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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
Argentina telling Michael Cheika to 'name his price'
Greg Growden
September 5, 2014
Ruck'n Maul: Abomination not an aberation

Michael Cheika's re-negotiations with New South Wales Waratahs remain murky, with Ruck'n Maul hearing that Argentina have once again upped their bid to lure the Super Rugby-winning coach. Our Waratahs snouts say that Argentine officials have told Cheika to "name his price" as they are relentlessly pursuing him to be the country's director of rugby for the next four years. The deal includes accommodation, incentives, cars, and schooling for his children. The Waratahs, meanwhile, have tried lately to entice Cheika by inviting him and his wife to a dinner with the board members. "He has declined the feed," said one well-connected source.

A wet, cold night at a rugby league venue

A wet, cold night at a rugby league venue: no wonder North Harbour Rays directors were edgy about whether their team would play in front of anyone in their first home game of the National Rugby Championship season on Thursday. While the concept of the NRC is fine, there is still a serious risk of the new-fangled teams suffering major financial problems if the crowds stay away. The tournament has attracted more curious than hordes in the opening rounds, and attendance figures have been minimal. There was at least some relief for the Rays, though, with around 2000 spectators braving the elements at Brookvale Oval and cramming the main grandstand to see them play New South Wales Country Eagles. The standard of play was acceptable and usually free-flowing, but one of the main points of interest at the ground was the sight of the Fox Sports sideline eye team in their valiant bid to interview try-scorers as they returned to halfway. It proved a tough gig as it's hard to organise cameras, interviewer and player in a second or two, especially with the scorer usually sprinting back for the restart. Bodies were going all ways, and most times the try-scorer escaped without being interviewed. Better luck next time.

The Rat pulled a hamstring as his pants fell down

Epic rugby mascot race fail
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The other highlight at Brookvale Oval was the historic first NRC mascot race held at half-time. There were thrills and spills. The first shock was the late withdrawal of Tah Man. He was there, but someone forgot to bring his suit. Apparently it couldn't be found in Tah Man's Tah Van. A despondent Rays spokesman bellowed: "We're going straight to the top over this. The crowd wanted Tah Man. Not someone running around in a pair of Sluggos." But the show had to go on. The field was cut down to three: the Warringah Rat, the Mac Warrior and the Gordon Highlander. The Warringah Rat shot out of the blocks, took the lead, but suddenly collapsed in the middle of the field. The Rat pulled a hamstring at the exact time his pants fell down and tripped him. He tried to drag himself along on his knees and using the top of his head, but eventually had to give up. While Mac Warrior celebrated his win, the Rat was sighted late on Thursday night in the Brookvale Oval physio room getting treatment. "Lucky our next home game isn't until September 20, because the Rat is absolutely busting to get another crack at the Mac Warrior," said a now more invigorated Rays spokesman before the club announced a press conference featuring 'Ratty' to discuss his race to be fit for the next home game on September 20.

Brumbies 'in a real dire position'

Missed by some was a disconcerting report in the Canberra Times a few days ago stating the Brumbies have considerable money issues. Chris Dutton reported the Brumbies were "staring at a $500,000 black hole in their budget next year after the ARU slashed its funding to Super Rugby franchises and their community rugby programs". The Brumbies will report a significant loss for the fourth consecutive year, and the club is still searching for a naming-rights sponsor deal worth more than $1 million," Dutton wrote. Brumbies chairman Sean Hammond said the club would be "in a real dire position" had it not been for the multimillion-dollar sale of its Griffith headquarters. Another serious concern is the slump in Brumbies home crowds. How long before the old chestnut of the Brumbies having to relocate bobs up once again? Singapore maybe? Don't laugh!

World Rugby: give me a break!

Really, what's the point of the International Rugby Board changing its name to World Rugby? World Rugby? That's meaningless. Can't wait to go to the next World Rugby Rugby World Cup. As one notable rugby official said this week: "What a waste of time and money. What are they smoking at the IRB, or is that World Rugby, or Rugby World … aaagh forget it." One media release said the name change was a reflection of the IRB's "mission to build a stronger connection with fans, players and new audiences worldwide". What tosh!

Game of Thrones inspires Rugby World Cup promo
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Colonial hubris?

New Zealand are whingeing they are missing in a new ad to promote ticket sales for the 2015 World Rugby Rugby World Cup. Most of the main countries appear during the ad, but no obvious sign of the world champions. If you blink you will also miss Australia's big moment. Hint. For a brief second or two, you can see several Australian supporters decked in green-and-gold scarfs standing behind a man cooking hot dogs.

David Campese! Calling David Campese!

David Campese should expect a call. His old coach Alan Jones has just accepted a role in the musical production of Anything Goes, which will open in Sydney next year. One of his co-stars, Todd McKenney, will teach Jones how to tap-dance. Campese is another who could easily show the former Wallabies coach some impressive dance moves.

Referees can't help themselves

The Bingham Cup in Sydney last weekend was quite the affair, a raging success, on and off the field. The three-day tournament hosted by Sydney Convicts in Rose Bay featured almost everything - including the traditional post-siren streak.

Our correspondents at the venue laughed loudest, however, when the referee handling a Kings Cross Steelers-Manchester Village Spartans match pinged the Londoners with a short-arm scrum penalty. Seems the whistleblowers just can't help themselves!

Whispers of the Week

- An Australian coach currently in Japan is worried he may be forced to return home earlier than expected if it is found out he has hooked up with a Sydney grade club for next season. He wants it kept quiet. Pity the Sydney club has already tweeted the news.

- We hear the publishers of Robbie Deans' coming biography were relieved the Wallabies nosedived in Auckland. Wouldn't have been good for sales if Deans' successor had enjoyed the Bledisloe Cup success for which the Kiwi has strived but missed. Apparently the Deans book is an "earnest read".

- A notable provincial official bombed when giving a speech to his club about how to introduce a winning culture. All was going well until a Super Rugby player stormed out, claiming the official's only contribution was palling around with another underperforming delegate.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd

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