Mark Hager starts his year on a high, not the way he might have planned... but nevertheless it looks like things have worked out well.

Hager was part of what appeared to be a bad year for all sports who became caught up in the global angst-fest over the way people are treated.

From hockey to football to cycling .. many a claim was made by aggrieved upset and angry players towards management and coaches over the way they were treated.


The complaints ranged from the specific to. in the case of Hager and women's hockey, the particularly vague.

For those of us observing, it seemed there were a bunch of the Black Sticks who simply didn't like the way they were coached.

Hager was a bit hard, a bit expectant, a bit old school.

Cycling, if you followed their saga, had at least specific allegations of rules broken.

Women's football sadly looked more like the cycling, a lot of angst and reaction to approach, as opposed to egregious crimes.

All sports though, partly because of the day and age we live in, and the growing fear that telling it like it is may offend, responded with the obligatory review.

Jobs were lost, shortcomings were highlighted and promises of a better tomorrow were made.

Actually the hockey review isn't even out, but we know what it'll say and Hager clearly read the writing on the wall.


But - and here is why all sports fans should be worried - just what exactly have the Black Sticks achieved?

Remember after the review was announced a not inconsiderable number of former players who'd been coached by Hager came out supporting him.

They appeared to articulate what most of us were thinking.

The culture wasn't broken, it was just that the team had a bunch of people who didn't like the way they were treated. And instead of the old approach of "if you don't like it you know where the changing room is" we now need inquiries.

Because nowadays every upset is serious, every tear needs wiping, every grievance needs an inquiry.

But as hockey, like cycling and football, spent lord knows how much energy and money investigating the numerous agitations, what was so dangerously forgotten was the very reason these teams exist.

To win.

Elite sport is not about fun and giving it a go, it's about winning.

And the thing about Hager was that he was a winner.

He'd taken a side that was outside the world top 10 and taken them to number 3.

In other words he had done what elite coaches are hired to do - be victorious.

This was a side that was a genuine prospect at the world champs and Olympic games.

This was a side that outshone their male counterparts.

This was a side that was consistently putting not just hockey but women's sport on the map.

It was a success story.

Did it come at a high price? Presumably for some, hence the complaints.

So the upshot here, is those that couldn't hack it, whined, got listened to, and as a result they've lost their coach.

And where has that coach gone?

England - the current Olympic champions.

In others words Hager has landed a promotion - he's gone to coach a better side.

Now what does that tell you about our approach to winning and England's approach to winning?

And how will New Zealand hockey explain their approach and attitude when we next meet England (which isn't far off) and get spanked because they're a side that likes winning more than we do - and likes to hire the talent that can drive that philosophy.

Will they be happy to say, 'we may have lost, but at least all our players felt included?'

In bending over to accommodate the world's current fascination with touchy-feely political correctness. We run the risk of forgetting how to win, or worse, even wanting to.

So who won here? Mark Hager did.