Archive for May, 2019

A Bloody Good Kiwi Bloke

Friday, May 31st, 2019

Marine Engineer Eyad When I First Met Him In Jeddah

Since approximately 10,000 BC, Syria was one of the centres of Neolithic culture where agriculture and cattle breeding appeared for the first time. Archaeologists have demonstrated that civilization in Syria was one of the most ancient on earth. Syria is truly a cradle of civilization.

Today Syria is bordered by Lebanon to the southwest, the Mediterranean Sea to the west, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest; a country of fertile plains, high mountains, and deserts.

Anyone would be proud to call Syria home. But Syria has a problem. Since March 2011, Syria has been embroiled in an armed conflict. The Americans, the Israelis, the Turks, the Russians and anyone else who felt like a scrap have disgracefully used Syria as a means of proving how tough they are. The behaviour of the international community especially Trump and Putin towards a fine and important country is a disgrace.

As a result, Syria is ranked last on the Global Peace Index, making it the most violent country in the world due to the war. The war has caused more than 470,000 deaths, 7.6 million internally displaced people, and over 5 million refugees.

I happen to know one of those 5 million refugees. I have introduced him to you before. His name is Eyad Masoud. I met him on my second day working as a coach for the Saudi Arabian Swimming Federation. Eyad and his brother Yamen came to my pool with a Saudi swimmer, called Loai. They asked for my help coaching their swimming. I was surprised. Like many Westerners I was full of stereotype images of every other race in the world. Arabs were all small guys riding around on camels. But these three didn’t fit that picture at all – over six foot and built like bodybuilders, I wondered if they could swim.

Because my pool was a government run public (except for women of course) facility and because Eyad and Yamen were Syrians I had to get them special permission to swim in the pool. That done we went to see if they could swim. And that was my second surprise of the day. They could swim extremely well. All three were shockingly unfit – Eyad couldn’t manage 10×100 on 1.30 for example – but their feel of the water showed their huge potential.

I coached Eyad, Loai and Yamen for my year in Jeddah. Loai won a silver medal at the Gulf States Championships in the 400IM. Because of their Syrian nationality Eyad and Yamen were not permitted to enter that competition. However Eyad did win the Saudi Arabian Universities 50 meter championship. We felt it had been a successful year.

I then came back to New Zealand. Yamen and Eyad were kicked out of the public pool again and Loai decided to retire. As far as swimming was concerned things were not looking good. Yamen decided to focus on completing his degree in dentistry. Eyad worked hard on an engineering degree and training on his own in the British International School’s 25m pool. For six months Eyad did a fantastic job of swimming schedules I sent each week from New Zealand.

With some difficulty we got him a New Zealand visitor’s visa to swim in the national championships. He loved the place. He enjoyed lunch on Waiheke Island. He bungy jumped off the Auckland Harbour Bridge. He visited Whangarei and laughed at the sign in the pool that said, “No Bombing Allowed.” Where Eyad comes from that message has a whole different meaning. And so Eyad decided to see if he could stay.

He contacted immigration lawyer, Deborah Manning. That was a stroke of luck. Deborah and one of her associate lawyers, Simon, are skilled, able and honest. Eyad was soon accepted by Immigration New Zealand as a refugee. He was one of only 100 Syrian refugees accepted into New Zealand that year.

Eyad has settled in well. He has a secure part-time job in the excellent Millennium Swim School. He has resumed his engineering studies at Auckland University. But what about his swimming you may be asking? Well the regular training available in New Zealand is working. He is improving at a hundred miles an hour. It has also been an interesting exercise from my coaching point of view.

I can see now why the International Olympic Committee’s refugee program is so important. These athletes have had such a difficult start to their sporting lives. They have missed fundamentals never considered by more fortunate western athletes. In his early 20s Eyad is learning basics that should have been taught ten years ago. It is so bloody unfair. But we are lucky. His talent and IQ mean he is catching up very quickly. It has been tough, far tougher than any other swimmer I have coached. But he is getting there. His next competition is the New Zealand National Championships in three weeks’ time.

