With just 6% of the Australian roster for this summer’s Pan Pacific Championships stemming from New South Wales (NSW), Swimming Australia is once again facing the question of how to keep emerging talent from leaving the state.
Queensland state has always been the big powerhouse within Australia, fortunate to have such megastars as Cate Campbell, Bronte Campbell, Maddie Groves, Emma McKeon and David McKeon, among many others, call it home. Yes, NSW has continually made bits of noise with the likes of sprinter James Magnussen, breaststroker Matthew Wilson and backstroker Bradley Woodward setting up training bases in the state. However, these standouts are few and far between when compared to Queensland.
Alex Baumann, South Australia’s Chief Strategist, High Performance, and a gold medalist himself, told The Gold Coast Bulletin this week, “We’ve identified that … there needs to be some intervention in NSW. Queensland is doing very well but how do we ensure that NSW is performing as well? How do we build that sustainability in NSW? The belief is that is NSW is performing well, then the whole nation will perform well in addition to Queensland.”
Part of the issue is that it’s hard to compete against Queensland’s favorable climate, but also against its rich coaching history. Richard Scarce of Bond, Simon Cusack of Commercial, and Michael Bohl of Griffith University are just a few of the top names based on QLD. Additionally, the facilities at which these storied coaches operate are world-class and tough to beat, to the tune of the newly-built, world-class Griffith University – Gold Coast Aquatic Center and Bond University.
In contrast, NSW has just one high performance center, the Sydney Olympic Park Aquatic Center (SOPAC), home of Wilson and Woodward.
But these problems are nothing new. Back in 2016, the New South Wales Institute of Sport (NSWIS) issued a long-term plan to address the future of high performance swimming within the state. With Swimming Australia’s move to Podium Performance Centres, which aimed to “focus investment and resources in high performing environments with a proven track record, and the capacity to achieve podium performances in the future,” the shift in strategy did not address or improve NSW performances.
In the 2016 plan, which you can read more about here, the NSW swimming community identified 6 priorities in reestablishing NSW as a force within Swimming Australia:
- Agree and commit to a path for future success
- Clarify roles, responsibilities and accountability of all key stakeholders
- Recruit a leader
- Build trust, transparency and engagement across the system
- Develop a transparent coach and athlete development pathway
- Improve our facilities
Since revealing those priorities in 2016, NSW has made progress in some areas, including making SOPAC the NSW Technical Hub, as well as hiriing Jon Shaw as its Coaching Director and Ron McKeon as its State Head Coach just last year.
However, the fact that the subject of bringing NSW to swimming prominence is still being discussed by Swimming Australia higher-ups still 2 years later shines a spotlight on the fact that things have not yet progressed enough.