Archive for August, 2022

HAVE YOU SAID YES YET TO TEAM BLUE?

Sunday, August 14th, 2022

The local Selection Committee Chairman knew. The President of the Party knew. And no one thought to tell the party leader. What sort of mickey mouse shambles is the National Party. And how dumb is Luxon? He forgets that his company has a multi-million-dollar contract with the Saudi navy. He joins the horde at a Ted Cruz brawl. He doesn’t know whether a prominent hill is Mt. Manganui or Diamond Head. Abortions are murder but he won’t say whether the mother and her doctor are murderers. And now he doesn’t know that his Party has elected a bovver-boy thug to represent Tauranga.

Really, all you National Party supporters, aren’t you just a little concerned that team blue is being led by a dingbat?

But the subject of this post is really bovver-boy and new Tauranga MP, Sam Uffindell. I’ve come across his sort before. You see, in 1961 I was a third form, high school boarder at Wellington College. We had plenty of “Uffindells”. Guys from families with more money than sense. Guys whose territorial rights were established by strutting around the school peeing on every post. Guys who beat up third formers because that’s what tough guys do. Guys who were going to do a law degree and stand for Parliament one day.

Actually, I never had a problem with the Wellington College “Uffindells” – for three reasons. Somehow, I made it into the top academic third form class. Somehow, I was also the third form’s best swimmer and mile runner, and I played flanker in the first, third form, rugby team. My resume certainly helped. But eventually I too was ordered down to the Aero Club where third form initiations took place. A large and tough fourth form “Uffindell” had been selected to beat me up.

My assailants did not know that although I would run a hundred miles to avoid a fight, before I left Te Reinga, I had gone to training twice a week with two mates, Kahui and Donald, who were both New Zealand junior boxing champions. Our coach, Mani Mokomoko, had just returned from a year in Vietnam with the New Zealand SAS.

Anyway “Uffindell” and I were tied into boxing gloves. Let the Aero Club action begin. “Uffindell” came at me like a wild thing, swinging fists designed to send me into next week. Without a word of a lie, I was petrified. I stuck out my arm for protection just as “Uffindell” launched his second attack. My outstretched arm hit him flat in the face. He fell to the floor, blood pouring from his clearly broken nose. I undid my gloves and walked away from the bloody scene of my first and only third form bullying event.

And so, I can’t say I was bullied by the older boys at Wellington College. My problem was two boarding school, house masters. I can’t remember their names. One was wire thin with a beaky nose far too big for his face. The other was short and fat and sweated a lot.

Towards the end of my third form year, the short fat one was on duty. It was lights-out time. Now the rules were very clear – no one spoke after lights out. I went to sleep quickly. But was woken and told to get out of bed. Someone had been talking. The whole dorm of 15 was being taken downstairs to be caned. I explained that I’d been asleep. How could they cane me for that? To no avail. The whole dorm was to be punished for the sins of two. And so, I went downstairs and stood at the end of a line of boys awaiting our fate.

By the time my turn came the short fat one’s sweat was beginning to scatter on the green linoleum floor. 14 boys, two strokes each – 28 times he had raised a welt on a third form bum.

“Bend over,” he ordered.

“No”, I said, “I am not going to be beaten by you for being asleep”.

We argued for five minutes, and he said, “Wait here. I’m going to get (beaky) to hold you down”.

As he trotted away, I grabbed the nearby public phone and said one sentence to my grandfather, “I’m in trouble – please come straight away”. Fatty and beaky were soon back, demanding that I bend over. Still, I refused.

“All right,” said fatty, “you hold him down and I’ll do the caning.”

Beaky had just got his arms across my back and was hauling me into position when through the door came my grandfather.

“Get your hands off him,” he roared.

I will never forget the “oh-shit” look on the housemasters’ faces. I was released and the three disappeared into a staff room. Eventually my grandfather emerged and said, “You are coming home with me tonight. We have a meeting with Mr. Heron (the school’s principal) in the morning.”

The meeting was short. My grandfather explained that he had fought through WW1 in the cause of not allowing mass punishments to be inflicted for the crimes of a few. He was not going to tolerate it in his grandson’s New Zealand school.

