Hockey boss: We don’t believe all these claims are fair
Hockey Australia has fired back at claims of bullying and a toxic culture in the Hockeyroos after ordering an urgent independent review into allegations that have torn the sport apart.
In his first interview since the crisis was revealed, chief executive Matt Favier has vowed to act on any recommendations the report reveals in the new year.
At the same time, he has slammed reports of intimidation and stringing criticism aimed at controversial high-performance director Toni Cumpston among others on the elite coaching staff.
"In all sports there are tensions from time to time between leaders and players," Favier said.
"Toni is highly experienced and has a strong background in hockey. I think she provides excellent leadership in my opinion, but that's not to say everybody will agree."
On the bullying allegations, Favier said: "It can be difficult providing feedback to players along the way.
"One of the challenges we are dealing with is having a high-performance conversation with the idea of supporting player development and seeking improvement while being careful not to confuse that with allegations of bullying levelled towards us.
"We have to also bear in mind we're in an elite high-performance group. Sometimes, there can be some confusion along the way.
"There are fine lines we have to be careful to navigate. We've attempted to be very sensitive to this particular matter.
"It's not to say we've got it right. The inquiry will uncover the details and the board is committed to acting on all the recommendations.
"We care about the players and the impact this is having on them. All players. The good and the bad. And we'll take the necessary action once the report is complete."
Favier said he is restricted in what he can say on a raft of individual complaints that include the bullying, girls being body-shamed by being told they were overweight, players developing serious eating disorders and unfair team selections. Not while the inquiry is now underway.
"We're mindful of the processes," he said. "We've taken the feedback and complaints very seriously and launched an independent inquiry that started on Thursday.
"Specific questions put to us that cannot be addressed given the nature of the inquiry. The important thing is for the players to be given the opportunity to take part and express their thoughts without outside influences."
There is also the concern for the players' welfare.
"There are some very specific claims that are very concerning and difficult to read," Favier said. "That's why we're taking it so seriously.
"We don't believe all these claims are fair and reasonable but that's not to say the inquiry won't tell us something else.
"The players, whether they have criticisms of Hockey Australia or not, the main consideration is for their welfare.
"We don't want to add any more anxiety or inflame the situation any further by saying something inadvertent. We care about them and we want the very best outcome for the players and the game."
Favier said there is some confusion at board level about the complaints and the era of the girls' grievances. The previous national coach and other staff were axed after the 2016 Rio Olympics.
"I believe some of the comments made relate to previous cycles," he said. "We've taken significant steps since Rio where there was absolutely a range of concerning behaviour by the leadership and coaching team. We acted on the recommendations that came out of that review.
"We do think that some of the comments from some past players relate to matters that were well before our new leadership group (head coach Paul Gaudion and the high-performance director Toni Cumpston) was engaged."
He said the non-selection of two players (Rachael Lynch and Georgie Morgan) has contributed to the issues.
"There is a non-selection matter that relates to two players - despite the fact we're not obliged to provide an appeals opportunity, we've done that.
"We're providing this opportunity because of the tenure of both players. They've been fantastic servants of hockey but our selectors made a decision. However, we're committed to providing them with a fair opportunity to put their cases forward."
Originally published as Hockey boss: We don't believe all these claims are fair