David Alexander Wright, March 1948 – August 2022

August 31st, 2022

Let’s pretend for a second: you are out the back of Tiniroto in the bush, central North Island of New Zealand, and it’s getting dark. It’s raining. It’s not going to stop. You live in a small village miles away, currently in the possession of only your wits and your rifle. Once the light fades, you are most definitely lost. A dark, cold night could finish anyone off out here. It’s going to storm until after dawn. Who do you want to be there with you? Who has the tenacity, the strength and the good humour to survive the night and make it back to town when the sun comes up again?

My dad used this analogy whenever, as he would also say, the going got tough. He wanted the listener to consider their reaction to whichever predicament they faced and choose to be tenacious, strong, humorous. He did not appear to believe in platitudes that encouraged inaction like “this too shall pass”. Oh no, not in the bush out the back of Tiniroto with a storm rolling in and the sun truly set. None of these things passed my dad by. He kept on pushing.

Dad died in Auckland in August 2022 after a four-and-a-half year long tussle with kidney failure. As was his way, he outlived his life expectancy given his age and diagnosis by about twelve months. Three times per week, every week, he drove to a dialysis clinic on Auckland’s North Shore from his home in Henderson, happy to make the journey around the Waitemata Harbour because he was coaching a swimmer at the AUT Millennium institute a few hundred metres from where he received treatment. He would attend training, analyse the swimming session in the cafe with his swimmer (a Syrian refugee named Eyad, mentioned many times on this website, who stoically refused to eat the bacon from Dad’s breakfast until the end), then drive around the corner to sit for four hours and write, consider, reflect, publish. When he died, he was half way through a blog post for this website about his recent struggles which had landed him in the North Shore Hospital.

Tenacity, strength and good humour.

My first memory of my father when it came to swimming is far too early to pinpoint. He did not officially teach me to swim: he thought that was a terrible idea and would result in me not learning as much as I should, and possibly throwing various tantrums on account of being told what to do by my dad. However, he took me swimming so many times at Moana pool in Dunedin that by the time he handed me over to Bill Corrigal at the physiotherapy pool in the middle of town, I could swim confidently. We used to go to Moana multiple times a week, him literally throwing me around in the learners’ pool and me making him run up, up, up and up again the imposing Moana hydro slide until his legs turned to jelly. I was a water baby of the truest kind: I do not remember not being able to swim.

Fifteen years later, he told me that out of my various NCAA swimming options, I should go to Washington State University, and I did.

The day he died was the worst day of my life. I was in Auckland already, having flown from my home in England a week earlier, because the prognosis was dicey at best. We had six wonderful days. When Mum and I drove over the Auckland Harbour Bridge after a phone call from the hospital, telling us that things had taken a marked turn for the worse, I realised that in the afternoon sun, I could see the whitewashed tower block of the hospital from the road, and I knew. Unfortunately, there are too many people in the world who know what that pain feels like and so I don’t want to tell you about that. I want to tell you about the bush out the back of Tiniroto and who he found there.

Although he was a swimmer in Wairoa and Gisborne, and used to swim laps in the river in Te Reinga (the village he always made it back to after a night in the bush), his first athlete as a coach was a runner. She is also my mother. Dad first annoyed my mother by talking all night on the train to University Tournament in their early twenties, then won her heart by passing out at the bottom of Allenby Terrace in Wellington after a hard night and being rescued by his future wife, who offered him coffee. He saw my mother playing basketball and informed her that while she was terrible at the game, she was the best runner on the court. He was already a huge fan of legendary running coach Arthur Lydiard, and somehow he convinced Mum to give athletics a shot. He also knew, just as he would later with my learn-to-swim ventures, that he should find professional guidance for her. Even though my parents soon moved to the UK, they sought out Arch Jelley as Mum’s coach. Dad had to miss Arch’s 100th birthday party in early August on account of his hospitalisation, but Mum read his speech (and hers) at the event.

My mother went from university basketball to a world ranking of seventh in the 1000 metres. Shortly thereafter, all six women ahead of her were banned for steroids.