The next day we drove back to Te Reinga and I began four years in the much friendlier and better Wairoa College.

On two occasions, “Uffindell” types had tried it on. On both occasions they were put in their place. A punch in the nose, a bloody eye is all the “Uffindells” understand. We will soon see if Luxon is man enough to call the bully in his party to account. Anything less than a complete sacking of “Uffindell” and we can add gutless to Luxon’s list of shortcomings.  

BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU ASK FOR

Wednesday, August 10th, 2022

There is an abundance of confused thinking goes on about Swimming New Zealand (SNZ). Three years ago, swimming emerged from a 20-year experiment with centralized “state” control. Three individuals, Cameron, Layton and Cotterill represented the “state” in the form of Sport New Zealand. The sport was funded by the “state”. Elite swimmers’ training schedules were set by “state” employed coaches. And it did not work. International competitive results were a disgrace. The fall in participation numbers and self-generated income was spectacular.    

Three years ago, SNZ finally resolved to return to a decentralised business model. Coaches, clubs and regions would take over responsibility for preparing the country’s best swimmers. Swimming entered a period of individual responsibility. Steve Johns and Gary Francis went to great pains to explain how the transition was going to work. And it has worked. Competitive performances are on their way back. Participation numbers will soon follow.   

But there are many who do not understand what has gone on. They detest socialism when it infringes their freedom to run their own affairs but welcome the “state” when it comes to a government handout.  Remember when the American Lehman Brothers Bank paid millions to entertain and listen to Republican politicians rail against state social welfare but were first in line for state billions when their bank was about to go belly up. Socialism wasn’t so bad then.

In New Zealand Luxon does the same thing. Socialism is terrible when there is a suggestion of getting him to pay tax on the profit on land he has sold. But socialism is fine when he wants to screw a few dollars out of an 18-year-old beneficiary looking for his or her first job.    

Swimming in New Zealand has its share of Luxon and Lehman Brothers look-alikes. The CEO of the Lehman Brothers swim team is the author of the Kiwi Swimming Facebook page. He is forever whinging about SNZ doing this, that and the next thing wrong – until it comes to money. Then he writes, “Lewis Clareburt needs 50m lane space. Every day. Swimming NZ should be funding this and ensuring Clareburt’s coach is sufficiently remunerated and supported.” Clearly, he has forgotten we tried that for twenty years and it didn’t work.

We asked for the freedom to coach our swimmers. We got it and now this “Wall Street” expert wants Tongue, Johns and Francis to pay for it all. I’m afraid individual responsibility doesn’t work that way. Lane space and paying Hollywood are down to you now. There is no coming back to the Granny “state” with your socialist begging bowl in hand. My bet is people like him would never, in a million years, vote for Jacinda. They don’t seem to mind the smell of her money though.

What amazes me is there are followers hanging on his every word. Who are these people? Who is Peter Williams who says?

“While your solution is blunt, I very much like the principle of Athlete First.”

Who is Bronwen Burmester (apart, I imagine, from having something to do with the birth of Moss)? She says,

“Certainly some valid points.”

To which the CEO of the Lehman Brothers swim team modestly replies.

“I get told I make valid points a lot and nothing changes.”

Who is Sonya Short who writes?

“Any sort of funding in NZ seems to have to go through 3-4 levels of ‘management’ first. Why? The funding for swimming is pathetic when you look at other ‘popular’ sports such as cycling etc. Having all these so called pathways just keeps people in jobs.”

And Lynette Hines who says.

“Sounds like there needs to be some big discussions .. and big dollars funding resources and swimmers and their support team .. keep this spirit rolling!!”

To which the CEO of the Lehman Brothers swim team replies.

“No one wants to talk.”

Of course, no one wants to talk. After the string of insults, you have sent their way, what on earth makes you think anyone at SNZ would want to talk to you? If I was Chloe Francis I’d be boiling a pot of coffee to hit you with as you walked through the door.

And finally, the Lehman swim team tea lady, Megan Tohill, grovels to the boss.     

“Absolutely spot on with your comments- totally agree!”

Peter Williams – The only Peter Williams I’ve heard of is the TVNZ broadcaster. I can’t imagine it is him. People of his experience can usually pick a fraud a mile away. Mind you Peter Williams is an outspoken anti-vax fruit loop and a member of the right-wing NZ Taxpayers Union, so it might be him.

