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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 players left to wonder over Cheika
Greg Growden
April 11, 2014
Super Rugby referees continue to be given games despite poor performances

Even Blind Freddy could tell you that Waratahs coach Michael Cheika is an emotional character. As anyone who has watched recent televised Super Rugby matches involving the Waratahs knows, Cheika stands his ground. Footage of him in the dressing room and in the coach's box are classic moments. No wonder the Brumbies are chasing him for a smashed glass door at Canberra Stadium, and SANZAR got all-uppity when Cheika criticised a cameraman on the sideline during the Sharks match in Durban. It even appears there were fun and games last weekend in Cape Town. According to our ever reliable Waratahs snouts, Cheika was 'omitted' from an official function in Cape Town before the Stormers match due to his 'volatility.' His coaching assistants Daryl Gibson and Nathan Grey instead went to the function, while Cheika happily had the night off. When a Stormers official after the game took to 'schoolboy lecturing him' as to why he hadn't been invited to the function, Cheika told the shocked blazer-wearer something like this: "Mate, while you thought about your next beer, I thought about how to beat you. Which one of us is the happiest now? Do me a favour don't invite me next year." The Waratahs players are also wondering how long they will have Cheika around for. They keep hearing whispers Cheika will hook up with Argentina at next year's World Cup tournament. The Cheika-Pumas link first surfaced last year.

Possibles v Probables

Interesting to hear mutterings of a Possible-Probables match to be used as a Wallabies trial this season. Those who have long memories remember one being organised during the Robbie Deans era, which led to an almighty stink between the Australian Rugby Union and the Rugby Union Players Association over player payments. What will happen this time around especially with the ARU and RUPA on opposite sides of the fence over Super Rugby expansion? While on Deans, we hear a biography on him is expected to be published before Christmas.

Greg Growden and Russell Barwick give you the inside word on Super Rugby round nine

Pulver era coming to a close?

Australian Rugby Union chief executive Bill Pulver is losing support at the top end of town. One of his supposedly biggest supporters, a very well known rugby identity who is a master of self-promotion, was overheard at his local club a few days ago loudly criticising Pulver for his strange comments in the Sydney Daily Telegraph, in particular: "We don't always make decisions exclusively for the good of Australian rugby. On occasion you make decisions for the good of all rugby." This one time Pulver supporter who is now clearly wavering considering the disparaging remarks he made said the only person with the coaching and business capabilities of saving Australian rugby from going down the financial gurgler was himself. Give yourself a rap, champ. Sunset Boulevard stuff. Nonetheless at least two ARU board members are questioning the wisdom of several of Pulver's recent comments, including where he said the Wallabies were a superior product to the Socceroos. Putting a sock in it has been mentioned.

Subbies fight amateur status

The Sydney Subbies competition has begun, with the organisation enforcing amateur status on all clubs from 2015. Already some clubs are muttering that there is absolutely nothing that can stop them paying players. So a big showdown is looming in Subbies land. However our men at grassroots level are adamant that the amateur stipulation will be carried out, with near unanimous support from the 52 clubs involved. The Subbies are also delighted that Magners has jumped in where many have been recently reluctant to tread. The cider company is sponsoring all three levels of senior rugby in Sydney- Waratahs, Shute Shield and, as of last week, Subbies. We also hear in the Sydney grade ranks that two first division clubs are in chaos, with threats of overthrows and concerns about lost funds. And the competition is less than a month old. Also Queensland's loss to the Force last weekend did nothing to improve the frigid state of a divided Reds camp.

Most embarrassing moments.

That there is no club program for the Shute Shield. There's now even suggestions of photocopying the team lists and handing it around to punters at the ground. How amateur! And how stupid do SANZAR look after their tough public stance a few weeks ago that they would get rid of under-performing referees. Well how do they explain the oft-criticised South African referee Stuart Berry getting another Lions match? Clearly SANZAR are just huff and puff merchants.

Observation of the week

An observation. Have you noticed that when the TV broadcasters show the teams arriving at the grounds for Super Rugby matches this year, the players who are most out of form are wearing the biggest headphones?

Rumours of the week:

- Players at one Australian province are holding a competition on who can best imitate their coach's distinctive voice. Apparently some can do it perfectly. Others are absolutely shocking, but still get the biggest laughs.

- On the office door of an Australian official facing an investigation over overseas share transactions was this week placed a photograph of a wolf. This simmering issue is now getting very nasty.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
Join the conversation with Greg on Twitter @GregGrowden

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