ESPN SCRUM

/ Australia

/ Features

Greg Growden

Greg Growden Greg Growden RSS FeedFeeds

After more than 30 years with The Sydney Morning Herald and Fairfax Media in Australia, Greg Growden now writes exclusively online for ESPNscrum. Never afraid to step on toes, you can expect plenty of compelling insight from one of Australia's most renowned rugby writers.

Ruck'n Maul
Australian officials 'regularly MIA' - SANZAR official
Greg Growden
March 7, 2014
Ruck'n MauL: Greg Growden has the best "snouts" in rugby

As the Super Rugby expansion plans get loopier by the minute - with Spain now wanting in - Australia's Rugby Union Players' Association (RUPA) is thankfully providing common sense on the issue.

While numerous SANZAR officials push for more teams from 2016, RUPA has commissioned two management consultants - Dr Michael Crawford and Global Media and Sport - to provide a strategic review of Australian rugby structures. And the message RUPA is receiving is that less is best. That's why RUPA is endorsing a two-conference Super Rugby competition, or even just a 10-team trans-Tasman tournament. Such a development would effectively improve player welfare, with one of the main complaints about Super Rugby being the travel involved in getting to South Africa and back.

RUPA opted for the strategic review in a bid to make the five Australian provinces and the Wallabies "competitive and commercially viable". The review suggests that South African sides should play Australian and New Zealand teams only at Super Rugby finals time, thus enabling the republic to pursue its dream of having as many teams as possible in Super Rugby - competing in their own conference alongside Argentina.

Australian Rugby Union (ARU) officials argue their New Zealand counterparts are not interested in the two-conference system, but there is a strong push for Australian officials to be more militant.

ARU officials say they agree with RUPA's concerns about extensive travel and the logic of playing matches in similar time zones. But there is a deep concern at provincial level that the ARU officials in recent times have "lacked authority" when negotiating with New Zealand and South Africa, and a belief it is time to show "more backbone" when pushing Australian causes. As one SANZAR official told Ruck'n Maul this week: "Australian officials are regularly MIA [missing in action]."

Izzy back in Roosters sights (remember SBW leaves this year)

The Waratahs and the Wallabies should never feel confident they have secured their biggest name for a lengthy period of time. The Sydney Roosters NRL club is again sniffing around Israel Folau, and once more confusion over certain third-party money is expected to become an issue. And it's not hard for Roosters officials to continually bump into Folau. Their offices are right next door to the Waratahs'.

NRC doubts intensify after competition architect quits commission

There are intensifying doubts whether the third-tier National Rugby Championship (NRC) will go ahead this year, with authoritative rugby heads in clubland telling all and sundry that it should be delayed for at least a year so it can be properly organised. But ARU chief executive Bill Pulver remains the NRC's chief promoter, pushing relentlessly for an August start. It's worth noting, too, that RUPA boss and key competition architect Greg Harris last week resigned from the commission overseeing the establishment of the championship. Queensland, meanwhile, has gone extremely cold on proposed centralisation plans. And that follows Melbourne Rebels going ballistic about the eastern-seaboard powerhouse. Certain ARU officials are starting to feel very isolated.

Parramatta Stadium already booked for NRC finals?

While on the NRC, we've been told of two interesting bids - one from South Australia, which includes Northern Territory involvement, and another from the New South Wales Country region, which has very strong Sydney school links. And what's this about Parramatta Stadium already being booked for NRC finals matches? What year? That remains a mystery.

'What's that shadow at Bill Pulver's door?

A man bearing an uncanny resemblance to former ARU boss John O'Neill was sighted walking into union headquarters on Thursday. Stay tuned.

'Too stressful': Official upset by Waratahs atmosphere

Our Waratahs snouts are still buzzing over a heated clash between coaching and administrative staff at Moore Park HQ a few days ago. Let's just say it involves an inappropriate selection inquiry about the son of a high-ranking Australian official. No wonder the coaching staff member was livid, and let his feelings be known. The provincial official fled, later explaining the environment was "too stressful".

