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Greg Growden
Greg Growden | Columnist Index
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
ARU farce could see Folau league-bound
Greg Growden
April 17, 2014
Israel Folau dons body armour to train for the New South Wales Waratahs, Moore Park, Sydney, Australia, April 15, 2014 in Sydney, Australia
Israel Folau's future in rugby appears very much up in the air © Getty Images
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Australian Rugby Union (ARU) officials should not laugh off threats that Israel Folau is about to return to rugby league. After the ARU's appalling handling of Folau's throat injury, where it came over the top of the New South Wales Waratahs medical staff and forced him out of last weekend's game against the Force, the player is understandably seething.

That was clear for all to see when FoxSports interviewed him before the Waratahs-Force match. And congratulations to Folau for having the guts to go public and expressing his anger at the ARU's pathetic decision. Our ever-reliable Waratahs snouts have informed us that due to this fiasco, discussions between Folau's management and the Sydney Roosters NRL club have begun. The Roosters want him next year to help them overcome the loss of several senior backline players.

There also remains the serious concern that third-party deals promised to Folau have not yet come to fruition. Our snouts say that while Folau has been promised plenty - a tally well into six figures - hardly anything has passed hands. This was also a problem last season. So if Folau returns to league, it is entirely the ARU's fault. They have bungled this big time.

Israel Folau's loss would be the ARU's fault

More Waratahs looking to jump ship

Another key Waratahs attacking player is contemplating heading to France next year. One of the Waratahs' and Wallabies' biggest names recently approached the Waratahs coaching staff to reveal that he has received a lucrative overseas offer, and wanted to know whether coach Michael Cheika was staying next season. That remains a bit of a mystery. There is strong mail that Cheika could be heading to Argentina shortly, and that he is being seriously considered for the Pumas head-coaching job at next year's World Cup tournament. Pumas officials would not be surprised if they suddenly see Cheika in their part of the world during the Super Rugby break in June. If Cheika leaves the Waratahs, this star player is also expected to move on.

Player gets tough with Force official

Not surprisingly, there were heated scenes following the Waratahs-Force match. We've heard that after the game two Force officials - one very tired and emotional but both serial offenders of stupid behaviour- made numerous derogatory remarks concerning Folau's injury. Moronic comments like "the Waratahs will find it hard to swallow that loss" and 'the defeat really sticks in your throat" naturally irritated those around them.

Thankfully one Force player, who on a number of occasions has shown he is an outstanding character, had enough of this rubbish. The player apparently grabbed one of the offending Force officials and pushed him into a bathroom. This somewhat loose official has for some time been intensely disliked by Force players. Snouts are also adamant a Waratahs fringe Test player has told a Wallabies team official in the most blunt terms what he thought about how the ARU had messed up the Folau issue. "You disgust me," was one comment the player made. And good on him. The player is on solid ground.

Numerous Waratahs team officials are also unimpressed with the lack of support they received from their head office when the ARU decided to go tough with Folau. Let's just say that one NSW official suddenly had "gone to the dogs," or was it the marquee tents at the races?

ARU exits continue

The purge at the ARU continues. In recent days, more staff have been pointed towards the exit door, while our St Leonards snouts say that those who are staying are about to be hit with a 3.85 per cent pay cut. Happy Easter all!

Coincidence?

An observation. Notice that the troublemaker at any province is often the second player who runs out on the field - just behind the skipper.

Rumour(s) of the week

Just a few days before the Folau fiasco, was there really a sighting at the legendary Cabana Bar in Sydney of a high-ranking Wallabies official, an ARU heavy, a Sevens staff member and a person with very strong Western Force connections all in deep conversation? We have been hearing for a long time of very strong Force affiliations within the ARU corridors at St Leonards. Something about "unofficial adviser". How embarrassing!

Interesting sightings of one of our favourite characters - the Lobster - at Sydney club rugby lately ... this time carrying a microphone. And there are serious concerns about a certain shady character, who was involved in a Waratahs major sponsorship deal that went bust big time many years ago, again appearing on the local rugby horizon, promising big. No doubt there are going to be more financial tears.

Major fallout over an erroneous press release sent out by the Waratahs media department on club rugby last week. Instead of admitting they stuffed up big time, certain NSW officials, who are renowned for repeated bungles, instead tried to divert attention by blaming everyone else, even feebly attempting to accuse Ruck'n Maul of being involved. Deplorable behaviour by certain individuals, who should know better. But nothing new.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd

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