Thursday, July 25, 2024

Alyson Annan quits as Netherlands women’s hockey coach

Australian Alyson Annan sensationally quit as coach of Oranje women, the Olympic champions, on Wednesday, thus ending one of the most successful recent tenures in any international team sport.

Annan, 48, and the Royal Dutch Hockey Association (KNHB) were at loggerheads over a “difference of opinion” regarding the Dutch women’s programme “to improve cooperation and group culture in the team”, according to a statement.

The Australian is the latest figurehead at the helm of a women’s national side to become embroiled in a negative environment scandal following high profile departures in Australian and New Zealand hockey over the last few years.

The latest programme conflict has now engulfed Dutch hockey. It follows an independent inquiry launched in November after reports surfaced of player unrest within the Olympic champions’ camp.

Following the conclusion of the three-month inquiry, Annan said: “In my opinion there is no difference of opinion about what can be improved, but about how to approach it. I drew a line for myself there and unfortunately this is the consequence.”

Holland won eight successive matches to land Tokyo Olympics gold PIC: REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed

Annan, who was not part of the independent inquiry, was appointed in 2015 and had inked a deal to extend her role until this summer’s Women’s World Cup, but she leaves with immediate effect.

The Australian oversaw one of the most remarkable runs in world hockey following the team silver behind GB at the Rio Olympics.

Last March, she racked up her 100th win as Dutch national coach, a landmark achieved in just 120 internationals.

In 2021, Annan’s side completed an unbeaten year with their 18th victory and conceding just eight goals in the process.

In the last six years, the world No 1 Oranje became Olympic champions, two-time world champions and won three EuroHockey Championships under her leadership.

Carlos Retegui congratulates Alyson Annan as Netherlands won gold PIC: Eurosport UK

Dutch star Margot van Geffen, who was due to join up with her team-mates on Saturday for the first prep towards this summer, said: “It took me [the news] by surprise. I need time to let it sink in.

‘Well, what now? I really have no idea. Time will tell. The union must have thought about this carefully, otherwise the decision would have been made in November.”

Annan’s decision comes after media reports over players expressing “not good feelings” and alleged culture of fear within the Dutch programme during the Tokyo cycle.

“It gradually became apparent that the approach that we as an association have opted for in this process does not match Alyson’s vision on this,” said Jeroen Bijl, technical director of Dutch hockey.

“Of course we would have liked to finish the trajectory with Alyson up to and including the World Cup. Especially given her track record and what she has done as national coach.”

Dutch hockey said that an independent study was underway “to get a more careful overall picture of the team’s performance climate.” A report is expected within two months.

The KNHB is currently considering Annan’s successor ahead of their joint hosting of the FIH Women’s World Cup along with Spain.

It follows last week’s surprising news that Danny Kerry had left his role as GB and England men’s coach.

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