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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.
Rugby
Greg Growden's fearless rugby predictions for 2014
Greg Growden
December 31, 2013
What do you foresee happening in the coming rugby year? © Graham Cousens / Scrum.com
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Greg Growden has stared deep into his crystal ball to see what 2014 has in store for Australian rugby. His tongue may be firmly in cheek in saying his sooth - or it may not - but we can actually see the truth in many of his fearless predictions.

Read on to see the coming year in advance, and leave your own fearless predictions in the comments box at the foot of the story. Or join the conversation on Twitter @GregGrowden using the hashtag #Rugby2014

 
After a shock Brumbies loss in Canberra, Stephen Larkham and Laurie Fisher argue who exactly is head coach ... a Brumbies official says the franchise will review the co-coach structure.
 

January

- Key players break down during pre-season training, blaming the Coogee steps, Perth sandhills, Melbourne nightlife, Brisbane Valleys police inquiry, and one too many trips to Fyshwick for "fireworks".

- George Smith beckoned back to the Brumbies.

- First media type tips New South Wales Waratahs to win the Super Rugby title.

- First media type tips Western Force and Melbourne Rebels to tussle for last spot on the Super Rugby ladder.

- First New Zealander to arrive at a Sydney club training stating he is an "All Blacks triallist".

February

- A former student of the Shore school in Sydney appointed to an executive position at the Australian Rugby Union (ARU). In spite of no job advertisement, ARU chiefs argue the former school prefect and scratch golfer was the most impressive candidate in the interview process. The successful applicant tells friends: "It's amazing what is offered to you on the first tee at Royal Sydney."

- Clubs applying for a spot in the ARU's third-tier competition start going public about how the criteria don't make any sense. Several openly wonder why they have to pay to join. Confusion reigns over how pay-TV is actually funding this tournament. ARU official is quoted as saying: "Everything will eventually be revealed in an open and transparent fashion." Journalists at media conference immediately suspect a cover up, but they soon get sidetracked by a cute Sevens story and forget all about the third-tier kerfuffle for several months.

- Former Brumbies CEO Andrew Fagan is sighted in the Waratahs car park.

March

- After a shock Brumbies loss in Canberra, Stephen Larkham and Laurie Fisher argue who exactly is head coach - and who has to front the press conference. A surprise, especially as the pair pushed each other out of the way to get to the press conference after a previous win. A Brumbies official says the franchise will review the co-coach structure.

- For the first time this year, an Australian Super Rugby chief executive publicly denies his head coach is under pressure. "He has the full support of the board," the frazzled CEO says. The head coach is sighted the next day filling in forms at Centrelink.

- South African media sources quote an unnamed local SANZAR official explaining they now want a seventh Super Rugby team. Not explaining actually; more like demanding.

- A campaign starts to limit the number of Australian derbies, after several turn into a bloodbath. The reason why? Something to do with "get squares after the Dublin dob-in".

- Benji Marshall is linked to the Waratahs for the first time in 2014.

- Revolt in the Waratahs press box. Chief complaints? Pies and sausage rolls no longer on offer, and the media now have to pay for a match program. Waratahs officials say it is all part of the cost-cutting exercise to ensure the wiz-bang National Rugby Championship goes ahead.

April

 
Unnamed South African SANZAR official says that he was misquoted the previous month, when he was reported to have said South Africa wanted seven Super Rugby teams. They want eight.
 

- Michael Cheika is seen on security cameras chasing a Waratahs head office big-noter across the Moore Park car park. Is that a meat cleaver in Cheika's right hand?

- After a diabolical Waratahs loss, their new media man, Russell Fairfax, makes himself available for selection.

- New Queensland Reds coach Richard Graham denies he is having problems getting his message across to Quade Cooper.

- The Super Rugby CEO who the previous month publicly denied his head coach was under pressure, hastily organises a press conference to announce the franchise and coach have decided "amicably to part". The official adds that the "new coach will be appointed through an open and transparent process". In other words, the new coach was signed up weeks ago.

