Australian hockey legend Ric Charlesworth has weighed into the Hockeyroos dramas, saying even he encountered “loud voices that do not reflect the team’s will or wishes” during his time as coach.
The elite women’s hockey set-up in Australia is mired in controversy following years of discontent and allegations of bullying, with Hockey Australia recently launching an independent inquiry into the matter.
The shock axing of star goalkeeper Rachael Lynch and former captain Georgina Morgan last week brought matters to a head, with about half the player group considering strike action.
Lynch and Morgan are appealing their axings.
Much of the criticism levelled at Hockey Australia management has been directed at high-performance director Toni Cumpston, while Hockeyroos coach Paul Gaudoin has also been in the firing line.
But it seems player discontent issues are nothing new, with Charlesworth even encountering pockets of resistance during the golden era of Australian women’s hockey in the 1990s.
Charlesworth led the Hockeyroos to Olympic gold in 1996 and 2000, and said things didn’t always run smoothly.
The master coach wrote to Hockey Australia chief executive Matt Favier over the weekend to detail his own experiences as Hockeyroos coach from 1993-2000.
“More than 20 years ago when I coached the Hockeyroos a delegation of players approached the staff believing that we should adjust the program to bring forward selection for the upcoming Olympics,” Charlesworth wrote in the letter, which was later obtained by AAP.
“The program planned to select in June but the players were ‘unanimous’ that this should occur in April.
“We held a meeting the same day at which we asked the players to vote on the proposal in a secret ballot. The result was that only 8 of 24 favoured bringing forward the selection … it was far from unanimous! We continued with our plan for June.
“In all groups there are often loud voices that do not reflect the team’s will or wishes. In a large group these influencers can be very persuasive … we call it ‘group think’ and it can divert groups from their purpose because the views and biases of a few … overtake the common purpose.”
Charlesworth said openness to criticism and the capacity to cooperate even with people who you may not like is necessary for team success.
He added that no coach would ever exclude a player who they believed was pivotal to the team’s performance.
“That would be completely stupid and would militate against getting the best possible result,” Charlesworth wrote.
Some current Hockeyroos players fear they will be axed from the program if they speak out about issues.
Complicating matters is the fact that the player group is unsigned for 2021, leaving them vulnerable should they rock the boat.