The Kookaburras head off to the World Cup in The Hague next week and the Hockeyroos have already left.
The tournament will be Kookaburras and former Hockeyroos coach Ric Charlesworth’s penultimate challenge as coach. After the Commonwealth Games the curtain will come down on what has been a lifetimes of involvement in the game for Charlesworth, and one wonders how the game will cope without him. His influence has been far greater than many will realize, not only in Australia but across the world of hockey.
His departure may also witness a major change for the game in Australia. For a long time eyebrows have been raised as to why the elite AIS Hockey program is run in Perth yet Hockey Australia bases its administration on the East coast of the country. It has been branded a simple case of ‘vanity’ by some close to the game, that it would not look good to have a sport’s head quarters based in Perth, the most isolated city in Australia. Funnily enough in the 1990’s Qantas were told that they could save millions of dollars a year by making a similar move, but senior management refused to move. With hindsight one has to wonder now whether that was the right decision? So maybe this accusation is not so far off the mark.
It does seem a strange way to operate. With so many parts of the game linked to the elite teams and players one would have thought the administration would want to have closer ties on a day to day basis.
No doubt many hockey fans will remember in 2008 There was a move to relocate the AIS base back over East. It never happened and the WA government of the day claimed the credit but many believe it was the coaching hierarchy that in fact had the greatest influence over the decision.
There are now many changes since 2008 Firstly the money that went to the AIS and was handed down to the players is now given to the players by Hockey Australia. Unfortunately many of the players have since found that their scholarship funding has gone down. That is not good news when you are living in Australia’s most expensive city. As one national player stated it has now become very difficult to live in Perth and pursue his Hockey career and support a family. In fact he said without the Hockey India League and the money received from playing in this competition he may have to turn his back on the game he loves.
These facts and the timing of Charlesworth’s departure as head coach may be seen as the ideal opportunity to once again look at relocating the elite hockey program back onto the East coast. Word is that this is at present being seriously considered.
If however Hockey Australia are looking at locating it in any other state other than Victoria where they are based one has to ask, why? If they do so surely they are simply recreating the same situation but in another State?
Then again, if another State is prepared to throw money at the Hockey program because they can see the benefits of international tournaments being held regularly in their State, then Hockey Australia may ignore the practical side and look at the financial benefits. Especially with sponsorship dollars so hard o come by.
Sadly States bidding against each other for such a position is ultimately detrimental to sport as a whole. We are supposed to be one country pulling together for the common good, so therefore a more united approach may in fact be of greater benefit to the game and the national teams male and female.
It will be interesting to see how this situation plays out and how the potential new Australian coaches feel about the location of the program they will be given the responsibility to run.
Some close to the game feel that this may be another reason why the next coach will come from overseas, as they will be more open to such a move. However looking at the panel to select the new coach there are a lot of traditional Hockey people involved in the process, and one feels they may want to keep the game in Australian hands for the tie being.
No doubt there are interesting times ahead.