Many Are Called But Few Are Chosen

 There is much that goes on in Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) that I do not understand. Recent public babbling by Steve Johns certainly falls into that category. In Saturday’s NZ Herald Johns is reported as naming thirteen swimmers who SNZ has decided are the targeted elite; the chosen few, the anointed ones. Their names are Emma Robinson, Tyron Henry, Michael Pickett, Lewis Clareburt, Gabrielle Fa’amausili, Corey Main, Alex Galyer, Bradlee Ashby, Daniel Hunter, Matt Stanley, Zac Reid, Mya Rasmussen and Luan Grobbelaar.

For reasons I have written about many times I do not agree with these lists. They did not work when Jan Cameron was the author and they won’t work now. The fact that Cameron dragged everyone on the list up to Auckland and Francis is leaving them to train at home is irrelevant. Geography does not change the flaws inherent in this elitist selection process. The fact that some Loader or Snell or Jeffs or Halberg is going to be missed by Francis and is going to say, “SNZ think I’m no good. I think I’ll go and play waterpolo.” – that’s the real crime here. The real criminality is the unearned elitism lists foster in those chosen and the despair they cause in the 5,647 swimmers that miss the cut. And that’s the same whether the list is being prepared by Jan Cameron or Gary Francis.

Never forget that SNZ still operates and pays for their centralised programme in Auckland. It is costing a fortune and it is not working. It would take a lot of persuasion to convince me that Johns and Francis are not just as predatory as Jan Cameron. They will be more devious than Jan but just as lethal. All coaches in New Zealand should exercise great caution when discussing their swimmers with Johns or Francis. It would be wise to assume they were on the lookout for talent to bolster their failing Auckland programme. They would think nothing of sending a swimmer from your team to their Auckland squad. In fact they would proudly tell the world about the swimmer’s new and “better environment”.

Don’t be taken in by their soft talk. Remember it was Francis who told the NZ Herald that it would take New Zealand coaches six years to reach acceptable international coaching standards. How a club age-group coach, like Francis, would know that, I have no idea. Remember also that for ten years SNZ had free reign and millions of dollars to coach the best swimmers in the country and just look at the results; a team of two domestically trained pool swimmers at the Pan Pacific Games and no medals – brilliant.

It’s off the subject but did you see the SNZ Facebook page described the two domestically trained swimmers and no medals result as, “Congratulations to our pool athletes on a great #PanPacs2018.” Bloody funny idea of “great”. What are they going to say if someone, one day wins a race?

But a statistic even more instructive is revealed in the published Francis-targeted list. Of the 13 names that Francis told the NZ Herald are New Zealand’s best swimmers only four are training and swimming in New Zealand. That’s what SNZ have brought us to. That’s the measure of the Francis and Johns’ programme. Nine of New Zealand’s best swimmers (70%) live and train overseas; more than twice the number living and training in New Zealand. Take a bow Francis and Johns. Take a bow the SNZ Board. The destruction under your watch is truly stunning. I have included the South African, Luan Grobbelaar, as an overseas swimmer.

But the greatest puzzle of all is the swimmers not included on the Francis’ targeted list given to the NZ Herald. Just a few months ago SNZ selected a team to go to the Commonwealth Games. At the time Steve Johns was brimming with confidence. He said “Swimming NZ is delighted with the team that has been announced. We are confident in the swimmers who have been selected and know that they are up for the challenge.”

Well if that’s right and SNZ chose New Zealand’s best swimmers to compete in the Commonwealth Games could Johns please explain to me why six months later a majority of the able-bodied team, sent to the Commonwealth Games, can’t even get onto the Francis targeted list; so much for Johns’ judgement. That’s right seven of the twelve 2018 Commonwealth Games team are not included in the Francis list of targeted swimmers. The swimmers were good enough to be picked when SNZ needed names to pad out a desperately small team of two qualifiers but, six months later, are not good enough to make the published Francis-targeted list. The swimmer’s names are Carina Doyle, Helena Gasson, Bobbi Gichard, Georgia Marris, Samuel Perry, Bronagh Ryan and Laticia-Leigh Transom.

When Gary Francis announced his new plan he told New Zealand that targeted swimmers would stay on the list for a minimum of two years. For all sorts of reasons I thought that was a ridiculous thing to say. Now I don’t even believe it is true. If Francis drops more than half the Commonwealth Games team within six months the chances of stability are zero. Given their track record I wouldn’t trust a word Johns and Francis say.

Whatever way you look at it this targeted business is a shambles. The principles behind the targeted policy, the swimmers included and the swimmers excluded – none of it makes sense. The targeted policy is wrong and will not work. SNZ will spend another eight years wasting our money as, in my opinion, a right wing autocrat called Cotterill, an uninformed bureaucrat called Johns and a club age-group coach called Francis strut around Antares Place telling us their brilliant plans. It’s Jan Cameron all over again – but worse.

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