- Unnamed South African SANZAR official says that he was misquoted the previous month, when he was reported to have said South Africa wanted seven Super Rugby teams. They want eight.

- First Super Rugby official of the season to be kicked out of a casino, then makes a fool of himself at the taxi line by cutting in and exclaiming: "Don't you know who I am?" No one in the taxi queue can answer that one. They don't know who he is either.

- Reds and Waratahs supporters boo their teams off the field. The Force and Rebels are also struggling, but no-one boos them off as most of their crowds have left well before full-time. The Brumbies have a surge in form, and both Fisher and Larkham are appearing at every press conference.

- Tabloids report that Quade Cooper has been sighted talking to Brisbane Broncos officials.

Quade Cooper will surely find himself centre of headlines in 2014 © Getty Images
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May

- Waratahs officials say that Kurtley Beale has learned from his mistakes. In an official statement, Beale is quoted as saying: "I have learned from my mistakes." No-one can explain why he hasn't been sighted at Waratahs training all week.

- Quade Cooper booed for the first time of the year at a New Zealand rugby venue.

- Tabloids report that NRL clubs are targeting Israel Folau.

- South African officials irritated they cannot get eight Super Rugby teams threaten to head to Europe. When reminded that they have said something similar every year for the past decade, they reply: "Whatever we do will be open and transparent." Journalists sighted nodding off at press conference.

- A "Bring Back Ewen" campaign start at the Reds, after home crowds drop off.

- Australian players go missing in Bloemfontein. They are later found in Cape Town, saying "there is only so much excitement a person can take".

- Rumours develop of rifts between players and staff at Western Force. A scapegoat among the players is found, and he is forced to leave the franchise. The player last sighted in Kalgoorlie.

- Richard Graham "rests" Quade Cooper. Ewen McKenzie comes to the playmaker's defence.

Fox Sports is embroiled in a major drama after a technician accidentally leaves the sound on during a Michael Cheika half-time address. The switchboard is bombarded by aggrieved mothers, explaining that "Little Johnny" has been affected by the outburst and won't come out of his room.

June

We expect David Pocock to have a year to remember for the right reasons © PA Photos
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The Force's Kyle Godwin runs the ball at the Waratahs, Western Force v New South Wales Waratahs, Super Rugby, nib Stadium, Perth, June 9, 2013
Kyle Godwin may get a Test call-up against France © Getty Images
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- Bill Pulver gets a new nickname … Fatty Vautin.

- The Wallabies announce that Laurie Fisher has joined their coaching staff.

- Tabloids report that NRL clubs are targeting Quade Cooper.

- The Waratahs claim their membership figures are up. No-one takes any notice. Even though their home crowds have collapsed, the franchise has wheeled out someone every year to say that membership figures are up.

- A high-ranking Waratahs administrator is forced to leave the franchise due to "financial discrepancies". Confusion over corporate box figures is investigated. ARU officials deny all knowledge.

- David Pocock is named Wallabies captain. He then appears on ABC's Q&A and successfully outmaneuvers several big-noting politicians on pertinent issues.

- Western Force's Kyle Godwin makes his Test debut.

- France record a shock win over the Wallabies. They credit their victory to a vibrant Melbourne nightlife and a mysterious blonde called "Fifi".

July

- Ben Mowen goes public to say that he is still waiting for the ARU to give him a top-up contract.

- The South African bus driver's union boycott the Melbourne Rebels, saying it is dangerous to drive them back to the hotel after losses in the Republic. Fists being thrown all ways is too much of a distraction.

- The Wallabies appoint a new team manager ... a teacher from a well-connected Sydney North Shore private school. There's no truth to the rumour that the school will holding a reunion at ARU HQ in St Leonards.

- Tabloids report that NRL clubs are targeting James O'Connor.

- Players privately start agitating that they are being forced to do more and more despite a cut in pay. Suddenly several stop making sponsorship appearances. No one notices.