Bronwen Burmester – Yes, this must be the mother of Moss. Bronwen is a successful open water swimmer. She might need to cut back a bit. I’ve heard too much seawater does funny things to the brain.

Sonya Short – The only Sonya Short I could find lives in Invercargill. She appears to be anti the civilised world – anti-masks, anti-vaccinations, anti-abortion, anti-Jacinda of course and calls herself a Certified Health Coach. Wow, she sounds like the perfect Kiwi Swimming follower. It is probably a bit soon for Sonya to hold up cycling as a sport to follow – unless of course you are into paying bribes, cheating at the Olympic Games and responsible for the suspected suicide of your members.

Lynette Hines – I could only find one Lynette Hines as well. She has devoted her life to travel – she shifted from Matamata to Tauranga when she got married. She appears to enjoy surf-lifesaving. I guess that involves swimming.

Megan Tohill – Ah, a pool swimmer at last. I imagine this must be the Megan Tohill who swam for New Zealand in the 1982 Commonwealth Games in Brisbane. She should know better than to endorse the Lehman Brothers swim team. But there you go. There is none so strange as folk. Just don’t bring SNZ to its knees again with your right-wing drivel. Not when them with brains are doing a mighty fine job of getting the sport going again.

And so I would say to members of the Lehman Brothers swim team, your job is to manage swimming successfully in your region and not constantly search for salvation in Antares Place, Auckland.

THICK AS PIG SHIT

Sunday, August 7th, 2022

A training teammate of mine, Pru Chapman, swam for New Zealand in the 1968 Mexico City Olympic Games. She swam three events, 100m back, 200m IM and 4 x 100m medley relay. By today’s standards her times were pretty slow – 1.15 for the 100m back and 2.42 for the 200m IM. Pru also taught me the expression, “as thick as pig shit”. I have no doubt that is exactly what she would say about the abuse being written on the Kiwi Swimming Facebook page.  

The stuff written there is not true, it is ignorant, and it is as thick as pig shit. I have no idea how some self-appointed “experts” reach their conclusions. Are they stupid? Perhaps they just don’t know? Perhaps their intention is to be deliberately provocative? Whatever the reason they certainly achieve an unbelievable level of mind-numbing ignorance. I’ve heard of black coffee being used for a similar purpose.

But a journalistic nadir was achieved this week in the Kiwi Swimming Facebook page. 700 words were devoted to tearing Gary Francis apart. I’d sue if Kiwi Swimming hurled half the abuse at me that it directed at Gary Francis. Mind you perhaps Gary doesn’t care. Abuse from that source is without merit.

Comparing Gary to the lunacy of Kiwi Swimming is an insult to Gary. But I’ll do it anyway.  For example:

Sentence one says – “This is the power struggle that some coaches are not happy with”. My guess is that should, more accurately, say, “this is a power struggle that my new bff, Gary Hollywood, is not happy with”. Hollywood needs to be careful. Being mates with New Zealand’s premiere  swimming dingbat is not the best way to progress Lewis Clareburt’s career.

Sentences two to four tell us the stunning news that Gary is a staff member of Swimming New Zealand (SNZ), sets qualifying standards and is a selector of national team swimmers and coaches. Well bugger me, I know Gary’s title, “Targeted Athlete and Coach Programme Manager”, may be a little complicated for the intellectually challenged. But really, being a staff member, selecting New Zealand teams and setting qualifying times seems to fit with his title and are within SNZ’s constitutional duties. Someone balanced and knowledgeable has to do these tasks. Gary has those qualities. Which is more than you can say for his critics.     

Then there is this libellous rubbish – “He was probably involved in backdating the selection criteria to April 2021 for world champs and Commonwealth Games just prior to Nationals 2022 in April cos he was worried that certain swimmers would not qualify at Nationals.” There is the clear inference that Gary cheated to get his favourites into the Games team. Not in a million miles is that true. Gary doesn’t cheat. He has bent the rules when there is a benefit to his country. Look how Lewis Clareburt’s career blossomed as a consequence of Gary’s decision to include him in the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games team. I must have missed Kiwi Swimming’s bitch about that selection.    

