Will the Kookaburras Pay the Price for A Lack of Planning?

July 7, 2014 at 11:19 am Leave a comment

The application date for the coaching position of the Australian men’s hockey team closes in less than 24 hours and then the rumours will commence as to who has applied, and who is likely to be given the role.

One thing that has baffled many in Hockey circles is the fact that Hockey Australia have in fact advertised the position. Surely with Ric Charlesworth’s tenure due to come to a close after the Commonwealth Games the powers that be would have had a plan in place should he decide to step aside, which he ultimately did. Why was there no succession plan? One would have expected a “Plan B”  to be in place that would have included a shortlist of candidates who they believed were ideal to follow Charlesworth and ensure the team maintain its lofty standards.

When it was announced that Charlesworth was to step down after the Commonwealth Games – an event that was brought forward – reading between the lines of comments made by Hockey Australia CEO Cam Vale there was a strong indication that the next coach may well be one from Overseas. “The brief I have from the board is to find the best coach possible,” Vale is quoted as saying.”And I would imagine we will get a fair bit of interest – they are world No.1 and World Cup champions.”

The timing of all of this is not the best, and neither it would appear has been the handling of the affair. Graham Reid and Paul Gaudoin, Charlesworth’s assistants have been appointed joint Head Coaches for the Commonwealth Games. To appoint joint coaches for the Commonwealth Games was in many ways a cop out, and has been viewed as a lack of strong leadership. Although understandable, it is not an ideal position for either coach or the players. Both men who undoubtedly applied for the role will be hampered by the fact that both operate in very different ways, that was fine when Charlesworth was coach, as ultimately he had the final word, but who has the final word now?

Unfortunately unless a decision is made extremely quickly speculation is going to be rife while the Commonwealth Games are under way as to who will get the job on a permanent basis, who has been interviewed, etcetera. All things that could derail the Kookaburras campaign.

The Kookaburras are strong favourites to win the Gold medal at the Commonwealth Games having just won the World Cup so emphatically, but the leadership issue is one that cannot be ignored and they will still have to perform to take Gold. Keeping the team focussed unders such conditions with many senior players announcing their retirement may be harder than many imagine. England are a much improved team, as are the Colin Batch led New Zealand side; a man who will be keen to show his coaching prowess against his former team.

Following Charlesworth is going to be hard, ask David Moyes how hard it is to follow a legend. There will be many ambitious coaches who will look at the talent and style that Australia play and see the chance to make a name for themselves, yet they may be unaware of how Charlesworth lived, breathed and ate hockey, in order to attain success. Coaches with such dedication are few and far between and that was what made Charlesworth special.

There is a strong argument that his successor should come from that inner circle, as they will know exactly what went into the success of the past five years and will simply carry on the good work, but in their own style. To go outside of Australia, when the country has had so much success in the past 30 years, would seem needless, but sometimes administrators like to make a statement of their own.

Whatever the outcome there is a strong belief that this could have been planned and handled better than it has been, and that Hockey Australia was not working in the background lining up a replacement for the day when Charlesworth walked away, until that day finally came. Hopefully that will not ultimately affect the team’s performance.



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