Archive for July, 2022


Wednesday, July 27th, 2022

Christopher Luxon, who leads the New Zealand National Party and wants to be Prime Minister, is turning into a liability for them at 100mph. The National Party sure can pick them. Simon Bridges was the best, until he decided playing a lead role in a Broadway comedy was not for him. National then experimented with Todd Muller and Judith Collins.

Some of their routines were brilliant. Remember the classic line from Muller’s first speech, “When I first joined the Labour Party.” The wardrobe department then designed his office. The central location of his MAGA Trump cap was perfect. Only a Nazi flag could have been more inappropriate.

And as for Crusher Collins on her knees praying in an east Auckland church. My guess is God found creating heaven and earth easier that that conversation.

“And God, if you don’t get me to beat that Jacinda women, things will not go well for you when we meet at the Pearly Gates.”

Then National settled on Luxon. Praying from the “Upper Room” sect, God obviously got Luxon’s request ahead of Crusher Collins.

Luxon – just the guy National needed. High powered executive from Air New Zealand. Family holidays in Hawaii. Seven houses. A company car and driver to get him 200m from home to the office. All the things National looks for in a leader.

Fortunately, for New Zealand Luxon and National have not been able to avoid their comedy roots.

First, Luxon admitted he had been part of the mob attending Ted Cruz rallies in the United States. I was disappointed the wardrobe department didn’t find him a Confederate Flag. I wonder if Luxon cheered – or perhaps did a mini haka – when Cruz revealed he defended the Texas decision to renege on a legal settlement to provide funding for the healthcare of poor children. The Supreme Court unanimously voted against Cruz, citing the precedent of “Come on, it’s Ted Cruz.” New Zealand is not far away from, “Come on, it’s Chris Luxon.”

Serious subjects like the right to abortion are not normally the subject of comedy. That is until Luxon gets hold of the topic by announcing that  abortion is “tantamount to murder” and follows it up with a claim that he does not want to comment on women who choose to get an abortion. That was ironic comedy at its best, “She committed murder but I’m not going to say whether she is a murderer” – a line designed to attract every female voter in the country.   

And then there is the holiday to Hawaii. Remember when Luxon’s poster boy, Ted Cruz, went to Cancun on holiday in the middle of serious Texas storms. Cruz tried to sneak out and back into the United States, blaming his children for needing their dad.

Well, Luxon had to go one better. What about taking the family’s annual $20,000 holiday to Hawaii when your country is drowning from record storms and, while you sip an ice-cold pineapple margarita and stretch out on Sunset Beach, post a Facebook clip telling New Zealand you are hard at work picking kiwi fruit in Te Puke? Wow, that sounds like a good idea. Lie to the country. They should all vote for you then.

In his own words he said, “Today I’m in Te Puke, the heart of kiwifruit country, and what a great morning we’ve had today.” My guess is the “great morning we’ve had today” is right.

Doesn’t Mrs. Luxon look stunning – well protected from the tropical sun in a brown 1930’s swimsuit with “Conversion Therapy” printed on the bum and a MAGA cap borrowed from Muller for five days.   

And, when Luxon was caught, “I went to Hawaii with my family, as I tend to do in July,” he said. “As I tend to do in July.” What an arrogant piece of work. He takes a holiday that costs more than many New Zealanders earn in a year, lies about it and tells us it is a normal July jaunt. What is next – the Aspen ski break, a London musical, or a week in Cancun with his mate from the United States – “as you tend to do”.

Act one of the Luxon comedy happened before he became a politician. Air New Zealand ran into trouble when it was revealed their workshops were repairing the turbines on Saudi Navy vessels. These were the same ships that were killing thousands of Yemeni children. Journalists asked Luxon to please explain. Was it right for his company to improve the killing ability of Saudi ships? Luxon’s reply was classic.

“Oh, I’m not sure whether I remember that.” He could well have trouble at the Pearly Gates for that reply

You mean the CEO who does not know about a multi-million-dollar Saudi military order. What a pack of lies. Or perhaps I’m wrong. Luxon may not have known. Perhaps the order was placed in July. He could have been in Hawaii – “as you tend to do”.

The parade of National comics is getting better all the time. By New Zealand’s 2023 election, who knows what Luxon will be doing. Sitting in a recently repaired Saudi tank, outside an abortion clinic, waving a “vote for Cruz” poster and eating kiwi fruit picked during his recent trip to Hawaii. You believe it. It might just happen.  


Tuesday, 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.      


Monday, 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.


Sunday, 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.


Friday, 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”.