Gary’s next cardinal sin, according to Kiwi Swimming, was to be “Team Manager for the world champs”. What’s so bad about that? Gary has been playing or coaching professional and amateur sport since he left high school. He was educated at the world leading sport’s university – Loughborough College and he is not affiliated to any one club (like Jan Cameron was). And from what I’ve heard from a swimmer I had associated with the world championship team it was managed to a standard you would expect from someone with Gary’s resume.

And then, in the greatest libel of all, Kiwi Swimming says this – “He also gave advice to swimmers at worlds like a coach would do, costing at least one swimmer a possible pb”. The inference behind that smear is disgusting. Why doesn’t the spineless author come out and say what he really thinks – Gary was such an intellectual incompetent he went around dishing out advice that hurt the national swim team. My swimmer also got advice from Gary. All of it good, sound stuff. Information that did contribute to Eyad’s string of PBs.   

And then another “bugger-me” moment. According to Kiwi Swimming, – “Any query on selection to the convenor of selectors gets relayed back to one man to answer – Gary Francis”. What is so wrong with that? Gary is on the committee. He is entitled to access the complaints they receive. He is the best placed person to guide the committee. Does Kiwi Swimming really want committee members kept in the dark? Probably, yes, is the answer. Kiwi Swimming has never liked the honesty that comes with fresh air.

We are getting close to the end of Kiwi Swimming’s assassination of Gary Francis. For weeks Kiwi Swimming has been obsessed – to a point where he could be in need of medical intervention – with the fact that in some list Lewis Clareburt was shown as swimming the 200m freestyle, not the 200m butterfly. I have no idea why the mistake occurred. It may have been a simple error – who knows? I’ve done the same thing a million times. It is not unusual. Remember when the NZOC forgot to enter Dame Valerie Adams in the Olympic shot put? In Clareburt’s case the problem was fixed. Clareburt swam and won the 200m fly. But moving on is not what Kiwi Swimming does. He has that cup of coffee and has to pour it over someone.

And as we near the end, Kiwi Swimming tells us – “Francis also decided that relays were not to be swam at Commonwealth Games which could have cost us a medal.” I have no idea why Gary decided to exclude relays. But he did and New Zealand ended up with its most successful Commonwealth Games swimming team in twenty years. Let me think – would I trust Gary to make that judgement or some lunatic with a computer screen in Wellington?   

And finally, finally Kiwi Swimming pleads for New Zealand to understand that “This kind of decision making, quite frankly, cannot continue. What’s Francis going to do next?” My hope is that Gary Francis, Steve Johns and Nick Tongue continue to do exactly what they have done in the past three years. And while they do that, could they improve swimming by suing the pants off Kiwi Swimming and drowning his computer in a hot pot of black coffee?

PS – Gary’s biggest sporting failure isn’t mentioned by Kiwi Swimming. He supports a team in English Football – someone like Sheffield Wednesday – who never win anything. Mind you I support Leeds United, and they are not much better.   

THE WEAKEST LINK

Saturday, August 6th, 2022

There are occasions when plans work out the way they should. Everything fits into place. Sadly, when that happens, too many others want a slice of the action. And many who took part and deserve credit want to overindulge and turn their success into a personal flag tour along Queen Street – a process that usually involves a demand for more money. Then there are the journalists, Facebook experts and commentators desperate to polish their resume – obsessed with rubbing shoulders with the rich and famous. Here is what one of these Sucker Fish had to say.

“Straight after the race David Clareburt messaged me from Birmingham ” 3rd….. bloody rapt for him.”  

And then this ingratiating rubbish.

“Lewis Clareburt needs 50m lane space. Every day. Swimming NZ should be funding this and ensuring Clareburt’s coach is sufficiently remunerated and supported. If they can’t do this, or can’t be bothered getting a paying sponsor, then simply make some staff redundant cos swimmers and coaches are more important than staff working for a national federation.

Swimming NZ has 24 staff. I`d say that they don’t even need 18 – at one point a few years ago they only had 13. Give the money paid to extra staff to Clareburt, his coach Gary Hollywood, and coaches like Lars Humer and Mitch Nairn to support performing swimmers like Erika Fairweather and Andrew Jeffcoat (and Eve Thomas and Cameron Gray for that matter).”