- Clubs are still waiting to learn whether they will be part of the whizz-bang national third-tier tournament. An ARU official is quoted as saying: "Everything will eventually be revealed in an open and transparent fashion."

August

- Clubs say they are still awaiting more important information from the ARU re the third-tier competition.

- New Zealanders again gloating over Super Rugby title triumph.

- ARU officials deny the Rebels are leaking money big-time.

- After yet another inexplicable Bledisloe Cup defeat, ARU chiefs say their prime focus is now Women's Rugby and Sevens football.

- Tabloids report that NRL clubs are targeting Kyle Godwin.

- A television commentator, accustomed to making big, ridiculous statements straight after kick-off on supposed game trends will say after 30 seconds of play: "Actually nothing has happened." He receives a standing ovation.

- ARU officials, desperate to appease every rugby mother, push for touch football to be introduced at Super Rugby level.

- Waratahs officials say they will have a "full investigation" into why they again missed out on the Super Rugby title. At least this time they made the finals cut.

- Fan-with-typewriter rugby writer taps for the first time this season: "The Wallabies today snubbed their nose at their critics by … "

- Australia's National Rugby Championship is under serious threat of not going ahead. ARU types deny reports of financial concerns; and if there are, it's because of "the previous regime". The blame game continues.

What will another New Zealand Bledisloe Cup win mean for Australian rugby? © Getty Images
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September

- All Blacks coach Steve Hansen ridicules the number of New Zealanders, Tongans, Samoans and Fijians playing in Australia. He forgets that his team has relied on Pacific Islanders for decades.

- Quade Cooper at last performs against the All Blacks. Steve Hansen is quoted as saying: "Well it had to eventually happen."

- Sir Graham Henry is approached to help out at Western Force. Again knocks them back.

- Matt Giteau gets thrown up yet again as a possible Wallabies candidate. Ewen McKenzie yet again laughs it off.

- David Campese is forced to apologise on Twitter.

- The ARU announces that participation numbers have increased. When asked to produce names of actual players, an ARU spokesman replies: "I'll get back to you on that one." The ARU spokesman immediately goes on holidays.

- Tabloids report that NRL clubs are targeting Ewen McKenzie. Israel Folau says he is being targeted by tabloids.

October

- A sighting of Robbie Deans. Or was it?

- Eight newcomers are selected for end-of-year Wallabies tour.

November

Australia's Ewen McKenzie faces the media at a press conference, Hilton hotel, Cardiff, November 25, 2013
Ewen McKenzie's "Mona Lisa-like" smile may net the ARU a financial windfall © Getty Images
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- Ewen McKenzie is photographed smiling. Newspaper editor admits the following day that they were guilty of a bit of "digital mischief".

- ARU chief Michael Hawker, a renowned man of mystery, is sighted at a Wallabies Test in the northern hemisphere.

- ARU official is photographed on bended knees pleading for James O'Connor to return to Australia.

- The ARU decides the sale of "smiling Ewen McKenzie" masks can be a money-spinning exercise. It becomes a big seller.

- The Wallabies select their 50th player for the season.

- ARU officials go on a Sevens fact-minding mission in Brazil.

- Ewen McKenzie says the Australian scrum is unfairly maligned in Europe. Wallabies front-rowers try to convince all that they have actually improved. The British media just keep giving it to them.

December

- ARU officials yet to return from South America say it is hard to get flights from Brazil. They explain that they have also been held up checking the Sevens in-goal markings. One ARU official renowned as a master networker and little else, starts lobbying to get onto the International Olympic Committee. "How long has this rort being going on," he asks one of his colleagues.

- Speculation mounts that James O'Connor will be the 2015 Wallabies captain.

- ARU officials announce the union is still suffering from "financial difficulties", despite the success of the McKenzie face marks, and so the Wallabies will have to play 28 Tests in 2015.

We hope you all enjoy a prosperous year in 2014 ...

What do you see for Kieran Read and the All Blacks in 2014? © Getty Images
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Join the conversation with Greg on Twitter @GregGrowden
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