Dick Tonks will no longer directly coach New Zealand's top
male rowers. Photo / Janna Dixon
Dick Tonks has stepped down as head coach at Rowing New
Zealand to devote himself solely to the women's programme over
the next Olympic cycle.
The 61-year-old Tonks says he volunteered to make the move to
alleviate some responsibility associated with leading the
overall programme. Another head coach will not be sought.
High performance manager Alan Cotter is expected to take up
some of the administrative slack to co-ordinate the coaching
team. Tonks will remain a selector.
The decision leaves Olympic champions Eric Murray, Hamish
Bond and possibly Mahe Drysdale (on his return from a
sabbatical) without a full-time coach. No ill-will is
believed to exist between the parties. They're expected to
liaise with Tonks for tips on a casual basis.
RNZ is aiming to appoint a new men's sweep oar coach by the
end of the month. The Herald on Sunday understands a number
of internal candidates have applied, while names such as Noel
Donaldson (coach of Australia's 1992 and 1996 Olympic
champion Awesome Foursome coxless four) and Mike Spracklen
(coach of the Canadian gold medal-winning eight at Beijing)
have been floated as potential candidates for the high
Bond and Murray, who took home the 2012 Halberg supreme award
on Thursday, will come under the successful candidate's
"I have no complaints," Tonks said. "It just seemed like a
natural thing to do. I'm quite happy to work solely with the
women. We want to get a boat in every class for Rio and
hopefully we'll even have an eight in there this year."
Tonks has personally overseen five Games gold medals and
helped pick other medallists as a selector.
Since being employed full-time by RNZ in 1999, his charges
have picked up a gold medal at every Olympics. He has made
household names of Rob Waddell, Caroline and Georgina
Evers-Swindell, Drysdale, Bond and Murray.
Tonks' methods are beyond dispute. Perhaps the most telling
statistic is the 45 Olympic or world championship medals (23
gold, eight silver, 14 bronze) New Zealand rowers have won
since the 2004 Athens Games.
He won yet another Halberg award on Thursday night, as the
coach of the year. Tonks was not there, choosing to remain
close to the training facilities where rowers were scheduled
early next morning.
Still, among the rowers honoured at the Halbergs, including
Bond and Murray and Drysdale, was the strange feeling they
will not be under Tonks' direction this time.
Murray said Tonks has made his position clear: "We don't know
who our coach will be, we're just working within the wider
group. Over the next few weeks Rowing New Zealand will
probably discuss who might be a good coach for us."
RNZ chief executive Simon Peterson says to retain Tonks they
were prepared to accommodate most requests.
"Dick suggested he was keen to focus on the women's programme
because he didn't believe being head coach was a long-term
option. It was an amicable discussion. We're just happy to
have him for another Olympic cycle."
Calvin Ferguson - the coach of Olympic champion double
scullers Joseph Sullivan and Nathan Cohen and lightweight
bronze medallists Peter Taylor and Storm Uru - will lead the
men's sculling programme.
Meanwhile, women's single sculler Emma Twigg wants to join
Olympic bronze medallist Rebecca Scown in the women's pair
following Juliette Haigh's retirement.
Twigg says she has technical work to do but is determined to
persevere. She joined the New Zealand elite programme in the
women's sweep oar eight as a 19-year-old in 2006.
"To not get a medal in London was a heartbreaker for me,"
Twigg said. "I'm committed to racing internationally but it's
been great to have had a mental break away from Lake
Lightweight men's double sculler Peter Taylor has switched to
the sweep oar programme in a summer squad which includes
James Lassche, Curtis Rapley, Armin Svoboda and Alistair
Bond. It is a one-season experiment for Taylor while his
London Games partner Uru studies for a year at Cambridge
University. This year's first World Cup is in Sydney from
- Andrew Alderson