But today Eyad had some fantastic news. New Zealand became home. Eyad became one of us. You see today Eyad was accepted by Immigration New Zealand as a New Zealand resident. Welcome Eyad. It’s great to have you here. We are a better place for your presence.  On my way to training in the morning I’ll stop at the petrol station on Lincoln Road and get you an Uncle Ben’s New Zealand meat pie – something to properly celebrate being a Kiwi. You can decide whether to have it before or after your 600 time trial.


Don’t Believe Me? Try Chairman Cotterill

Thursday, May 30th, 2019

For years every man and his dog has banged on about the Marris investigation. Nikki Johns and Susan Turner have had their say. I must have written a hundred thousand words on the subject. Stuff news provided their 3000 word contribution last weekend. Everyone it seems has an opinion. Some of Johns’ mates think that David Wright is the ultimate “creep”. Others defend my coaching and reputation.

But the issues being considered here are not the topic of a popularity competition. They are far too serious. For that reason I am pleased that an investigator as thorough and tough as Michael Marris was chosen to examine the case. Did Turner and Johns tell the truth or was there a political motive to their accusations? Was their evidence tainted by the political motive of getting rid of me as a coach and replacing me with the lurking David Lyles? There were multiple issues that needed to be resolved.

But all through the three years we heard nothing from Swimming New Zealand (SNZ). In my view their silence was self-serving. SNZ had read the Marris Report. They knew that the best way to hurt a well-known critic was to say nothing. They knew that in these cases the most likely conclusion is that people will believe the worst. David Wright could die in the swimming world if SNZ did nothing; if SNZ held onto the Marris Report; if SNZ refused to let anyone read it except themselves; if SNZ spent a fortune on keeping its contents secret. This was not about justice. This was about revenge. So that is what SNZ did – nothing.

Until last weekend when Stuff journalist, Dana Johannsen, called the Chairman of SNZ, Bruce Cotterill and asked why SNZ had been found guilty of interfering in my privacy by the New Zealand Privacy Commission. Why had the Commission recommended SNZ undertake a course of privacy training; hardly a good look for a national sporting organisation.

Cotterill spun his normal line of flannel as he struggled to justify the unjustifiable. For example he said, “There were a series of recommendations made, and every one of those recommendations was followed through. To my knowledge that involved going back to each of the people that participated in the review, and sharing the outcome of the review. If you’re talking to people that are saying that hasn’t happened, then those people haven’t talked to me, and I’m not aware of it.”

What a ridiculous, pathetic, bald-faced piece of nonsense.

For three years I have written a hundred thousand words asking to see the Marris Report. For one year the Privacy Commissioner for New Zealand has discussed my complaint with SNZ. For a month the Human Rights Tribunal has asked SNZ to defend its decision to refuse providing me with the Marris Report. And now Cotterill is telling the world people like me “haven’t talked to me, and I’m not aware of it.” If Cotterill says I haven’t spoken to him about the problem, what on God’s good earth does a member of the sport need to do to attract his attention? A hundred thousand words, a government inquiry and a Court case and the Chairman says he is not aware of it. I guess I find that difficult to believe. Cotterill will probably be claiming Dana Johannsen misquoted him next.

But hidden in all the spin was this gem. Cotterill said:

“What I can say is if there was anything in that report which justified Swimming NZ taking action against any party involved in the review, we most certainly would have done so.”

I bet that’s right.  If the Marris Report had found me guilty, the Marris findings would have been given to me and my punishment would have been swift and painful.

Is what Cotterill says a positive sign? You can never tell with SNZ. Does it mean that there is nothing in the Marris Report that “justifies Swimming NZ taking action against” me? That is what Cotterill seems to be saying. Certainly no action has been taken against me. Because if Cotterill’s admission means that no action against me was required then I want to know why Cotterill has ignored the false accusations made by Turner and Johns. The SNZ disciplinary policy is very clear. Members who make false accusations about another member are subject to sanction. If I’m innocent then someone lied. SNZ policy says this, the “Disputes & Disciplinary Policy shall only apply where: the alleged breach relates to a complaint made under the Code of Conduct or Member Protection Policy which the complainant knew was untrue.”

