The Growden Report
Reds most certainly are not one big happy family
Greg Growden
May 25, 2015
Reds 14-21 Sharks (Australia only)

Video didn't exactly kill the radio star but it definitely killed the propaganda that Queensland Reds, after a rare victory, were again one big happy family. Poor use of video also probably killed off the Crusaders' hopes of making the finals, as several Waratahs players were extremely lucky to stay on the field following unsavoury incidents.

Circumstances in the Waratahs-Crusaders match could have been far different had harsher measures been taken when Tolu Latu and Will Skelton were involved in a dangerous dumping tackle of opposing forward Sam Whitelock. After watching the video replay, referee Marius van der Westhuizen let Skelton off and gave Latu a yellow card. This was leniency of the highest order, as it was a red card offence; Latu should have disappeared not just for 10 minutes but for the rest of the game, while Skelton deserved at least a yellow card. Playing one or two men down for 10 minutes is far easier than for 65; and so the Waratahs should never complain about referees this season, especially as Skelton somehow avoided another yellow card send-off late in the game when he blatantly pulled down a maul.

 
"ESPN has been told on countless occasions by various sources last season and this that there is a serious division within the players, that many lack confidence in each other, and that they have little faith in Richard Graham."
 

Better use of video came in Brisbane.

The introduction of television cameras in the inner sanctum of the dressing rooms has been one of the highlights of recent Super Rugby seasons; so the punters can see beyond all the spin, PR gloss and meaningless half-time player interviews to see what exactly goes on within the team environment.

We've discovered that Michael Cheika pulls the best facial expressions this side of Luna Park, and that he can even flail a golf driver around his head a la John Daly; Michael Hooper prances as if he is caged at Taronga Zoo; and the out-of-form Nick Cummins becomes meek and mild again after falsely believing he is Groucho Marx whenever he sights a zoom lens or microphone. So often the players and coaches seem to forget there is a video intruder in the room - and with it they reveal their innermost feelings, as shown during the Reds-Sharks match.

Just before the break, the Reds were doing their customary side-splitting routine of messing up an attacking move. A pass from Adam Thomson was charged down, missing James O'Connor, and the troubled member of the Three Amigos let his team-mate know exactly what he thought about that; a glare, a fling of the ball, a shake of the head, and off to the dressing rooms for half-time.

The Reds' James O'Connor keeps an eye on the action, Highlanders v Queensland Reds, Super Rugby, Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin, February 27, 2015
James O'Connor had a bad night in Brisbane on saturday © Getty Images
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To broadcaster Fox Sports' credit, they left the cameras on the Reds as the players walked into their dressing rooms. Will Genia was sighted guiding a seething Thomson away from someone; something fruity was afoot. Then there was footage of Queensland rugby godfather John Connolly gesticulating at some of the players, including Thomson, followed by head coach Richard Graham, with a glazed look, going through the routine of trying to explain to the broadcasters how the Reds were about to get back on track during the second half.

As usual that didn't happen, after O'Connor had produced the clanger of the year with a shanked clearing kick from his own in-goal so off target that it floated about 15 metres straight into the arms of Stefan Ungerer; the hobbling Sharks half-back only had to collapse over the line to score.

At the end of the game, the broadcasters were wise enough not to get all censorial; instead they went back to the half-time dressing room footage, showing the whole episode. You see O'Connor walking into the room, ahead of Genia and Thomson. A furious O'Connor is arguing with an even angrier Thomson, the former All Blacks back-rower, with Genia acting as peacemaker.

They were all laughing it off the following day - explaining that it was just the usual emotion shown during a big match; but don't be bluffed by that.

Outstanding coaches being ignored: Alan Jones
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Such goings on have been occurring at the Reds for some time, with the past two seasons involving numerous incidents and clashes between other players. ESPN has been told on countless occasions by various sources last season and this that there is a serious division within the players, that many lack confidence in each other, and that they have little faith in Graham.

Will the introduction of Connolly as a team adviser change anything?

That is open to doubt, especially with concerns intensifying that he is just there to bring his old mate - Force coach Michael Foley- into the Reds fold.

It was not surprising to hear over the past few days that hooker James Hanson - who has been their best player in the past two rounds - is moving on to Melbourne Rebels; Liam Gill is thinking of doing the same; and, despite the endless denials, which the Reds do so well, Quade Cooper is scheduled to disappear to Toulon next season. Genia and James Horwill also will not be there next year. All that will be left appears to be cardboard cutouts.

The troubled Reds organisation, scared that more dirty linen is exposed, will undoubtedly be trying now to prevent cameras in their rooms. On behalf of the punters, if the request appears, SANZAR should immediately stand firm; as far as the Reds are concerned, the half-time footage is the best entertainment coming out of that rabble.

It's ok guys @jamesoconnor832 and I are back together ❤ #cuddlebuddy #belieber

A photo posted by adamjohnthomson (@adamjohnthomson) on

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