We have witnessed a fair bit of that “hogging the limelight” since New Zealand swimming did well in Birmingham. Lewis Clareburt’s coach, Gary Hollywood was first up, best dressed, as usual. I want a 50m lane permanently dedicated to Lewis’ training. I want a budget of several million dollars to prepare Lewis for the Paris Olympic Games.

New Zealand has to be careful with these demands for preferential treatment. For twenty-five years we lived through a period of privilege and largesse. It did not work then, and it won’t work now. Sure, there should be some benefits for the job all eight swimmers did in Birmingham. But remember these eight are not the final word in New Zealand’s swimming talent. There are others. Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) has responsibility to them as well.

“Full many a gem of purest ray serene,

The dark unfathom’d caves of ocean bear:

Full many a flow’r is born to blush unseen,

And waste its sweetness on the desert air.”

A few years ago, SNZ undertook to decentralise its high-performance programme. Responsibility for the country’s fastest swimmers would rest with coaches, clubs and regions. If Birmingham was the test, the SNZ policy decision was a good one. SNZ’s job is to plan, organise and administer the sport. We ran into trouble when Jan Cameron decided SNZ should do Hollywood’s job.

And Hollywood needs to keep his nose out of SNZ’s business. We can do without Jan Cameron in reverse. Tongue, Johns and Francis are better at policy and administration than Hollywood. His job is to stand on the pool deck guiding his swimmers to swim faster. If he needs more pool space and more money, work it out with his club or region – not SNZ. If someone needs to talk to SNZ that’s the Chairman of the Wellington Region’s job – not Gary Hollywood. Hollywood’s efforts to set SNZ policy will take swimming back to a very dark place.

Of course, the critics are too stupid to understand the importance of maintaining a distinction between policy management and poolside coaching. In their rush to ingratiate themselves with the newly anointed, “Birmingham Eight” they will parrot Hollywood’s demands without a thought for the reactionary consequences. And so, the last ones to trust in a situation like this are Facebook experts. They are the weakest link.

A few years ago, someone in SNZ produced a memo that discussed the importance of the separation of powers. Tongue, Johns and Francis should restrict themselves to policy and administration. Just as important though – Hollywood and others must not interfere in areas that SNZ does better. Hollywood’s job is to coach. It would do the sport well if he focused on that task.

So be careful SNZ, do not be pushed about by Sport New Zealand and do not be pushed by, the enemy from within, coaches, with ideas above their station. Operational tasks are the responsibility of coaches. The decentralised policy SNZ chose three years ago is working better than any of us expected. Do not be distracted by coaches who have no idea how lucky they are or by Sport New Zealand’s obsession for power.

And finally, SNZ and Hollywood need to keep their feet on the ground. The Commonwealth Games’ results are good – a huge step forward. Those involved including SNZ can be truly proud of their progress.

BUT –

The Commonwealth Games are not the Olympics. In fact, of the top 10 Olympic medal winning nations only 2 (Australia and the UK) swim at the Commonwealth Games. The 8 top ten nations who do not swim at the Commonwealth Games have won 62% of all the Olympic swimming gold medals. Of the 57 nations that have won Olympic medals 11 (19%) swim at the Commonwealth Games. The sport has a big task ahead converting Commonwealth performances into Olympic success. Swimming will achieve this best by holding firm to the decentralised policy followed for three years – and not by pandering to the Raelene Castle mob or a coach with an inflated opinion of his or her own importance. It is inappropriate to celebrate an ascent of Everest when you have only reached base camp two.

KNOCKED THE BUGGER OFF

Thursday, August 4th, 2022

A few posts ago you may remember Swimwatch said this.

“But if “worked” means, made progress, then the answer is a very positive yes. Swimming has had a breath of fresh air. It is a better sport, run by better people. It is a happier and safer sport. It is a sport that relies less on the destructive influence of the Castle gang. Its results have a way to go, but they are on their way back. And it is a sport where its members, especially its coaches, can feel valued again. How long will it take for the reforms to work? My guess is at least five maybe six years. We have had two. So be patient we have three or four years to go. If the damage done took 20 years, SNZ will have done really well to repair that in five or six years. But the sport is on its way – big time.”