At one point earlier in her career, Dad remembered overhearing a spectator at a New Zealand athletics event ask, after seeing Mum run well, “Alison Wright? Isn’t that that hack runner from Wellington?” There was absolutely nothing, nothing in this world, that he loved more than watching someone much maligned end up winning. The hack runner from Wellington held the New Zealand 1000m record from 1979 until 2015.

Many years later, mid-storm and long before dawn, Dad found Eyad. He had taken a job coaching in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, only a year before he would be diagnosed with kidney failure. In a predictably all-male squad, Eyad and his brother Yamen stood out. They were not Saudi: their family had come from Syria on account of war. They proved their good humour immediately, helping “Mr. David” with Saudi culture and Arabic, and tolerating his attempts to learn their language via the power of Google Translate. Dad wasn’t doing too badly incorporating his translations onto the whiteboard at the pool until it came to the concept of “Distance Per Stroke”. He transcribed the Arabic into the morning’s session, only to be met with much confusion at what this swimming drill called Distance Per Heart Attack involved. Should we, Eyad and Yamen asked, fake a seizure every few metres? Was this an anaerobic endeavour, meant to bring one closer to cardiac death due to its intensity? Mr. David, what madness have you brought from the West?!

After his stint in Saudi, Dad returned to Auckland, but he kept in touch with Eyad. A plan was born to bring Eyad to New Zealand as a refugee, and Eyad arrived in Auckland in 2018. In 2022, he travelled to the Mare Nostrum series in Europe and then to the World Swimming Championships in Budapest, touring with the New Zealand swimmers and competing for the Fina refugee team. I filmed his 50 fly on my phone from Oxford and sent it to Dad, who couldn’t access the live feed. He visited Dad in hospital every day until we got caught sneaking in three visitors when we were only allowed two. Scheduled to swim the 50 butterfly at the New Zealand championships the day after Dad died, anyone would have forgiven Eyad for not being up to the task. Anyone, perhaps, except Dad. And so he swam. Then he swam the 50 breaststroke and put up a personal best time. Later in the week, he swam the 50 freestyle. He made night-time finals in every event. He made it back to Te Reinga after a night in the rain.

Eyad, far right, at Worlds with the boys

About twenty years earlier, Mum, Dad and I were living in Hawke’s Bay. I have written rather unfavourably about my time as a swimmer in Napier: it was utter shit. However, the two highlights of my life were my relationship with my father who, by then, was my coach, and my only teammate Bekki. Bekki is four years younger than me, so was a thirteen year old when we were dealing with the mire of politics and abuse we suffered in that town. After I left for America, Bekki found dealing with the abuse and intensification of attention on her in my absence too tough to bear. She retired from swimming. In the wake of my Newsroom article from a year ago, Bekki and I had a number of frank conversations about her treatment in Hawke’s Bay and I felt rather terrible about the whole thing. The wrath of people who’d had their sights set on destroying my career largely turned on her, now aged fourteen. From the outside, it seemed as if they’d managed to destroy her. She was one of the hardest workers I ever knew in a pool, wholly dedicated to the sport and to Dad’s programme, and yet she never got to reap the rewards some of us do: the international trips, the scholarships, the national accolades.

Bekki was one of the first people I let know when Dad died. She already knew I was in New Zealand. Perhaps also having reflected on our shared experiences over the past year, she told me what a life-shifting impact Dad had had on her and her future. From a small, hostile town, he had taught her to “dream bigger”, shown her that the world was so much larger and broader than anything she had ever imagined, and awakened the desire to go explore it. Working her way through the ranks as air crew (and suffering a setback due to layoffs during the pandemic), Bekki now works at the highest level of international air travel. They may have got the better of her in Napier. They may have falsely accused her of misbehaviour and profanity, just as they did me, but Dad’s influence lives on in her life, twenty years later. She also made it out of the Tiniroto bush, stewarding a private jet.

Bekki, dreaming bigger

Dad had other favourite athletes whose journeys he highly admired. He helped 2004 Olympic Champion Rhi Jeffrey in Florida after college, and then in Auckland, never tiring of her exuberance and endless talent. After a career of mainly coaching women, he delighted in the company of Ozzie Quevedo, Joe Skuba, Andrew Meeder and Doug Miller in Delray Beach. Ozzie broke a world masters record in the 100 butterfly whilst swimming with Dad, and their formidable relay team took down South Florida’s best during his time there too. He worried about Fara in the Virgin Islands, remained in awe of Terenzo in Auckland and owed his life to Brian in Napier, a triathlete and a GP, who saved his life twenty-two years ago and bought us two more decades of his company.

