category 9 didn’t even feel like a fully heel team in their one match and needed time to grow. The Pride calling themselves heels was like a child throwing a tantrum because they wanted to be treated like an adult. Deception wasclearly a heel team, but they were focusing on results over dramatics first. Both Odd Couple and KOrruption had their moments where they felt like heels, but also others hat ere much tamer as the emotion of events overcame them, but I think that as part of an entirely heel faction, KOrruption felt the more consistent.

BABYFACE TEAM OF THE YEAR

  • Shazam
  • Final Exam
  • Witching Power
  • The Reel Rejects
  • Founding Fathers

This was a hard choice, and as much as I enjoyed the light-heartedness of the Reel Rejects and Witching Power, I felt that Final Exam and Shazam had the harder tasks of remaining faces in much more meaningful matches. While both did this well, I give my vote this year to Final Exam, as Lon Harris and Paul Oyama both looked to make U-turns from their heel personas of last year and did so in a way that felt natural within the story, and continued on through the matches themselves.

NEW TEAM OF THE YEAR

  • Final Exam
  • Deep 13
  • The Pride
  • The Witching Power
  • Deception

So for this, I was looking at success in the year, and that meant that there is a clear winner, Deep 13 started well but not competing in the tournament hurt them, as was the case for The Pride, while Deception the Witching Power actually lost out due to only having the tournament, leaving Final Exam, who found success both before and during the tournament.

MATCH OF THE YEAR

  • Murrell vs Collins
  • Murrell vs Bateman I
  • Odd Couple vs Final Exam
  • Dimalanta vs Scrimshaw
  • Dimalanta vs Cabrera
  • Korruption vs Founding Fathers
  • Murrell vs Bibbs vs The Kid
  • Murrell vs Bateman II
  • Odd Couple vs Shazam
  • Smith vs Jericho

There are so many great matches here and that is a real testament to the league, that the season could continue at such a high level despite the switch to an online format. For me, I need a relatively close match, with a pretty high level of competition, but I also want something beyond just the competition. As many great matches as we had this season, my mind still always goes back to Atlanta, and Murrell v Bateman I. While it wasn’t 2 competitors going at 100% accuracy, the level of trivia was still super high but allowed for the scoreline and momentum to go back and forth, with Murrell coming from 5 down to win in Sudden Death.

PODCAST OF THE YEAR

  • A Certain Point of View
  • Call To Action
  • Let’s Get Ready
  • Repeat the Question
  • Machine Mondays

It’s not just the quality of the league that is getting better, as more and more podcasts and shows have set up to cover the league and push the standard of reporting up to new heights. A shout-out first of all to those who missed out on the shortlist this time around, it just shows how much quality content is out there. Unfortunately, that sheer amount of content has made it hard for me to keep up, and it has led to many of the podcasts not getting the love they deserve from me this year. While I have loved everything I’ve seen from all of these podcasts, I find myself voting for Call To Action due to their range of shows, from match breakdowns to Chill To Action, which has been a great show to get to know Schmoedown Pros better without the kayfabe, which has certainly helped me grow a greater appreciation for some of the characters in the league.

INNERGEEKDOM PLAYER OF THE YEAR

  • Chandru Dhandapani
  • Chance Ellison
  • Mike Kalinowski
  • Brandon Hanna
  • Alex Damon

To me, there are only  people who can really be in consideration here: Chance Ellison and Chandru Dhandapani. Chance has more wins, with a 4-0 run to win the IG tournament, but he then has a loss to Chandru, who won all 3 of his matches, including a title shot and a title defence. I hate doing this, but I have to give this award to the belt and Chandru Dhandapani.

STAR WARS PLAYER OF THE YEAR

  • Andres Cabrera
  • Alex Damon
  • Laura Kelly
  • Andrew Dimalanta
  • Mollie Damon

So this one goes along similar lines to IG Player of the Year, with it being a fight between tournament winner Ace Cabrera and Champion Alex Damon. However, where Chandru’s win of the title and defence were enough to overcome Chance’s superior number of wins, Alex only played once in the division this season, and though that was a win over Cabrera, the run from play in match to tournament victory gives Andres Cabrera my vote.

 

How do my votes tally up against yours? Let me know what you think and where your votes went!

Oceans Apart

Oceans Apart

Welcome to Sport on the Silver Screen. In this series, I will be looking back over sports movies that I have recently watched/re-watched and giving my thoughts on them. Getting into the Schmoedown and starting to follow a number of the personalities from the show has given me a much greater appreciation of movies and seen me starting to watch more.

Being a fan of both movies and sports, I have taken the chance to start highlighting the sheer volume of sports movies out there. For each movie I will be giving some details about the movie and then a quick review, including a section giving a sports fan’s perspective of the action’s realism.

