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Dumped Hockeyroos star claims coach was biased in Olympic rejection

Sacked Hockeyroo Rosie Malone has complained that coach Katrina Powell was biased against her and did not give her high-fives like other players after her appeal against the controversial Olympic cancellation failed.

Malone, 26, has appealed his shock omission from the Paris squad, claiming the decision was unreasonable and biased against him, that selectors failed to apply the official selection criteria correctly and that feedback from Powell set him up for failure.

Malone also argued the board’s selection methodology was ‘fundamentally flawed’ because it excluded previous form and discriminated against players who were in form.

Rosie Malone objects to not being selected for the Hockeyroos’ Olympic squad.

But National Sports Tribunal panel member Scott Ellis rejected the Queensland player’s claims, ruling that Hockey Australia had acted in accordance with its selection guidelines and had not shown bias against him.

Malone’s court filing, published on Thursday, claimed the decision on his Olympic fate was made ahead of the FIH Pro League tour of Europe in May-June, but Ellis found the 114-cap international was informed of what he needed to do to earn a place in the Paris squad before that tournament.

He took issue with the lack of positive feedback from Powell, “complaining specifically that Ms. Powell did not high-five him like she did other players on the team” and claimed that the national team coach misled him when he was asked to focus more on passing.

Hockeyroos coach Katrina Powell. Image: Provided

Malone interpreted Powell’s feedback as suggesting he should focus on distribution rather than scoring, while Ellis agreed the two were not mutually exclusive in terms of his role.

“As a forward on the national team, he would be expected to do both,” Ellis wrote, acknowledging that the relationship between coach and player was likely “less positive” than his relationship with other Hockeyroos.

“In any case, there is no evidence that the feedback was not given in good faith with the aim of improving the performance of the team as a whole.

“I do not accept that it was given to Ms. Malone for the purpose of ‘setting her up.'”

Ellis said the national team selection panel, which includes Powell, assistant coaches Jeremy Davis and Hugh Purvis and independent chair Rechelle Hawkes, one of the most respected figures in the sport and a three-time Olympic gold medallist, acted in accordance with its selection policy, which has the overarching aim of “achieving the highest competitive results at the Games”.

Rosie Malone was shocked at not being selected for the Hockeyroos. Image: Supplied

“Three of the four members of the panel are HA coaching staff. It should be expected that they will inevitably come to selection duty with a history of dealing with athletes competing for candidacy,” Ellis wrote in his decision.

“The independent chairman (Hawkes) was nominated undoubtedly because of his long-standing involvement with the game.

“The merits of all athletes would have been discussed by the panel as a whole. There is no suggestion that any other members of the panel were personally involved in conduct that showed bias against Ms Malone.

“Under these circumstances it would be difficult for any of the panel members to have a personal grudge against Ms. Malone.”

In selecting the attacking line for the Olympics, selectors identified the need for two specialist forwards and relied partly on a weighted system drawn from matches played between February and June this year; Malone was among nine players awarded points for penalty corners, shots on target and goals scored.

Rosie Malone specifically complained that Ms Powell did not high-five her like she did with other players on the team. Image: Dave Rowland/Getty Images

Ellis found that although Malone scored more points than forwards Alice Arnott and Grace Stewart, both of them averaged higher than Malone, while attacking midfielders Steph Kershaw and Brooke Peris also averaged higher than Malone.

Malone argued that the methodology was flawed because it ignored previous form, did not take into account other metrics such as tackling backs and pass interceptions, and discriminated against in-form players because Stewart, Arnott and Perris had all played fewer matches due to injuries.

The selectors have formed the view that Malone is behind Stewart and Arnott in terms of ‘physicality in and around the circle’.

Several former Hockeyroos players, including goalie Rachael Lynch, sisters Madison and Savannah Fitzpatrick, Kalindi Commerford and Laura Barden, have submitted appeals on Malone’s behalf.

Rosie Malone with former Hockeyroos Kalindi Commerford and Savannah Fitzpatrick, who filed a petition on the star forward’s behalf in her appeal to the National Sports Court regarding her exclusion from the Hockeyroos’ Paris Olympic team. Image: Instagram

Kershaw released a statement supporting the HA.

Malone is confident in his top-level performance in 2023, having been a former Olympian, a two-time World Cup competitor, rated one of the world’s top five players by the FIH and leading scorer for the Hockeyroos.

Malone returned to the HA’s high performance unit in Perth on Monday, July 8, and Code Sports has been told he will be considered for future Hockeyroos matches.

Earlier this month, she shared an emotional video on Instagram, expressing her sadness over the election.

Former Australian goalkeeper Rachael Lynch made a post in support of Rosie Malone. Image: AAP

“I put my head down, worked hard, and did everything my coaches asked me to do this year, even going so far as to change my natural game ‘for the good of the team,’” he wrote in the post.

“Despite what happened, I wish my teammates success at the Games.”

The decision to remove the ambitious goal machine from the team has divided the Australian hockey community and raised questions about the culture within the Hockeyroos squad.

This was met with a show of solidarity from 20 of the 22 Hockeyroos, who signed a public statement responding to the allegations.

Hockey Australia General Manager David Pryles said every effort was made to ensure the Hockeyroos returned with a medal, which included going through a rigorous selection process.

“Ensuring that we have a strong and fair selection process and policy was one of our top priorities in our Paris Olympic Games campaign,” Pryles said.

“As part of this, all our efforts have been and continue to be focused on sending the best prepared athletes and teams to the Games with the best chance of winning medals.”

Code Sports has attempted to contact Malone.