For the past 21 years Narelle Simpson has trained swimmers at Manly’s Boy Charlton Swim Centre.
The popular swim coach has also trained elite swimmers in Australia’s Olympic, Paralympic and World championship teams. She has spent years coaching Northern Beaches lifesavers, triathletes, water polo champions and marathon swimmers, including James Pittar the first blind swimmer to cross the English Channel.
But none of that made any difference to Manly Council.
The council did not renew Ms Simpson's contract or offer her any ongoing role in the new-look swim centre, which will open its doors in July after a massive $25 M indoor facility addition. Council plans to run the Learn to Swim programs in the new facility.
The situation is so bad that dozens of Ms Simpson’s ’squaddies’ came to Manly Council's 4th April meeting to express their frustration and rage. They were there thanks to a motion by Cllr Cathy Griffin that the Council formally recognise Ms Simpson’s huge contribution to the community over the past two decades.
Even that had been bungled with the council sending a letter of thanks along with a notice telling Ms Simpson her contract would not be renewed.
“Narelle is a huge asset to this area,” swim squad member and lawyer Mark Houston told councillors.
“Her achievements as a swim coach are outstanding. If she goes a whole bunch of people will have nowhere to go to train - triathletes, open water and pool swimmers. It’s Narelle that makes the difference - they follow her. We don’t even know if she can hire lane space after the new centre opens on the first of July.”
Rows of fit-looking, young swimmers agreed, with many vowing to boycott the new swim centre unless their coach was treated with respect.
Good for Manly Councillor Candy Bingham said the Council’s plan to manage the new swim centre itself has created a nightmare for contractors.
“It’s totally unacceptable that, with less than three months to go, existing contractors don’t know if they can continue to hire lanes” she said. "No one - not even the councillors - have seen any business plans on how the new centre will operate."
And while the business plan, and the new centre manager remain elusive, there is some comfort at least for Ms Simpson and her swimmers.
A motion by Cllr Hugh Burns that all existing squads and their coaches be guaranteed at least 12 months’ access to swim lanes after July 1st, was passed.
Ms Simpson will also receive a more fitting letter of commendation and thanks.
“Operational plans for the new centre still remain a mystery with councillors being kept in the dark, despite repeated requests for information ,” Cllr Bingham said. "it's just not acceptable".
Candy Bingham, Deputy Mayor, Northern Beaches Council. Background in marketing, public relations & community engagement. Author of five business books. Former Lady Mayoress of Sydney. Aka Candy Tymson.