Now, today I’m doing something a little different, by looking at a recently released documentary that is currently available to watch on Amazon Prime: Oceans Apart: Greed, Betrayal and Pacific Island Rugby

Ocans Apart Cover

Directed by Callum Drummond & Axel Haudiquet

Released in 2020

Starring: Dan Leo

Synopsis: Former Samoa captain Dan Leo looks at the issues faced by Pacific Islands rugby players to see why these nations that are responsible for so many of the game’s superstars are struggling so much on the world stage.

documentary Oceans Apart

This was a fantastic documentary and a real eye-opener. As a fan of rugby in general, I have been so disappointed to see the way that the Pacific Islands – especially Samoa and Tonga – have struggled over the last couple of decades as rugby has gone professional. So many times, I’ve been disappointed to see players from the Pacific Islands choosing to play for Tier 1 nations where they may earn just a handful of caps, rather than playing 40-odd times for the country of their birth – a notable example being Charles Piutau, who won 17 caps for New Zealand but had not played international rugby since 2015. Watching this though made me really begin to understand why the players choose to play elsewhere as there is limited financial incentive to play for the Pacific Island nations.

As the documentary explains, Dan Leo was the captain of Samoa when the team threatened to boycott a match against England at Twickenham in 2014 due to financial discrepancies within the Samoan Rugby Union, as publicly-funded money was not reaching the team. The game eventually went ahead with the promises that everything would be investigated, but nothing ever came of it bar a few headlines at the time, and Leo found himself omitted from the squad moving forwards. Leo was not the only influential Samoa player to be dropped from the national team following criticism of the union, which is headed by the Prime Minister, and the way that funds are used.

In this 1 documentary, Leo really highlights the impact of the lack of funding – showing a player who has been left to fend for himself in Romania after losing his contract due to a kidney issue while also updating us on what happened to Fijian wing Rupeni Caucaunibuca, who was one of the stars of RWC2003. As we follow his investigations, which also involve interviews with a key members of the rugby community, including James Haskell (who played in the 2014 match against Samoa), Ben Ryan (who coached Fiji to Olympic Rugby 7s Gold), outspoken Samoan centre Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu and a number of Pacific Islanders who play in the Premiership and Pro14, the issues become clear.

As the documentary shows, many of these unions are led by people who could be considered problematic due to their role in the nation’s government, but as the documentary shows, the issues go beyond the national unions and to the way that the nations are treated by World Rugby, who clearly favour the “Tier 1” nations, with Brett Gosper (who was at the time CEO of World Rugby, but will now be stepping down to take up a role within the NFL in the New Year) coming across very poorly in an interview.

I won’t say any more about this, except that this should be a must-watch for all rugby fans, and that hopefully this will lead to pushes for change that will give more support to nations outside of Tier 1.

 

What did you think of the documentary? Let me know in the comments. Until next time!

Who is behind the Schmoeminati?

Who is behind the Schmoeminati?

If we only learned one thing during Schmoedown Spectacular V, it was this: the Schmoeminati are real. For months we watched Andrew Ghai’s descent into madness as he tried to warn us and prove their existence, and it proved costly for him, as he was kidnapped by unknown assailants led by a masked figure.

But now we know that the Schmoeminati are real, the questions turn to their identity and their motives. Ghai had the information but that’s lost to us now. The only thing we know is that Chairman Kristian Harloff – shadowy leader of the last coup – is not involved but that means that the rest of the league are still potential suspects.

mts scgmoeminati

Let me know who you think is behind the Schmoeminati, but my chief suspects are below:

Suspect #1: Brad Gilmore

mts brad gilmore matt knost john rocha

The BOAT is an up-and-coming talent in the Schmoedown crew. As host of the Schmoedown Rundown and now also Coming Up Next, he has years of experience as a pundit and has also filled in occasionally in post-match interviews and on the desk, and Kristian Harloff has even mentioned the prospect of him being the heir to Harloff’s place on the deskin the long-term.

But does the BOAT want to wait for nature to take its course, or is he taking a leaf out of Harloff’s books and using subterfuge to take control of the league by steadily infiltrating the league and then brainwashing one of the league’s biggest faces? Speculation? Yes, but go back to the Rundown episode immediately following Spectacular (and Andrew Ghai’s capture – and a certain BOAT is mysteriously missing… 

Suspect #2: Grace Hancock

mts grace hancock

I mentioned in my 5 takeaways from Spectacular to watch out for Grace’s revenge following Kate Mulligan’s decision to fire her, and with her being on bad terms with so many of the other managers (not to mention Chairman Kristian Harloff, who is scared of her), she may have decided that the Schmoeminati is the best way to entrench herself in the league so they can’t get rid of her.

You could argue that the Schmoeminati started before Grace was fired, but I have 2 words for you: CONTINGENCY PLAN. This isn’t the first time Grace has been dropped from a team and with the lack of success in the latter half of the season for The Den, she may have sensed that her role as an advisor was anything but a position of power, and made plans to cement herself in the league.