Doug’s cap was Dad’s favourite thing about this relay, after the fact that they won

Ozzie now coaches at the University of Alabama. Alabama swimmers have been so highly decorated in the past couple of years, I struggle to keep up with their achievements. Dad was so happy to see him involved in such a wonderful programme after meeting him in Florida.

And during all this time, he pissed a lot of people off. He had run this website since the year 2002, when our twenty year old neighbour Edward helped him set it up. Edward was a casual swimmer at the pool we used, and like Bekki he became a trusted friend and friendly face in the midst of a bad situation. He and Dad had a wonderful time setting up the website and its rudimentary analytics package, watching the work IP addresses of Dad’s detractors appear as daily readers. When I told Edward that Dad had died, he said, “When I think back on my life so far I am grateful for having known David. He really made an impression on me. When I think back to who stood out in my life back then, David was one of those stand-out people.”

Dad was unwavering about his support for those in whom he believed, but he was equally critical and often disappointed in those he felt were letting themselves or the sport down. The height of his disdain was saved for people who were letting the sport down in ways that hurt swimmers. Nothing pissed him off more than knowing that officials had flown business class to some competition on the national body’s dime while athletes had had to pay their own way in coach. Structural or procedural misdeeds that impacted performance and quality earned his ire too, and he was not shy about publishing his views here. His relationship with Swimming New Zealand had been rocky since the 1990s, and perhaps they were relieved about the years he spent in America and the Middle East. However, he was honest to a fault, and when he saw changes within Swimming New Zealand in the last couple of years, he was more than happy to celebrate the improvement. He was delighted with the national team’s performance at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games and World Champs, which he saw as the spoils of an improved organisation starting to roll in. He began speaking fondly about an institution he’d battled for most of my life.

On my second day in Auckland, a week before he died, Eyad mentioned to him that at the upcoming national championships, the “Legends” relay (old ex-NZ reps who still fancy our chances of completing a 50 metre freestyle “race”) was one swimmer short for a full house.

I have never seen him scramble for his glasses and phone with such determination. This was a plan; a project. Jane, me, his daughter, must make up the missing place on this one-woman-down relay team. I fit the relay’s criteria. He called Swimming New Zealand CEO Steve Johns, who was on holiday. He called Gary Francis, who also wasn’t there. He looked for Gary’s daughter’s number. He ended up getting through to someone (I was losing track of who he’d called by this point) who put him in touch with Laura Quilter, the organiser of the relay. I received an email with instructions and teams, and information about the NZ Swimming Alumni charity. Dad was delighted. He sent me off to the Millennium pool to practise starts and turns. On Monday, the day before he died, he kicked Mum and I out of the hospital after a few hours to go buy a racing suit, because how (he said) could I swim it in my old training togs?

When he died, I did not want to do it at all. I know nobody would have judged me for not taking part. Maybe some people judged me for actually doing it. But as the week went on, I felt more and more sure that I had to do it. He would have been furious, entirely at himself, had I not. Because he didn’t just want me to buy a Fina-legal TYR racing suit and attempt to sprint two lengths: I am sure he wanted me to experience the good environment I had never really known in New Zealand swimming. We had stumbled around in the bush out the back of Tiniroto for so many years; he wanted me to walk back to Te Reinga in the sunshine.

I find this line a bit trite when compared with how he always talked, but I wanted to honour him.

I had hesitations as Mum and I drove up to the pool on Saturday evening. Eyad would be there, an unflinching friendly face and a popular enough person to shield me, I hoped, from the scathing newspaper article I’d written twelve months and one week earlier. We sat in the cafe upon our arrival (“Oh, the cafe has a pool?” my husband Stephen had joked earlier in the trip, alluding to the countless hours Dad spent at “his” table by the window). I re-read Laura’s email and saw that the relay swimmers would meet in the Swimming New Zealand board room above the pool shortly after the start of the evening session.