It could well be time to provide me with the Marris Report and begin a hearing into those who made some pretty malicious false accusations. There is work for you to do Chairman Cotterill.

Let’s Look At What’s Important

Tuesday, May 28th, 2019

In my previous Swimwatch post I explained why I did not want to rehash the issues involved in the false allegations made about my coaching. It’s not often I agree with the Chairman of Swimming New Zealand (SNZ), Bruce Cotterill. But on this occasion I agree with his view that the complaints made about my coaching were competently addressed three years ago. I have no complaint about the thoroughness and competence of the investigation. In my view Marris was tough, he was fair and ruthlessly sought to determine the truth. That is not to say that the investigation wasn’t personally harrowing. It was.

However what I am interested in now is gaining access to the investigator’s final report. As the recent article written by Dana Johannsen on the Stuff website highlights, the Michael Marris final report contains a huge amount of important personal information. My accusers can complain and lie, moan and distort as long and as often as they like. My answer to them is the same as it is to SNZ. Let’s get the unredacted Marris Report from SNZ. Let’s publish it on Swimwatch and the SNZ website and Facebook page and repost it on my accuser’s Facebook pages. Let’s bring the findings into the open. Let’s see what Michael Marris, an able and competent investigator, has found.

And if my accusers have a new-found problem with the investigator, let’s remember that when the investigation was announced these same accusers agreed to the rules. It’s pretty typical that they would attempt to change the rules, change the game and change the score now that the game is over. I will not allow that to happen. I am not interested in that at all.

My concern is to see and read the results of the investigation we all agreed to. The Privacy Commissioner agrees that access to the report is a legal right protected under the Privacy Act. The Commissioner agrees my privacy has been interfered with. The law says I am right and SNZ is wrong. What this is all about now is having that opinion confirmed; having a Court rule that my privacy was interfered with and obtaining an order that SNZ release to me the unredacted Marris Report.

Let’s do away with the gossip. Let’s abandon the secrecy. Let’s see the conclusions of the Marris Report. If there is stuff in there that I don’t like, if there are opinions SNZ finds distasteful, if my accusers are hurt and upset, too bad. Let’s see what Marris has to say.

According to SNZ rules and the Privacy Commissioner’s decision parties to the investigation should have been shown the Marris Report three years ago. We were not. We should be now. When Cotterill told the Stuff reporter that the Marris Report’s findings were discussed with me – that was not true. I have never discussed the Report’s findings with SNZ or anyone else. Even if the findings had been discussed with me – and they weren’t – there is no way a casual conversation about matters this serious is good enough. Closure requires access to the Marris Report in order to satisfy rights protected by the New Zealand Privacy Act.

The facts are that the Marris Report should have been handled according to the rules of the Privacy Act and SNZ rules three years ago. As the Stuff article this weekend has perfectly highlighted the fact it was not made available to the parties continues to cause hurt and pain. The Stuff article has further increased that hurt and pain. The Stuff article has strengthened immeasurably my claim for damages. Prior to the Stuff article my claim was for $240,600. I had a strong case for compensation at that point. After this weekend my case for damages is immeasurably stronger.

Before concluding this post I do need to thank Cotterill for another comment he made to the Stuff reporter. He said, “There are a lot of issues at play.” In the same news item Stuff also reported as follows:

“Cotterill was unable to clarify whether the report cleared Wright of any wrong-doing, noting the investigation looked into allegations against a number of people.”

The Chairman of SNZ is acknowledging that the Marris Report was not “solely” for the purpose of allocating or withdrawing a benefit from me. In this Stuff report he has acknowledged “multiple issues” and “a number of people”. Two or more purposes, three or more parties and ten possible sanctions are far wider than the “sole” purpose described in the Privacy Act? The investigation had multi parties, multi purposes and multi sanctions. Cotterill has confirmed that In this case the word “sole” in the Act carries no justification for withholding my personal information contained in the Marris Report.

