Archive for February, 2019

Double Fault

Thursday, February 21st, 2019

The news coming out of Tennis New Zealand is hard to ignore. Not because I have a deep interest New Zealand tennis, but because the timing of serious tennis problems seems to coincide with the period when the current CEO of Swimming New Zealand (SNZ), Steve Johns, was CEO of Tennis New Zealand. That’s either stunningly bad luck or Johns is a one man business disaster zone.

I have previously written two articles on the tennis problems dating back to the Steve Johns’ era and reported in the national press. This week the Stuff website reports on another list of problems dating back to when Johns was in charge of tennis. Here is the first Stuff quote.

While things aren’t as bad as they were a decade ago, where infighting, cliques and egos within Tennis NZ and the regions left tennis in a fractious state in New Zealand, these are the first signs that there is some discontent over the way things are being run.

Wow, consider that – the Chairman of SNZ, Bruce Cotterill, hired a guy to run swimming in New Zealand who is now being associated with “infighting, cliques and egos” that left tennis in a “fractious state”. If any of that is true it sounds like swimming has drawn a very short straw. Who are we to know whether the reports of the disaster Johns left behind in tennis are accurate or not? We simply don’t know.

However, there are two things we do know. We know that the performance of SNZ in the two years since Johns arrived has been pretty bad. Membership is down, income is down, government support is down and international elite performances have been a disaster. And second we know that the source of the reports coming out of Tennis New Zealand is pretty sound. The current Tennis New Zealand CEO, Julie Paterson, is the source of most of these reports. She should know the truth. Clearly she has a dim view of the shambles she inherited.

The second report this week comes directly from Julie Patterson. Here is what she is reported to have done recently.

“There’s a significant expense for that and under Julie’s leadership, she’s made the decision that we absorb all of the costs of that and don’t charge the kids for that representative opportunity anymore and in the past we have.”

Once again wow, wow, wow. This time the report is explaining why international tennis travel costs have gone up to an annual cost of $758,000 in the two years since Steve Johns left Tennis New Zealand. Julie Paterson’s explanation is that she decided to pay player’s international travel costs – something tennis did not do in the Johns’ era. The report says, “She’s made the decision that we absorb all of the costs of that.”

All I can say is well done Julie Patterson. She clearly has a strong appreciation of the things that are important. She knows what needs to be funded by the national organisation. And that’s more than can be said of the CEO we inherited from tennis. Remember it was six months ago that Steve Johns continued his old tennis trick of charging the players for everything. Elite swimmers were invoiced by the Johns’ administration for $84,800 to travel to a World Championship. You clearly wouldn’t find Julie Patterson doing that. I doubt that you’d find anyone doing that except Steve Johns.

In a Steve Johns administration as long as Johns and Francis and their mates are being paid, all is well with the world. Everyone else had better have their cheque books ready. They are about to pay big time.

Mind you the leadership Steve Johns gets from the SNZ Chairman, Bruce Cotterill, is nothing special. In a recent report in the North Shore Channel magazine Cotterill is reported to have said, “One of our goals at present is to drive down the ‘user pays’ component for parents.” It’s stating the obvious to say Cotterill has been on the SNZ Board for six years and this is still “one of our goals”. What a pathetic joke. Clearly Cotterill is incapable of sorting out the disaster of charging elite athletes $84,800. Perhaps we could help him. Maybe there is a nugget of advice that could solve the user pays problem in a heartbeat. What could it be?

I know – hire Julie Patterson to run SNZ. If she can find three quarters of a million dollars to fund players international travel she sure as hell could find 10% of that to get senior swimmers to a World Championship; something the guy she replaced at Tennis New Zealand was incapable of doing.

The Crowd Goes Wild Follow Up

Wednesday, February 20th, 2019

 Of course I sent the previous Swimwatch story to the “The Crowd Goes Wild”. It would be inexcusably rude to hide public criticism from the target. I doubt that James McOnie cares whether David Wright thinks he has exceeded his sell-by-date. An ego as big as his is pretty indestructible.

I certainly did not expect a reply to my story. I thought “The Crowd Goes Wild” would do a Swimming New Zealand and meet every criticism with stony silence. Swimming New Zealand are experts at showing the cold shoulder. They can deny members their human rights, they can lie to the membership, they can pay themselves a fortune and charge the nation’s best swimmers to go to a world championship and through it all say nothing – no excuse, no reason, no apology, nothing.