Let’s not forget that she took advantage of Dagnino locking Emma Fyffe in a closet in order to become the post-match interviewer for the inaugural Collision – never rule the Lioness out when it comes to something despicable.

Suspect #3: Mark Ellis

mts mark ellis

“Surely not Baby Carrots!” I hear you all cry out, but how better to avoid suspicion than to be one of the most jovial people in the league? Mark Ellis was one of the founders of the Schmoedown, and yet it is Kristian Harloff who gets the majority of the credit and gets to rule the league, while everybody’s favourite dog stepfather is left to give the rulings of all the challenges and bear the brunt of the competitors and managers who are unhappy with the decision.

It’s just a matter of time before someone would snap under that pressure and maybe that is what Ellis has done here, putting into action a plan that will see him oust his former teammate at the top of the league. Rumours that the Schmoeminati have taken control of all the Coors Light on the Wes Coast are still under investigation.

Suspect #4: Frank Janisch

mts schmoedown rundown frank janisch

First off, just look at the picture above. This guy is worshipping Kylo Ren so can’t be trusted! Let’s not forget that we never heard of the Schmoeminati until after Frankie Numbaz made the move from Chicago to the West Coast. As a longtime host of the Schmoedown Rundown, he has always had access to people and information behind the scenes in the league, but in recent months has seen his Rundown co-host Brad Gilmore getting a second show while he is even facing pressure in the stats department these days.

With his role as the stats guy onscreen now under threat, has West Coast Frank started making moves to grab more power within the Schmoedown and secure his name of “The Truth” once and for all…?

Suspect #5: ZaFlertinflouse

mts zaflertinflouse crossed arms

“The Trending Nightmare” is a mystery wrapped in an enigma and shrouded in conspiracy theories, the most recent of which is that he is behind the Schmoeminati. Did the mask worn by Andrew Ghai’s abductor look familiar? That’s because it has a blink and you’ll miss it appearance in the video for his hit single “Und Und Und”, worn by none other than the Flouse!

The current belief is that the Flouse is looking to take over the league to force the Schmoedown Pros to sing in the chorus for his upcoming album “Spin from the Peg”. Rumours that the planned first release “Sexy Buzzer” will be a duet with Brendan Meyer have been quashed.

Suspect #6: Sabrina Ramirez & Brandon Hanna

We’ve focused on individual suspects for now, but who says that an organisation like the Schmoeminati can only have 1 person at the head. Sabrina Ramirez warned us before Spectacular that she and Brandon Hanna were about to become the league’s new power couple, which is hard to believe when you look and Hanna’s soul-destroying, never-ending promos.

But what if those promos were to lull us into a false sense of security while the Schmoeminati quietly came in and grabbed hold of the league under the overall running of Ramirez, who had a quiet season after being picked up on the Free Agency deadline day with only 1 chance to compete. Ramirez is someone to watch out for in this league, and Hanna could be the perfect underrated sidekick/henchman.

Suspect #7: John Rocha & Finstock

As the resident mask-wearers in the league, of course Rocha and Finstock have to be suspects! It’s been a bad season for both Rocha and Finstock, with a Faction Championship that should have been theirs for the taking ending up falling away from them midway through the season. And yet despite this, the pair joined up to throw the GOAT Dan Murrell out of the faction at the end of the season – a move that boggles the mind!

Why else would they do this if they didn’t have some nefarious plan to take over the league, and with Dagnino’s mysterious contacts, it’s easy to see the Schmoeminati forming. Rumours that the Reel Rejects’ multi-mask entry against Cuckoo’s Mess was a rite of passage to join the Schmoeminati are being investigated.

Suspect #8: Jessica Sterger & PLD

And so we reach the final suspects, with the most interesting motives. PLD is the third leg of Action Industries and has never fully got over the break-up of Team Action, while Jessica Sterger (Jenn’s Action-loving identical twin) has been mooted as the perfect manager for and Action reunion.

There’s just been one problem: both Ben Bateman and Andrew Ghai had moved on from Action and become more respectful of the game and their opponents, with Ghai even going so far as to change the name “Dastardly” to “Debonair”. Well Bateman’s struggles this season seem to have pushed him back towards his old self, but it looks like the arrival of the Schmoeminati has been focused on pushing Ghai beyond what he could take and forcing him to snap back to his dastardly self. There is a legitimate chance that the 2021 Draft will see Team Action reunited, and with both the Action Army and Schmoeminati behind them, all hell could be set to break loose…

5 Takeaways from Schmoedown Spectacular V

5 Takeaways from Schmoedown Spectacular V

Merry Christmas you filthy animals! This has been an interesting year to say the least with the COVID-19 pandemic changing everybody’s life to some degree. But through it all, one constant remained: the Movie Trivia Schmoedown. Season 7 was titled “The New Era” and that proved the case even more than we expected, as it adapted to the changing environment by moving to an online format to ensure that we continued to get or weekly entertainment and another fantastic season ended in truly spectacular showpiece event to end the year – the 5ᵗʰ annual Schmoedown Spectacular.

