By David

I’m not very confident about writing this story. Critics will take it as proof positive that the author of Swimwatch is a swimming dinosaur; committed to a world that has had its day. Certainly that will be the conclusion of Miskimmin, Leyton and Renford. I’ll explain why shortly.

I spent this weekend at the Greerton Swimming Club’s Winter Championship meet at the Baywave Pool in Mt. Maunganui. And it was good – very good. I’ve never been to the meet or the pool before. The pool is terrific – ten lanes wide, two metres deep, open and spacious. A good pool like this one could maybe do with a modern set of starting blocks, but the ones they have are good versions of the old style. The meet is really well run – no marshalling, now that is progress, good officials who patiently explain where to collect the West Auckland programs, what time the café opens and the skin’s qualifying rules. Before I left Auckland I was warned about a lack of seating. But that isn’t true. There is plenty of space.

The standard of competition is good. Swimmers on our team won the women’s 50 and 100 breaststroke and the 200 backstroke. We also did well in the woman’s 200 breaststroke (2nd), 100 backstroke (2nd), 50 freestyle (3rd, 4th and 5th) and 100 freestyle (3rd). All in all, if you’ve never been, the Greerton Meet is well worth the trip. I just love the atmosphere of these occasions. Done well, and Greerton is done well, they represent all that’s good and proper about sport. They stand for the principles and ideas that are important; honest competition, heats and finals, efficient and fun. Greerton Meets around New Zealand are where Danyon Loader, Toni Jeffs and Anna Simcic learned their trade. More Olympic medals were nurtured at meets like the Greerton Winter Championships than ever graced the Millennium Institute’s pool. And at a fraction of the cost. Greerton’s running equivalents (the Tauranga Twilight Meet and Hasting’s Easter Show were two of them) nurtured Walker, Quax, Dixon, Snell, Halberg and Magee. It is not too extreme to say that even Hillary learned how to conquer Everest on Greerton size mountains in New Zealand. And before any Layton or Renford act-alikes mutter on about that being in the old days and times have moved on – remember this.

Loader still holds two New Zealand Open short course records and after fifty years Peter Snell is still the New Zealand 800 meter record holder, set at a track meet in Christchurch not unlike the Greerton Swimming version. My wife, Alison has run in plenty of “Greerton type” track meets and for thirty-five years has held the New Zealand open 1000 metre record. If Greeton really is a throwback to a past era – how come the modern Millennium way can’t produce athletes who can swim or run faster than those nurtured in meets like Greerton.

Of course you won’t find Layton or Renford at places like Greerton. They are much too important for that. They are busy in the Millennium Institute’s coffee shop, texting Peter Miskimmin, asking him to approve the new style of uniform for Swimming New Zealand’s pampered “elite”. A bit more time in Greerton and a whole heap less Millennium coffee would do them and New Zealand swimming a heap of good.

After all Greerton is where the next Loaders and Kingsmans are on display. But, and Donna Bouzaid take note, I certainly hope tomorrow’s best swimmers are not in some 2013 Greerton shop window waiting for your attention. If the best swimmers on show at Greerton want to succeed; if they really want to conquer swimming’s Everest, they would be well advised to scorn not the base degrees from which they did ascend. They would be well warned to stay loyal to Greerton – the place that taught them their trade and nurtured their talent. The contrast is as stark as it is obvious. Greerton exists to further each swimmer’s journey. The Millennium Institute uses swimmers to further Swimming New Zealand’s journey.

You see – it works like this. If you are too important for good meets like Greerton, if Greerton is below your status in life, then you will never be any good at this sport and you will be even worse at the activity called life. From what I’ve been told Miskimmin got rid of Justin Grace, New Zealand’s best cycling coach, because Grace chose to base his cycle training in an east Auckland garage ahead of Miskimmin’s posh new velodrome. New Zealand cycling needed that garage. New Zealand swimming needs Greerton.

It has long been part of my problem with the Millennium program. From the time Jan Cameron came up with the idea, the program has promoted actions and beliefs way above its status. You must know what I mean. Millennium swimmers don’t need to enter national meets the same way as the rest of us. Millennium swimmers get New Zealand national look-alike uniforms. Millennium swimmers don’t sit or mix with their old team mates. And Millennium Institute, as a team, doesn’t swim at the Greerton Swimming Club’s Winter Championship. It’s more than they can manage to tackle the drive across the Harbour Bridge to swim in the Auckland Centre’s monthly Level One swim meets. I’m sure the idea of following their GPS to the Bay of Plenty – Bay of where – fills them with mortal despair. Their way is not the New Zealand way. Hopefully it never will be. Greerton is where New Zealand sportsmen and women prosper and grow.

So thank you Greerton. Thank you for a fun and beneficial weekend of swimming. Your swim meet represents all that this coach enjoys. West Auckland’s swimmers benefited from being at your meet. If it’s okay with you guys, we’d like to come back next year.