I expected the same reaction from “The Crowd Goes Wild”. I was wrong. Yesterday I got a reply. Here is what it said.

“We love your passion David, however the Chiefs game was 3 days old by the time Monday’s show went to air. To expect us to cover a game that is 72 hours old is a bit unreasonable, considering we’re supposed to be a news show. Cheers.”

There are a couple of points that need to be made about their reply. First, thank you for the message. Thank you for the enthusiasm comment and thank you for the “cheers” at the end. I’m taking that as a sincere rather than an ironic farewell. I appreciate the effort taken to explain and communicate.

However there are two features of the reply that cause concern. First the claim that “we’re supposed to be a news show”. In the era of Trump there has been much discussion on the distinction between news and opinion broadcasting. The truth is many broadcasters deliberately blur the lines between news and opinion. The confusion allows participating media outlets to use selected factual news to support opinions and views they want to promote. At best “The Crowd Goes Wild” is one of these hybrid outlets. It is certainly far from a sport’s news channel. McOnie and Mulligan offer far too many opinions for the programme to ever be described as straight news.

We know for example that Mulligan “hates” Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. We know he supports the Hurricanes and the Breakers. McOnie’s adoration of all things Waikato is as well-known as it is tiresome. Almost every subject concludes with a one minute offering of the presenters’ opinions. There is nothing wrong with that. In fact part of the charm of the program is its high opinion content. It just means that their claim to be “news” is ridiculous. As opinion providers they should know better.   .

And so the claim of “news” status to justify ignoring the Chiefs and Highlanders result is simply not true. “The Crowd Goes Wild” is not a “news” show. At best it is a hybrid news and opinion mongrel. Which means, that the claim of “news” status to justify ignoring a rugby result journalists didn’t like, has no validity. In fact the claim to “news” status is as devoid of decency as those who made the decision to ignore the Chiefs’ defeat.

The second justification for the decision to ignore the weekend’s Super Rugby result is, “To expect us to cover a game that is 72 hours old is a bit unreasonable.” Like their claim to “news” status, this is simply not true. It is a lie. On Tuesday 19 February, the day I received “The Crowd Goes Wild” email, I watched the program to check on their 72 hour deadline. The show reported on ten sporting subjects. Of the ten there were three that were older than 72 hours. 30% of the items covered were outside the time limit I had just been told was the program’s measure of “unreasonable”.

First the show did discuss the Chiefs loss to the Highlanders. That game was now 96 hours in the past; so much for their 72 hour rule.

Second the show covered the young driver, Lawson, signing a contract with Red Bull. That happened in the middle of last week on Lawson’s 17th birthday – 144 hours ago – double the 72 hour rule.

Third the show reported on the trials Team New Zealand had gone through to develop the successful foiling technology used in the America’s Cup. That “news” was first reported on the Stuff website on the morning of the 15th February 2019 – 110 hours ago. The events it described occurred years ago. Either way the claim that anything more than three days is out-of-date is simply not true.

I am delighted “The Crowd Goes Wild” took the time to reply to my post. My delight is tempered only by the rubbish included in their message. Instead of making up excuses that can so easily be disproved they would have been better to simply say, “Oops made a mistake, sorry. We’ll sort out McOnie and move on.” That honesty would have immediately had me back as a viewer.

As it is their reply means they are not only bad losers, they are dishonest and stupid as well. Cheers.

PS: Since posting this article I attempted to extend to “The Crowd Goes Wild” the courtesy of advising them of my reply. I attempted to do this by posting the link to their Facebook Messenger page.  And oh dear me, the precious wallflowers at “The Crowd Goes Wild” appear to have blocked my contact.  I guess the original story of being bad losers is confirmed

The Crowd Goes Wild

Tuesday, February 19th, 2019

For about four years I have been an avid fan of the Prime TV program, “The Crowd Goes Wild”. The program airs at 7.00pm each week night for half an hour. I enjoyed it because of its light-hearted look at sport in New Zealand and around the world. The presenters, Andrew Mulligan, Wairangi Koopu, Josh Kronfeld, Chris Key, Storm Purvis, Anna Willcox-Silfverberg, James Copland and James McOnie were genuinely funny.  For someone like me who has spent forty years working in sport, “The Crowd Goes Wild” was a breath of fresh air. It made light of the activity I had to take seriously most of the time.

