Swimming Australia Considers Restructuring Its High-Performance Department
Swimming Australia "may not appoint a full-time head coach to replace the departing Leigh Nugent as it considers restructuring its high-performance department," according to Nicole Jeffery of THE AUSTRALIAN. Organization President Barclay Nettlefold announced Wednesday that Nugent "had stood down from the role in the wake of the troubled London Olympic campaign and that an interim head coach would be appointed to oversee the national team selection at the national trials, starting in Adelaide on April 26." However, it is known that the body "is considering a new high-performance structure that would see separate male and female head coaches reporting to a high-performance director," the model that the world No. 1-ranked U.S. team favors. Given the tensions that have emerged within the Australian team over claims that some members of the men's 4x100m freestyle relay team behaved inappropriately with female teammates on their infamous "bonding night," the concept of two head coaches "could be an attractive proposition." Nettlefold said reports that Nugent had been sacked were "categorically wrong." Nettlefold said, "Leigh actually approached us to discuss his future and where he would best fit into the new structure of the high-performance unit. In those discussions it soon became very clear that while he still wanted to remain involved in the sport, he didn't want to continue in the position of head coach" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 3/21).
THE REPLACEMENTS: In Sydney, Andrew Webster reported Stephanie Rice's coach Michael Bohl and former head swimming coach Alan Thompson -- who Nugent replaced in '09 and now works at the Bulldogs -- "were being touted as possible replacements." Thompson said, "I'm very happy at the Bulldogs but you never say never. I really believe swimming needs some strong leadership, and quickly. I can't say I'm interested because I haven't been asked the question, but I would never say never." Nettlefold also confirmed that Hockey Australia boss Mark Anderson's appointment as CEO would be finalized next week (DAILY TELEGRAPH, 3/21).
TAKING OFFENSE: Also in Sydney, Greg Baum reported infuriated by the Australian Sports Commission's threat to slash A$2M ($2.1M) from swimming's funding if it does not measure up to new guidelines, former Swimming Australia Dir Lawrie Cox said that swimming "was hailed by the by the Australian Sports Commission as a well-run, accountable and progressive sport." Cox said, "I'm damned if I'm going to sit back and cop this character assassination. The sports commission used us as a model, time and time again. They said our structure was great. Now, all of a sudden, we're the worst in the world. I take total offense that our sport has been characterized as being one of the major offenders." ASC Chair John Wylie announced that Australia's seven biggest publicly funded sports stood to lose 20% of their funding unless they "improved governance and accountability in the next 12 months." Cox said the Smith report was an exercise in word processing, devoid of fact, "garbage in, garbage out" (SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 3/20).