Schmoedown Spectacular V was available to watch live and on demand in the aftermath for those able to purchase it, but for those who are waiting for it to drop on YouTube for free, only 1 match has aired at time of writing. This article will be looking back at the whole event, so be warned there will be spoilers galore beyond this point!

Spectacular V ended up being a 9 hour epic, with betrayals, mystery and 6 fantastic matches:

Alex Damon TKO’d Andres Cabrera 32-24 to retain the Star Wars Title

Britney Young defeated Chris Jericho 16-15

The Odd Couple defeated Shazam! 41-40 to claim the Teams Title

Chandru Dhandapani defeated Chance Ellison to retain the Innergeekdom Title

Kevin Smith TKO’d ZaFlertinflouse 18-9

Adam Collins defeated Dan Murrell in Sudden Death 39-38 to claim the Singles Title

KOrruption win the Faction Title

Rushmore secured

The make-up of  the Schmoedown Mt Rushmore is a constant debate, with so many players in the conversation and Dan Murrell probably one of the only players who would make it onto everybody’s list. I would argue that Jeff Sneider should have also secured his place following this season.

“The Insneider” has become the first Schmoedown Pro to win 10 matches with one team and the Teams Title 3 times – 1 time with The Patriots, twice with The Odd Couple – and while he has had his ups and downs in Singles, he has still accrued a 13-8 record that includes a Championship Match and 2 other #1 Contender Matches.

Having debuted in Season 3, he is one of the longest-tenured Schmoedown Pros and has not taken a break from competing since he entered the league, while always putting on a show in his own unique way. Does he court controversy? Yes, but the league would be much more boring without him, and for his longevity, expertise in the Teams Division and his entertainment value, he has earned his spot on Mt Rushmore.

Stock crash

mts finstock exchange horsemen jenn sterger john rocha dan murrell ben bateman tom dagnino bobby gucci finstock mark reilly barbarian craig gaynier

When season 7 started, it looked like the Finstock Exchange would run away with the Faction Title. Having been manager for the Horsemen in Season 6, with Ben Bateman and the Founding Fathers ending the season as champions – and Who’s The Boss being among the top 5 teams, making them a protected team – Dagnino was able to draft 4 legit superstars of the league with his first 4 picks, while picking up the relatively unknown rookie the Barbarian in the 6ᵗʰ round. However, things didn’t go to plan and the season ended with the Exchange dropping to 4ᵗʰ, behind Roxy Striar’s Roxstars at Spectacular.

It’s going to be all change for them next year too, if the way the season ended is anything to go by. Ben Bateman made clear after his 2ⁿᵈ loss to Dan Murrell that he was done with Finstock’s mismanagement, and the 2-time Manager of the Year then made the critical error of backing John Rocha as he split from Dan Murrell, leaving the GOAT as a Free Agent. So that’s 2 of the big 4 who are gone for good. But the Barbarian has also seemed a little put out at the way 2 greats of the game have been treated and I wouldn’t be shocked to see him turn his back on the faction to partner with either Bateman or Murrell and create a new superteam. Meanwhile Free Agent pick-up Sabrina Ramirez was given little chance to show her quality and if her statement at the beginning of the event is anything to go by, she’s another who will be looking to ply her trade elsewhere in Season 8.

And then we come to Andrew Dimalanta. The Star Wars specialist finally got his first wins in the division under Tom Dagnino and with a guaranteed title shot, you’d think that Bobby Gucci would want to retain his services going into 2021. However, as John Rocha went on a spree of blaming everyone (except himself and Dagnino) for the faction’s failings, even Dimalanta came under fire for his loss to Ace Cabrera. Will Dimalanta stay loyal to a manager that helped him get his first win, or will the shots from the new face of the faction make him look elsewhere for a more supportive faction?

Keep an eye out for my predictions on who each manager signs during Free Agency over the next week.

The Schmoeminati are real!

How can we forget the moment on Schmoedown Backstage when Andrew Ghai turned up to discuss his upcoming match with Mike Kalinowski, but instead spent his time telling us that there was a Schmoeminati controlling the league behind the scenes.

We all thought he was crazy as we watched his descent into madness through the second half of the season and promised to prove to us at Spectacular that the Schmoeminati exists. Well he did that, but not in the way he had planned, as we watched him get kidnapped by a group being led by this masked figure.

mts scgmoeminati

And so we are left with plenty of questions. First of all, is Andrew Ghai OK? If you watched the next couple of shows on the Action Industries channel, then he was unexpectedly absent, with an odd new answer phone message and text responses to “keep smiling :)” Next up, who is the Schmoeminati and what do they want? Ghai made it clear that Kristian Harloff is not involved, but with so many people involved in the League as a competitor/manager/announcer/pundit/crew member, that doesn’t really narrow things down too much.

