Absent Without Leave

By David

On many occasions recently I have been asked why Swimwatch has fallen silent. The reason was because other things were occupying my time but, just as importantly, Swimming New Zealand was doing a magnificent job of publicizing their abundant deficiencies. Swimwatch had become surplus to requirements. Mainstream journalists from Craig Lord in London to Juan Perez in Barcelona and Simon Plumb in Auckland were bringing the Renford and Miskimmin circus to the world far better than I could.

Swimming New Zealand’s treatment of David Lyles was a disgrace. The Employment Authority found that SNZ had done no wrong. I can understand that decision. In fact, given the evidence, the Authority clearly made the right decision. However the fact SNZ complied with the law does not mean what they did was just or morally right. Two years ago SNZ employed one of the world’s most respected coaches. Lyles committed himself and his family to the cause. But SNZ needed a scape goat to explain their dismal Commonwealth Games performance. The scape goat was David Lyles. A plan was prepared, presumably by Lyles’ boss, Villanueva and the CEO, ironically called “Christian” Renford. And on Friday last week, the 17 April 2015, David Lyles was no more.

You have to say though that David Lyles has had the last laugh. Several of his swimmers performed brilliantly at last week’s National Open Championships. With two making the World Championship team I do hope Lyles applies for a coaching position on the team. I wonder how SNZ plan to reject that just cause.

And then Lyles’ boss, Villanueva, announces he has had enough and is jumping off New Zealand’s swimming Titanic. Would you believe it? He effectively sacks the Head Coach and buggers off back to Spaiin; seems like he’s a responsible character. Baumann did a great job of selection there.

And then to tidy up the mess SNZ announce the following coaching plan for the $1.6 million per year, expensive folly known as the Millennium Institute

  1. Lyles would coach up until Friday the 17th April.
  2. Villanueva would take over the coaching for two weeks before he takes the Swimwatch counsel and buys a ticket back to Spain.
  3. Swimming New Zealand Board Member, Clive Power, will then defy the organization’s Constitutional order preventing him working for SNZ and will coach at the Millennium Institute through to the World Championships.
  4. Gary Hurring, being the decent chap he is, will then accept the hospital pass of coaching the New Zealand team at the World Championships.

A coach a month! I wonder what Sport New Zealand genius recommended that plan.

And so now you know why I stopped writing Swimwatch stories. Even the most loyal supporter of SNZ must accept this is a disaster that needs no explanation from Swimwatch. There is no need to ask me where Swimwatch has gone. We are sitting here just as amazed as you.

No wonder Lauren Boyle is on an airplane hot-foot back to her Australian coach. All I would ask is that as her Airbus A380 climbs above Auckland and turns west towards Brisbane could she pause for a moment and offer a short, sympathetic thought for those of us sentenced to life in the Swimming New Zealand mad house.