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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
Rehab for Wallabies? No, no, no in camp
Greg Growden
August 9, 2013
Greg Growden and Russell Barwick assess the Wallabies
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It's early days, but the Wallabies are relieved a new coaching regime has led to a refreshing training camp change. Players are never ecstatic about being stuck in meeting after meeting, and so some Wallabies had grown concerned in recent years that team pow-wows were going longer and longer. New Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie has put a stop to that - with meetings short and sharp. McKenzie has also stressed that he doesn't want training camps being used as "rehab centres" for players. The emphasis will be on the players being fit when they arrive in camp and able to train. The big test for McKenzie still will be improving the level of player behaviour after it disintegrated in the final period of Robbie Deans' reign. Keeping several out-there characters in check will be tricky, especially as one high-profile squad member avoided a serious altercation recently only due to intervention by a "quick-thinking manager". At least the Wallabies cannot complain about being bored by the same old training grounds; they have this week gone back to North Sydney Oval for the first time in several years to train.

Rugby tightens the belt another couple of notches

The Australian Rugby Union (ARU) has been stressing for some time that they have to be frugal. And in some areas, it is clear they are becoming more low-key. An example was the announcement at the Wallabies team hotel of the Australian Super Rugby Player of the Year. Not that long ago, this was a whiz-bang affair, involving wine, women, song and plenty of Berocca. This year, media scribes were told to be at the team hotel by 10.45am on Thursday, when it was announced that New South Wales Waratahs flanker Michael Hooper had won the big one. The purse strings have also been tightened out in Waratahland, with our snouts in Moore Park telling us that NSW Rugby is sub-letting a substantial proportion of its office space to a catering company.

O'Connor and Hooper go clubbing

Wallabies are occasionally sighted in the club ranks. In the case of Hooper and James O'Connor last Saturday, they certainly used their moment well. According to loyal Manly supporter Pops Macdonald, Hooper was "on fire" for the Marlins against Penrith at Manly Oval - scoring three tries and setting up two others. O'Connor scored two tries for West Harbour, and set up three others against Warringah at Concord Oval.

Brumbies redeveloping 'them and us' siege mentality

Our intrepid scout Sir Larry was in Hamilton for the Super Rugby final, reporting that referee Craig Joubert and ARU boss Bill Pulver were sighted in the Brumbies' dressing room after the loss. Guess who got the better reception? Let's just say there are some Brumbies folk less than enthused that Jake White, for some time the favourite to take over the Wallabies coaching spot from Deans, was overlooked for McKenzie; something about certain people at the ARU taking White for a ride. Talking of rides, numerous Australian players thought it hilarious to see Pulver centre stage at a V8 Supercars promotion that included extensive footage shown on television of him flying around a racetrack next to driver Will Davison.

Brumbies take the Chief's Helm

The Brumbies recorded one victory in Hamilton after 500 loyal fans trekked to New Zealand for the Super Rugby final and succeeded in taking over one of the Chiefs' best-known watering holes in the city - The Helm.

Jake White eyeing hot Currie

The Waratahs may have snared Bulls forward Jacques Potgieter, but the Brumbies also have their eyes on certain South Africans. Don't be surprised if Jake White is sighted at Currie Cup matches in search of talent.

Waratahs the Worry Tahs

Radical changes in the top administrative ranks at New South Wales Waratahs are anticipated. One notable director has made it known that he wants out, explaining "it's all too hard". Our snouts also tell us the stressed-out director has made disparaging remarks about a Waratahs official; let's just say that relationships between certain board members are a bit prickly. There is also a concerted push for the Waratahs to be brought back under the NSW Rugby Union banner, and yet again the franchise licence is being used to leverage power. Finally, we're told that influential Argentina administrators have courted up-front Waratahs coach Michael Cheika during his province's short tour here in the guise of the NSW Barbarians; it is no secret that Cheika struggles with several NSW officials.

Rumours of the Week

Good lord, where's Michael? Puzzled SANZAR officials are asking questions about the "low-key" approach of Australian Rugby Union chairman Michael Hawker. They say the former Wallabies centre hasn't exactly made an abundance of recent public rugby sightings.

An Australian provincial player is deeply concerned about serious off-field allegations made about him while playing in the United Kingdom. He has sought professional help.

Who is the Australian provincial official with a clear identity crisis? When he was denied entry into a bar at Crown in Melbourne, he demanded: "Don't you know who I am?" The wise manager replied: "Well you ain't James Packer and you ain't Shane Warne, so get out."

And who is the notable ARU heavy known by the players as "Kyle" because he is a genius at self-promotion?

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