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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
Cracks appearing with Waratahs abroad
Greg Growden
April 4, 2014
The ARU continues their cost-cutting with coach Ewen McKenzie expected to take on team managerial roles

South African road trips have over the years brought down numerous Australian Super Rugby teams, and there is concern that the Waratahs current visit to the Republic could see them go off the rails. Apart from discovering that they lose so much when Israel Folau is unavailable, and Michael Cheika finds himself in trouble with SANZAR for his behaviour on the Durban sideline, there are also worries within the Waratahs team management about the hangers-on who have latched onto the side. The presence in South Africa of several Waratahs officials - past and present - has NSW players asking who is footing the bill. The same players remain unimpressed that one of their favourite team staff members recently lost her job. And the Waratahs team management has not appreciated the antics of some of those alickadoos at the team hotel. With the presence of several well-known party animals in the Waratahs squad, Cheika, who with assistant coach Daryl Gibson are noted team disciplinarians, has deliberately distanced the players from the hangers-on. Adding to the tension is an official memo requesting Waratahs senior management to cooperate over an investigation concerning the province's finances. Several officials - again past and present- are understandably very jittery as certain discrepancies are bound to be raised.

Unrest among Reds and Brumbies

The Queensland Reds are winning again, but we keep hearing they are not all pally-pally. Quade Cooper remains at odds with some members of the Reds management, while another notable player in the squad has lost the respect of his teammates because of his own ambitions. There are concerns that some players are 'untouchable.' At the Brumbies, there are also rifts, complaints about team leadership and some just 'going through the motions', plus uncertainty caused by players indicating they are heading overseas following the Super Rugby season. The Reds and Brumbies are also understood to be unimpressed with the constant media push from the ARU aimed solely at relentlessly promoting ARU agendas and ignoring the Super Rugby tournament. Their patience is wearing thin. And no we are not going to make any cheap gags that rugby is so on the nose the ARU had to this week announce a deodorant and male grooming supplier sponsorship. Smell like a Dove indeed!

Quote of the Year

ARU head honcho Bill Pulver told New Zealand journalist Marc Hinton: "The AFL and NRL enjoy, respectively, $250m and $200m of broadcasting revenue a year. We've also got what we call soccer, which has landed in a bit of a sweet spot as Australia goes increasingly multicultural."

As you would say Bill, we don't want to 'sugarcoat' this… but what are you talking about? 'Got what we call soccer', 'sweet spot', 'increasingly multicultural.'

Oh no! Hate to say it but 'Soccer', otherwise known as 'Football', the world's No.1 sporting code, has been popular in Australia for decades.

Oxford Street wanderer propels rant

Our item last week about a visiting Super Rugby player lucky to escape a night in the cells after police had to talk to him outside an Oxford Street nightclub in Sydney last weekend, caused major drama at an Australian province. Our ever-reliable snouts say that a prominent official from that province after reading the item described the player in the most derogatory of terms. The official then went on an extremely rude rant and rave. We've been told that what the official said was unacceptable. Player fines were even threatened. Let's hope something is done about this, and the official is duly marched out of the place. Numerous players at that province would not be upset if he was forced to depart.

Greg Growden and Russell Barwick give you the inside word on Super Rugby round eight
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Rebels reserves riding rough

Due to some Australian provinces not allowing their players to appear for their Sydney or Brisbane grade clubs, they instead are involved in some weird B grade affairs. The Manly Daily newspaper reported that Rebels forwards Jordy Reid and Eddie Aholelei, instead of playing for their Manly Marlins club, have been involved in a Melbourne competition, which is lower grade Subbies standard at best. Reid last weekend played in a rough and tough part of Melbourne, where a housing commission estate bordered the ground. As onlooker Arthur Daley said: "Each time the ball was kicked over the fence they never got it back." They finished the game with a kid's footy the size of a pawpaw. Next week, they are contemplating playing with a ping-pong ball.

Rumours of the week

Lawyers are now involved in the episode involving a leading Australian rugby official facing an investigation over overseas share transactions. Apparently some former work colleagues are not exactly missing him. More soon.

Wagging tongues everywhere following a fascinating scene at the Machiavelli restaurant in Sydney where a former influential Waratahs board member was sighted involved in a close and very, very involved lunch with a current board member. Sitting just a few tables away was one of Sydney's best-connected social gossip writers. Whoops.

Who is the ARU official now known around the St Leonards office as 'Fertiliser"?

An Australian provincial coach's campaign to get a $50,000 salary increase has failed. The province showed no interest. Funny that his CV has now suddenly turned up at London Scottish and Wasps.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
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