Keep an eye out over the coming weeks for my thoughts on the likely culprits.

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned

mts grace hancock

It’s not just the Finstock Exchange that will likely look very different in 2021, as Kate Mulligan followed up ZaFlertinflouse’s loss to Kevin Smith by firing adviser Grace Hancock.

Will this be the end of Grace? I think it would be foolish to rule “the Lioness” out, but she’s running out of allies in the league. She abandoned the Lion’s Den so won’t be welcome in the Finstock Exchange, was fired by KOrruption to make room for Shannon and has now been fired by the Den. Meanwhile Kaiser an Roxy have both found themselves at odds with her. But with so many feuds, don’t be shocked to see her back at some point – maybe not this year – as a manager for a new faction hell-bent on causing trouble.

Increasing value

It’s hard to imagine that many Star Wars specialists will be picked up in Free Agency due to the limited number of matches they will play in a season, so much so that they may not even be a priority in the opening rounds of the draft as managers look to ensure they have strength in Singles and Innergeekdom with at least 1 top quality team. However, a couple of competitors likely saw a rise in their stock at Spectacular.

Andrew Dimalanta was already promised a title shot against Alex Damon, but Commissioner Clarke Wolfe also announced during Spectacular that Mollie Damon and Laura Kelly will face off in a #1 Contenders Match, with the winner either facing the winner of Damon v Dimalanta or joining them in a Triple Threat (at Alex Damon’s discretion). There are very few competitors with guaranteed matches in 2021 at this point, so to be able to pick up a Star Wars competitor with a guaranteed match very early in the season is a chance for some early points, and Kelly/Damon may even look more attractive options than Dimalanta due to the potential of 2 matches early in the season, while I also feel that both are capable of Dimalanta, who got a number of favourable calls during his tournament run.

mts mara knopic

Similarly, another competitor who may see a rise in their stock is Mara Knopic. The former Innergeekdom Champion may not have played in years, so there may be some questions about her ability to compete at the top straight away, however a guaranteed title shot early in the season will probably see her rise above many of the other IG specialists as there is the chance of an early victory to win the title, and even if she loses then it will not be too long until she is able to make another run for the title.

For more thoughts on Free Agency and the Draft, keep an eye on this site, as I will be posting my Free Agency predictions over the coming weeks, and I’m planning to put together my draft predictions once Free Agency has completed.

 

Credit for the header image goes to Alex from the Let’s Get Ready Network – check them out on Twitter @0M3GAxVID30

Autumn Nations Cup 2020: Team of the Tournament

Autumn Nations Cup 2020: Team of the Tournament

We are now 1 week removed from the end of the inaugural Autumn Nations Cup, and so the only thing left to do is pick my Team of the Tournament. This year’s competition was far from perfect, with COVID-19 causing all of Fiji’s pool games to be cancelled, very little prep time for the Georgians and a player usage agreement with the Top 14 leaving the French only able to use each player a couple of times – leading to them playing their final with an inexperienced squad of fringe players.

Of course, this did not help for picking a team of the tournament as some players only featured in 1 match, whereas others got the full 4 matches, and I have generally chosen to give more credit for consistency than a great one-off performance.

rugby autumn nations cup no background

As always, I’d love to hear who you would pick, but without further ado, my Team of the 2020 Tri Nations is:

1) Danilo Fischetti: It’s so great seeing an Italian prop putting in great performances again! The Zebre prop has secured the number 1 jersey for the Azzurri over the last year with a number of powerful performances. Fischetti throws his weight about in defence but also has the control of his body to stay on his feet and lock in over the ball to win a number of turnovers.

2) Jamie George: The England pack is an absolute beast, and Jamie George is certainly a grateful beneficiary of that, being able to hang on at the back of the maul to drop over the line for simple tries. However, he plays a key role in setting this up with his reliability at the set piece, while he is also a solid defender who is also comfortable with the ball in hand. 

3) Kyle Sinckler: Sticking with the England pack and Kyle Sinckler gets the nod here as part of a front row that demolished all that challenged it. The Bristol tighthead has always had the talent but has matured and cut out the stupid penalties, to make himself a real force in the game.

4) Maro Itoje: I’m not the biggest fan of the England lock as he gives away some truly brainless penalties an should be penalised much more often, but even I can recognise that he is a phenomenal player and when he gets it right, he gets it very right, with a number of turnovers and constant hassling at the opposition lineout.

5) James Ryan: I certainly found it hard to pick a second player here, but instead settled on James Ryan. Similar to Itoje, I am not as high on him as the rest of the world seems to be, and the issues with the Irish lineout certainly don’t help, but he has an engine on him and will continually put in the hard carries and tackles.

