Miskimmin’s Empire Crumbles

A recent Swimwatch post discussed the blind loyalty of Trump fans. We compared them to the equally puzzling loyalty of some Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) supporters, members who see no error in the Federation’s bizarre behavior. Their irrational devotion however is wearing thin, especially as the wheels are beginning to fall off other sports that have succumbed to the lure of Miskimmin’s money.

Swimming, cycling, netball and soccer are a mess. But now we have the jewel in Miskimmin’s crown crumbling before our eyes. This weekend rowing raced in the 2018 World Championships. They won nothing. Winning and losing is what sport is about. Even the All Blacks lost a game to South Africa this weekend. But with the All Blacks there was the impression that the loss was a temporary setback, a blip on a successful path towards the World Cup. There were lessons to be learned, of course, and I’m sure a good coach like Hansen is well aware of what needs to be done to return his team to winning ways.

But a blip in a successful path is not the impression left by rowing’s World Championship disaster. This was more like the beginning of a slide into oblivion. Miskimmin’s centralised dream has become a nightmare. So what happened in Bulgaria? Here is how the NZ Herald reported the World Championship results.

Rowing: Time to panic after NZ Rowing’s worst world championship haul in 15 years?

New Zealand have become used to a steady stream of success at world rowing championships.

So does the national body write off a disappointing collective return from this year’s event, which finished in Plovdiv, Bulgaria last night, as a one-off blip or something more concerning?

This is the halfway point in the four-year Olympic cycle leading to Tokyo. New Zealand bagged three medals, two silvers and a bronze, out of the 13 Olympic class events they entered. New Zealand didn’t enter the 14th Olympic category, the women’s quad.

It is the weakest return since 2003. By comparison, last year New Zealand won seven medals at the worlds, finishing second top nation. This time they finished 18th.

Manson was among the disappointments in Bulgaria, finishing fifth in his final, despite having won both World Cup leadup regattas and appearing a formidable presence. Both eights crews had a poor return. Neither made their A finals. There were two fourths, a fifth and a sixth placing from other crews in A finals while the men’s four were third in their C final.

RNZ said an internal review began last April to look into pinnacle event performance at pinnacle events. It added that was tied in with the sport looking ahead “so we can refresh and continually improve to maintain our place as world leading in the high performance environment”.

Why has this happened in rowing? The answer is – for all the same reasons as it has happened in swimming and is about to happen in cycling. It is because the influence of Miskimmin and his money is like a cancer, destroying good cells in the sport and replacing them with malignant Miskimmin look-alikes.

In the case of rowing, two men have held that sport together for the past 15 years. Coach Dick Tonks and high performance boss, Alan Cotter, were the backbone of the sport. Both were old-school, tough, opinionated and very good at their jobs, not at all in the Miskimmin mold. Gradually Miskimmin’s influence won through. Tonks and Cotter were increasingly sidelined. Petty fights broke out about who Tonks could coach and whether Cotter’s work should be the subject of yet another Miskimmin “internal review”. Whenever Miskimmin wants to extend his power he prefaces the move with a review, a review that he controls and manipulates to arrive at the conclusions he wants in the first place.

In rowing it was to get rid of Tonks and Cotter. And, hey presto, just like that they have both left. I am unaware of their replacements but, if swimming is the model, they will be replaced by members of the white shoes and pink socks brigade. Miskimmin prefers to see that city latté sort in positions of power. Just look at Cotterill, Johns and Francis. The problem with white shoes and pink socks is they can’t win a rowing race – or a swimming race for that matter.

And that is why I am pretty confident that the All Blacks’ loss was a blimp and rowing’s losses were the beginning of a slide. You see the All Blacks still have their boss, running the ship. Steve Hansen knows what he’s doing and in his rough ex-freezing worker manner will make sure of the team’s success. Rowing on the other hand has thrown their Steve Hansens overboard and replaced them with university trained novices who I suspect know very little about how to row a boat.

The way the Johns and Francis set talk is a dead give-away. Just look at the last sentence of the NZ Herald report. It says the purpose of the Miskimmin review is, “so we can refresh and continually improve to maintain our place as world leading in the high performance environment”. Can you, in your wildest dreams imagine Steve Hansen or Arthur Lydiard or Duncan Laing saying garbage like that? And the highly educated Arch Jelley never indulged in that sort of meaningless twaddle.

As sure as God made little green apples rowing’s white shoes and pink socks bureaucrats are going to need a lot more than a Miskimmin review for rowing to return to being a world leader in the high performance environment. In one year the sport has plunged from being the second nation in the world to eighteenth. It’s going to take more than a cup of latte to sort that out. That’s a task only Hansen, Jelley, Lydiard, Laing, Tonks, Cotter and their likes could solve. Problem is the six of them combined couldn’t come up with a pair of white shoes and pink socks.

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