Drysdale-Tonks pair remains despite new role

IAN ANDERSON
Last updated 05:00 18/02/2013
Dick Tonks
Photosport
SHIFTING FOCUS: Dick Tonks will give up his role as head coach at Rowing NZ to focus on the women's programme for Rio.

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Mahe Drysdale's Olympic-winning combination with coach Dick Tonks is poised to continue, despite Tonks' new role with Rowing New Zealand.

Four-times Halberg Coach of the Year award winner Tonks has stepped down from his role as RNZ head coach to oversee the organisation's women's programme as they look ahead to the 2016 Olympics at Rio de Janeiro.

However, Drysdale told the Waikato Times he's "90 per cent likely to stay with Dick" when he returns to the men's single scull later this year.

The London Olympics gold medalist, who is aiming to be back in a boat in time to contest the world champs in South Korea from August 25-September 1, said he wants to continue a partnership with Tonks through to Rio.

"I haven't spoken to Dick for about a month but when this was all being sorted out, the idea was that he would predominantly be a women's coach but still coach me," Drysdale said.

"I'd prefer to stay with him and he was still willing to work with me."

Rowing NZ aim to enter a boat in every category for the 2016 Olympics at Rio de Janeiro and has handed Tonks the key to the women's programme, with Calvin Ferguson, who coached crews to gold and bronze at the London Olympics, will run the men's sculling programme.

RNZ chief executive Simon Peterson said they were close to appointing a new coach for the men's sweep oar programme that will involve London gold medallists Hamish Bond and Eric Murray.

Peterson said the move came at Tonks' prompting.

"It was actually something that Dick came to us with as an idea for the next four-year programme through to the Olympics and we're delighted to do that," he said.

"Obviously the women's programme is an exciting area for him to work with and I think we'll be all the better for it."

Peterson said the success at the London Olympics - where New Zealand boats won three gold and two bronze - and the bold aims for 2016 meant a change was a necessity.

"The programme for the last four years needed change for the next four years. The success of the programme's he's helped build has required a different structure.

"Having 11 crews at London, two others close to qualifying and having four boats of his own just wasn't feasible and with a growing programme as well. It's just a natural evolution of a successful programme."

Drysdale said the switch was practical and an obvious solution, with New Zealand chiefly having a promising young group of women's rowers following the retirement of Juliette Haigh after her bronze with Rebecca Scown in the pair at the London Olympics.

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"The way most other countries work, they have a head coach who doesn't work with specific crews," Drysdale said.

"Or if they do they may have just one - they more oversee the programme rather than a hands-on coaching role.

"There's no secret that Dick's passion is to be out on the water coaching crews and obviously he saw an opportunity there with the women."

- Waikato Times

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