Nobody stopped smiling, from go to woah, just as he wanted

The kindness, love and respect everyone showed him that night will stay with me forever. I have never felt more welcome at a swimming event in New Zealand, and I have never before heard from so many people how they understood his integrity, morality and his goals. Throughout his entire life, nothing he sought to achieve was actually about him. Especially as a coach, his determination was entirely about the athletes. He annoyed people to litigious levels, and yet none of this was ever done to further his own lot in life. He didn’t seek out the most profitable jobs or curate his own image on the back of others’ success. All he wanted was for us to do well, something noted almost uniformly by the people I spoke to, both online and at the Sir Owen Glenn pool on Saturday night. Eyad speaks about how the programme in Saudi went through scores of coaches in as many months, until Dad came along and worked so hard for them, not for himself. He would plan and ponder for hours, days, weeks, setting in motion events that changed lives. He changed my life, and the life of my mother, to the degree that we achieved things we never would have known existed had it not been for him. And he asked for no thanks for it (although we tried to tell him over and over again) besides that we enjoy ourselves and act, for want of a better word, honourably. The people who didn’t understand him, whom he angered over the years, failed to understand this as uniformly as his supporters knew it to be true.

I am now three hours away from Singapore on a flight back to the UK. This is not what I wanted to write on the trip home (at this point, I am in an open relationship with the concept of “home”). We all wanted to round out the week with Dad watching the nationals live stream on YouTube (and what a brilliantly professional job Swimming New Zealand did of that too). We wanted plans to be in place for rehabilitation and continued treatment. We wanted him to watch the plane’s progress on Flightaware, and be delighted with my ability to WhatsApp him via the plane’s wifi. We don’t always get what we want. My dad was a best friend to me from the day I was born, and I have spent so many hours talking to him in person, on the phone and via video chat, but I’ve never asked “What would you want most, as a coach?” I don’t have to guess at the answer though, because he said enough over the years, including in the last month, for me to know. He wanted to know that the people he helped went on to live good lives. That involvement in the sport, and with him, led to good things. Of course, he also wanted for us what all coaches want: fast races. That goes without saying, and many a poolside lecture was delivered in pursuit of that end. However, of the regrets I have, one of the strongest is that he never got to see the messages from all his friends and family (both blood and otherwise) this week about what a difference he made in their lives. I regret that he didn’t see me walk out of the dark onto the poolside on Auckland’s North Shore, safe and dry, after a night lost in the rain.

But he wouldn’t want me to regret anything, so maybe I should say: I am glad to have known him and to have known so many people who loved him. I am glad I got to experience so many of the things he wished for me. I am glad he kept my mother awake on the University Tournament train and I am glad she stopped when she thought, ‘Is that David Wright?’ at the bottom of Allenby Terrace, and I am glad she took him out for coffee. Cheers, Dad. Drive safely, and wear your seatbelt.


August 14th, 2022

The local Selection Committee Chairman knew. The President of the Party knew. And no one thought to tell the party leader. What sort of mickey mouse shambles is the National Party. And how dumb is Luxon? He forgets that his company has a multi-million-dollar contract with the Saudi navy. He joins the horde at a Ted Cruz brawl. He doesn’t know whether a prominent hill is Mt. Manganui or Diamond Head. Abortions are murder but he won’t say whether the mother and her doctor are murderers. And now he doesn’t know that his Party has elected a bovver-boy thug to represent Tauranga.

Really, all you National Party supporters, aren’t you just a little concerned that team blue is being led by a dingbat?

But the subject of this post is really bovver-boy and new Tauranga MP, Sam Uffindell. I’ve come across his sort before. You see, in 1961 I was a third form, high school boarder at Wellington College. We had plenty of “Uffindells”. Guys from families with more money than sense. Guys whose territorial rights were established by strutting around the school peeing on every post. Guys who beat up third formers because that’s what tough guys do. Guys who were going to do a law degree and stand for Parliament one day.

Actually, I never had a problem with the Wellington College “Uffindells” – for three reasons. Somehow, I made it into the top academic third form class. Somehow, I was also the third form’s best swimmer and mile runner, and I played flanker in the first, third form, rugby team. My resume certainly helped. But eventually I too was ordered down to the Aero Club where third form initiations took place. A large and tough fourth form “Uffindell” had been selected to beat me up.