But gradually, in the past six months, the shine of the program has begun to fade. For the past few weeks my cynicism has got so bad I now prefer to sit at my computer and write a Swimwatch story than watch the program’s tired half an hour. But tonight I thought I’d make another effort. At 7.00pm I sat down and endured another thirty minutes of “The Crowd Goes Wild” abuse.

Fault, it seems to me, is down to one man, James McOnie. In my opinion his fanatical and repetitive devotion to anything from Waikato has long since ceased being funny. Now he is simply and stunningly tedious and boring. At first his slightly crude jokes were funny. Now they have turned him into a dirty old man. His appearance on the show makes me feel slightly ill.

But their show tonight offered the final insult. It caused me to turn off the Prime 7.00pm button permanently. The one thing a professional career in sport requires is the character to accept defeat. In the words of Kipling

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

And treat those two impostors just the same;

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,

And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

For years, as part of coaching champion swimmers I have drilled the importance of winning and losing well. I have coached national representatives from six different countries. None of them liked losing. That does not mean they were not gracious in accepting a bad result.

I had this thought in mind when I watched “The Crowd Goes Wild” today. You see Super Rugby began their 2019 season this weekend. The competition’s first result saw the team supported by “The Crowd Goes Wild” presenter James McOnie, the Chiefs, beaten by the South Island Highlanders. I was interested to see how McOnie would react to his precious Chiefs being beaten. I was sure he would be a poor loser. But how would his bad behaviour express itself? What would he do that would be an embarrassment to sport’s men and women everywhere. But what transpired was worse than anything I could possibly have imagined.

Minute by minute went by. McOnie discussed skiing, American basketball, rugby league and para swimming. But the first weekend of the nation’s national sport – not a mention, silence, nothing. Finally as the credits began to roll and the end of show music began to play McOnie mumbled something that few could hear about Super Rugby and that was it.

I have no doubt McOnie thought his childish silent treatment tantrum was hilariously funny. All those viewers poised to see him squirm had been denied. He’d given New Zealand rugby fans a two finger salute. Worse than that McOnie and his selfish ego had used a free to air television program to deny fourteen players from Otago their moment of recognition. Even worse than that by implication and association he has involved the Chiefs team in his display of bad sportsmanship. Teams get known by the company they keep. McOnie’s bad behaviour, by association, has become the Chiefs’ bad behaviour. The Chiefs must be appalled by this bad mannered supporter.

And because McOnie in a fit of spite decided the Highlander’s win would be ignored the performance of three other New Zealand teams was also ignored. A hard earned win by the Hurricanes in Australia was snubbed. The victory of the champion Crusaders over a rejuvenated Auckland side was disregarded and insulted.

McOnie might well think this is hilariously funny. In reality everything that is bad and rotten in sport was on display in McOnie’s “The Crowd Goes Wild” tonight. Sadly there is not much I can do about his repulsive behaviour apart from refuse to watch the program until McOnie has gone. Certainly that is what will happen. I can also urge New Zealand sports fans and “The Crowd Goes Wild” advertisers to withdraw their support. McOnie and his disgusting behaviour have forfeited the right to our support. New Zealand sport will be a better place when he has gone.

Bruce Cotterill’s Alternative Universe

Monday, February 18th, 2019

 A Tale of Two Cities & Two Sports

In October last year Bruce Cotterill, the Chairman of Swimming New Zealand (SNZ), was interviewed by the North Shore Channel magazine. Cotterill was asked about the challenges of being SNZ Chairman and the benefits of living on the North Shore of Auckland. His answers give a stunning insight into Cotterill’s personality. They also provide clarity about why swimming is a losing sport; losing members, losing income and losing performances. A few years ago Cotterill posted a quote on his website that said if you have a problem in your business stand in front of a mirror – you may see the problem standing in front of you. This Channel interview may be our Cotterill mirror moment.

And so let’s look at some quotes from the interview. First Cotterill had this to say about living on the North Shore.

You didn’t ask, but my fear for the North Shore, is that we are tied to a Mayor and a city administration that doesn’t come across the bridge. And if you look at the numbers, we will never elect the Mayor. South Auckland will always elect a Super City Mayor, and I believe we are losing input into our North Shore infrastructure and communities because we are not electorally important enough.

