Central Swimming

By David

I have just come home from the Central Swimming Long Course Swimming Championships. As usual the meet was held in the Te Rapa Pool in Hamilton. It’s a good meet involving teams from the four Central Regions; Waikato, Taranaki, Bay of Plenty and Hawkes Bay/Poverty Bay. The organizers allow swimmers from outside the four regions to enter but will only let two foreign qualifiers into the three tier A, B and C finals. That does seem a little tough. One of the goals of the meet should be to improve the standard of Central swimmers. Allowing a few more foreign qualifiers into the finals could benefit the standard of the meet. My vote would be to allow four foreign swimmers through, two eligible for the A final and two, depending on their heat time, consigned to the B or C final.

The suggestion is certainly not a complaint; far from it. It is a suggestion that may add to a well-run and good occasion. The standard of swimmers in the four domestic Regions merits exposure to as much worthy competition as possible. A few years ago Don Talbot, the Australian national Coach, ordered that no foreign swimmers could swim in the final of the Australian Championships if the event was also an Olympic, Commonwealth or World Championship Trial. A swimmer of mine, Toni Jeffs, was directly affected as she always qualified in the top eight of their 50 and 100 metres freestyle. I thought the decision was cowardly and told the Sydney morning paper that Talbot was chicken. Certainly the standard of Australian swimming declined after Talbot’s announcement. Whether the decline was causal we will never know. But – the idea of taking on all-comers, anytime, anywhere, has always seemed, to me, to be a good one.

The meet this weekend in Hamilton left me with the impression that the union of Waikato, Taranaki, Bay of Plenty and Hawkes Bay/Poverty Bay was a good one and deserved support and encouragement. Mind you, I have a vested interest. Many readers will be aware that I unconditionally support the federal model of strong Regions. If this Championship meet improves the standard of swimming in these Regions then “all-power” to it. I did hear that the Waikato Region and its principal backer Simon Perry may be unhappy with some decisions supported by the other three Regions; overseas travel for example. It would be disappointing if the dissatisfaction of Waikato damaged the strength of the individual members.

I would be less than surprised if the Perry Foundation was using its financial power to push Waikato into a Wellington style sycophantic appendage of Swimming New Zealand. To a complete outsider, cuddling up to the big boys seems to be a Perry preference. I am certain all the Waikato Region’s dealings are honest and transparent. However I have never felt comfortable about the same individual being President of the Region, President of one of the Region’s biggest clubs and Chairman of one of the sport’s major source of funds. The separation of duties is a key concept of good management control these days. One would be excused for wondering if Waikato should consider whether its administration currently complies with best management practice.

We currently live in a time when Swimming New Zealand is hook-line-and-sinker into centralized power. The Millennium Institute is the best example of their totalitarianism at work. However the swallowing of Wairarapa and Wanganui into Wellington was also asset stripping centralism on a “Slater Walker” scale. Those two Regions would have been far better served by joining Manawatu in a union of southern central Regions. Their independence and strength would have been preserved to counter the power grab of the Renford and Layton mob. I had to laugh at the list of benefits SNZ said were going to accrue to Wairarapa swimmers from an amalgamation with Wellington. They included improved standards, support for coaches and pathways for Wairarapa swimmers. When the Regions no longer exist there is little prospect of realizing this Promised Land.

If anyone in Waikato expresses a wish to see their Region linked to Auckland, stomp on the idea and its promoters quickly and severely. Northland and Counties should be similarly cautious. Layton and Renford will use the new Regional Constitution to diminish the power of the Regions. They have achieved much already. The sport of swimming depends on each Region, and especially the smaller Regions strengthening their independent power and influence. That duty was stolen from Wairarapa and Wanganui. It should not happen again.

And so you can see why I enjoyed my weekend in Hamilton. Swimmers from four “rural” Regions provided three days of good swimming. The strength of Waikato, Taranaki, Bay of Plenty and Hawkes Bay/Poverty Bay was on display for all to see. Our team of four women swimmers did pretty well. Between them they won the 200, 400 and 800 freestyle, the 100 and 200 breaststroke and made finals in the 50 and 100 free, the 50 breaststroke and the 100 backstroke. And so thank you Central Zone, thank you Stu Woods, for a well-run and enjoyable weekend.

One interesting topic was discussed at the meet. Swimming New Zealand’s High Performance Director, Luis Villanueva was at the meet. On the SNZ website he is reported as saying, “This year, on the feedback from coaches and clubs, we have reduced the championships from six days to four.”

Well my club and I were never asked. I decided to ask around and find out who had voted for the ridiculous decision to reduce the National Championships to four days. I asked three coaches in Hamilton. None of them was asked. Today I rang two of Auckland’s most senior coaches; coaches who both have national team members in their squads. Neither of them was asked. So who did provide SNZ with this feedback? Quite frankly Luis Villanueva I don’t believe you. I think your coach’s feedback came from Lyles, Loader and maybe Hurring. I’m fine with you proving me wrong by publishing your mailing list and the voting figures that resulted in the Championships becoming an object of ridicule. You see when SNZ lie to us about there being no sickness problems at their altitude camp and increase our fees in violation of the rules, we are understandably cautious about anything any of you say. Certainly until you prove it, I don’t believe you got the widespread endorsement your comment implies.