July 26th, 2022

Three months ago, I undertook to never mention the Facebook page Kiwi Swimming again. And now I am going to break that promise. Because sometimes the terrible rubbish people write has the potential to cause actual harm – to make the sport unsafe. This is one of those occasions. Sixteen hours ago, Kiwi Swimming published an article ripping into Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) for scheduling the New Zealand Short Course Championships 15 days after the end of the Commonwealth Games. Swimmers will not be able to peak for the Nationals, the website screams. It is, the website says, a “most inconvenient time”. The tirade ends with a desperate, “what a mess this all is”.

Now I have no interest in what the author of Kiwi Swimming thinks or knows about swimming or sport in general. But what I do care about is athletes and their parents being misled by this trash. And so, let me give you some examples of runners and swimmers who have competed again a few days after peaking for a major event. It is a concept Kiwi Swimming has never heard of, called taking advantage of your peak.

·        Peter Snell did a tour of the UK to race immediately after the 1960 Rome Olympic Games. If I remember correctly his 800m victory at White City was the world’s fastest time that year.   

·        Peter Snell came back from winning the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games and ran a mile race shortly after arriving home against the second and third Tokyo runners, Odložil and Davies. Snell won the race in a new world record.

·        John Walker left Montreal immediately after his 1976 Olympic 1500m win and beginning 5 days later ran a fast race in Philadelphia, followed by Stockholm, West Berlin, Gateshead, Cologne and London, before coming back to New Zealand. Rod Dixon followed the same schedule.

·        My wife Alison ran the final of the 1978 Commonwealth Games 1500m and a week later in London ran a PB 3000m in the British Women’s Championships.

·        My daughter Jane won the 2001 NZ Open SC Championship in Rotorua. Two weeks later she set a NZ Open SC 200m breaststroke record in Waipukurau and a week later swam in the World Cup finals in Melbourne.

·        After the 2012 London Olympic Games Michael Phelps raced again 21 days later in the United States. He swam 1.48.41 for the LCM 200m freestyle and 1.55.32 for the LCM 200m fly.  

·        Dozens of Commonwealth athletes have been competing this week in the 2022 World Track and Field Championships – including Muir (3rd 1500m), Wightman (1st 1500m), Hodgkinson (2nd 800m) and Walsh (4th shot put). They are all on an airplane right now heading to the UK to back-up at the Commonwealth Games in about 15 days’ time.

All those examples are called taking advantage of your peak. So, you can see the rubbish Kiwi Swimming is feeding swimmers and their parents. I guess we can make a decision – believe the 62 years’ experience of Snell, Walker, Alison, Jane, Phelps and Walsh or the tripe dished out by the author of a website who clearly knows nothing about the product.

You wouldn’t call a roading worker to put out a house fire. So it might be better not to read too much into Kiwi Swimming’s racing opinions.

Oh, and to the Commonwealth swimmers entered in the 2022 SC National Championships, swim fast. You should go well. You see, it’s called taking advantage of your peak.

And finally, well done SNZ and Gary Francis for perfectly scheduling the SC Nationals and World Championship trials an ideal 15 days after the Commonwealth Games. Clearly SNZ and Francis know what works which is a country mile more than can be said about at least one of their critics.      


July 25th, 2022

In a post such as this I want to focus on the positives. Because there is much to be positive about. By way of comparison, I will occasionally refer to Swimming New Zealand’s (SNZ) two decades of darkness. But the important period of SNZ’s history is what has happened in the last two years.

The Change

Two years ago, SNZ announced it had employed Gary Francis and was closing the sport’s centralised training programme. They were two stunningly important decisions. We could argue all night about whether SNZ made the decision to change because it saw decentralisation as a better way or because SNZ ran out of Sport New Zealand money to finance its failed experiment into centralised power.

Personally, I believe SNZ ran out of Sport New Zealand money. Sport New Zealand had slashed its SNZ annual grant from $2million to $800,000. SNZ could no longer afford the largesse of three National Coaches and their assistants, two pools, two sets of cars and on and on.

However, and this is critical, the reason the decision was made is irrelevant. It does not matter. The decision was made, and it was a good one. Whether SNZ was a visionary and saw a better way or simply reacted to the prospect of insolvency is immaterial. Good people decided to try a different and better path. A path that effectively abandoned 20 years of oppressive rule by Sport New Zealand.

What did the Change Mean?

SNZ voted against its coach in Auckland being the “best” and all other coaches secondary feeder coaches into the central programme. Remember SNZ’s website ads that used to say, “Come train in Auckland with the best.”  

SNZ voted for a team of coaches from Bluff to Kaitaia and beyond being responsible for the quality of NZ swimming.

SNZ voted against the privileged treatment of a few swimmers coached by a SNZ employed coach. Remember when SNZ built a stage on the pool deck at the Nationals for their swimmers to sit above all others.

