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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
Heard the one about Waratah, Crusader and genie?
Greg Growden
August 1, 2014
Ruck'n Maul: Nothing wrong with confidence if not mis-placed, Greg Growden says

New South Wales Waratahs will discover on Saturday whether they can at last claim to be the best southern hemisphere province, but also whether their supporters have a soft spot for Homebush.

The Waratahs' decision to move games away from their cauldron at Moore Park to ANZ Stadium has been from day one motivated entirely by a need to improve their shaky balance sheet. The decision has provided much needed cash flow, but countless diehard New South Wales supporters dread the trip out west; Homebush is yet to win them over. But a fair share of the party faithful have decided to give ANZ Stadium another go, with a 50,000-plus crowd anticipated. The crowd admittedly will have its fair share of Crusaders supporters, but still this will be the moment when the Waratahs find out whether they can actually call ANZ Stadium a proper home ground. Victory will ensure Homebush holds a special place in the Waratahs' annals; a loss will just amplify the doubts over the dash for cash.

The Crusaders, not surprisingly, are amplifying those concerns, especially as their players enjoy playing at the ground having enjoyed considerable success there at provincial and Test level. Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder said it was great to be playing a final at a "neutral stadium", while one of their former stars, Justin Marshall, made it clear in his New Zealand Herald column that he believed the Waratahs had blundered in moving to ANZ. "The Tahs have lost that familiarity, the comfort zone, that fortress mentality," Marshall wrote. "Psychologically it is a huge plus for the Crusaders. It nullifies home ground advantage. Only the Waratahs' accountants will be as happy as the Crusaders about this decision."

Homebush will forever be one of the big Sydney sport debating topics.

Izzy Folau and the Waratahs impressed against the Brumbies when they last ventured to Homebush © Getty Images
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Kerching! Michael Cheika's value rising weekly

Super Rugby preview: final
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The Waratahs' accountants will also be very happy that head coach Michael Cheika has revitalised the team, as it has led to a dramatic boost in home gate takings - one of the most important revenue streams of any Super Rugby franchise. But Waratahs head office must recognise Cheika's value quick smart, or he will be gone. Someone looking mysteriously like former Argentina Test captain Felipe Contepomi was sighted in Sydney last week in deep discussion with Cheika, and the push from the Pumas for Cheika to take over as their director of rugby gets stronger and stronger. Contepomi and Cheika know each other from their Leinster days. Waratahs sources say that Cheika wants to stay at the province, but he is "struggling big time" with several members of the NSW board.

Waratahs and Brumbies players bury the hatchet, but …

Waratahs 26-8 Brumbies (Australia only)
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The long-standing ill-feeling between the Waratahs and Brumbies was on show during the semi-final at ANZ Stadium, with several spiteful moments. Thankfully peace was declared after the game, and relationships between the players improved dramatically when the Brumbies made a point of embracing their opponents and issued their public support towards them winning their first Super Rugby final. The Waratahs appreciated it. But that goodwill unfortunately did not extend to several Waratahs officials, who ridiculously taunted their counterparts after the win. Dumb. Dumb. Dumb.

Have you heard the one about a Waratah, a Crusader, Cinderella and a genie?

With the Waratahs on the verge of something big, it is timely to remember the endless taunts they have suffered during their traumatic Super Rugby history. From the vaults come some of the jokes that were in vogue when in 2002 the Waratahs were the laughing stock of world rugby after being thrashed 96-19 by the Crusaders in Christchurch.

Joke One: What's the difference between Cinderella and the Waratahs? Cinderella got to the ball.

Joke Two: Once upon a time a lie detector was installed on the Waratahs bus. A centre hooked himself up and said: "I think we have the best defence in the tournament." The detector went off. A front-rower then hooked himself up and said: "I think I'm the best player in the tournament." The detector went off. A second rower said: "I think … " and the detector went off.

Joke Three: Three boys were playing in a Sydney playground when a genie appeared and said: "It's your lucky day. Your behavior at school this year has been exemplary and your marks have been outstanding. As a reward I will give you each one wish. Tell me what you want to do in life and it will be granted." The first boy shouted "Lawyer" and thus, 20 years later, he was a successful barrister living in a harbourside mansion. The second yelled "Brain surgeon" and so, 20 years on, he was ensconced on the Riviera. The third approached the genie and tripped over his own feet. As he hit the ground he screamed in disgust "Stupid clumsy ----er". Sure enough, 20 years later, he was playing for the Waratahs.

No surprise if more Wallabies lured into Sevens

The value of Wallabies back-rower Liam Gill to Australia's Commonwealth Games Sevens squad in Glasgow was illustrated by his crucial cleanout in the final moments of the quarter-final against Wales, which was instrumental in them winning that match before going on to secure the bronze medal. Gill's work, together with an excellent tackle from James Stannard, helped to transform a 19-7 deficit into a 21-19 win. Don't be surprised if more Wallabies are now lured into the Sevens ranks. Rio is certainly attractive.

Whispers of the Week

- Rugby's fight to win ground in western Sydney gets tougher and tougher. While the AFL and rugby league swamp the area with development officers, we now hear the handful who work the region looking for rugby talent are about to become casuals.

- While it appears important National Rugby Championship (NRC) funding is dependent on it continuing into a second season, one official involved is keeping his options option. He told a colleague last week: "If the NRC fails, I could be out of here. It won't matter to me, as it will cost them plenty."

- More encouraging NRC news comes from the Reds, with tireless flanker Beau Robinson expected to be part of the Queensland Country charge. Apparently he has developed a strong affinity with the Condamine Cods.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd

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