At the same time the reforms Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) made were subject to endless petty sniping by SNZ critics. According to these experts SNZ couldn’t run a piss-up in Speights’ Brewery. Shock and horror, they said, SNZ had two old tabs that didn’t work on their new website. The Short Course Nationals were only 15 days after the Commonwealth Games. According to this group of Facebook experts – idiots were running the asylum.

And at the Commonwealth Games we have seen SNZ strike back. By their actions and deeds SNZ is exposing the lie of the criticism of its armchair critics. The reforms are working.

So, what are the facts that lead to this conclusion?

·        Three gold medals and two bronze medals from two swimmers in Birmingham – compared to one bronze medal four years ago on the Gold Coast, a gold and silver medal from one swimmer eight years ago in Glasgow, and three silver medals and three bronze medals twelve years ago in Delhi.

·        Every swimmer made a semi-final and/or a final. There is strength and strength in depth.

·        At the time of writing, swimming’s medal result in Birmingham is better than badminton3×3 basketballbeach volleyballboxingcricketdivinggymnasticshockeyjudolawn bowlsnetballrugby sevenssquashtriathlonweightlifting and wrestling

·        But best of all from 49 swims the New Zealand team recorded 12 personal best times (24.5%). Six of the eight swimmers swam at least one personal best time. That is a sign of progress. It says as clear as a bell SNZ is on its way back. The old days, before Sport New Zealand, don’t look so shabby after all.     

·        The team of eight swimmers was coached by eight different club coaches – six spread over the length and breadth of New Zealand and two in Australia. New Zealand coaches can be trusted to deliver. It is also far healthier for the sport than that Cameron, Layton, Cotterill, “let’s do it all in Auckland” rubbish. Grass roots swimming across New Zealand has delivered in Birmingham. The benefit of that to the sport cannot be underestimated, especially in comparison to the elitist product being peddled by the Castle gang.       

SNZ will need to exercise extreme caution on one aspect of what is about to occur. Because swimming is so clearly on the path back, Sport New Zealand will want a slice of the credit. Sport New Zealand can smell success in sport like a great white shark detects the scent of blood.  Sport New Zealand will attempt to buy its way back into the sport. The bribe will be simple – more money.

Castle will say how well the sport has done, but imagine if New Zealand had an Australian, or and American or someone from the UK in Auckland coaching in a centralised pool of their own. Let’s call it Owen Glenn. Then Clareburt could train with Gray, Ouwehand could compete with Gasson. And SNZ would have a million more taxpayer dollars.

Wouldn’t SNZ like to be just like cycling? As though the death of Podmore could be brushed away by the clink of a few gold, silver and bronze trinkets. Like a good door-to-door salesman, Castle will attempt to sell her shoddy product.

For the love of God, SNZ please reject doing a deal with the devil. The Garden of Eden apple was less tainted than Sport New Zealand’s money. Never forget it was Castle’s money that dragged SNZ to its performance knees. Never forget the reforms that have begun CPR on the corpse Sport New Zealand left behind. When swimming needed help the most Sport New Zealand walked away. Without a care in the world Sport New Zealand left a dying corpse to rot. Do not reward them for their treachery. Do not make the Cameron, Layton, Cotterill mistake again – please. As SNZ is offered the Sport New Zealand cash honey trap remember this, “Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it.”

The eight swimmers, their coaches, their clubs, their regions and SNZ at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games have shown us the decentralised path we should follow. Making that same path better and more available to other swimmers should be our guide – not Sport New Zealand’s money or their loony idea of what constitutes good coaching for swimming. Do not be tempted by a modern-day Eve offering her apple of knowledge.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. Take Castle’s money. Grab every penny. Get as much as you can but give her nothing in return. Spend it on improving SNZ’s DECENTRALISED structure.

I’m no great scholar of religion but for SNZ right now a biblical verse does seem appropriate – “Broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

SNZ found it in Birmingham. SNZ is on its way back, using a path that leads to life. And that is the way it should stay.  

To the NZ swim team – as Mohamed Ali said

“You done splendid”