Archive for July, 2022


Thursday, July 21st, 2022

Stuff reporters Dana Johannsen and Zoe George should hide their heads in shame. Today they have written 700 words on a 10-point action plan published by HPSNZ. The purpose of the plan, we are told, is “to address recommendations specifically related to either HPSNZ or the broader high-performance system.” Johannsen and George then go on to accentuate the mythical benefits likely to accrue from the 10-point action plan. And in that they are insulting the memory of Olivia Podmore and any other victim of sporting abuse – yes, including me.

Investigative journalism? I don’t think so. More like cheer leaders for the establishment, two journalists petrified of missing the cucumber sandwiches on offer at the Castle table. Why? Because the HPSNZ action plan does nothing. It is a document that will gather dust like so many have before. If Johannsen and George think this is going to do anything more than the dozen HPSNZ action plans that have gone before, then I have a cycleway across the Auckland Harbour Bridge to sell them.

This action plan will do nothing to protect the next Olivia Podmore or Aimee Fisher or Lauren Boyle – the next Olivia Podmore will die because Johannsen and George did not tell truth to power. The next Aimee Fisher will be sent to Coventry because Johannsen and George failed to do their job. The next Lauren Boyle will have to leave New Zealand to find protection in Australia or the United States because Johannsen and George were conned.

This time the Conner-in-Chief, Raelene Castle, promised New Zealand this.    

A Cycling Integrity Steering Committee has also been established. Another committee bought and paid for by HPSNZ. The accused investigating itself. The chances of that working are nil. The chances of the committee being around in five years are nil.  

The plan includes various wellbeing initiatives, steps to improve alignment between regional and national pathways and improved data management systems. Another effort to whitewash Castle’s reputation. What does it even mean? What is a wellbeing initiative? How will that make Eyad’s life better. Of course, it is pathetic rubbish and Johannsen and George needed to point that out. And what does, “steps to improve alignment between regional and national pathways” mean? Actually, I know what it means. It means Castle can impose her ideas of wellbeing on individual sports. That paragraph is another Castle grab for power. Would I trust my daughter’s career in the ravenous hands of Raelene Castle? Not bloody likely. Look how well her organisations handled Podmore and Folau. Do not invite this Homer’s Siren with you on the Cook Strait ferry. And oh my God, “improved data management systems”. How is that going to change anything. Would that have stopped Castle’s $25,000 bribe being paid to Olivia Podmore? Would that have got Aimee Fisher on the Olympic team to Tokyo? No of course not.

The plan is going to appoint a “Women’s Health Lead”. That’s another, sounds good, feels good position. I have no idea what the appointed person is going to do, that the National Health Service or every female athlete’s PG isn’t capable of doing better. Words, words, words, signifying nothing.

And finally, Castle promises that “HPSNZ will also implement a systematic approach to monitoring wellbeing and responding to issues including implementing athlete voice mechanism.” That sentence is simply a dodge to get out of facing up to a real trade union. Let me tell you a story. Eyad receives a scholarship from the IOC. The money is processed through the NZOC. It must be spent on training related expenses. Every refugee athlete on a scholarship anywhere in the world (44 athletes from 12 countries across all five of the world’s continents) is permitted to add an amount for coaching expenses to their monthly costs – except in New Zealand. Why? Because Castle and the NZOC don’t like what I write on Swimwatch, the rule was made early on that Eyad could NOT claim anything to assist with my training travel costs. So, Castle can backoff with the “athlete voice mechanism” bullshit. When Afghanistan, Cameroon, Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Syria and Venezuela look after their athletes better than New Zealand, I am inclined to not believe a word out of that woman’s mouth. Make no mistake this is not because I want the money. This is simply to illustrate the vicious vindictiveness of HPSNZ.

So, what would have kept me happy. The answer is a two-point plan.

1.   Abolish every Sport New Zealand appointed Board member’s position. In other words, Castle could have brought back democracy to New Zealand sport.

2.   Approach the New Zealand Trade Union Council to establish a truly independent trade union to care for athlete’s welfare. Not some bandaid over a broken leg like this pathetic 10-point action plan.

And for the love of God, Johannsen and George, do your job. I would imagine the last thing either of you want on your CV is a note saying the next Podmore death is: “because I did nothing. I fiddled while Rome burned.”


Wednesday, July 20th, 2022

In a million years Swimwatch was never intended to be a personal blog. We did this, we did that, or as Jane calls them, “we packed up the car to go to Waimarama” stories. Swimwatch had a purpose, to comment on issues affecting swimming. Occasionally we strayed into other sports, and if the injustice was serious, such as the ridiculous American Supreme Court’s abortion tyranny, we dabbled elsewhere.

But today we break new ground. I have a Waimarama story. Yesterday I tested positive for COVID. There they were two bright red lines on my RAT test. Bugger. Are there any other symptoms, you may be asking? Well, here are the full gory details.

·        I’m breathless and tired. Right now, that is the most significant and concerning symptom.

·        I have a cough, but no more that a very mild cold.

·        I have a runny nose, but also no more than a mild cold.

