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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
Izzy Folau signed, but not sealed and delivered
Greg Growden
September 6, 2013
Israel Folau poses during a press conference to announce his decision to remain in rugby union, Fairfield High School, Sydney, August 29, 2013
Israel Folau still might provide a slip between cup and lip for the ARU © Getty Images
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There was plenty of froth and bubble surrounding the announcement that Israel Folau had committed to New South Wales Waratahs and the Wallabies for the next two years. However, there are several important ifs and buts involving Folau remaining in rugby. Our Waratahs snouts are adamant Folau's connections lack confidence in the abilities of several important NSW and Australia officials, telling them the player will walk if an important third-party deal is not in place by December. Certain promised third-party deals, which have fallen through, have caused consternation during Folau's time with the Wallabies. There's even a suggestion of him dabbling in Japan? It is also interesting that Folau refused to sign for any longer than the length of Michael Cheika's contract with the Waratahs. As an aside, Argentine officials are hovering over Cheika, looking at him as a future Pumas coach, possibly as early as The Rugby Championship of 2014, after discussions during the recent NSW Barbarians tour of Argentina.

Eastwood centre development issue to erupt

As we revealed in Ruck'n Maul two weeks ago, opposition is building towards the decision to locate Australian Rugby Centre of Excellence at TG Milner Field in Eastwood, Sydney. The Queensland Rugby Union is angry that the centre, which was originally to be based at Ballymore, was dropped when promised Federal Government funding was suddenly stopped. Some of the infrastructure - including office space - is already in place at Ballymore. There are also claims of interesting close personal links involved in the Eastwood proposal. This issue will erupt.

Greg Growden and Russel Barwick review and preview the rugby weeks past, present and future
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Shute Shield war building on the North Shore

The push to turn the Sydney Shute Shield competition into a 10-team competition is gaining momentum. Penrith are in the firing line as one of the clubs to be omitted, but there is also strong mail that a struggling North Shore club will be forced to merge with one of their neighbours. That will cause major drama, and the club is bound to become militant if officials and members are pushed into the merger with one of their enemies. It is all expected to revolve around whether clubs can satisfy certain criteria by 2015. So the clubs have at least one season to get themselves organised. The Sydney scene is also abuzz about a former first-grade coach taking his premiership club to court claiming "unfair dismissal". The case is scheduled to hit the courts in November.

Eddie McGuire promotes Argentina Test

Australian Rugby Union (ARU) officials hoped when they agreed last year to go head-on against the Australian Football League and the National Rugby League finals series by extending The Rugby Championship into October that they would receive a boost in publicity and show how rugby can take on the big two football codes. The publicity has already started, with Collingwood AFL president Eddie McGuire complaining how the Wallabies-Argentina Test in Perth has affected the AFL finals because of Fremantle's involvement. Without McGuire's outburst, hardly anyone would have been aware of the Perth Test. Thanks for that, Eddie!

Spies and loose chimpanzees ... now that was a tour of South Africa

One of the most important Australia teams - the 1963 Wallabies who travelled South Africa - are about to have a 50th reunion, heading back to the Republic with plans to attend the Test against the Springboks in Cape Town. The team, led by John Thornett, won Tests in Cape Town and Johannesburg to finish the series all square at 2-2.

Countless great stories abound from that tour. They include Wallabies forward Peter Crittle, later an ARU president, being told by team manager Bill McLaughlin to spy on a Springboks training session in Pretoria. Crittle turned out to be an average spy. First, he was sighted by a reporter from the local newspaper, which plastered his photo over the front page, and then his observations were found to be faulty when two of the South Africans whom Crittle thought were ponderous and easy to target annihilated the Australians a few days later in the Test match. Crittle was ridiculed by his team-mates because of McLaughlin's actions, but the players got the manager's back when they let loose a chimpanzee in his hotel room while he was in the bath.

Quite a number of the 1963 team returned to South Africa when the Wallabies played their first Test there in decades in 1992, when they produced one of the greatest practical jokes on a team-mate. Let's just say it involved a photograph of a young African game hunter. It's worth hunting down a 1963 Wallabies tourist, and pleading with them to tell the practical joke story. It is a classic.

Rumours of the Week

What's this about a well-known Wallabies player and his girlfriend being kicked out of a Bondi bar after being found in a women's toilet cubicle? Then again, what's it about footballers and toilet cubicles?

The atrocities stories from the Wellington Bledisloe Cup loss continue to emerge. Apparently one former high-ranking ARU official made a nuisance of himself after the game, once again the victim of the grape and the grain. As usual, the blazer brigade will protect this serial offender.

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