The problem with much of the media reporting of issues affecting sport in New Zealand is what they report is rubbish. The impression is that most sport’s reporters got as far as their high school first-15 or first netball team and failed to make the grade in open competition. And so, they decided to write about it instead. I suspect the Ruapehu College yearbook was the first recipient of their sporting wisdom. Things have not improved since.

For example, I have just read a Stuff report written by Marvin France. He discusses the success of Cameron Norrie. As you may know Norrie learned his tennis in New Zealand but in 2013 left to play for the United Kingdom. He has recently won the Indian Wells Masters, otherwise known as tennis’ “fifth major”. Norrie is another one that got away. France discusses how Tennis New Zealand (TNZ) let this happen and what should have been done to avoid the loss.

France’s misunderstanding of New Zealand sport is demonstrated early. His third paragraph says:

“But the 26-year-old could have easily been flying the Kiwi flag had he received more support by those running Tennis NZ”

No, no, no – the problem is not that Norrie needed more support from TNZ. Norrie’s problem was that he had too much “support”. So much in fact that it shifted from support to interference. Time has proven that Norrie, his parents, and a Tennis Auckland coach called Greenhalgh knew exactly what Norrie needed but TNZ had to interfere.

It is the Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) story all over again. For example, instead of letting Lauren Boyle and Coach Mark Regan get on with her career, SNZ insisted she change coach to David Lyles. That was not a case of needing more support. That was interference. In desperation Boyle fled to Australia. Ironically Steve Johns was the boss of TNZ when Norrie left from Auckland Airport and is the current boss of SNZ. Johns was reported to have said about his time at TNZ, “I am proud of what I have achieved during my time at Tennis NZ.”

As things have turned out those achievements now include losing the sport’s best asset. Not that the loss of Norrie was Johns’ fault. He was the one responsible for implementing policies imposed by Peter Miskimmin and, in the case of SNZ, Bruce Cotterill. And in tennis those policies involved interfering in Norrie’s career – a subject at which Miskimmin’s policies proved amazingly inept.

The same policies caused Boyle to leave. The same policies, in my opinion, caused the death of a fine New Zealand cyclist. Norrie, Boyle and Podmore – how bad does the destruction have to get before Sport New Zealand understands its crimes against New Zealand sport. What the East Germans did with a needle, High Performance Sport New Zealand (HPSNZ) does with a cheque book.    

So, what should TNZ have done?

TNZ should have gone along with Norrie’s plans. Their job was to facilitate what Norrie, his parents and Coach Greenhalgh wanted. It was not for TNZ to plan, implement or control Norrie’s progress. Norrie was ranked No.10 junior in the world. He had shown that those around him knew what they were doing. Steve Johns’ job was to find out what Norrie wanted and help him get it. If it was a Big Mac for breakfast, lunch and dinner, Johns’ car should have had McDonalds as it first daily stop.

But oh no, the guy is 10th junior in the world and Miskimmin’s policies enabled some arrogant jerk in TNZ to tell Norrie he would never be any good. Bloody unbelievable. I just hope Steve Johns and his SNZ Board have learned their lesson. The last thing Clareburt and Hollywood and Fairweather and Humer need is more interference from SNZ. They have more than proven they know what they are doing. SNZ’s job is to find out what the four of them want. Get it for them and then get well out of their way. The less SNZ get involved, the better everyone will be.

At the conclusion of France’s article Norrie’s father, David says: “Unless there is a significant funding boost, David Norrie does not see it getting any easier.” I disagree with that. Money is not the problem. SNZ had $26million and won nothing. It is how you spend the money that matters. And for the answer to that do not ask Steve Johns or Gary Francis. Give Holywood or Clareburt or Humer or Fairweather a call. They might need a Big Mac. But whatever they want has nothing to do with SNZ. Just get into your car and go get it for them.

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