My assailants did not know that although I would run a hundred miles to avoid a fight, before I left Te Reinga, I had gone to training twice a week with two mates, Kahui and Donald, who were both New Zealand junior boxing champions. Our coach, Mani Mokomoko, had just returned from a year in Vietnam with the New Zealand SAS.

Anyway “Uffindell” and I were tied into boxing gloves. Let the Aero Club action begin. “Uffindell” came at me like a wild thing, swinging fists designed to send me into next week. Without a word of a lie, I was petrified. I stuck out my arm for protection just as “Uffindell” launched his second attack. My outstretched arm hit him flat in the face. He fell to the floor, blood pouring from his clearly broken nose. I undid my gloves and walked away from the bloody scene of my first and only third form bullying event.

And so, I can’t say I was bullied by the older boys at Wellington College. My problem was two boarding school, house masters. I can’t remember their names. One was wire thin with a beaky nose far too big for his face. The other was short and fat and sweated a lot.

Towards the end of my third form year, the short fat one was on duty. It was lights-out time. Now the rules were very clear – no one spoke after lights out. I went to sleep quickly. But was woken and told to get out of bed. Someone had been talking. The whole dorm of 15 was being taken downstairs to be caned. I explained that I’d been asleep. How could they cane me for that? To no avail. The whole dorm was to be punished for the sins of two. And so, I went downstairs and stood at the end of a line of boys awaiting our fate.

By the time my turn came the short fat one’s sweat was beginning to scatter on the green linoleum floor. 14 boys, two strokes each – 28 times he had raised a welt on a third form bum.

“Bend over,” he ordered.

“No”, I said, “I am not going to be beaten by you for being asleep”.

We argued for five minutes, and he said, “Wait here. I’m going to get (beaky) to hold you down”.

As he trotted away, I grabbed the nearby public phone and said one sentence to my grandfather, “I’m in trouble – please come straight away”. Fatty and beaky were soon back, demanding that I bend over. Still, I refused.

“All right,” said fatty, “you hold him down and I’ll do the caning.”

Beaky had just got his arms across my back and was hauling me into position when through the door came my grandfather.

“Get your hands off him,” he roared.

I will never forget the “oh-shit” look on the housemasters’ faces. I was released and the three disappeared into a staff room. Eventually my grandfather emerged and said, “You are coming home with me tonight. We have a meeting with Mr. Heron (the school’s principal) in the morning.”

The meeting was short. My grandfather explained that he had fought through WW1 in the cause of not allowing mass punishments to be inflicted for the crimes of a few. He was not going to tolerate it in his grandson’s New Zealand school.

The next day we drove back to Te Reinga and I began four years in the much friendlier and better Wairoa College.

On two occasions, “Uffindell” types had tried it on. On both occasions they were put in their place. A punch in the nose, a bloody eye is all the “Uffindells” understand. We will soon see if Luxon is man enough to call the bully in his party to account. Anything less than a complete sacking of “Uffindell” and we can add gutless to Luxon’s list of shortcomings.  


August 6th, 2022

There are occasions when plans work out the way they should. Everything fits into place. Sadly, when that happens, too many others want a slice of the action. And many who took part and deserve credit want to overindulge and turn their success into a personal flag tour along Queen Street – a process that usually involves a demand for more money. Then there are the journalists, Facebook experts and commentators desperate to polish their resume – obsessed with rubbing shoulders with the rich and famous. Here is what one of these Sucker Fish had to say.

“Straight after the race David Clareburt messaged me from Birmingham ” 3rd….. bloody rapt for him.”  

And then this ingratiating rubbish.

“Lewis Clareburt needs 50m lane space. Every day. Swimming NZ should be funding this and ensuring Clareburt’s coach is sufficiently remunerated and supported. If they can’t do this, or can’t be bothered getting a paying sponsor, then simply make some staff redundant cos swimmers and coaches are more important than staff working for a national federation.

Swimming NZ has 24 staff. I`d say that they don’t even need 18 – at one point a few years ago they only had 13. Give the money paid to extra staff to Clareburt, his coach Gary Hollywood, and coaches like Lars Humer and Mitch Nairn to support performing swimmers like Erika Fairweather and Andrew Jeffcoat (and Eve Thomas and Cameron Gray for that matter).”

