Leigh Nugent Fired as Head Coach of Swimming Australia National Team

In perhaps the final straw, or a sacrificial lamb of, the chaos that has ripped through Swimming Australia since last August, Leigh Nugent has been relieved of his duties as the Head Coach of the National Team, according to sources inside of Australian Swimming. A public announcement has yet to be made, though Nugent has been informed of the decision.

Nugent took over the role in March of 2010, after his predecessor Alan Thompson resigned amid some amount of controversy. Nugent’s tenure as the head of Swimming Australia started out rosy, with Libby Trickett crediting his appointment as one of her reasons to make a comeback for retirement.

Things quickly spiraled out of control, however, within the National Team ranks. False police reports, inappropriate Twitter pictures, and drug and alcohol abuse marred Nugent’s tenure, with reports finding that a general lack of accountability, discipline, and cohesion among National Team athletes led to a disappointing performance at the London Olympics, especially on the men’s side.

Things could get even worse for Nugent’s legacy, as Alicia Coutts is expected to speak before the newly-formed integrity panel about “inappropriate behavior by a male swimmer to a female teammate” committed at the BHP Billiton Aquatic Super Series in January. This was the same meet at which Nugent introduced a new team behavioral protocol, which apparently was not well-applied on at least one member of the team.

This move will effectively give Swimming Australia a clean slate headed into the next Olympic cycle. Michael Scott is expected to be brought in from British Swimming as High Performance Director. Kevin Neill is out as CEO, being replaced by Barclay Nettlefold.

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What a disgrace for Leigh Nugent to take the fall for the childish behaviour of a few swimmers. It shouldn’t be his role to be patrolling the corridors of the team hotel every night and dishing out reprimands the following morning for the heinous crime of knocking on people’s doors. Don’t forget there were team managers present – apparently they have played no part in this so where does their accountability start? Magnussen’s & Sullivan’s personal coaches were both with the team so surely they had a role to play in disciplining their own swimmers. What a farce that Swimming Australia have bowed to media pressure and sacked Nugent. Let’s see what sanctions are imposed on these swimmers now.


In specific terms , Nugentwas approached by Emily Seebohm & disregarded her protests. With a direct & immediate action , this could have been dealt with & behaviour changed . As he had personally decided a sports psychologist was not needed in a sport consisting of young people under pressure – then he owns this. Perhaps the hundred of thousands of dollars they spent on come back stars could have been spent on professional staff. This is not just about this team – but the youngsters coming through. Unless it is addressed parents will not sign the consent papers & there will be no more teams. IMO things have been much worse at times but good results covered it up.


well said.


It is necessary to provide a female team with its own coach , performance director & effective manager. Effective – not some friend of the board who would like a trip & is likely to be found in the bar.

A separate women’s team was formed in 2001 & proved 100% effective as the results 2002-08 demonstrate.

This in my opinion is what is needed.

Besides that – almost all of what I have posted – has eventuates. Hope this one does too.


Australia’s lack of success in London was caused as much by psychological problems they inflicted on themselves as anything else.

There was no reason for Seebohm to progressively swim slower from the prelims if not for all the pressure she heaped on herself tweeting and reading all tweets about her.
The moment I saw magnussen looked so tense in the free relay final, I knew he wouldn’t perform so well.

And there was no sports psychologist??
Well, Nugent deserves to be fired.


There was a team psychologist in the village that the athletes had access to in the same block as the swimmers. Sick of all these excuses about no team psych when there was one

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder of SwimSwam.com. He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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