Forgetful coach denies toxic hockey claims

The Hockeyroos have been hit with rumours of a toxic and bullying culture, but coach Paul Gaudoin believes those claims are off the mark.

PAUL GAUDOIN, head coach of Australia during the Hockey match between Australia and the United States in Hastings, New Zealand.
PAUL GAUDOIN, head coach of Australia during the Hockey match between Australia and the United States in Hastings, New Zealand. Picture: Kerry Marshall/Getty Images

Hockeyroos coach Paul Gaudoin denies there's a toxic culture within his set-up, but admits he has missed meetings with players.

The Australian women's hockey team has been in the headlines in recent weeks amidst accusations of a bullying culture and the resignation of its three co-captains.

Georgina Morgan and Emily Chalker were the first to step down as skippers, and the Hockeyroos were left with a complete leadership vacuum when Jodie Kenny announced her retirement two weeks later.

Two-time Olympian Nicole Arrold, who spent a brief period as an assistant under Gaudoin, said a decade of poor culture within the set-up had hurt the Hockeyroos.

Arrold said bullying allegations had been handled poorly in the past, and that Gaudoin's leadership had been chaotic and disorganised with a lack of clear direction.

She also said Gaudoin, who was appointed coach at the end of 2016, simply forgot to turn up to several key meetings.

Gaudoin admitted to missing the meetings, but he feels the other allegations are off the mark.

"I missed some meetings, yeah, I'm happy to say that," Gaudoin said on Tuesday.

"There's various reasons for those and I don't want to get caught up into that. But that can happen at times.

"I'm not perfect, but I followed up certainly on many occasions with those players."

The Hockeyroos were once the golden child of Australian sport, but they have been mired in controversies in recent years.

Then-coach Adam Commens had his contract terminated straight after the 2016 Rio games for engaging in behaviour that Hockey Australia deemed amounted to serious misconduct.

HA launched an investigation into other aspects of that Rio Games, but rumours of unrest continue to haunt the team.

Gaudoin says he has been respectful of any player dealing with mental health issues, and he supports an environment where any member can approach him with ideas or complaints.

He said it was a concern that some players were approaching the media to air their complaints instead of turning to him.

"All we can ask for is to keep talking to us, that's the most important thing," Gaudoin said.

"That's why I've got staff to help support them with those decisions in terms of how we deal with that.

"For us it's been a really important part after Rio to come in and make sure we've got people who are feeling supported within the program."

Hockeyroos midfielder Jane Claxton, who is part of the current Super Camp in Perth, believes the team is in the process of developing a strong culture.

"In the Rio campaign there were issues and they were presented to the board, and we've been working through them like any organisation," Claxton said.

"You have your ups and downs. Elite sport is unique in that it's a very high intense environment.

"Some people flourish, and some people don't, and that's OK.

"Sometimes we get it right, sometimes we get it wrong. But we're in a positive space as a playing group."