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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: Best of 2013
O'Connor, Beale, 'Julia', gifts that keep giving
Greg Growden
October 4, 2013

Australian Rugby has experienced a pretty humourless year, due to a disastrous Wallabies season. So to lighten the atmosphere, it's time to remind all of the silly rugby episodes of 2013…and there's many to choose from.

James O'Connor and Kurtley Beale provided planty of content for Ruck'n Maul in 2013 © Scrum.com
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Dumbest Act of the Year

Toss-up between James O'Connor and Kurtley Beale being photographed at 4am in a burger joint before the Melbourne Test. Or the embarrassing hotel roof pool photograph featuring numerous Wallabies and AFL types. Or O'Connor photographed with a half-naked model. Or O'Connor, who not surprisingly is now way on the outer and struggling to find anyone anywhere who wants him, having a tanty at Perth Airport. Or several of the Wallabies' Test performances. You get the picture. Telephone the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) with your favourite pick.

Stupidest Quote of the Year

The ARU powerbroker who said at the start of the season: "As long as my backside is pointing to the ground, Ewen McKenzie will not coach Australia. You cannot have a front-row forward in charge of the Wallabies because they know nothing about backline play." It all went whacko some months later when the ARU, including this powerbroker, appointed McKenzie to take over from Robbie Deans. And the powerbroker can deny the scathing quote as much as he likes; we have four witnesses who were there when he said it. That this powerbroker still is at the ARU is an embarrassment. Superior race clearly!

Second prize: To the ARU powerbroker who made a fool of himself at a Sydney rugby luncheon when at the bar he described sports journalists as "wannabe Fleet Street @#$%^". This "mediaphobic" outburst from someone clearly struggling to handle the pressure prompted an angry sponsor, who was standing nearby with his wife, to ask the official to apologise to his wife. The powerbroker became even more indignant. Old story. Heat. Kitchen. Time to get out.

Best Spectator Chant Heard All Year

"He slipped. He missed. Now he's on the piss. Kurtley Beale. Kurtley Beale." The chant British & Irish Lions spectators screamed in the bars on the night of the Wallabies' Test loss in Brisbane.

Kurtley Beale's misfortune in Brisbane provided joy and mirth for the travelling throngs © Getty Images
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Best Quote of the Year

"Them flick passes aren't really in our abattoir." Kurtley Beale.

Best Lead-On

Jake White was convinced by certain ARU officials that he was the man for the Wallabies coaching job, and then they brushed him for Ewen McKenzie. No wonder White was furious, especially when ARU officials described him subsequently as a "Saffa" and "precious". We also hear that White leaving the Brumbies may have saved the province a squillion. White had weighted his contract so that he was paid most in the last two years - two years when he will not be in Canberra.

Best Tired and Emotional Behaviour from a Former Official

One past New South Wales Waratahs heavy has been the master of notorious moronic behavior at rugby functions this year. This has included being accused of stealing bottles of wine from several tables during a glittering club dinner, crashing through the toilet door during the middle of a Warren Gatland speech, and falling down the stairs after one too many Dr Jurds Jungle Juices at a club game at North Sydney Oval. Very odd. Wonder why he now has the nickname "Bubbles".

The Best Rugby Meeting

Easy. The Sydney premiership club presidents meeting in September at which several officials turned on ARU representatives Bill Pulver and Ben Whitaker. It was a volatile, profanity-riddled affair that included moments of table thumping - especially when the ARU folk attempted to explain how they had to cut costs across the board, particularly at club level. One lengthy ARU explanation 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, banged the table and said something like: "You're going to @#$% us from the front. You're going to @#$% us from behind, so you may as well @#$% off." 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."

New Zealand's Richie McCaw and Tony Woodcock hold the Bledisloe Cup, New Zealand v Australia, Bledisloe Cup, The Rugby Championship, Westpac Stadium, Wellington, August 24, 2013
Are the All Blacks becoming embarrassed by their trans-Tasman dominance? © Getty Images
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Best Bledisloe Cup Sledge

A high-profile All Blacks player told his Wallabies counterpart following the Wellington Test victory that "the powers are looking at culling the third Bledisloe Cup match each year as Australia are close to being considered second tier". We were told the Wallabies player was "devastated" by that remark, which was apparently serious.

Best Nicknames

Julia: The name Wallabies players have given to a high-ranking ARU official, whom they cannot cop because - among numerous reasons - he is a jersey-tugger, (meaning he is a unadulterated fan who loves hanging around the players) who will be in the job only for one term a la Julia Gillard. It also may have something to do with this official attending more functions than Gillard's partner, Tim Matheson. That is until Gillard was rolled for the Labor leadership. Earlier in the year, the players called the official "Don King", as in master promoter.

D'Artagnan: The former Wallabies player who has revived memories of the Three Musketeers as he is going out with a high-profile sportswoman who previously had very, very close relationships with two different Australian Test players.

James Bond: - An Australian coach has been given this nickname because of the team's lowly 007 international ranking. An Australian provincial team manager has the same nickname through his liking of cameras and ordering a martini at the bar "with two olives". Shaken not stirred?

The Tattooed Wiggle: A Wallabies player going out with a young Brisbane lass.

The Fifteen-Minute Amendment: The floundering Australian provincial media spin doctor because of repeated error-ridden emails that require corrections, which are usually sent out 15 minutes later.

Kramer: The Australian provincial coach because of his weird schizophrenic tantrums.

Gomez: The Australian provincial official because of his fascination with pin-stripe suits.

Sir Lunchalot: A good mate of Gomez's who as an Australian Super Rugby chief executive is forever at lunch and hardly in the office. Not for too much longer we hear.

Radio: The infamous official found himself renamed "Robin Hood" after being sighted at a Sydney club game hiding in the trees.

Arsenal: Bill Pulver had that nickname in his early months at the ARU. Arsenal as in the Gunners. Get it? Gunner do this. Gunner do that. Reminds us of a NSW official back in the 1980s who was known as "City Ford" because he said "Yes" more often.

Best Australian Official Suffering from Sunset Boulevarditis

The provincial big noter who when denied entry into a bar at the Crown in Melbourne 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."

Best Tweet of the Year

NZ media guru Doug Golightly on French referee Romain Poite's shocker in the All Blacks-Springboks Test.

Biggest Sledge (away from the Bledisloe Cup)

James O'Connor was told when he approached the Waratahs to see if they were interested in him for next year: "Come back when you grow up."

Best After-Match Haunt

A groovy North Shore drinking hole, with strong rugby links, has become the place for tense scenes involving former Wallabies players, barmen and claims of nefarious behaviour involving their partners. We hear swingers love the place.

Best Stink of the Year

Melbourne Rebels players Beale, Gareth Delve and Cooper Vuna hammering into each other on the team bus after a big night out on the soup in Durban.

And finally …

The most frightening news for the ARU? Buddy Franklin, close mates of the Three Amigos, is coming to Sydney. Oh no!

We'll be back with all the best and worst from the rugby cesspool early next year.

Should Australian rugby fear Lance Franklin's move to Sydney? © Scrum.com
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