It is also relevant to note that both Nikki Johns and Susan Turner have both seriously compromised their own privacy. When the Stuff website published their article on the investigation and my effort to obtain the Marris Report, Nikki Johns immediately published a link to the Stuff article on her Facebook page and entered into several conversations with her followers discussing the article’s contents. Susan Turner’s daughter posted the same link on Instagram. The secrecy so important to SNZ does not appear to be shared by the two accusers.

I struggle to reconcile the effort made by SNZ to protect the secrecy of those who made false accusations about me when the accusers “out themselves” and make serious public criticisms about the procedures followed by SNZ. The loyalty and secrecy of my accusers, so valued by SNZ, clearly isn’t shared by those they seek to protect. The secrecy used by SNZ to defend interfering in my privacy is not reciprocated by those SNZ is claiming to shield. When my accusers broadcast their views openly on their personal social media pages there is no reason or purpose in SNZ or Stuff protecting their confidentiality.

So thank you Bruce Cotterill. Looks like we can settle this now. Just give me the Marris Report and prepare a cheque for damages of $240,600.

PS: There is also some important advice for my accusers, Susan Turner and Nikki Johns.  Their efforts to lobby the Stuff website for a re-litigation of their false accusations is in contravention of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 Section 26 (2).  This law specifically bans an action called double jeopardy.  The section says no one (including David Wright) who has been acquitted, convicted or pardoned shall be tried for the same circumstances again.

A Report – But

Monday, May 27th, 2019

There has been a report today on the Stuff website. It discusses my effort to obtain a report into accusations about my coaching. I’m going to resist the temptation to discuss its content. I’ve said all I need to say already. But more importantly, the Tribunal case is close and I want to avoid saying anything that might prejudice the outcome. When the case is decided it will be fully reported on Swimwatch.

I’m Keen On Swimming – But

Friday, May 24th, 2019


My worst detractors, the inhabitants of the Antares Place asylum, would be hard pushed to make the claim that I’m not keen on swimming. I’ve been in a river, or a lake or a swimming pool since 1950. I first swam 800 meters when I was four years old. My daughter Jane beat me. She did the same swim when she was three.

When the Wahine ferry sank in the entrance to Wellington Harbour on the morning of the 10 April 1968, where was I? At the Freyberg Pool is the answer – doing my training.

In fact let me tell you about that morning. The weather was bad – obviously. Sufficiently bad that instead of catching a bus my grandfather said he would drive me to the pool. Even at 5.30am the roads were more deserted than normal. We drove through the Mt. Victoria tunnel without another car entering or leaving the tunnel the whole time we were in the tunnel.

I said to my grandfather, “Wow the weather is bad this morning.”

He smiled. “You will get plenty of days like this in Wellington,” he said. I took him at his word. After all my grandfather had sailed in and out of harbours all over the world as a wireless operator in the Royal Navy and then chief engineer on cargo ships. If anyone knew bad weather, he should.

Freyberg Pool was even more deserted than the roads. In fact I was the pool’s only swimmer. I decided to do a main set of 1×5000 straight swim. After 1000 warm-up, I was about 2000 meters into the 5000 swim when the Pool Manager started throwing kick-boards at me. I stopped. “Get out, get out now,” he screamed.

I finished the length and climbed out. “What’s all the fuss about,” I thought. And then I saw. Two of the huge sheets of glass that make up the wall of the Freyberg Pool lay shattered on the bottom of the pool. That was the end of my 5000 swim. I was lucky it hadn’t been the end of me as well. When I got home from University I teased my grandfather about his “many mornings like this” comment. Clearly the Wahine and the Freyberg Pool did not agree.

And 51 years later on tonight’s TV1 six o’clock news there was a short item in the sport’s news of me helping Eyad swim in the Auckland Championships. Here is the link to the internet report. What do you think of Eyad’s batman cap? My Grandson loves Batman gear. But he’s only four!


For Christmas on the 25 December this year or my birthday on the 3 March next year – if you have any thoughts of buying me a swimming pool rug – please don’t. Mind you some kind soul should buy one for the Swimming New Zealand reception. That way, when Cotterill, Johns and Francis come to work, they can be reminded what a swimming pool looks like.