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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
Waratahs learn Cheika's their daddy
Greg Growden
February 22, 2013
Michael Cheika barks some orders to his Waratahs side, Sydney, Australia, October 24, 2012
Michael Cheika has laid down the law © Getty Images
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Tahland continues to provide an interesting environment, Jake White gets steaming. Radio's station under pressure again. Greg Growden's Ruck 'n Maul brings you the best of Australian rugby's rumour mill.

Cheika most definitely the chief

Waratahs players are quickly discovering it is very much a case of "my way or the highway" with Michael Cheika. Their new coach has demanded a higher level of commitment and fitness, pushed players to their limit, and stressed he will select on form not reputation.

The demotion of Wallabies prop Benn Robinson to the reserves bench for New South Wales' first match against Queensland Reds surprised some pundits, but not those close to the Waratahs camp. Cheika has for some time stressed that he wanted everyone at their peak, and Robinson is apparently not quite there. Cheika, who has already put Robinson on notice by replacing him with Dave Dennis as captain, will shake up the place, and some egos will get hurt. Several already have. Even established Wallabies have discovered when returning to the Tahs that Test achievements are irrelevant. And not surprisingly, we've already heard a few players, long accustomed to the cozy "first-class lounge" surrounds in Tahland, are moaning about this new era of tough love.

The clue to it all came from assistant Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson, who said recently: "One of the criticisms last year from a lot of the New Zealand teams was that the Waratahs were unfit." Cheika is making certain that's not the case in 2013. For certain Tahs players, it even means being sternly told to stay away from the coffee shop near their team rooms at Moore Park - and instead go for a walk!

Waratahs star injured by a Colt

There continues to be unrest at Waratahs head office, with staff members leaving- some under unusual circumstances. Others are under enormous pressure. There is also angst involving a high-profile Waratahs player who is furious that he was injured in a tackle by a Colts player. Not helping the situation was a nearby coach applauding the Colts player for the tackle.

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Jake steaming

Brumbies coach Jake White was very keen to get one up over the Reds in the Super Rugby season opener. In fact, he got so steamed up during the Canberra match that emergency action was required when his glasses became fogged up and beaded with water. White could not see the match for five minutes while his glasses were de-fogged. Didn't affect the result though.

Scribbling not dribbling

Several rugby writers are struggling with an identity crisis. One scribe who went with the Waratahs on a recent away trip for a trial match wasn't enthused when a player in the team hotel foyer mistook him for a taxi driver. The player asked: "Are you here to take us down town?" Miffed journalist: "No, I've got ----ing better things to do with my time." Another well known writer, who went on an exotic trip with Warringah Rats to Cuba, was informed it would be best when entering the country if he did not to say he was a journalist but instead was the team's official fitness director. It worked. This scribe looks spiffing in his new bright pink running shorts.

Separated at birth?

Many have remarked that the new Australian Rugby Union boss Bill Pulver could be a double for Cam from Modern Family. And some at the Waratahs are whispering that Michael Cheika could masquerade as the French tennis player Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

Radio's ga-ga once again

That notorious Australian rugby official "Radio" is at it again. Radio, who is renowned for senseless acts, is a genius in somehow holding down a job despite a long list of atrocities. The latest kerfuffle involves two promising provincial players threatening to go to management if Radio or his dubious mate- "the Wizard"- went anywhere near them. Radio was told by the pair that they would report any indiscretions to the chief executive. Shortly after, a well-known Australian Super Rugby player also went close to strangling Radio after the official had a "hissy fit".

Sydney town down and dirty

A Sydney premiership official has employed a lawyer following allegations of extensive debts, and of "preferential payments" at his club. Another club is under official investigation for financial irregularities. There is also unrest among several clubs over Israel Folau opting to play for Sydney University. They argue that he could be a better promotional tool if he played out in Sydney's West. Another vigorous debating point revolves around a call for Sydney clubs to be slugged a $5000 bond to play in the premiership competition.

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