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Aus sports decline a lesson for all

Australian sporting followers and enthusiasts will be hoping that the new liberal government that was voted in recently will assist Australian sport in bringing back some pride to the once mighty nation from Down Under.

It is quite alarming from an Australian point of view that sporting results across the board in main-line sports have plummeted to an all time low.

A sporting structure that produced champion teams as well as individual brilliance has imploded to the point that the Aussies, for the moment, are hardly a threat in anything.

Many years ago Australia faced a similar dilemma. The final straw was when the Australians had a particularly poor Commonwealth Games and the government of the time stepped in with a funding programme.

The Australian Academy of Sport was formed in Canberra. Initially this academy was a central point for all Australian sporting development.

This system was then expanded and refined to a point where different academies for the different sporting codes were set up all around Australia.

No expense was spared. The facilities were excellent and the best possible coached were appointed. This system paid rich dividends.

One has to remember that Australia is a small nation of around 22 million people. They were able to achieve remarkable feats with a small percentage of elite athletes.

Australia’s fall from grace was rapid and unexpected. There are a number of reasons for the decline. Complacency is certainly one of the major reasons. In the past, the Aussies were a step ahead of the pack in nearly all respects.

The other sporting nations reaped the benefits of using the Australian model and refining it further.

While they developed their own respective formulas for success, the Aussies remained unimaginative and stayed with an approach that became outdated.

They also made a series of bad appointments from a coaching point of view in many of the sporting codes. They were experts at finding the best coaches to develop their sporting stars. They have lost the magic touch in this respect.

As the professional era dawned the building block which was club sport in Australia started to play second fiddle to the different academies. As club sport moved into insignificance a whole generation of late-maturing athletes was lost to the system.

Any successful sporting nation will do well to study the causes of the decline of Australian sport and avoid making the same mistakes.

Although the South African system works very differently there are parallels and lessons to be learned. I am sure some of the sporting codes are doing exactly that.

It will be some time before we see Australian sport dominate again even if the new government makes more financial support a priority.

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