We have witnessed a fair bit of that “hogging the limelight” since New Zealand swimming did well in Birmingham. Lewis Clareburt’s coach, Gary Hollywood was first up, best dressed, as usual. I want a 50m lane permanently dedicated to Lewis’ training. I want a budget of several million dollars to prepare Lewis for the Paris Olympic Games.

New Zealand has to be careful with these demands for preferential treatment. For twenty-five years we lived through a period of privilege and largesse. It did not work then, and it won’t work now. Sure, there should be some benefits for the job all eight swimmers did in Birmingham. But remember these eight are not the final word in New Zealand’s swimming talent. There are others. Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) has responsibility to them as well.

“Full many a gem of purest ray serene,

The dark unfathom’d caves of ocean bear:

Full many a flow’r is born to blush unseen,

And waste its sweetness on the desert air.”

A few years ago, SNZ undertook to decentralise its high-performance programme. Responsibility for the country’s fastest swimmers would rest with coaches, clubs and regions. If Birmingham was the test, the SNZ policy decision was a good one. SNZ’s job is to plan, organise and administer the sport. We ran into trouble when Jan Cameron decided SNZ should do Hollywood’s job.

And Hollywood needs to keep his nose out of SNZ’s business. We can do without Jan Cameron in reverse. Tongue, Johns and Francis are better at policy and administration than Hollywood. His job is to stand on the pool deck guiding his swimmers to swim faster. If he needs more pool space and more money, work it out with his club or region – not SNZ. If someone needs to talk to SNZ that’s the Chairman of the Wellington Region’s job – not Gary Hollywood. Hollywood’s efforts to set SNZ policy will take swimming back to a very dark place.

Of course, the critics are too stupid to understand the importance of maintaining a distinction between policy management and poolside coaching. In their rush to ingratiate themselves with the newly anointed, “Birmingham Eight” they will parrot Hollywood’s demands without a thought for the reactionary consequences. And so, the last ones to trust in a situation like this are Facebook experts. They are the weakest link.

A few years ago, someone in SNZ produced a memo that discussed the importance of the separation of powers. Tongue, Johns and Francis should restrict themselves to policy and administration. Just as important though – Hollywood and others must not interfere in areas that SNZ does better. Hollywood’s job is to coach. It would do the sport well if he focused on that task.

So be careful SNZ, do not be pushed about by Sport New Zealand and do not be pushed by, the enemy from within, coaches, with ideas above their station. Operational tasks are the responsibility of coaches. The decentralised policy SNZ chose three years ago is working better than any of us expected. Do not be distracted by coaches who have no idea how lucky they are or by Sport New Zealand’s obsession for power.

And finally, SNZ and Hollywood need to keep their feet on the ground. The Commonwealth Games’ results are good – a huge step forward. Those involved including SNZ can be truly proud of their progress.


The Commonwealth Games are not the Olympics. In fact, of the top 10 Olympic medal winning nations only 2 (Australia and the UK) swim at the Commonwealth Games. The 8 top ten nations who do not swim at the Commonwealth Games have won 62% of all the Olympic swimming gold medals. Of the 57 nations that have won Olympic medals 11 (19%) swim at the Commonwealth Games. The sport has a big task ahead converting Commonwealth performances into Olympic success. Swimming will achieve this best by holding firm to the decentralised policy followed for three years – and not by pandering to the Raelene Castle mob or a coach with an inflated opinion of his or her own importance. It is inappropriate to celebrate an ascent of Everest when you have only reached base camp two.


August 4th, 2022

A few posts ago you may remember Swimwatch said this.

“But if “worked” means, made progress, then the answer is a very positive yes. Swimming has had a breath of fresh air. It is a better sport, run by better people. It is a happier and safer sport. It is a sport that relies less on the destructive influence of the Castle gang. Its results have a way to go, but they are on their way back. And it is a sport where its members, especially its coaches, can feel valued again. How long will it take for the reforms to work? My guess is at least five maybe six years. We have had two. So be patient we have three or four years to go. If the damage done took 20 years, SNZ will have done really well to repair that in five or six years. But the sport is on its way – big time.”