SNZ voted for swimmers, no matter where they lived or who their coach was, to be treated equally.

SNZ voted against the culture that had Jan Cameron calling Commonwealth Game’s team meetings that excluded swimmers not in her centralised programme.

SNZ voted to include all selected swimmers from anywhere in the world, and even some like Eyad who swam for the Refugee Team.

SNZ voted against the policy that SNZ knew what was best for every swimmer.

SNZ voted for a policy where every swimmer, every club and every region had to get involved in the management of the sport and its members.

SNZ voted against the nanny state.

SNZ voted for diversified shared responsibility.

Has the Change Worked?

It depends on what you mean by “worked”. Has the change made two years ago come to full fruition? Has it produced its end result? No is the answer. Not by a long way. But remember this, it took 20 years for Cameron, Layton and Cotterill to bring swimming to its knees. It is going to take longer than two years to repair that damage.

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.

Are there outstanding Reforms?

Yes, three big ones.

·        Get rid of the three Sport NZ appointed seats on the SNZ Board. All board members should be elected. McKee should stay but should be elected, not appointed by an edict from the Castle.

·        Invite the Council of Trade Unions to form a member’s Swimming Trade Union and push to have it expanded to other sports.

·        Publish a SNZ policy in line with the FINA transgender policy document.

And as for the Critics

Pay them no attention. Most of them were not around five minutes ago. Most will be gone in five minutes time. And, in case you haven’t noticed, most of them know bugger-all about swimming. No one is saying the sport is perfect. Certainly not. But has it changed? Is it making progress? Is it a safe and happy place to be? You bet your life to all those questions. And if any critic says otherwise, feed him or her to a hungry Jan Cameron.  


And so, congratulations to Nick Tongue, Steve Johns, Gary Francis, Amanda White and the other guys in the Millennium office. SNZ has turned a corner and is heading in a good direction. In my view you can be genuinely proud of the progress made in the last two years. Oh and a special mention to Chloe Francis. The more the critics line up to have a crack, the more positive your contribution. Well done to you and those who work with you.


July 24th, 2022

New Zealand sport seems to have spent the last two weeks caught between two used car dealers hell bent on selling their beaten-up Lada as a McLaren 570S. Their names are Raelene Castle, the boss of Sport New Zealand and Ian Foster, the All Black’s Head Coach.

I see Ian Foster began his second press conference after losing the Wellington test and the series to Ireland, with the claim he had never considered standing down. What a low life, bottom feeding, creep. He has the worst coaching record in the professional era, his team had just fallen to fourth in the world, and he never considered resignation? In my opinion that not only makes him a terrible coach, but a spineless person. What happened to words like character, honesty and integrity? I swear if the great hand of God was to go down as far as it could and lift Foster up as high as it could, he still would not reach the bottom. His players will have picked Foster’s character failings. They will be playing for All Black pride. I doubt they will ever play for their coach. With a flawed low life in charge The All Blacks are doomed.     

Two weeks ago, I wrote this about Ian Foster.

“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.

Now the New Zealand Rugby Union has made its announcement. Sadly, it’s more of the same old, same old. Foster will coach – I use the word in the loosest possible sense – the team in the two tests against South Africa, two against Argentina and two against Australia.

So, what does that decision tell us about the All Black’s prospects?

Well, it tells us a heap about their coach, Ian Foster. Without a shred of dignity Emperor Foster will ride into Johannesburg with only the NZ Rugby Union believing he is dressed for the occasion. The desperate way he has held onto power is no way to take on the Springboks. Any coach with an ounce of self-respect would have resigned 5 minutes after the third Irish test. Now Foster’s departure is going to be long, drawn-out and painful.

It tells us the NZ Rugby Union, advised by an aged Sir Graham Henry, promoted Foster beyond his level of competence. There are 5 levels of competence

·        Minimal

·        Basic

·        Intermediate

·        Advanced

·        Expert    

Although we can safely say Foster’s coaching ability is Advanced, his time as coach of the Chiefs showed that was stretching his coaching competence to the limit and possibly beyond – 8 seasons (2004-11). 106 games, 53 wins, 48 losses, 5 draws. Win rate: 50%. At the Chiefs Foster demonstrated that even Super Rugby was probably a step too far. Fosters coaching ability is more suited to coaching a good provincial team. Bay of Plenty or Waikato provinces are where Foster should be. That is his coaching level of competence.

By comparison Razor’s record at the Crusaders is 6 seasons (2017-): 101 games, 86 wins, 13 losses, 2 draws. Win rate: 85.1%. Foster is not even close.

And yet NZ Rugby stick with the loser. The problem is the All Blacks need a coaching Expert. And that is not Ian Foster. The NZ Rugby Union has promoted Foster beyond his level of competence.

The decision to retain Foster suggests the All Blacks will struggle through the next six tests. Here is what I pick for Foster’s next few weeks.

