Here we go again. Another good guy being hung out to dry by overpaid self-important fat cats in New Zealand’s sporting Head Office. What is it the media don’t understand? It is not actually those that manage the sports that are to blame. It is Sport New Zealand’s money and the influence of Sport New Zealand and High Performance Sport New Zealand (HPSNZ) bureaucrats that are destroying the moral fabric of sport.

This website has said many times – the buck stops with Raelene Castle and, before her, Peter Miskimmin.

Everything either of them touch turns to custard. Three of the biggest recipients of their charity have been Rowing ($5.1million in 2020), Cycling ($4.4million in 2020) and Canoe Racing ($1.9million in 2020). Think about that for a second. In one year, Castle handed over $11.4million to three sports. And what did Castle get for her flippant waste of our money – because its source is our taxes. How’s this for a list.


A toxic environment that probably caused the death of Olivia Podmore.

The resignation of their Head Coach, their CEO, their High Performance Director and their Sprint Coach. I used to think swimming was bad with 13 Head Coaches in 15 years. That was before I watched the chaos Castle and her money were about to unleash on Cycling. Would the last person leaving the velodrome that Castle built please turn out the lights?

Payment of what looks like a $20,000 bribe to buy Podmore’s silence. If that, as it appears to be, is true, it is the behaviour we expect out of Somalia, South Sudan and Syria. But no, in this case the ironically named Grassroots Trust Velodrome, in leafy Cambridge, was the drop-off point for Sport New Zealand’s hush money.

Yet another inquiry. They say the only ones getting rich out of all this are inquiry lawyers. That is not entirely true. Castle isn’t on fish-n-chip dinners yet. But the lawyers must be loving this chaos.

Well done Castle – one death, four resignations, an alleged bribe and two inquiries. Seems like a good way to run a sport’s team. And all it cost was $4.4million a year.


Compared to cycling, rowing has been fairly quiet recently. They haven’t been caught threatening New Zealanders who dare to use their sport to pay for an American University education. I have not even heard of rowing banning from selection any female rower who wants to spend some time working in Europe for the IOC. Even the almost annual inquiries into charity’s fraud or false grant applications seem to have slowed down.

Like all castles, Castles rowing’s real strength is losing their best staff. They even lost Dick Tonks who had been coaching rowing in NZ for 20 years. His rowers won more medals than any other coach in the sport’s history. But he couldn’t stand Sport New Zealand and went off to coach in Canada.         

Canoe Racing

Even Canoe Racing NZ has not found a repellent to ward off the Castle scourge. Their latest scandal involves a concerted effort to expel double Olympic Gold Medallist, Alan Thompson. Canoeing is holding a SGM in December to see if they can get New Zealand’s 16 canoe clubs to throw Thompson out of the sport.

I don’t know Alan Thompson. But I come from Gisborne and know many guys who do know him. Alan and I also swam for the same swimming club and for the same coach. These are people whose views I respect. Respect a lot more than Castle.

Sure, Alan is old school. So am I. So was Tonks. So was Lydiard. So was Laing. But that canoeing stuff about a “safe environment for all athletes that participate in canoe racing and CRNZ activities”.as though Alan Thompson was an East Coast Ted Bundy is a straight out CRNZ vendetta.

For years Alan Thompson has called out bureaucratic waste. For years he has been an anti-establishment voice. But I tell you what, Podmore would not have died under Alan Thompson’s watch. She did die when Castle was in charge. It would pay the 16 canoeing clubs in New Zealand to remember that and vote to keep one of New Zealand’s good guys in their sport.

If Canoe Racing NZ can get rid of Alan Thompson when he calls them to account, will anybody ever be able to voice their concerns without Sport New Zealand paying whatever it takes to silence a critic.

The canoeing clubs should also be aware that the QC who investigated Alan, Victoria Casey, says on her website, “Independent investigation on instructions from the High Performance Sport NZ”. In my opinion she clearly has no idea what she is talking about. Any investigation “on instructions from the High Performance Sport NZ” is NOT by definition independent. HPSNZ paid Canoe Racing NZ $1.9million last year. In my opinion it is far more likely that HPSNZ hired Victoria Casey to look after their interests and like a well-trained puppy-dog that is what she has done. Sport New Zealand and Canoe Racing NZ wanted to get rid of a troublemaker and paid Casey to provide the bullets for their firing squad.

It is another set-up just like the Podmore $20,000 was a set-up. I just hope there are at least nine decent canoe clubs in New Zealand who recognize graft when they see it and keep one of their more valuable assets in the canoeing fold.

PS – I have a daughter who swam for New Zealand. If I was unable to go on an overseas trip with her, there was only one person I would trust to take her away – Duncan Laing. You can add a second name to that list – Alan Thompson.

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