6) Jamie Ritchie: The Scottish flanker is a constant nuisance, there is no finer praise I can give. Dangerous at the breakdown and a threat with ball in hand when there is space in front of him, you can always rely on him to put in consistent performances.

7) Justin Tipuric: The Welshman was one of the few positives for Wayne Pivac’s men and like Ritchie, you always know that you’re going to get a 110% performance from him. We always know that he is dangerous around the breakdown, but this tournament also gave us a timely reminder of just how dangerous he is carrying in space.

8) Caelan Doris: I really enjoy watching the Leinster back row play, as he provides such a reliable carrying option for Andy Farrell, able to make the hard yards in tight, but also able to open up his stride in wider areas to make the big metres. He’s the kind of player who will take Ireland to the next level.

9) Antoine Dupont: Dupont is without a doubt one of the best scrum halves in the world and an absolute joy to watch. He may have had limited minutes in the tournament, but does so much with his time on the pitch that he still set himself above everyone else, helped in part with a number of teams lacking consistency at the position during their matches.

10) Matthieu Jalibert: Jalibert looks to be locked in as the back-up to Romain Ntamack for now and certainly needs to get more experience at international level, but looked very promising during this tournament. He continued the running of the French attack in Ntamack’s absence an was reliable off the tee, being a key part of France’s run to the final, where his injury proved costly.

11) Duhan van der Merwe: Scotland’s new 6′ 4″ wing gives an extra dimension to their attack. Allowed the freedom to come looking for the ball, van der Merwe gives a physical option in the back line, while still having the pace to take advantage of any clean air, and the brain to create great attacking opportunities with snipes around the breakdown or clever running lines.

12) Merab Sharikadze: Many may be surprised to see a Georgian make the list, but the Lelos’ captain led by example throughout the tournament and constantly provided a staunch defensive barrier to hassle opponents.

13) Chris Farrell: The Munster centre took his chances to play with aplomb, providing a solid defence while being arguably one of their better players in attack, though his chances were much more limited with Ireland’s territory-focused gameplan when Ross Byrne was at 10.

14) Hugo Keenan: The new man on the scene for Ireland has surely secured his place in the Irish back 3. Comfortable under the high ball and with good footwork, Keenan provides reliability at the highest level while also bringing a genuine attacking threat.

15) Brice Dulin: Arguably one of the biggest beneficiaries from the match limit agreement between the Top 14 and the French national team, Dulin was given the chance to show his quality against Italy and England. His silky footwork made him dangerous in space and his high bomb added another weapon to the French arsenal.

Rugby Championship 2020: Team of the Tournament

Rugby Championship 2020: Team of the Tournament

With the Rugby Championship over for another year, there is only 1 thing left to do: pick my Team of the Tournament. This year’s competition was a little different, with World Champions South Africa sitting out as they looked to get back on track following the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving us with a Tri Nations featuring just New Zealand, Australia and Argentina, while the entire tournament was played in Australia to make COVID precautions easier to deal with.

New Zealand may have won the tournament, but they will not look back on this year fondly as they struggled for any consistency under Ian Foster and lost in consecutive matches to Argentina and Australia. The Wallabies and Pumas meanwhile played out 2 draws that left them unable to claim the top spot, though they should be proud of their accomplishments given the inexperience of the Australia team and the lack of post-COVID rugby for the Pumas.

rugby logo tri nations 2020

As always, I’d love to hear who you would pick, but without further ado, my Team of the 2020 Tri Nations is:

1) Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro: The loosehead position was one of the harder ones to pick due to the variation in the starting players. However for me, Tetaz Chaparro’s absence was keenly felt when he wasn’t on the pitch as the scrums went from a weapon to a liability.

2) Julián Montoya: A number of hookers showed moments of real quality, but Montoya got the nod here. A long-term understudy at international level for Agustín Creevy, Montoya has bags of experience at the international level despite just a handful of Test starts, and proved his quality as a key piece of Argentina’s robust defensive efforts. 

3) Taniela Tupou: The “Tongan Thor” may not have had things all his own way in the tournament, splitting time with Allan Ala’alatoa during the tournament, but when he was on the pitch, he added physicality and bite to Australia’s attack and defence, while also gaining an advantage over his opponents in the scrum.

4) Guido Petti: The Argentine lock sat out the last match as part of the fallout from the re-emergence of some controversial tweets, but ahead of that he was a key part of Argentina’s set piece, giving reliability on their own lineout throw while frequently stealing or hassling opposition ball.

5) Matt Philip: The Rebels lock may only have a handful of caps to his name, but he looks like he has been playing Test rugby for years – there can be no higher compliment than that. Philip looked controlled the lineout and also carried well to add more power to the Wallabies pack.