·        The All Blacks will lose both tests to South Africa.

·        They will share the test series one-all with Argentina.

·        They will lose both tests against Australia. Rennie will inflict the final cut to this wounded animal. And he will do it at Eden Park.       

At the end of all that Foster’s 2022 record (including Ireland will be 2 wins and 7 losses) 22%. Perhaps that might be bad enough for the NZ Rugby Union to see their Emperor has no clothes.

And finally, the World Cup with Foster as coach. New Zealand will not do well. I support the current World Rankings – ignoring the effect of the draw.

France will win the A final against Ireland.

South Africa will win the B final against the All Blacks.

New Zealand will be fourth in a competition the players are certainly capable of winning. But therein lies the difference a coach can make. And sadly, it is so predictable, so avoidable. One call to Christchurch and New Zealand would have a chance.

No post predicting New Zealand rugby results would be complete without including the women’s Black Ferns. They will win their World Cup. “But” I hear you say, “What about the northern tour? It was a disaster.” And I agree it was not pretty. However, in that instance the NZ Rugby Union immediately replaced the coach. And therein lies the difference a coach can make. Smith can coach. His level of competence is in the Expert range. And his players know it and will respond.

In fact, New Zealand has an abundance of coaches in the Expert area of competence – Razor, Schmidt, Gatland, Joseph, Rennie, McDonald and a few others. But not Foster, as the NZ Rugby Union and Sir Graham Henry are about to find out.


July 22nd, 2022

The more I think about it the worse it gets. That tripe Raelene Castle served up yesterday as her response to the death of Olivia Podmore. What did Castle come up with as her best shot at ensuring Podmore did not die for nothing? Two committees, a women’s health person and a better computer – is her answer. Well, that is not nearly enough – not by half it is not.

Yesterday’s charade screamed of, “We can fix ourselves. We can fix ourselves. Leave it to us. We will form two committees, hire a health person and buy a bigger computer – oh, and we will call all that a 10-point action plan”.

Castle’s organisation financed the killing of a fine New Zealand sporting talent. Two committees, a health person and a bigger computer isn’t going to fix that. Castle and HPSNZ are clinging onto their now deadly power. Their every action is aimed at self-preservation. Their committees, their health recruit and their computer are not protecting the next Olivia Podmore. Yesterday’s farce was all about building a Siegfried Line of defense around Raelene Castle and her overpaid minions.  

It is critical for sport to be clear about what is and isn’t acceptable conduct. Castle’s conduct has not been acceptable. She didn’t ramraid a jewellery store. Castle’s organisation smashed a person. She needs to be punished for that. Perhaps not personally, but her organisation has demonstrated they cannot manage the responsibility of the power they have gathered. For that their wings need to be clipped.

Only when I see that happen will I acknowledge Olivia Podmore’s memory has made a material difference. Three “action plan” points must happen.

·        Abandon the centralised training policy.

·        Introduce fully democratic board elections

·        Negotiate to form a “real” trade union affiliated to the NZ Council of Trade Unions.

But two committees, a health recruit and a new computer do not get anywhere near those sorts of reform. Changes as a result of the travesty of Podmore, Fisher, Thompson and others have to reduce HPSNZ’s power – not increase the empire like this 10-point sham attempts to do.

You see, the natural reaction of every dictator is to use problems as an opportunity to increase power. In Sri Lanka, the Prime Minister has a problem, so he makes himself President. In Russia, Putin takes over Crimea and now he wants Ukraine. Hitler wanted Poland and then the rest of Europe. Castle, on a far more modest level, has the same instincts. How can I use this set of circumstances to increase my empire, to make me more powerful?

Castle has no understanding that it was her army that invaded Podmore. It is her army that needs to get out of sport’s way. But, oh no, her Putinesque reaction is, “Give me a bigger army, give me more power and I will fix the “Podmore Problem” – because yes, that’s the way she sees it – as a problem and an opportunity..

With Castle in charge, New Zealand sport has a problem all right, and it is not Olivia Podmore. Sport New Zealand and HPSNZ are going to get bigger and bigger. Power is going to become more and more centralised. The very lifeblood of what made New Zealand sport punch above its weight is going to be sucked dry. The entrepreneurial spirit that gave us Jelley and Lydiard and Podmore and Fisher is being crushed by Raelene Castle.

In World War 2 British and American troops invaded Germany while singing the song, “We’re Going to Hang out the Washing on the Siegfried Line”. New Zealand needs a bit of that spirit to liberate sport from our version of a dictatorship. Especially when the best Castle can do is produce this 10-point bucket of swill. Sport in New Zealand is in a dark place just now. Cutting back on Castle’s power is the solution. To quote another World War 2 song, “There will be fun and laughter and peace ever after” when her ruinous presence is “blown away”.


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.”