At the same time the reforms Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) made were subject to endless petty sniping by SNZ critics. According to these experts SNZ couldn’t run a piss-up in Speights’ Brewery. Shock and horror, they said, SNZ had two old tabs that didn’t work on their new website. The Short Course Nationals were only 15 days after the Commonwealth Games. According to this group of Facebook experts – idiots were running the asylum.

And at the Commonwealth Games we have seen SNZ strike back. By their actions and deeds SNZ is exposing the lie of the criticism of its armchair critics. The reforms are working.

So, what are the facts that lead to this conclusion?

·        Three gold medals and two bronze medals from two swimmers in Birmingham – compared to one bronze medal four years ago on the Gold Coast, a gold and silver medal from one swimmer eight years ago in Glasgow, and three silver medals and three bronze medals twelve years ago in Delhi.

·        Every swimmer made a semi-final and/or a final. There is strength and strength in depth.

·        At the time of writing, swimming’s medal result in Birmingham is better than badminton3×3 basketballbeach volleyballboxingcricketdivinggymnasticshockeyjudolawn bowlsnetballrugby sevenssquashtriathlonweightlifting and wrestling

·        But best of all from 49 swims the New Zealand team recorded 12 personal best times (24.5%). Six of the eight swimmers swam at least one personal best time. That is a sign of progress. It says as clear as a bell SNZ is on its way back. The old days, before Sport New Zealand, don’t look so shabby after all.     

·        The team of eight swimmers was coached by eight different club coaches – six spread over the length and breadth of New Zealand and two in Australia. New Zealand coaches can be trusted to deliver. It is also far healthier for the sport than that Cameron, Layton, Cotterill, “let’s do it all in Auckland” rubbish. Grass roots swimming across New Zealand has delivered in Birmingham. The benefit of that to the sport cannot be underestimated, especially in comparison to the elitist product being peddled by the Castle gang.       

SNZ will need to exercise extreme caution on one aspect of what is about to occur. Because swimming is so clearly on the path back, Sport New Zealand will want a slice of the credit. Sport New Zealand can smell success in sport like a great white shark detects the scent of blood.  Sport New Zealand will attempt to buy its way back into the sport. The bribe will be simple – more money.

Castle will say how well the sport has done, but imagine if New Zealand had an Australian, or and American or someone from the UK in Auckland coaching in a centralised pool of their own. Let’s call it Owen Glenn. Then Clareburt could train with Gray, Ouwehand could compete with Gasson. And SNZ would have a million more taxpayer dollars.

Wouldn’t SNZ like to be just like cycling? As though the death of Podmore could be brushed away by the clink of a few gold, silver and bronze trinkets. Like a good door-to-door salesman, Castle will attempt to sell her shoddy product.

For the love of God, SNZ please reject doing a deal with the devil. The Garden of Eden apple was less tainted than Sport New Zealand’s money. Never forget it was Castle’s money that dragged SNZ to its performance knees. Never forget the reforms that have begun CPR on the corpse Sport New Zealand left behind. When swimming needed help the most Sport New Zealand walked away. Without a care in the world Sport New Zealand left a dying corpse to rot. Do not reward them for their treachery. Do not make the Cameron, Layton, Cotterill mistake again – please. As SNZ is offered the Sport New Zealand cash honey trap remember this, “Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it.”

The eight swimmers, their coaches, their clubs, their regions and SNZ at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games have shown us the decentralised path we should follow. Making that same path better and more available to other swimmers should be our guide – not Sport New Zealand’s money or their loony idea of what constitutes good coaching for swimming. Do not be tempted by a modern-day Eve offering her apple of knowledge.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. Take Castle’s money. Grab every penny. Get as much as you can but give her nothing in return. Spend it on improving SNZ’s DECENTRALISED structure.

I’m no great scholar of religion but for SNZ right now a biblical verse does seem appropriate – “Broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

SNZ found it in Birmingham. SNZ is on its way back, using a path that leads to life. And that is the way it should stay.  

To the NZ swim team – as Mohamed Ali said

“You done splendid”


July 27th, 2022

Christopher Luxon, who leads the New Zealand National Party and wants to be Prime Minister, is turning into a liability for them at 100mph. The National Party sure can pick them. Simon Bridges was the best, until he decided playing a lead role in a Broadway comedy was not for him. National then experimented with Todd Muller and Judith Collins.

