New Zealand Hockey are having a tough time of it. Hockey is one of those sports that has immersed itself into the new world of touchy feely reviews, where feelings and upset from players seem to be placed higher up the ladder than results.

Sean Dancer, the assistant coach of the allegedly unhappy Black Sticks, left last week to take up a role with Ireland. He follows Mark Hager, who quit as well, but quit before the much anticipated report into the player complaints was released.

Sir Owen Glenn was particularly upset, given he was the sports major benefactor. His claim was, one, New Zealand Hockey didn't consult him. And, two, he felt Hager was a scapegoat. As a result he froze funding. When it was unfrozen, some of it went to Hager directly, not the team. And the rest would be paid until the expiry of the current deal, which is the Olympics next year. At which point Glenn was done with sport: it wasn't worth the bother.


My concern at the time, expressed in various places and articles, was the approach hockey was taking would lead nowhere good, because elite sport is about winning, not whining.

And the tragedy of the Hager era and report is that he didn't actually do anything specifically wrong. At worst, he was hard line, hard-nosed and uncompromising. Not normally traits that require reports, complaints, and resignations.

But New Zealand Hockey seemed a bit inept. They refused to release the report to players who were demanding it, the lawyer who wrote it has never been seen again, and all in all it appeared to have produced an outcome whereby the national side was immeasurably worse off than they had been going into the whole debacle.

Hager, of course, is happily immersed in his new job in Britain. But as for the Black Sticks, what has happened, now they had a good old moan, seen their coach walk and the organisation promise some sort of happy, hand holding, kumbaya-type future.

Well, how about some stats? Since Hager quit they have played 11 times, lost all but four. In the current Pro-League ladder, they are sixth out of nine. Remember, they used to be outside the top 10 until Hager came along, and coached them to third in the world.

They were genuine medal prospects at Olympic level. Are they anywhere close to that now? No, they are not.

And if they're not, what price was Hager's demise? Are those who complained and felt aggrieved happy now? Are they happy they're not winning? Is New Zealand Hockey happy their side is losing more than they're winning, that their form has slumped, that coaches are walking, and that the sport's reputation has been damaged?

Just what is the upside of all this for New Zealand Hockey? They took a winning, successful side and decided to place weight on the upset of a few, tip the sport on its head with reviews and bad publicity, get a scapegoat, and then go forward and collapse.


Elite sport is about one thing, winning, They were. Now they're not, so what was the point?