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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
Rabble-like Rebels in disarray
Greg Growden
March 29, 2013
Russell barwick and Greg Growden discuss the big issues of the week (video available only in Oceania)
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The Rebels are in disarray both on the road in South Africa and at home in Melbourne. There will be further ramifications from the embarrassing late night fight involving Kurtley Beale, Cooper Vuna and captain Gareth Delve, which exposed the franchise as being a rabble.

Ruck'n Maul has been told of several other incidents involving Rebels players and officials in South Africa, including allegations of one player calling another a "Judas fag", which saw a third player having to be restrained; a player's wallet mysteriously disappearing; and an unsavoury incident in the team hotel lift. The behaviour of several team officials, when they have been placed under pressure, has also been questioned.

Back at home, uncertainty surrounds the future of the team with the private ownership of the Rebels set to be transferred to the Victorian Rugby Union. Observers have criticised the slowness of the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) to pledge support of any ownership changes, with influential Melbourne identities even arguing that some people in head office want to see the financially troubled Rebels either disappear or relocated.

There has even been mutterings of Australia losing one province and South Africa getting an extra place as long as the ARU are compensated. ARU officials were adamant yesterday, however, that they will not be getting rid of any Australian Super Rugby provinces.

Some at the Rebels are pushing for a complete revamp of staff, especially with head coach Damien Hill under enormous pressure as he struggles to control egos, poor results and a board that, according to one well-placed source, remains "almost disinterested".

Two names mentioned as possible Rebels head coaches are Scott Johnson and Brian Smith. But for either to be involved, the province must undergo a complete revamp and a dramatic improvement in leadership at numerous levels.

Another week in Tahland

The Waratahs are a relieved bunch after a lucky win over the Blues last weekend, a victory that hinged on several dubious refereeing decisions. Even in triumph, we hear the relationship between two important backline players is very fragile, with one refusing to speak to the other outside training; it all revolves around the first player believing the other has pushed for an outside signing to replace him next year. Another high-profile player is deeply worried that a Waratahs official is stalking him. The other Waratahs think the situation is hilarious, and they have named the player "Charlie" and the official "Alan" after the characters in Two and a Half Men.

Also what's this about a Waratahs official lodging a complaint against another senior staff member, citing unfair demands and interference? At the Waratahs, it is just one mess after another - especially with serious questions asked about sponsorship revenue, which could lead to the downfall of leading officials.

Coach slams players as 'half-talented"

A well-known and highly experienced Australian coaching figure has told colleagues this will be his last season at provincial level. He is not enjoying what he terms "part-time coaching and half-talented players". He is also unimpressed with certain dubious figures who hang around the province. Players would be shocked to know the identity of this respected coaching figure.

Ireland McKenzie's 'only' option

The shadow of Ewen McKenzie continues to haunt the ARU. While one union director has made it known that he does not want McKenzie as the next Wallabies coach because as a prop he supposedly doesn't know anything about backline play, another member of the board wasn't smart in uttering a few days ago that Ireland would be the only place that would take McKenzie as a coach. McKenzie deserves better.

Waratahs 'nothing like another game'

Don't be hoodwinked by newspaper reports that Western Force coach Michael Foley is treating the Waratahs encounter on Sunday as "just another game". Absolute tosh. Foley is desperate for revenge, especially after his season as Waratahs head coach last year was a mess, prompting serious rifts within the dressing room. He basically lost the players' support. Foley, a master politician, hasn't forgotten those who undermined him at the Waratahs, both on and off the field, and he has made it known to the inner sanctum that he wants "to shove it up 'em". If the Force win, there could be some interesting celebrations and comments made.

Another concern comes with a Force player making it known that he wasn't impressed with a derogatory, insensitive "handicap" remark made by one of the province's leading officials at a recent function. Also a departing Force official is none too happy that he has missed out on a big job despite promises. It had led to a major rift.

Radio update

There are certainly some comedians at the Rebels. As their South African tour blunders along, two Rebels players were told as the media gathered a few days ago to quickly remove a sign outside their door which said: "Where's Radio when you need him?" And name the ARU official who's "on the front foot" speech on Wednesday night prompted the MC to utter: "I hope you realise you've just made more promises than Julia Gillard did in five days in Western Sydney."

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