6) Pablo Matera: The Argentina captain led from the front and led by example. A key physical part of the Pumas defence with organised tackles and opportunistic turnovers. Meanwhile on attack, he carried hard and almost won Argentina their first Test against the Wallabies with a cultured kick forwards at the death that should have been finished by Santiago Cordero. I would call the Argentinian one of the best – but also most underrated – opensides in world rugby.

7) Sam Cane: Marcos Kremer was another key part of the Pumas’ defensive effort, while Michael Hooper added experience to a young back row. However I instead went for Sam Cane. He’s not the flashiest of players by any means, but is such a threat at the breakdown and always seems to be in the right place to make a key turnover, while also putting his body on the line for the win.

8) Rodrigo Bruni: Harry Wilson looked good and will get better as he gains experience at this level, but I went for Rodrigo Bruni this time around. He may not have played as much as his fellow number 8s, but when he was on the pitch he just added to the formidable Pumas defence. Argentina never looked stronger than when they had their first choice back row on the pitch.

9) Nic White: I may not be the biggest fan of White, but with such an inexperienced team around him and limitations at fly half, White did a key job of bringing experience and control to the game. I’m hoping hat Tate McDermott will be given more frequent game time moving forwards, as his youth and attacking ability would create a strong counterpoint to White’s control and kicking game.

10) Nicolás Sánchez: It had looked like Sánchez may be past his prime, but he was back with a bang in this tournament. While his attacking opportunities may have been a little limited, his control of the game was highlighted whenever he came off the pitch, while his kicking off the tee allowed the Pumas to keep the scoreboard ticking over despite a largely defensive performance.

11) Marika Koroibete: The Rebels winger just beats out Caleb Clarke as I feel he was a little more consistent. Koroibete’s attacking talents are clear for all to see, but something that often gets forgotten is his workrate both on and off the ball and his accomplished defence, which often comes to the fore at key moments.

12) Hunter Paisami: Matt To’omua’s injury could have been costly, but Hunter Paisami did a fantastic job of replacing him. He was more commonly seen at 13 for the Reds during Super Rugby AU, but looked more reliable at 12, where the defensive job allowed him to focus on using his physicality, while he also provided a great carrying option in attack.

13) Matías Orlando: The new signing for the Newcastle Falcons gets the nod here as much for his consistency at the position while Australia and New Zealand chopped and changed. That consistency at the 13 position is a key factor in Argentina’s success as he helped to keep the defence organised and stop teams breaking wider out fromthe breakdown. 

14) Bautista Delguy: He may only be 23 years old, but it feels like Delguy has been around for years. Unfortunately he wasn’t at his best in the World Cup as he was just returning from injury, but he showed us all what we were missing in this tournament. While being solid in defence, he was a bright spark with ball in hand, proving very difficult to bring down.

15) Santiago Carreras: He may have had a torrid time when moved to fly half, but Carreras looked so solid at 15. He’s known for his attacking quality, but was reliable in the more defensive performances from the Pumas and used his big boot to good effect. At just 22, he is anther player to keep your eye on over the coming years.

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Prepare for Something… SPECTACULAR

Prepare for Something… SPECTACULAR

It’s safe to say that the COVID-19 pandemic stopped the Movie Trivia Schmoedown from going as expected this year, but everyone involved has done a wonderful job of transitioning to a digital format and giving us an fantastic and utterly unpredictable season. And the ultimate reward of that is that we still get the 5ᵗʰ annual Schmoedown Spectacular!

Schmoedown’s very own Wrestlemania, Spectacular V is this Saturday and will see some of the biggest names in the league compete over 6 matches – including 4 Championship Matches – and at the end of the event, we will know the winner of the first ever Faction Championship. But who will be facing off in this mammoth event, and who will win? I’ve not had a great year with my predictions, but let’s see if I can redeem myself on big stage.

Star Wars Championship: Alex Damon v Andres Cabrera

mts schmoedown spectacular v alex damon andres ace cabrera

Will “The Demon” have finally met his match? The man who makes his living explaining Star Wars has looked unbeatable but hasn’t competed in the Star Wars Division since beating Laura Kelly at Spectacular IV. Meanwhile, Ace has ran the gauntlet this year, going on a Cinderella run that saw him go from the Play In Match all the way to winning the tournament, with wins over Josh Quevedo, Ken Napzok, Laura Kelly and Andrew Dimalanta.

Alex has previously mentioned that he didn’t know some of the answers Ace was pulling in the tournament as the questions went deeper than ever, and I think that had this match come hot on the heels of that tournament, we would have a new champion. However, it has been months since then, so you can guarantee that Alex will have dived deeper than ever before, while the momentum that Ace had will have been nullified. I can still see this one going the distance, but I have Alex defending his title.