·        I’m going to the loo more often, but they say that’s a side effect of the five-day course of Paxlovid they have put me on. And just a thought for anyone still tearing into Jacinda on the subject of health reform. Consider this. Within half an hour of testing positive I was prescribed and taking Pfizer’s Paxlovid treatment. The cost of each course is $850.65. I got mine, without a cash register in sight. That alone is worth my vote next year.

And so, from someone who I’m told is “at risk of severe illness and are more likely to need hospital care due to underlying risks,” I will sign out of this in-depth medical report.

But, before I leave, I must congratulate sport’s journalist Mark Reason. He has published an opinion piece on the Stuff website that tears into Sam Cane, Ian Foster and the NZ Rugby Union. Reason identifies exactly where responsibility for the current mess needs to fall. The examples used by Reason are as shocking as they are relevant.

Without a doubt when things are at their worst, character is tested most. We are about to see, this week, whether New Zealand rugby deserves or is capable of doing well in next year’s World Cup. Deal with this like grown-ups and New Zealand has a chance. Blink and take the easy option and that trophy is headed somewhere else. My guess is France. Le jour de gloire est arrivé.  


Monday, July 18th, 2022

This is a Swimwatch post that should never be written. But really, when Newshub publishes the nonsense that comes out of Justin Marshall someone has to say, “Hey, hold on a moment.”

Newshub must surely realise the guy was a terrific halfback. With Andrew Mehrtens and Robbie Deans around to tell him what to do and which way to play at the beginning of each half, Justin Marshall did just fine. But he is no Albert Einstein. I swear there is more compressed air between Marshall’s ears than in the balls he used to throw.

In his most recent brain deflategate Justin Marshall points the finger at NZ Rugby over its handling of Ian Foster. According to Marshall, “whatever process is needed should be behind closed doors – out of the eye of the public. If there’s any review needed that should be done internally.”

What a load of rubbish. The more fresh air the review receives the better the resulting decisions will be. What does NZ Rugby have to hide? Who is Justin Marshall trying to protect? The CEO of NZ Rugby’s press release acknowledging the poor results demonstrated the honesty needed and appreciated.   

Marshall goes on to expel more compressed air by saying he has, “some sympathy for Ian Foster… the COVID situation, the red-card situation in Dunedin, plus they’ve got some injuries to key players.”

Oh, dear God, here we go again. COVID caused the two-test loss. The only contribution COVID made to this series was to keep Foster away from the team’s preparation for the first test, a game the All Blacks won. And if Foster can’t coach his way around ONE red-card and an injured player he definitely should be away doing something else.

And then Marshall revealed this fact that only he knows, “I think they’re the top team in the world right now, Ireland.” Well, no not actually Justin. You see World Rugby publish lists on this sort of thing. Check it out, and you will see France is first, followed by Ireland, then South Africa and, in fourth place, New Zealand. If those rankings hold true New Zealand will lose the B final at next year’s World Cup. That’s where Justin Marshall’s thoughts are leading. I use the word thoughts in the very broadest meaning of that word. 

Marshall added that much of the blame needs to be directed towards the players. “At the end of the day, he’s (Foster) not out there dropping the ball. He’s not out there kicking the ball away, when they should be holding onto it.” I believe Marshall’s brain doesn’t go to the top floor. He may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer. But I really, really do hate these guys who blame the players for this sort of mess. When Toni Jeffs swam slowly in the Barcelona Olympic Games that was down to me. When Alison struggled through one Track Series that was because of mistakes I had made. Sure, occasionally bad results can be because of errors by the players. But normally, and certainly in this case, the fault lies at the door of the coach. When Marshall shifts the blame for the loss onto the players, he does the NZ Rugby review no favours at all. That sort of compressed air got us into this mess. Hopefully a razor with brains will get us out.

And finally, Newshub reports this gem. “Marshall is adamant the current group has what’s needed to turn their fortunes around. “They’re a very good side and we have great depth. There were still signs in that test series, that the All Blacks can get back to the top of the world.” So, Justin Marshall is one of those guys who tears the players apart for, “dropping the ball and kicking the ball away” and then tries to fix it by calling the same players, “a very good side” capable of getting back to the “top of the world.” But then the inside of a football doesn’t know that 2+2 doesn’t equal 5.

New Zealand would be well advised to turn the volume down when Justin Marshall opens his mouth. The truth is 15 brilliant All Black players were beaten by an Irish team. Farrell can coach a team, so can Erasmus, so can Galthié, so can Jones, so can Rennie and so can Razor. Foster cannot. Justin Marshall does the players no favours by suggesting the current coaching staff has the potential to coach a world class team  by next year. Give Foster a hundred years with the world’s best players and he would have them running around wondering which end of the field to defend.

And finally, would someone keep Justin Marshall away from a microphone?   


Sunday, July 17th, 2022

Swimwatch was and is a blog primarily focused on the sport of swimming. However occasionally exceptional events occur in other sports and politics that should not pass without mention. Last night, one such seismic event occurred right above the fault-line that runs along the Wellington waterfront. For the first time in quarter of a century the All Blacks lost a home test series. Surely that qualifies as an “exceptional event” deserving our attention.

