A review into a negative culture and claims of bullying within the Black Sticks women's hockey team has revealed some alarming findings.
In late August 2018, the Hockey Players Association presented Hockey New Zealand with confidential and anonymised concerns raised on behalf of the Black Sticks' current and past players. The concerns raised were about a negative environment in the Black Sticks Women's team, under then head coach Mark Hager.
The review was commissioned in September last year, after allegations of a negative team environment first publicly emerged.
Hager, a former Australian international, accidentally sent an email to the entire team, naming and shaming individual players for their performance and effort, after finishing 11th at the women's World Cup.
Three months earlier, they had won gold at the Commonwealth Games.
The comprehensive review has now shown that of the 33 players interviewed, 24 players reported 'serious concerns' about the environment within the team.
The majority player view of a negative environment had been experienced for at least the last two years. This included the players' view that this was not helping them reach their full potential, and was impeding the success of the team.
A small number of players and HPA representatives interviewed reported they had been informally raising concerns with HNZ about the Black Sticks environment for several years but particularly after the Rio Olympics in 2016.
HNZ had not responded previously to informal concerns raised about the Black Sticks environment, for several reasons - including the fact that they had not previously received any formal complaints of bullying behaviour.
According to the findings, HNZ also held the view that concerns raised by HPA, on behalf of unnamed players, could not be acted upon unless there was a formal complaint by a named player, believing that informal reporting of any negative behaviours only involved "a few players who were unhappy with non-selection...".
Hockey New Zealand revealed 65 interviews were conducted in the review, including with that 33 past and present players, and 58 documents reviewed. These include confidential submissions and policies.
The majority of players interviewed have been in the team in recent years and represented at least half of the total number of squad members for each of the past three years.
Key recommendations made in the review include working better with Players Association, the engagement of HR, the clarification of roles and a better health and welfare programme.
Hockey New Zealand chair Mike Bignell apologised to the affected players.
"The failings resulted in unacceptable outcomes for some of our players and consequently the broader management team. It should never have got to this point and the fact that is has is something Hockey New Zealand is deeply sorry for and unequivocally apologises to all those who have had a poor experience in the environment," Bignell said.
Hager resigned as Black Sticks women's head coach in January, to take up a similar role with the Great Britain and England women's teams.