The quote confirms that Cotterill is a right wing diehard. I doubt there is any risk Cotterill will not vote for the National Party, even if its leader does not know how to pronounce the word China. It’s China not Chouna. But it is not Cotterill’s reactionary politics that concerns me. The feature of concern is the moaning and whinging about the unfairness of Auckland’s democracy. Typical of people, like Cotterill, is looking for something or someone to blame when they lose. The last thing the Cotterill gang ever do is look in the mirror.

When Cotterill’s right wing candidate doesn’t win the mayoral election it’s the fault of the electoral boundaries. But the implied racism in his South Auckland comment is of even deeper concern. When he says, “South Auckland will always elect a Super City Mayor” that’s way too close for my comfort to saying, “Those Maori and Islanders have too much say in electing the mayor of North Shore”. If only North Shore’s pure white people had an election all of their own we could elect a proper mayor to look after our ethnically pure region. Cotterill needs to explain himself because all that sounds way too close to racism for my liking.

But, in my opinion, the whole comment conveys the thoughts of a loser. You would never hear a Mark Schubert or an Arthur Lydiard or me, for that matter, making an excuse like that. It just reeks of the idea that the cards are always stacked against us. We lose but it is someone else’s fault – in this case the brown people who live in South Auckland. Champions do not think that way.

And now let’s look at what Cotterill had to say about being Chairman of SNZ.

In this country, unless you are one of the big sports – rugby, cricket, netball, rowing, yachting – it is incredibly tough. Funding and talent are the biggest challenges.

Funding is really difficult, and of course it’s the parents of swimmers who end up footing the bill.

You’re only as good as your next result, and in swimming we’re competing in a global sport. It’s the second biggest sport in the Olympics, and the top 16 in an event can be separated by less than one second. That doesn’t happen in rowing or yachting.

Here we go again – a Cotterill whinge. It is not South Auckland brown people that are the problem this time. It’s the popular sports of rugby, cricket, netball, rowing and yachting. What Cotterill seems incapable of understanding is that his job is to do something about lifting swimming into the rowing and yachting world. He seems to prefer standing around moaning about not being “one of the big sports” than he is about working to do something to change that. Once again his failure is someone else’s fault.

And just to make sure we don’t blame him for swimming’s disasters he trots out the old excuse that it is harder to be good at swimming than any other sport. As I say there is always a ready-made excuse when you are one of the Cotterills of this world. After all he says – “the top 16 in an event can be separated by less than one second. That doesn’t happen in rowing or yachting.” See how much harder it is for poor us. If only Sport NZ realized how hard we have it in swimming, they would pay us more than they give to those easy sports like rowing and yachting. For Cotterill it seems that last in a swimming race is better than a gold medal in yachting. That is rubbish of course. Just ask Russell Coutts or Peter Blake or Peter Burling.

Incidentally Cotterill’s comment about the top 16 at an Olympic Games being separated by less than a second is only barely true. At the Rio Olympic Games, of the 32 events swum, everyone except the men’s 50m freestyle had more than one second separating the top 16 swimmers. Cotterill’s comment is true but only by one event. As an excuse for the problems in swimming it is pathetic “fake news”.

Every time Cotterill opens his mouth he provides us with an insight into why swimming is so badly served by its leaders. Certainly with the attitudes shown in this interview I wouldn’t follow him to a Sunday school picnic let alone the Olympic Games. Mind you if the Sunday school picnic was in South Auckland I’d probably have to go on my own.

Up Themselves

Wednesday, February 13th, 2019

In My Opinion – Useless, Smug, Arrogant

Three sports stand out as being most influenced by the CEO of Sport NZ, Peter Miskimmin – Swimming, Cycling and Rowing.

Plenty has been said about Swimming New Zealand (SNZ). Over twenty years and at a taxpayer cost of $30million SNZ has not won a medal at an Olympic Games. By every measure the sport is in decline. Membership is down. Income is down. Results are down. People plead with me to look for and write about the positives. Here is an email I got, last week, from a SNZ supporter written from a prayer mat outside Steve Johns’ office door.

David. You do need to find some peace with yourself and others. If you started looking you would find little positive outcomes happening around the country, With your ability to write, you could make positive change from the local swim community up. Everything that you write about now, would begin the change you pine for. Positive attracts. The same can be said for negative. Break the habit.