Two weeks ago, the following paragraph in Swimwatch recorded my concern about Ian Foster’s coaching.

“And then we have the All Black’s coach, Ian Foster. I don’t see it. I don’t feel it. I never have. The gift of coaching greatness is missing. He accepted the job of coaching a New Zealand foiling rocket ship and somehow has produced the Mary Celeste. Please excuse the mixed metaphors but his team of brilliant players run around the field like headless chickens – without direction, purpose or belief.”

I hate the expression, “I told you so.” It is so arrogant, so full of righteous indignation. The German word “schadenfreude” has a similar meaning but somehow sounds less pompous. Either way, Foster’s barren coaching skills were further revealed in the Wellington test. In Dunedin he may well have turned a foiling rocket ship into the Mary Celeste. In Wellington the Mary Celeste became the Titanic.

Fifteen brilliant players and their reserves lie lifeless on the ocean floor, in serious need of CPR. Silver Lakes has invested $200million dollars in a ship that hit an Irish iceberg and is going nowhere. Is Ian Foster capable of administering CPR? Is he capable of raising the black Titanic? Does he have the skills required to rescue Silver Lakes’ $200million? No, of course not. It’s a joke to think Foster could come close.

If it is that bad, I hear you say, what should the NZ Rugby Union do instead. Well, believe me I am no expert in coaching rugby but here is what my years of coaching are saying.

  • Sack Foster and his coaching team.
  • Replace Foster with Razor Robertson
  • Employ Joe Schmidt as the Head Assistant Coach
  • Pay both twice as much as Foster is paid. After all they have to rescue the mess Foster has left behind.
  • Sack Sam Cain as All Blacks Captain
  • Replace Cain with Sam Whitelock as captain. Ironically have you noticed that if you Google “All Black captain”, Google replies with “Sam Whitelock”. Even the world wide web is pointing the NZ Rugby Union in the right direction. And I doubt you could accuse Mr. Google of being a one-eyed Cantabrian.
  • Always pick Richie Mo’unga as first choice number 10. Beauden Barrett is fine in the reserves but should never be selected ahead of Mo’unga.

That is it. Then I would leave Razor and Schmidt to sort out the mess Foster has left behind. Those two can deliver CPR. They can raise the black Titanic. They can make sense of Silver Lakes $200million investment. And I can put away my search for finding another way of saying, “I told you so.”


Friday, July 15th, 2022

This is interesting.

Did you see the 2025 Wellington Junior Championships, being held in Nelson, are on the same weekend as the Comet Club dual meet with Enterprise? That will mean swimmers wanting to compete in both will need to scoff a steak and cheese pie and leave Gisborne on the 5.30am flight to Auckland to connect with a flight to Nelson, unless they drop both meets and the pie and go to Ashburton for the Chocolate Fish Carnival. On second thoughts, keep the pie and have the chocolate fish for dessert. That’s what Greg and Gary would have done.

Sadly, Ashburton clashes with the Washington State dual meet with Stanford. How are Stanford swimmers going to qualify for the Dargaville Up and Comers Meet and the NCAA Championships, when the trials were in Auckland the very next weekend, the year before? I don’t know how Andy didn’t see that.

Invercargill has a meet at their Olympic learn-to-swim pool (15m) two weekends later in 2027 – an ideal opportunity for Eyad, Chris and Chelsey to set New Zealand 15m records.

Also, Invercargill ties in well with the Commonwealth Games in Fiji on the same weekend. But Otaki swimmers wanting to swim the following weekend, a year later in 2028, in the Olympic Open Water swim in a newly created lagoon at Pitcairn Island will have to have qualified in the Kapiti Island to Paraparaumu Beach swim in 2021. If they missed that – bad luck. Blame Jon Winter – everybody else does.

They will also miss the gumboot throwing championships in Taihape, the Golden Shears in Masterton, and the Cooper’s Hill Cheese-Rolling and Wake in Gloucester, England (Steve Johns is favorite to win all three).

However, Swimming New Zealand has entered a junior team in the Delray Beach, Florida, Aqua Crest Club’s Grab-a-Time Invitational. This should work out well except Amanda has lost the tickets.

Never mind, they are transferable to the Final Battle Meet at the Northern Lights swim club in Anchorage, Alaska. Note to Graham Smith – get in early – sledge and dog teams are selling fast.

Gary Francis won’t be there – he is opening the new, naturally heated, high altitude training camp next to the Mount Ruapehu crater lake, featuring a crater lake 50m butterfly by the red-hot William Benson and on-the-boil, Hazel Ouwehand.

This new program and the lost tickets are all the work of Cloe Francis, who I’m told is in training to swim backstroke up the Niagara Falls in a wooden barrel to celebrate next year’s Matariki holiday. Is there anything Chloe can’t do? Not, it seems, from what I’ve read.

Best of all, don’t miss this occasion. It does conflict with the first round of the underwater netball finals at the Pitcairn Olympic Lagoon. But Sir Nick Tongue has modestly accepted a knighthood for services to marine life in the Owen Glenn aquarium.   

Thank you for explaining all this to me. Where would SNZ be without your knowledge, expertise and Shakespearian prose?

Now I think I need to lie down.