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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
Reds powerbrokers concerned at form slump, considering coaching alternatives
Greg Growden
May 16, 2014
Ruck'n Maul: Greg Growden ponders the Wallabies squad

Queensland Reds' disastrous season - which sank to a new low last weekend, when several attacking players appeared to just give up against the Crusaders - has officials considering major coaching changes.

The Queensland Rugby Union has publicly defended Richard Graham this week, but reality is that he is under threat of losing his head coach role. Influential union officials, concerned at how badly the Reds have slumped this season after winning the Super Rugby title just three years ago, are already talking of alternatives for 2015.

The Reds' Richard Graham drills with his players, Queensland Reds v Crusaders, Super Rugby, Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane, May 11, 2014
Richard Graham is under pressure at the Reds © Getty Images
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We've been told the list includes Reds assistant coach Steve Meehan, former Waratahs assistant coach Todd Louden, and even past Wallabies player Brian Smith, currently with London Irish. Meehan is understood to be at the top of the list. Even if Graham survives, Reds sources are adamant there will be changes forced upon him.

The Reds are also facing an exodus of players at the end of Super Rugby. The Rebels are in discussion with at least three Reds players and will put even more pressure on them to move south after the Melbourne franchise missed out on Brumbies No.10 Matt Toomua. It is understood the Rebels are targeting Mike Harris and the Fainga'a twins - Saia and Anthony. They already have younger brother Colby Fainga'a.

Reds 29-57 Crusaders (Australia only)
%]

It is also believed that one of the most important Reds backs - Quade Cooper - is deliberating his future; he will leave an enormous hole if he departs Brisbane and maybe that's why the Reds are suddenly interested in James O'Connor. And if O'Connor, currently with Smith at London Irish, goes to the Reds, it will require peace pipe meetings involving the player and Graham. Ruck'n Maul can vividly recall the venom aimed at O'Connor when he left a Graham-led Western Force regime several years ago. It turned very nasty.

Wild incidents at West Harbour

There were appalling scenes at the old home of Australian rugby - Concord Oval - last Saturday, when Warringah players were forced to escort an assistant referee and his parents to his car following a wild game. West Harbour supporters were infuriated with decisions made late in the game, in which Warringah scored three tries in the final 10 minutes to win 34-32. While West supporters hurled abuse at the assistant referee Matt Kellahan, one well-known fan raced down from the grandstand to insult match officials. Onlookers have told Ruck'n Maul it was the ugliest of scenes, following several unsavoury on-field incidents. Warringah players decided to escort the referees off the field, and later the touch judge to his car. There were also numerous embarrassing moments during the after-match function in the grandstand concourse. Hopefully several officials, who should know better, are disciplined over this diabolical incident.

Increasing interest in Waratahs

The Waratahs' push for private ownership continues, with numerous notable New South Wales identities eager to get involved. At least five consortiums want to contribute substantial funds to get the Waratahs back on track. Several of the interested parties involve people who understand intimately the New South Wales rugby scene. The details behind some of the bids are expected to be revealed shortly, and are bound to get Australian Rugby Union support. But one former Waratahs employee is not eager to return to Fort Fumble. This powerbroker told Ruck'n Maul this week: "Not only would I have to get a new tracksuit, but if I was going to go back into that whirlpool, it would have to be bulletproof and made of gold."

Winners need not be gloating grinners

Western Force officials are renowned for shooting themselves in the foot with dumb acts. It wasn't a wise move by a Force team official, clearly delirious over the team's recent run of form, to send a text message to a Waratahs heavy in which he attached the current Super Rugby standings. It's a long, long season, and such an act can easily backfire. There's also nothing worse than a gloating winner.

Meet Taniela Tupou

Any team looking for a frightening attacking player should have a look at New Zealand schoolboy Taniela Tupou in action. And he's a tight-head prop. Nurse!!!!

Whispers of the Week

- A well-known Australian coach was castigated last week by a rugby identity, who suggested that he belonged in Canberra. Not at the Brumbies but operating there as a manipulative federal politician. Also an Australian provincial chief executive has the nickname among the players of "Canberra", for being a mouthpiece (MP) for someone higher up the Australian rugby chain.

- The girlfriend of a well-known player has been banned from his team's functions. The team's coach is also sick to death of the player's less-than-impressive off-field behavior, and is seriously considering discarding him at the end of the season.

- Which Waratahs player has suddenly received the nickname "Hard" from his team-mates after some strange media appearances? And one official who loves the frequent flyer points may not be so keen about saving international rugby after discovering the background of a close colleague.

- Now who is the renowned loudmouth and Australian Super Rugby provincial director who last Sunday was issued a caution for drunken and disorderly conduct?

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd

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