The sport of backroom intrigue

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AT times, sport can have as much intrigue as the major backroom dealings at the house on the hill. 

Ewen McKenzie
Ewen McKenzie

Ewen McKenzie’s appointment ahead of the Brumbies’ Jake White as the Wallabies’ coach is one example and Lauren Jackson possibly playing for the Canberra Capitals next season is another.

I reported in the week leading up to the Wallabies/Lions test that it would be Robbie Deans’ last and that White would be appointed as the Wallabies’ coach for two years until the 2015 World Cup.

Things changed over the weekend and by Tuesday, Deans was gone and McKenzie appointed Wallabies’ coach.

It has been hard to ascertain the reason for the apparent change but, despite the ARU denials, I am convinced that it had plenty to do with the public push to have an Australian coach.

That said, I’m sure McKenzie will do a great job; he has turned around the fortunes of Queensland rugby and the team is playing attacking rugby.

Behind the scenes he has been just as impressive. He was a foundation player with the Brumbies in 1996 and was largely responsible for recruiting players to Canberra in the early years. An insight into his commitment to the community came a couple of years ago, after the Queanbeyan Whites raised $17,000 for seven clubs in flood-ravaged Queensland. Overwhelmed by the donation, McKenzie came to Queanbeyan the following year to personally thank those who had raised the funds.

MEANWHILE, Lauren Jackson’s immediate playing future is providing as much intrigue as the Wallabies’ coaching job.

Jackson has indicated that she is keen to play next season; the Capitals though had prepared a roster without her being part of it because she wasn’t contracted to play for them until the following year, and was recovering from hamstring surgery.

At the moment the Capitals don’t have the money to pay Jackson and would have to go into the corporate marketplace, but there is plenty that needs to happen before it becomes a reality.

The right track

COMMON sense seems to have prevailed in the construction of the proposed synthetic running track for Woden.

The ACT Government has allocated around $4.5 million for the facility. A couple of months ago, I wrote about concerns within the athletics sector that the area was too small and the desire was to build a major facility at Stromlo Forest Park.

There was also a feeling that the money should have been distributed to clubs on the southside to upgrade existing Little Athletics’ facilities.

There now appears to be a more conciliatory approach and athletics’ groups have put forward a list of what is needed to build a facility to the standard required by the International Amateur Athletics Federation. Athletics also wants to use Eddison Park next door for javelin, and soccer would continue to be played on the athletics infield at the new facility. There’s also the possibility of re-establishing the Little Athletics Club at Boomanulla Oval, which will be used by the 400-strong Woden Little As during construction of the synthetic track.

Saving on spending

MAJOR infrastructure spending at Canberra Stadium seems to be on hold with the ACT Government’s focus on the City to the Lake project, which includes a new indoor stadium.

Fair enough, why spend money on a facility that may become redundant? The only worry is the time it will take before the new indoor stadium comes to fruition.

I’m also hearing that one of the potential operators of the City to the Lake’s proposed new leisure centre could be the ANU, which makes sense given the proximity of the project to the university and the fact it  doesn’t have a pool.

AND a project to build low-budget units with up to 300 beds for school groups and the like at Stromlo Forest Park is moving ahead.

Land for the facility is already allocated and it would be built and run by a private operator with a long-term lease. The ACT Government is likely to open it up for expressions of interest in about 12 months’ time. The idea of a chair lift at Stromlo Forest Park is more long term.


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Tim Gavel
Journalist and ABC sports broadcaster

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