Some of their routines were brilliant. Remember the classic line from Muller’s first speech, “When I first joined the Labour Party.” The wardrobe department then designed his office. The central location of his MAGA Trump cap was perfect. Only a Nazi flag could have been more inappropriate.

And as for Crusher Collins on her knees praying in an east Auckland church. My guess is God found creating heaven and earth easier that that conversation.

“And God, if you don’t get me to beat that Jacinda women, things will not go well for you when we meet at the Pearly Gates.”

Then National settled on Luxon. Praying from the “Upper Room” sect, God obviously got Luxon’s request ahead of Crusher Collins.

Luxon – just the guy National needed. High powered executive from Air New Zealand. Family holidays in Hawaii. Seven houses. A company car and driver to get him 200m from home to the office. All the things National looks for in a leader.

Fortunately, for New Zealand Luxon and National have not been able to avoid their comedy roots.

First, Luxon admitted he had been part of the mob attending Ted Cruz rallies in the United States. I was disappointed the wardrobe department didn’t find him a Confederate Flag. I wonder if Luxon cheered – or perhaps did a mini haka – when Cruz revealed he defended the Texas decision to renege on a legal settlement to provide funding for the healthcare of poor children. The Supreme Court unanimously voted against Cruz, citing the precedent of “Come on, it’s Ted Cruz.” New Zealand is not far away from, “Come on, it’s Chris Luxon.”

Serious subjects like the right to abortion are not normally the subject of comedy. That is until Luxon gets hold of the topic by announcing that  abortion is “tantamount to murder” and follows it up with a claim that he does not want to comment on women who choose to get an abortion. That was ironic comedy at its best, “She committed murder but I’m not going to say whether she is a murderer” – a line designed to attract every female voter in the country.   

And then there is the holiday to Hawaii. Remember when Luxon’s poster boy, Ted Cruz, went to Cancun on holiday in the middle of serious Texas storms. Cruz tried to sneak out and back into the United States, blaming his children for needing their dad.

Well, Luxon had to go one better. What about taking the family’s annual $20,000 holiday to Hawaii when your country is drowning from record storms and, while you sip an ice-cold pineapple margarita and stretch out on Sunset Beach, post a Facebook clip telling New Zealand you are hard at work picking kiwi fruit in Te Puke? Wow, that sounds like a good idea. Lie to the country. They should all vote for you then.

In his own words he said, “Today I’m in Te Puke, the heart of kiwifruit country, and what a great morning we’ve had today.” My guess is the “great morning we’ve had today” is right.

Doesn’t Mrs. Luxon look stunning – well protected from the tropical sun in a brown 1930’s swimsuit with “Conversion Therapy” printed on the bum and a MAGA cap borrowed from Muller for five days.   

And, when Luxon was caught, “I went to Hawaii with my family, as I tend to do in July,” he said. “As I tend to do in July.” What an arrogant piece of work. He takes a holiday that costs more than many New Zealanders earn in a year, lies about it and tells us it is a normal July jaunt. What is next – the Aspen ski break, a London musical, or a week in Cancun with his mate from the United States – “as you tend to do”.

Act one of the Luxon comedy happened before he became a politician. Air New Zealand ran into trouble when it was revealed their workshops were repairing the turbines on Saudi Navy vessels. These were the same ships that were killing thousands of Yemeni children. Journalists asked Luxon to please explain. Was it right for his company to improve the killing ability of Saudi ships? Luxon’s reply was classic.

“Oh, I’m not sure whether I remember that.” He could well have trouble at the Pearly Gates for that reply

You mean the CEO who does not know about a multi-million-dollar Saudi military order. What a pack of lies. Or perhaps I’m wrong. Luxon may not have known. Perhaps the order was placed in July. He could have been in Hawaii – “as you tend to do”.

The parade of National comics is getting better all the time. By New Zealand’s 2023 election, who knows what Luxon will be doing. Sitting in a recently repaired Saudi tank, outside an abortion clinic, waving a “vote for Cruz” poster and eating kiwi fruit picked during his recent trip to Hawaii. You believe it. It might just happen.