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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
Waratahs need to dust down the 'Cheik' book
Greg Growden
August 8, 2014
Ruck'n Maul: Australian rugby has a golden glow

The Waratahs have at last some spare cash following their Super Rugby title triumph, but contract renegotiations with their coach Michael Cheika appear to be a long way from completion. In spite of the call for some of the gate takings from the semi-final against the Brumbies and the finals against the Crusaders to be directed towards ensuring Cheika, who has one year left in his contract, stays at the province, Moore Park HQ is adopting a "hands in pockets" approach.

Discussions between Waratahs officials and Cheika over a two-year extension continued this week, with the Australian Rugby Union involved. It appears the Waratahs just want to extend Cheika's contract without any appreciable pay rise. This despite Cheika's market value having risen dramatically, given he has now won major titles in the northern and southern hemispheres.

Michael Cheika hails Tahs' team ethic
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There's no doubt that Cheika, who is being pursued both by European clubs and Argentina, has won over the Waratahs fans. Each time his head appeared on the big screen at ANZ Stadium on Saturday night, the 60,000-plus crowd cheered in appreciation. That also occurred when he was sighted on the field after full-time - a sign the punters have relished how he has revitalised a long-underperforming province by ensuring the team played positive, winning rugby.

The Waratahs have been buoyed by Cheika stating that he wants to build "a dynasty" at the province, and the fact he said when asked at the post-match press conference at ANZ Stadium about Argentina that he wanted to remain with the Tahs but it would be dangerous for the suits to believe he will just do so for mate's rates.

If Cheika leaves the Waratahs, there is a serious risk that quite a number of frontline New South Wales players will also head off after the 2015 Rugby World Cup. There is already strong talk of Israel Folau being very, very interested in playing for the Sydney Roosters NRL club after the World Cup. 'Heads of agreement' over first options have even been whispered.

NSW Waratahs 33-32 Crusaders (Australia only)
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Rugby truly finds a home in Homebush

Those who attended the Super Rugby final will not forget it for a long time, as there were endless amazing scenes. Ruck'n Maul took the Tah Train to the game, and things turned comical when Tah Man boarded the train at Central and took over proceedings, including driving it for the final kilometres into Homebush. Then to arrive at the Homebush concourse to be surrounded by thousands and thousands of Waratahs fans was an experience. As extraordinary was sighting in the distance former NSW Rugby Union director Alan Williamson risking his life when he climbed onto the railings, balancing himself precariously, at the front of a private box to cheer the Tahs home.

Small television showed the future in Perth

On the other side of Australia, some rugby followers had only limited viewing of the game. The final coincided with the Western Force presentation night. Some of those who attended to enjoy everything Force, Force, Force assumed they would be able to watch the game. The big screens in the room naturally focused on 2014 Force season highlights. The final was, according to our snouts at the function, shown on two small television sets in a side room, and, according to one guest, it was "near impossible to see anything". Pity, because more Force fans would have discovered the rewards that come through a running rugby philosophy.

Scrum5: Best Super Rugby final ever?
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Public v Private school

With all the kerfuffle going on about GPS football at the moment, it's worth noting statistics provided by one loyal reader, John Bain. In spite of rugby regarded as a private school domain, Bain discovered that 10 of the 23-man Waratahs squad who played on the weekend attended public high schools.

Refereeing, schmefereeing …

Out in Sydney clubland, there were complaints over questionable refereeing decisions during the qualifying finals last weekend. There were even suggestions that one of the winning teams was going to complain. As confounding were some Twitter comments over changes to the Ken Catchpole Medal, which saw rough barbs directed at several dedicated rugby scribes who are devoted to club football.

The Waratahs celebrate their Super Rugby grand final win with fans, Martin Place, Sydney, August 5, 2014
The Waratahs celebrated their Super Rugby grand final win with fans at a civic presentation in Sydney © Getty Images
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Whispers of the Week

- Michael Cheika issued a directive to his players after the Super Rugby victory to enjoy the moment, but he warned the "bleary eyed" not to attend the Martin Place celebrations on Tuesday. The players were all there despite several days of celebrations, having avoided the usual Mad Monday atrocities. But we hear that one player over-indulged big time on Mad Monday, while his partner narrowly avoided serious trouble. And, yes, we are told Cheika is aware of it.

- It's worth watching a replay of the Super Rugby grand final presentations to see what appears to be a cold response by some Waratahs players towards an official on the rostrum. We've been told it goes back to Durban, and reaction to a sideline incident involving the Waratahs coach.

Michael Hooper and the Waratahs have won over Sydney with style and substance © Getty Images
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