Chris Jericho v Britney Young

mts schmoedown spectacular v chris jericho britney young

One of the GOATs of pro-wrestling, Jericho’s arrival in the league as a Free Agent pick-up for the Roxstars was a high point of the season and his match against Kevin Smith was an absolute treat! Meanwhile, Britney Young of GLOW fame made her name in the Schmoedown as part of the GLOW celebrity match, putting in an impressive performance and enjoying the game so much, she accepted a place on the active roster this season, being picked up by The Dungeon.

Neither of these competitors have much in the way of game tape, but both have shown themselves to have a decent knowledge base. However, there is a hint that Britney’s knowledge may be slightly broader, whereas Jericho’s more focused. If Jericho can hit a favoured category in Round 2, then I think he can ace it, but I think that Britney will have the breadth of knowledge to take a narrow win. One thing I do feel confident in though is that we will get some killer promos.

Teams Championship: Shazam! v Odd Couple

mts schmoedown spectacular v shazam odd couple william bibbiani brendan meyer marcandreyko jeff sneider

The Teams Championship has bounced around a little this season, with KOrruption taking the belts from the Founding Fathers only to lose them to Shazam! just 2 months later! Meanwhile, former champions the Odd Couple have recovered from their early season loss against Who’s The Boss to run through the recent Teams Tournament, and have arguably looked better than when they won the title.

Sneider has been on something of a revenge tour of late, beating Paul Oyama in both Teams and Singles to avenge his Season 6 Championship loss, while also avenging his loss to Adam Collins in the final of this season’s Singles Tournament by defeating Deception in the Teams Tournament. Could this revenge tour continue against the team who defeated them in the quarterfinals of the 2019 Ultimate Schmoedown? We have 4 superstars on display so I expect this to go to the wire, but I think that the online format’s speed round benefits William Bibbiani more than the buzzer round, so I have Shazam! defending their title.

Innergeekdom Championship: Chandru Dhandapani v Chance Ellison

mts schmoedown spectacular v chandru dhandapani chance ellison

Who’d have thought that fans would be cheering for “The Cobra”? Such is the mood against Chandru Dhandapani, who had the gall to talk smack about Rachel Cushing. Dhandapani’s route to the title saw him defeat Brandon Hanna to set up a #1 Contender Match against Mike Kalinowski. However, Kalinowski put his faction before his personal glories and turned down the match in order to compete in the Innergeekdom Tournament – a move which looks to have helped KOrruption secure the Faction Championship, as both Kalinowski and his Padawan Chance each ran through their side of the tournament bracket to reach the final, where Chance came away with the win. Meanwhile Chandru’s match against Kevin Smets certainly didn’t go as expected as the champion struggled to get in the zone playing online and lost the title to Chandru.

This is an interesting one, as Chance has the experience of close Championship matches and has been a regular in he online format this season, but as a triple-threat competitor he won’t have been able to focus on IG subjects in the same depth as Chandru, an IG specialist. While my heart has Chance following in the footsteps of KO, I have to go with my head, which has Chandru becoming the first Schmoedown Pro to defend the Innergeekdom Title since Jason Inman defeated Mark Donica.

Kevin Smith v Brett Sheridan

mts schmoedown spectacular v kevin smith brett sheridan

One of the big announcements from the Free Agency deadline, Kevin Smith proved that he was more than “Good Enough” as he took down Chris Jericho in his Schmoedown debut. Meanwhile Brett Sheridan shocked the world (and arguably even himself) as he defeated Bonnie Somerville at the start of the season.

Now no offence to Brett, but I can’t imagine him pulling out the victory over Kevin Smith, though I can see it going to the final round. Instead, the questions to ask about this match are:

  • What will Kevin Smith do if he spins Kevin Smith on the wheel?
  • Will the big stage of Spectacular V see the grand return of  ZaFlertinFlouse?
  • Will Inappropriate Elmo or Jon Voight from Anaconda make an appearance in an attempt to put Kevin Smith off?

Singles Championship: Dan Murrell v Adam Collins

mts schmoedown spectacular v dan murrell adam collins

While you would never rule out Dan Murrell being in the main event of Spectacular, who would have guessed that his opponent would be Adam Collins, a man who went undrafted and was picked up on the final day of Free Agency. That acquisition arguably won Shannon Barney the Factions Championship, as “The Coyote” went all the way from Play In Match to the Ultimate Schmoedown winner.

Murrell has held on to the belt the hard way after winning it back from Ben Bateman in Atlanta, going into the final round 6 down to “The Boss” in their rematch, while beating Ethan Erwin in Sudden Death, so it’s hard to imagine him struggling for a 4ᵗʰ consecutive Championship Match. Collins however has looked so solid in Singles, but did begin to show some cracks before losing with Deception, and now needs to show that he can recover quickly to take on the GOAT. I see Murrell leading by a point or 2 into the final round, and holding the lead to secure victory.

How do you see these matches playing out? Regardless, I’m certain that this event will be – as its name suggests – spectacular!

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