I’ve known the author of the email for quite some time. He always has been a sycophant to the rich and powerful but this effort at greasing up to those in power is exceptional. Exceptional but not alone. Recently, from New Orleans, I got a message that I should “Surround myself with positivity.” These critics should know better. Why?

Because the most cursory look at the Swimwatch web pages would discover many positive things written about swimming. I recommend the author read about the Bream Bay Swim Meet or the HBPB Championships, or Eyad’s swimming progress, or the contribution of Judith Wright and Norma Williams, or the Counties Championships.

In fact there is only one thing I don’t like about swimming. And that is the stuff that goes on behind the glass door of the SNZ Antares place office. The author of the email is on a prayer mat worshiping at that door. I want to take a hammer and see shards of SNZ glass scattered along the Upper Harbour Motorway. And with good cause. Is the author of this email saying it is right to charge New Zealand’s best swimmers $5,300 to represent the country at a World Championships? Does the author of the email think it is right that I should be denied access to a report on my coaching? I doubt that he does think those things, and many others, are right. Problem is he’s too busy sucking up to his mates inside the glass door to speak out about their disgusting behaviour.

That email says much about why we have wasted two generations of New Zealand swimmers and $30million. The email’s author must have heard the expression, “Bad people get away with bad things when good people say nothing.” He should know better than to ask me to join him as a SNZ enabler. It will not happen.

The second useless, smug and arrogant sport is Cycling New Zealand (CNZ). The non-selection of Hamish Bond this week is straight out of the SNZ playbook. Here is how the Stuff website reported what happened.

A “disappointed” Hamish Bond has missed the chance to compete at the upcoming track cycling world championships in Poland despite offering to pay his own way on the back of his record-breaking performance at nationals.

The rowing great gave a glimpse of his enormous potential as a track cyclist by setting a new national record in the individual pursuit at last weekend’s national championships in Cambridge before going on to beat 2017 world champion Jordan Kerby in the final.

Bond breaks a national record, beats a world champion and offers to pay his own way and CNZ still won’t pick him. How does that happen? In my opinion it happens because bureaucrats in the CNZ Head Office decided Bond was getting too big for his boots. CNZ needed to take control. They have given all sorts of pathetic excuses for not selecting Bond but the real reason is to teach him a lesson – to show that rowing upstart who’s really in charge. It is pathetic. It should not happen but it is what New Zealand sport under Peter Miskimmin has become.

And the third useless, smug and arrogant sport is Rowing New Zealand (RNZ). RNZ is beginning to put together a list of administration disasters matched only by SNZ. RNZ had the best coach in the world. But now he’s coaching the Canadian national team. In moves similar to the treatment of SNZ coach, Mark Regan, RNZ made life so difficult for Dick Tonks he had no option but to leave. The real problem though was the same as the Hamish Bond saga. RNZ was scared of Tonks’ success. They saw his popularity as a threat. He had to go. Management of a Miskimmin sport is not about winning and losing – it’s about money and power.

The attitude of RNZ to athletes wanting to use their athletic ability to fund a university education further confirms their useless and smug arrogance. How dare a sport in New Zealand deny any New Zealander the right to a free education. How dare a sport penalise young New Zealanders for choosing to better themselves at a good American university. How dare they. As I have said through the post – useless, smug and arrogant. The table below shows a Television New Zealand report on RNZ’s education failings.

RNZ’s hard line attitude to young rowers choosing top education facilities in the US could see us losing a significant amount of our best talent.

1 NEWS can reveal 70 per cent of the men who represented New Zealand in the 2016 junior world championships are no longer rowing in the silver fern with some saying they’ve had no other option but to switch allegiances.

One such case was Lenny Jenkins – a junior world champion in 2016 who one day hoped to win an Olympic medal for New Zealand.

But then he was invited to attend Ivy League university Yale in the US.

“It was probably one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make because I was 17 at the time and I was choosing between a dream that I’d had since I was 14 and one of the best universities in the world,” he said.

Under current Rowing NZ rules, choosing Yale meant he could no longer row for his country.

Jenkins says he was bullied to stay.

“I would absolutely describe it as a scare tactic.

“There’s no, ‘this is the positives of going to the United States, these are the negatives,’ – it’s just like, ‘these are all the negatives, you should never go, it’s not good enough, do not go’.”