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Response to the Independent Review into the Under 18 NSW Women’s Squad

The Hockey New South Wales Board has committed to implement all recommendations contained in the report of the Independent Review into the under 18 NSW Women’s Squad (‘Squad’), which listed a re-set of the culture with input from all stakeholders including players, managers and parents as a priority.

The recommendations resulted from a finding by the reviewers that a poor culture, which was not conducive to on-field success or athlete wellbeing, had been allowed to develop in the under 18 State Team over several years, with little or no consequences for repeated poor behaviour. This included ‘low-level’ but persistent instances of bullying, exclusion and intimidation which made for an unfavourable team environment.

The report further found that Hockey NSW should work with Hockey Australia to raise awareness of complaint reporting options and resources for members, and strengthen our resolution of complaints to ensure members are not afraid or discouraged to raise concerns. It also identified opportunities for Hockey NSW to enhance our pathways program, selection policies and athlete wellbeing measures.

The independent review was commissioned by the Hockey NSW Board in July 2021 following various claims of behaviour by members of the Squad selected to represent NSW at this year’s National Championships that were inconsistent with the Hockey Australia Code of Conduct. Suiko Consulting were engaged to conduct the Review at arms-length from Hockey NSW. More than 100 people provided feedback to the reviewers via interviews, email responses and anonymous surveys, including members of both Women’s and Men’s State Squads. This provided a broad base of facts and insights to help the reviewers formulate their findings and recommendations.

total of 19 recommendations were provided in the report under the headline themes of Strategy, Processes, Structure and People. Some have already been implemented, including the engagement of an independent Athlete Wellbeing expert to support Squad members now and at future tours and championships, and the adoption of the Safe and Respectful Behaviours recommendations under the recent Hockeyroo review.

Other prominent recommendations the Hockey NSW Board supports being implemented as part of a phased and prioritised plan include:

  • A full review of the Hockey NSW Pathways Program to identify any skills gaps and areas for enhancement and improvement, and align it with Hockey Australia’s
  • The development of a State Team Code of Behaviours with input from players, coaches and support staff
  • Targeted support for coaches and managers of representative teams on how to administer zero tolerance for breaches of Codes of Behaviours
  • Better communication with parents about team rules and expectations, including the development and communication of a Parental Code of Behaviour
  • The reinvigoration and expansion of our State level coaching pool with a concerted focus on developing more female head coaches
  • Considering representative age groups operating as ‘one squad’, rather than managed separately based on gender
  • A review of the State Team Selection Policy to remove real or perceived conflicts of interest and promote holistic player attributes that lead to more supportive team environments, not just technical and athletic ability (Note: Hockey NSW recently updated and improved its selection policy, but will revisit in line with this recommendation).

The reviewers were not asked to consider or recommend sanctions against individuals. However, they note that all members are bound by the Hockey Australia National Integrity Framework and related NSW policies that aim to provide a safe, fair and inclusive environment. It is also a fact that players in the Squad are eligible for Hockey Australia National Futures Squads’ selection. Hockey NSW has therefore provided Hockey Australia and its Integrity Unit with a copy of the report for consideration, which was a recommendation of the report.

Playing hockey for your State is a privilege that should be valued and respected. It is unfortunate that this process was triggered by concerns that came out of a Squad selected to represent NSW at a National Championship. The number one priority for players should be the success of the NSW team, ahead of individual aspirations for higher selection. Parents also have an important role to play supporting their children in a way that encourages behaviour that is consistent with the values of Hockey NSW, and established complaints resolution processes.

For completeness, it should be noted there were disparities in the feedback provided to the review team by the Under 18 Men’s Squad, Under 18 Women’s State Team and Under 18 Women’s Blue Team. It is clear most of the issues identified occurred within the Under 18 Women’s State Team, and this was understandably reflected in interview and survey responses.

Thank you to everyone who participated in the review process. We understand it was a courageous step for those who have concerns about the pathway process or the conduct of the Squad in general. The participation rate is a great indication of the value our members place on developing a positive culture and the trust they placed in the investigation commissioned by the Board. The insights and recommendations from the investigation will allow the Board to address the concerns and enact change for the better.

On behalf of the Board, I apologise to anyone who felt their concerns were not heard, and to those who did not have enough trust in the system to raise their concerns. The Board take this very seriously and undertake to improve our processes to ensure that we build trust with our members and systems, so they feel protected and able to raise their concerns.

Next Steps

It is the Board’s view that the review and its findings and recommendations are an opportunity for Hockey NSW to draw a line in the sand and effect change. We are committed to ensuring an overall culture reset and development of a clean and simple pathway strategy. We have a responsibility to provide the right leadership and structures to embed respect between participants and a safe, inclusive and supportive environment for all members. Good culture supports good outcomes, and that means zero tolerance towards poor behaviour. This will be enacted moving forward.

As noted, we have already delivered on some recommendations and commenced implementation of others. The Board has engaged an Implementation Committee who will meet regularly over the next six months, or until all the recommendations are implemented via an Implementation Plan. The Committee will be overseen by and report to the Board. The Implementation Plan, which will include a schedule of work and accountabilities, is being finalised. I look forward to providing further updates in coming months. 

We understand this has been a challenging period but undertaking the review has been crucial in addressing the allegations that have been raised directly or indirectly since the pathway squad was developed.


Adriana Care
Hockey NSW