Rumours of the Week

- Is former Brumbies chief executive Andrew Fagan, who has just joined the ARU, destined for a rapid rise in the organisation?

- A former Australian provincial assistant coach is complaining about being dumped this year. He was sighted a few days ago, accompanied by the province's CEO, moaning to a member of the press about "workload, travel… everything". There will be fireworks, as the head coach is aware of the CEO's involvement in the meeting.

- Queensland, the only Australian province with a buoyant balance book, appears to be losing faith with head office. One Reds official told his ARU counterpart this week to "turn around and think again".

- Which ARU official has been tagged "Virgil", as in Thunderbirds character Virgil Tracy - as in a puppet?

Quote of the Week

"There's no real negatives out of the performance, apart from the fact that we lost,"

- Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
Join the conversation with Greg on Twitter @GregGrowden

Live Sports

Communication error please reload the page.

  • Latest
  • Most Viewed
  • News
  • Features
  • Formula 1

    Rosberg fastest as Hamilton has engine trouble

    Nico Rosberg set the fastest time in the opening practice session at the Malaysian Grand Prix as Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton had his session cut short by an engine problem

  • Formula 1

    Hamilton blocked from novelty helmet change

    Lewis Hamilton appears to be the first victim of the FIA's controversial helmet ban after being blocked from wearing a novelty lid in Malaysia

  • Rugby

    Sevens dates confirmed for Rio 2016

    Rugby Sevens will make its Olympic debut on August, 6, 2016, after the Rio 2016 Organising Committee released the daily competition schedule to mark 500 days to go.

  • Rugby

    Reds making play for Brad Thorn - report

    Brad Thorn might be returning to Super Rugby in 2016, with a report that Queensland Reds are looking to create a "player-coaching role" for him

  • Rugby

    SANZAR delays appeal into Steyn's not guilty verdict

    SANZAR has lodged an appeal against the outcome of its own judicial hearing of a dangerous tackle charge against Sharks centre Francois Steyn

  • Rugby

    Unsavoury sledging did not end with Potgieter

    Fallout continues from the NSW-Brumbies derby, with one Tahs forward - not Potgieter - surprised by other unsavoury comments during the game, Greg Growden reports

  • Rugby

    Super Rugby preview, team news, line-ups: Round 7

    Greg Growden previews Super Rugby round 7. We've also got key stats, team news and all the line-ups to inform your ESPN Footytips Super Rugby picks

  • Formula 1

    Storm clouds gather in Malaysia

    Will Mercedes dominate again? Can anybody catch up with the help of a rainstorm? And will the Red Bull/Renault relationship tear itself apart? All those questions and more will be answered at this weekend's Malaysian Grand Prix

  • Formula 1

    Alonso: More questions than answers

    Maurice Hamilton pieces together what we know from the Fernando Alonso crash and explains why the latest answers raise more questions

  • Rugby

    Attacking revolution won't be repeated at World Cup

    John Mitchell lapped up the action on 'Sensational Saturday' - but warns not to expect a repeat come Rugby World Cup time later this year

  • News
  • Features
  • Inside Boxing

    'I've sparred with Klitschko and Fury - now I want Joshua'

    Unbeaten heavyweight Dillian Whyte, 28, (14-0, 11 KOs) tells ESPN where his rivalry with Anthony Joshua stems from and outlines the plan for his career this year after returning from a doping ban in November

  • UFC

    Top 10 best UFC fighters of all time

    Some of the best fighters to ever glove up have plied their trade in the Octagon - now ESPN list the 10 best who have fought under the UFC banner

  • Ask Steven

    Home front

    Who was the first Briton to win the British Grand Prix?

  • Ask Steven

    Pointless drivers

    Where does Anthony Davidson's record of 24 Grands Prix without a point rank him?

  • Ask Steven

    Home favourites

    How many F1 drivers have had one win, but done it at their home Grand Prix?

Sponsored Links

Make Huge Income from your Home
Download your Free Guide And Learn How To Increase Your Monthly Income