Without a coach and four months out from the Olympics, Hockey Australia has promised to fix what it calls a “dysfunctional culture” within the women’s national program.
The resignation of Hockeyroos head coach, Paul Gaudoin, was announced on Wednesday night, some 12 hours before the much-anticipated release of findings recommendations from an independent review into the program’s culture and governance.
“In light of the release of the findings and recommendations from the independent review that has been undertaken, Paul informed Hockey Australia that he has decided to stand down from the role,” Hockey Australia chief executive Matt Favier said.
“The past 12 months have been a difficult and taxing time for everyone involved in the high performance program and especially the coaching staff. They have had to navigate the uncertainty of Covid while being an assuring and supportive presence for players, which Paul has done.
“He has conducted himself with integrity, devotion and commitment to the cause and done his utmost to improve the athletes, both as hockey players and as people.”
Gaudoin is the latest senior member of staff to have departed in recent months and follows high-performance director Toni Cumpston and assistant coach Steph Andrews out the door.
On Thursday morning, more than a month later than expected, HA publicly released the 29 recommendations made by Bruce Collins QC, AFL commissioner Gabrielle Trainor and former Matildas vice-captain Moya Dodd after the panel investigated numerous alleged complaints by Hockeyroos players against the administration.
It did not, however, make public a summary of the report’s findings, which were made after interviewing more than 100 people.
In a joint statement, Favier and HA president Melanie Woosnam acknowledged the governing body’s culture is “not conducive to athlete wellbeing or sustained on-field success” and pledged to rebuild the whole program.
They said the findings were “confronting and distressing”.
“Broadly the review found a dysfunctional culture within the national women’s high performance program that is not conducive to athlete wellbeing or sustained on-field success, and identified numerous areas for improvement,” HA said.
“While we have made a considerable investment over the last three years, including efforts to implement changes since the Rio cycle, this has not been enough to prevent rupturing of the squad’s cohesion, particularly with the uncertainty rendered by Covid-19 and the delay of the Tokyo Olympics.
“The process of this review has seen us all reflect seriously over the past months about what we could do better. The findings have been shared with the players and we will work with them to make changes to design and implement a cultural transformation program.”
The Australian Hockey Players’ Association (AHPA) said it had been briefed on the findings and recommendations and “greatly appreciates” the positive meeting with HA and the approach taken by the panel.
“We look forward to seeing the strategy underpinning HA’s commitment to the PA that it is intent on working through the recommendations, focusing on the culture of the program(s) and the welfare of the players as the group prepares for Tokyo and beyond,” a statement read.
Assistant coach Katie Allen has been appointed interim head coach, but HA has little time to appoint a permanent replacement for Gaudoin before the Olympics start on 23 July.
HA announced the review in December after months of player unrest which came to a head when former captain, Georgina Morgan, and the current world goalkeeper of the year, Rachael Lynch, were unexpectedly dropped from the squad, prompting a consideration of strike action.
The recommendations of the review include:
The need to ensure an effective leadership model is implemented across all aspects of the high-performance program, including coaching, support staff and across the playing group;
Striking an improved balance with the demands of the high-performance program and life outside of hockey;
Ensuring engagement at every level from the board, senior management, coaches, support staff and players is safe and respectful;
Improvements in a range of governance areas to ensure greater oversight and the tracking of culture of both men’s and women’s programs; and
Embedding a culture of mutual respect and trust between all participants in the delivery of the high performance program.