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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
Bill Pulver under attack from allcomers
Greg Growden
September 20, 2013
Greg Growden and Russell review the week in rugby
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The rugby meeting we all wished we were at?

Easy. The Sydney premiership club presidents meeting at which several of the officials turned on Australian Rugby Union (ARU) representatives Bill Pulver and Ben Whitaker. It was a classic, and all the talk at the Catchpole Medal a few days later. Our numerous snouts at the meeting tell us it was a volatile, profanity-riddled affair that even included moments of table thumping - especially when the ARU fellows attempted to explain how they had to cut costs across the board, particularly at club level.

Adding to the tension was the plan to prevent gun interstate Super Rugby players turning out for their Sydney clubs. One lengthy explanation from the ARU led to a high-profile club president exclaiming: "You don't know what you're talking about." Another club president, infuriated by the ARU address, loudly thumped the table and complained that the national body was interested only in "@#$%ing" the clubs in various directions. The club president's quote was memorable, but we had better refrain as kiddies could be reading this. One retort from the ARU representatives to a president was: if he believed he could do a better job why didn't he do it. The reply? "It doesn't pay enough."

We hear club presidents were also aghast to be told they had to "take one for the team" because Melbourne Rebels and Western Force were suffering significant losses, believed to be in the vicinity of $5 million each. That did nothing to calm the agitated masses.

Let's just say the relationship between the ARU and the Sydney clubs, deeply concerned their funding is going to be chopped dramatically, is fragile at best. The dysfunctional approach to the meeting produced only more confusion at grassroots level, especially with the ARU admitting new plans are still "a long way from being finished". So clubs are in limbo and sponsors are vacating in droves.

Players behaving badly

Amid the reports of James O'Connor's Perth Airport kerfuffle comes news of another incident involving a Wallabies player before the Argentina Test. Let's just say a team snout is adamant the player fed the fishes all over a waitress at a Friday dinner. It's high time the ARU did something about this, but very disconcerting high-ranking officials at St Leonards reportedly defended the player by saying: 'It's only boys having fun." Pick up your act, ARU!

Rugby doesn't rate - literally

The Wallabies' win in Perth really wowed the crowds. Apart from a dismal crowd figure at the ground, the free-to-air television figures were alarming. In Sydney, the Test telecast was the 26th most popular program of the day, averaging 77,000 viewers. In Melbourne there were 37,000 viewers, Brisbane 45,000 and Adelaide 9000; and in Perth, it was the 91st most popular program, with 14,000 viewers.

If the Wallabies win a Test and nobody sees it, does it really count on the ladder? © Getty Images
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ARU continuing to cut costs

A distinct lack of ARU and New South Wales Rugby Union officials was noticed by many folk at the Shute Shield grand final between Sydney University and Eastwood; and the Waratahs board members must have been hiding behind the flagpoles. At least Waratahs coach Michael Cheika was there, sitting well away from the corporate boxes. He looked happy, which is pleasing because Cheika needs to keep smiling as he and the other four Australian Super Rugby provinces reel from the news that funding is to be cut further by the ARU - placing the ideas of extended academies and under-20s teams in jeopardy. Adding to the woes is the news that numerous ARU staff, including capable media, ticketing and marketing people, left this week after accepting redundancies.

Worry-tahs

Two notable NSW Rugby Union directors are calling for change in head office, targeting one under-performing official. At least two Waratahs board members are also preparing to depart an organisation riddled with problems, including constant battles to find sponsors and worrying 2014 advance sale ticket figures. We hear the Waratahs still have spaces on their sleeves and shorts for sponsors. Another Waratahs head office official is accused of leaking selective information about one of the team's star players, which is angering those above.

Europe may allow South Africa to quit Super Rugby

The kerfuffle up north involving an Ango-French breakaway in the Heineken Cup club competition could have major Super Rugby ramifications. There is a strong threat of six South African provincial teams joining a European competition from 2015. It is no secret that South Africa is growing tired of the Super Rugby tournament, believing their teams are disadvantaged by the travel. So expect some well-aimed whingeing from the Republic.

An update on 'the Fuse'

Former Wallabies prop Al Baxter's cycling career began a few days ago with a maiden ride around Centennial Park. A colleague later said: "He's a bit heavy over the handlebars." But apparently the Fuse has some potential for the sprints. He is due to have his first ride with the Eastern Suburbs Cycling Club next week.

Rumours of the Week

The Lobster is back: The infamous past Waratahs official was sighted having coffee with an ARU bigwig last week. Another big-noting Waratahs powerbroker, who some time ago mysteriously left the organisation, meanwhile is telling all: "I'm back and will make it onto the ARU Board." Surely not. It would be wise if ARU officials did some digging around to avert a major disaster.

Nowhere better than Moore Park: While there has been a concerted push for the new ARU centre of excellence to be located in Eastwood, and Queenslanders remain angry that it is not at Ballymore, one ARU heavy is very keen for it to be at Moore Park.

A different kind of third party: Two leading Wallabies players are now not talking to each other. It has to do with a very messy love interest, which now involves a very interesting third party, also with Wallabies links.

Grubbier than a grubby grub in the gutter: A high-profile Australian official is under investigation over business links and nefarious activity. This will erupt.

St Leonards, you really do have a problem: Is it true Queensland Reds and Brumbies folk have adopted a "needs only" basis for communicating with the ARU?

All for one … : Who is the former Wallabies player known as "D'Artagnan", as in the friend of the Three Musketeers? He has a great swashbuckling sword story to tell.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
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