New Zealand canoeing seems slowly to be righting itself after its bitter infighting with the news that the nation's most decorated Olympian, Ian Ferguson, is back on board as a coach.
Ferguson is back on the Canoe Racing NZ payroll for the World Cup campaign in Poland, the Czech Republic and Germany beginning this month - coaching the highly promising K2 combination of his son Steven Ferguson and Darryl Fitzgerald.
While announcements are expected soon about further coaching positions, Ferguson's re-appointment (although only as K2 coach and only salaried for the World Cup) is a sign that the sport is finally mending the deep wounds that scarred it when Ferguson and fellow Olympian and national coach Paul MacDonald were controversially dumped last year. That provoked months of bitter infighting as the pair mounted a counter-offensive, joined by another highly decorated Olympian and coach, Alan Thompson, who resigned from the CRNZ board in support of Ferguson and MacDonald.
The trio failed in their bid to overturn the old board at the last annual general meeting - but the airing of all grievances and raising of various issues might have been the bloodletting the sport needed.
There are signs the new board has taken the point on more than one issue and Ferguson's reinstatement, albeit temporarily, suggests matters are getting back on an even keel.
Either just before or since that AGM, several issues have been resolved:High performance director Wayne Maher, said by the axed coaches to have been part of the problem along with current CEO Paul Kearns, resigned.MacDonald took an employment action against CRNZ, which was settled out of court with a confidential payout recently. MacDonald said yesterday: "I am happy that we are no longer battling. It is only a small sport and it was time that we put it all behind us and moved on." MacDonald applied for a coaching position but was unsuccessful and is currently working only part-time.Ben Fouhy has returned to the sport after a second retirement following a public and bitter split with Ferguson and MacDonald. However, he is not part of the World Cup team as he has to undergo a six-month stand-down period for drug testing procedures - but could be back in time for the next world championships.
So results from the World Cup campaign by a small New Zealand team will be closely watched. Only two K2 crews are being taken (Troy Burbidge and Liam O'Loughlin are the other) though the men could paddle in other events, like K1.
The women's team is headed by Lisa Carrington and Teneale Hatton plus the well-performed Erin Taylor plus Rachael Dodwell. They will race in K1 and K2 events although there is still no sign of a women's K4.