A Swim Coach’s CV

I have made this point before. Three New Zealand swimming coaches who between them coached New Zealand Open Champions, New Zealand open record holders, World Championship medallists, Pan Pacific medallists and two Olympic Champions had more than swimming in common. In our early years Duncan Laing, Russell Geange and I were employed in the freezing works of the meat packing giant Thomas Borthwick and Sons Ltd.

Duncan was a butcher on the lamb line of the Waitara Works in Taranaki. Russell was foreman of the lamb cuts room in the Waingawa Works and I was a management trainee in the Feilding plant. By an amazing coincidence the first ever shipping container of chilled lamb exported to the UK was cut and packed by Russell and was received and sold by me in London to the Marks & Spensers Marble Arch store. Today hundreds of chilled containers leave for the UK and a dozen other locations. But it all began with two swim coaches!

On a trip we did together to the World Short Course Championships Duncan told me he reckoned working in a freezing works was the best possible training for life as a coach. He may well have had a point. The current Head Coach of the All Blacks rugby team, Steve Hansen, also began his working life in a freezing works. Both Duncan and I were in awe at the record of the three national champions Russell coached in Carteron, a town of only 4,122. The bugger is still doing it as well. I tell you what – those two guys wouldn’t put up with half the PC nonsense that comes out of rowing, cycling or swimming centralised training facilities these days. Cotterill and Johns would be found wanting in a heartbeat. In a freezing works, Antares Place style bullshit has an extremely short shelf life.

One of the bigger jobs in my career in the freezing works was as General Manager for Central Scotland for the British farmer’s cooperative, FMC. In 1980/81 we built a new works in Perth. Because it was such an important investment I put a portable-cabin office on the site and worked there for the two years the plant took to build. I was back in Scotland a couple of years ago and am delighted to report that the plant is still working, supplying beef all over the UK. Alison was sorting some old photographs and came across these ones of the building’s progress.

January 1980 – Earth works begin. Dozens of huge concrete piles had to be driven into the soft soil.


May 1980 – A building begins to emerge

November 1980 – Almost done believe it or not.


1981 – Yes I shot the first animal and kept the hide on my new office wall.


1984 – The finished FMC Perth Meat Plant.


1984 – Preparing steaks for Harrods’ food hall.


1985 – There was even room for some NZ frozen lamb.


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