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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
Waratahs now attracting interest from South Africa
Greg Growden
May 23, 2014
Ruck'n Maul: Trouble and strife in Queensland

Private ownership of the Waratahs continues to fascinate foreigners, with a notable South African businessman the latest eager to be involved in the province.

The Waratahs' Israel Folau takes the ball into contact, New South Wales Waratahs v Lions, Super Rugby, Allianz Stadium, Sydney, May 18, 2014
Who doesn't want to be involved with israel Folau and the Waratahs? © Getty Images

Three cashed-up groups are interested in holding private equity in the Waratahs, with the most recent to emerge a South African rugby fan "trying to come through the backdoor to be part of the franchise". Rugby World Cup-winning former Wallabies coach Bob Dwyer, meanwhile, heads a powerful and experienced consortium, along with former Australian Rugby Union and NSW Rugby Union chairman Dilip Kumar. This consortium is understood to want to channel most of its Waratahs funding into NSW community rugby as a way to develop new talent. The Dwyer-led group involves numerous identities who understand Waratahs rugby backwards, and know exactly what areas need to be improved.

However, for all concerned, there are some huge brick walls still to climb. It is known that another private equity group is getting frustrated by an Australian Rugby Union official whenever they seek clarification on crucial financial issues. As one businessman said: "You never get the same answer from [the official] to the same question one day to the next." And a high-ranking Waratahs official isn't much help, either. This Waratahs official's stock statement is: "Mate, don't ask me. As soon as I can, I'm out of here."

Reds angry at team-mate over Wallabies aspirations

The bottom-placed Queensland Reds are in a state of complete denial, as shown by the statements made after their loss to the Rebels.

Reds in 'mind-blowing, jaw-dropping denial'

Apart from ridiculously blaming the referee for their defeat, certain Queensland Rugby Union officials appear to take delight in denying absolutely everything, including that coach Richard Graham is under threat and that there is division among the group. Can't wait for more denials over the latest information that one powerful Reds player called a team-mate a "dumb Paddy %^&*$" after the loss to the Rebels. The player \labelled has lost the respect of numerous squad members, who believes he is more focused on his Wallabies aspirations than on the welfare of his province.

Three out of 10 …

A high-ranking local rugby official should feel very worried. He has just undergone a performance review, and an external body has given him the damning mark of three out of 10. The struggling official's assessor knows rugby backwards.

Something about winners and grinners

The big-noting Western Force team official who cheekily sent the Waratahs a text message last week showing how they were higher up the Super Rugby ladder was very, very quiet after they lost in Cape Town. The Waratahs didn't miss the sulking Force official, either, sending him a message asking for the result of the Stormers match. The Brumbies, meanwhile, continue to squabble over serious leadership issues.

Is that you, Ray?

It's all hands on deck at one National Rugby Championship club. The North Harbour Rays have begun an intensive search for a mascot. They want one who will captivate the heart of every Rays fan - from the diehards to the kiddies, as well as striking fear into opponents. A Rays spokesman said they were "open to all suggestions" while on mascot watch. "One thing I can guarantee you is that the mascot's name will be Ray," the spokesman said. He refused to confirm whether the mascot would resemble Ray Warren, Ray Charles, Ray Martin or Ray Hadley.

Back in first grade after a seven-year absence

The club rugby ranks are renowned for the dedicated helping out in troubled times. Manly Marlins last weekend were indebted to their first grade assistant coach Damien "Turtle" Cummins helping out to overcome an injury crisis. At 41, Cummins made a surprise comeback in first grade when he appeared as a second-half replacement against Gordon because the Marlins front-row had been decimated by injuries. He had last previously appeared in first grade in 2007. Some famous faces also appeared at the Back to Parramatta Day, including legend Ray Price. And sighted at the picturesque North Sydney Bowling Club last weekend was renowned Wallabies hard-man prop Peter Kay, who had just been next door watching his son play for Northern Suburbs.

Whispers of the Week

- An in-form overseas player with an Australian province wants out, and is keen to go home. Ewen McKenzie should feel worried, as he has his sights on this player. The Waratahs, meanwhile, continue to be concerned about the welfare of one of their star players, especially after his partner was sighted with a former rugby league star.

- Who are the nervous ARU officials so freaked out by leaks that they are approaching former employees asking them if they are divulging information, and then threatening them with reprisals? One replied that this just improved the chances of him speaking to the media, detailing ARU woes.

- The relationship between an Australian provincial team and its chief executive is at an all-time low. When the CEO left the team room this week, the players started making chicken noises.

- Who are the two notable powerbrokers with the nicknames "Boris" and "Rolf"?

- There is uncertainty over the Fox Sports deal to telecast the National Rugby Championship this year, with suggestions that $A1.5million will be skimmed off the new SANZAR broadcasting agreement.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd

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