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Greg Growden
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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
Michael Cheika heading back to Europe?
Greg Growden
August 16, 2013
The Waratahs' Michael Cheika watches his team against the Brumbies, New South Wales Waratahs v Brumbies, Super Rugby, ANZ Stadium, May 18, 2013
Michael Cheika continues to battle with Waratahs administrators, Ruck'n Maul hears © Getty Images
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Several New South Wales Waratahs players and officials returned from Argentina this week worried after coach Michael Cheika chose to remain in Buenos Aires, fuelling suggestions he may be "bailing out". Cheika is understood to have been travelling to Europe, with one of his tasks being to meet officials from a northern hemisphere club. Cheika is widely known to be concerned with certain aspects of the Waratahs' off-field administration, and he believes a massive clean-up is required; Cheika could walk if this doesn't happen. NSW sources say Cheika has major problems working with two senior Waratahs administrative figures, and it could end up being a case of them going, or him. One change to the Waratahs coaching structure was announced on Thursday with Nathan Grey moving from Melbourne Rebels to his old province to be involved in the team's defence in 2014.

Living without Lions

The British & Irish Lions Test series enlivened the Australian rugby scene, but there has been a downside. Public interest in the Bledisloe Cup match at ANZ Stadium in Sydney has been only lukewarm. Most seasons, snaring Bledisloe Cup tickets in Sydney is an arduous task. Not this year. There's plenty around, and now quality seats are being sold on the internet at half-price. Maybe too many Sydneysiders were burned going out to Homebush for the third Lions Test and witnessing a demoralising Wallabies self-destruction. In Brisbane, you always know it is going to be a full house.

Loe's blow: Three Amigos are feral dogs

Greg Growden and Russell Barwick look at the rugby week ahead
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Hidden away in former All Blacks prop Richard Loe's always entertaining New Zealand Herald newspaper column this week were some gems. Here's one extract from Loe, who was in Sydney last week: "Look at James O'Connor, Kurtley Beale and others. They leave you with the deep suspicion that the only reason they changed franchises was money. Cooper was part of the so-called 'Three Amigos' and none of those guys give you confidence they are part of a team. It's not a new problem. The Aussies told me that Eddie Jones, when he was coach, had similar [but lesser problems] with players like Matt Henjak and Matt Giteau. Puts Robbie Deans' problems with Cooper into context, doesn't it? So does this quote from a Wallaby player: 'You can make friends with a feral dog, even pat it, but it will still bite you on the arse.' That's what happened to Deans with the Three Amigos; they went their own way, no matter what the leadership group said. Mike Brewer, the former All Blacks flanker, has been doing some work with New South Wales rugby and told me the Waratahs' mindset was awful. Under former coach Michael Foley, the work ethic was lousy and it's said he lost control a bit; the players called the shots. Brewer said some just were not prepared to put in the extra yards, on or off the field."

Biting stuff.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to …

All it involves is a bit of respect. Quade Cooper pushes that line in an interview in Saturday night's Test program, explaining exactly what Ewen McKenzie tells him before games. "When Ewen says to you 'mate this is the game plan - I trust you to go out there put it into action and direct the team around', it means a great deal when you're spoken to in that manner. When you're given that kind of responsibility and respect, you want to repay it. It creates confidence in the way you play the game when the coach has that sort of faith in you as a playmaker and leader." As for being relentlessly sledged by New Zealanders: "What can you do about it? I mean banter's banter and I don't even get involved anymore. I just want to concentrate on things I can do to contribute to the team. The more I can contribute to the team, the better my performance."

Fun and games in the schoolyard

He goes by the pseudonym of "Inside Shoulder" who has put out more than 6500 entries on a well-read rugby website - including numerous viscous rants relating to any and every Sydney GPS First XV enjoying success. But the rugby underworld, including some very irritated heavy hitters, have penetrated Shoulder's cover and all is set to be revealed about this high-profile legal figure who appears bitter and twisted about the demise of his former school's rugby prowess.

Rumours of the Week

A prominent NSW official chose a dangerous spot this week to issue complaints about how the Waratahs were run. At one of Sydney's most renowned restaurants, the official was overheard by other diners slagging off members of the board, the coaching staff and the province's administrators while arguing it was imperative there were vital changes to the governing structure. Some of his remarks had merit; others will lead to very red faces.

The relationship between Australian and New Zealand officials is somewhat frigid, after a notable no-show at the Super Rugby final in Hamilton. Certain New Zealanders are unimpressed with recent Australian Rugby Union (ARU) proposals, prompting some brutal exchanges, including queries about an unnecessary "dilution of southern hemisphere power due to crazy ideas and poor marketing". Let's just say the once-excellent relations the ARU had with SANZAR and the International Rugby Board have dropped off in recent times. There will be ramifications.


Do you have any news or rumours to share? Contact Greg Growden on Twitter @GregGrowden using the hashtag #RucknMaul.

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