Is Australia As Bad As Us?

By David

It is with some caution that I cross the Tasman Sea to discuss swimming in Australia. However recent news seems to carry a message for New Zealand.

About a year ago Swimming Australia announced a plan for the preparation and training of elite swimmers. The national federation, they said, would select and approve successful clubs as High Performance Centres. I think about nine clubs were awarded the new classification.

My immediate reaction was very positive. Australia had replaced a state run swim school in Canberra with several good quality clubs. It had traded state socialism for private enterprise. Why couldn’t New Zealand see the sense in what the Australians were doing? Surely everyone could appreciate that a team of ten or eleven elite coaches was always going to have more success than a government swim school on its own. As every Swimwatch reader knows, in New Zealand, that argument has fallen on deaf ears. Miskimmin’s obsession with the centralized delivery of elite sport means 99% of swimming in New Zealand is barred from participation in the elite sport plan.

At least that’s what I thought Australia had done until this week when I read a SwimVortex story about the trials of James Magnussen. You may know that Magnussen is the current 100 metre freestyle world champion, and holds the 4th fastest swim in history in the 100 metre freestyle with a time of 47.10, which also stands as the fastest swim in textile swimwear material. Here is a summary of what the James Magnussen, SwimVortex story has to say.

James Magnussen is at loggerheads with Swimming Australia over a plan to make a childhood friend his new coach, according to a news report in Australia. The Courier Mail notes that Magnussen’s search for a new coach after his split from Brant Best is now in its fifth week. The delay in finding a solution for the world 100m freestyle champion involves the refusal of Swimming Australia to approve Magnussen’s plan to train at Ravenswood swim club in Sydney’s north under Mitch Falvey.

Magnussen confirmed to SwimVortex that he is in talks with (Swimming Australia) about his next move. One option would be for the sprinter to base himself at a performance centre that forms part of the athlete funding model in Australia. Magnussen has been told that Mitch Falvey is not on the ‘funding’ list. The sprinter could opt out of being funded and do what he likes without that affecting his eligibility for national teams.

So here we have the spectre of a swimming federation cutting off the financial support for a world champion who wants a coach of his choosing. Australian swimming is the same socialist prison as New Zealand. It’s just a bigger one, that’s all.

Who on earth do these Australian’s think they are? Swimming New Zealand has an Australian CEO, Christian Renford. Before Renford came to New Zealand he was the Chief Executive of Rowing New South Wales following three years in a similar role with Rowing Queensland. The CEO of Swimming Australia is a guy called Mark Anderson. Prior to working for Swimming Australia, Anderson was the CEO of Hockey Australia and a former Chief Commercial Officer at the Essendon Football Club.

Wow, that’s impressive – an Australian from Rowing is happy to tell a New Zealand World Short Course and Commonwealth Games champion who she should train with. And, in Australia, some guy from hockey will not fund James Magnussen unless the Australian World Champion is coached by someone approved by the ex-hockey stick. What is it about the sport of hockey? In New Zealand, Peter Miskimmin, was a hockey player and happily wanders around New Zealand telling us how swimming should be structured. No matter how good or successful we are as coaches and swimmers there is no participation unless coach and swimmer are part of the hockey player’s centralized empire. And in Australia another hockey import finds it perfectly okay to instruct a world swimming champion about who is an acceptable personal swimming coach. It’s mind blowingly incredible. It seems that both these products of the sport of hockey will only play when the odds are well and truly stacked in their favor.

But I have a theory – Miskimmin and Anderson think that the only joke told about hockey is actually part of the instruction manual for managing international sport. You may know the one I mean.

A famous hockey coach goes to heaven, where he puts together a team of history’s greatest players. God decides he’d like to play a friendly game against the team from hell. He phones the devil and asks, “Are you interested in a game of hockey?”

“Why not?” replies the devil. “I’m warning you, though. You’ll never win.”

“Well, we have the best players of all time!” says God.

“I know,” says the devil. “But we have all the umpires!”

And so the admiration I had for Swimming Australia has gone. The move towards numerous (nine) High Performance Centers, that I interpreted as the start of the decentralized delivery of high performance sport in Australia, was nothing of the sort. It was just another hockey import extending the size of his centralized empire. All the tell-tale symbols of socialist control remained firmly in place. No appointments are made without politburo approval. No one gets any money without politburo approval. The recipients of politburo support represent a minute portion of the population. It’s still all about the state, in the form of Swimming Australia, controlling the means of production, distribution and exchange. And swimming in New Zealand will sadly follow the Aussie example. Miskimmin, the hockey player, wants it that way and Renford – well he’s an Okker struggling to understand anything more sophisticated.

It fair beats the hell out of me why we continue to copy and employ bloody Australians. Consider this fact. In 2008, the joke voted by Australia as the funniest Australian joke of the year was this gem

Q – What’s brown and sticky?

A – A stick.

Only Australians and hockey players would think “a stick” was remotely funny. Unfortunately, though, the joke is on us. In swimming we have hockey players and Australians. The guys who voted for a stick as the funniest joke of the year now either run swimming in New Zealand or, in Australia, provide us with an example of state control that we slavishly follow.