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Percy investigation overdue at WA Cricket

John Townsend

It is a month since Tom Percy revealed that he was so concerned at the spate of resignations from the WA Cricket board that he would add to them unless an investigation got to the bottom of the departures.

Chair Terry Waldron, former Test players Graeme Wood and Mike Veletta, Nicola Brandon and Colleen Hayward all jumped ship within a short period to suggest a level of turmoil at the association unprecedented in its 137-year history.

Even the turbulence from the mid-1980s, when the-then WACA blew half a million dollars in its vain bid to stop South African rebel tourist Kim Hughes playing pennant cricket, doesn’t match what is going on behind the scenes today.

And it exceeds the tensions that existed when David Williams, Sam Gannon and Lach Henderson were in the chair at various points in the past decade. No wonder that Percy, a man of significant principles and substantial public profile, is prepared to take the rarest action by putting his position on the line for what he believes.

“I’ve given an undertaking to move towards an inquiry where the reasons of those resignations are examined and analysed in detail,” Percy said after making his stance clear at the WA Cricket AGM last month. “A report should be made public to the members as to what changes, if any, need to be made to the WACA administration.

“If the board don’t agree to that, given the mood at the meeting and my public undertaking to the meeting to do this, then they will be failing in their duty and I’ll reconsider my future as a board member.”

Although elements within WA Cricket’s senior management do not believe that an investigation is needed – citing various resignation references to mental and physical health matters and differences over the very narrow and even irrelevant issue of historic player statues being installed at the WACA Ground – the reality is that if they have nothing to hide, they should have nothing to fear.

And for the sake of the 7000 or so members who remain the most invested people underpinning the State’s cricket operations, WA Cricket should ensure full confidence is maintained by instigating an inquiry into the resignations.

It should be headed by an independent but knowledgeable figure – someone like former federal minister Stephen Smith would have been ideal until he was appointed as Australia’s high commissioner to the UK – who would seek candid answers to informed questions.

Interim chair Avril Fahey, who is the frontrunner to get the permanent position when the new board meets for the first time after the special general meeting next month, might be the main beneficiary from the clear air that could be delivered by an investigation. That is if she is elected to the post. Fahey, as a board appointment from the WA Statewide Game Development committee rather than a member-elected director, is forever subject to the whims of her electorate.

So too the highly-capable Christian Bauer who is a valid candidate as chairman but represents the WA District Cricket Council – the pennant clubs – which means he relies on the support of a body outside the WA Cricket board to maintain his position.

Maybe Percy should take the chair, a role he filled at this year’s AGM when Fahey stepped away from the responsibility, and would come with the imprimatur of strong membership support.

No matter who chairs WA Cricket from next month onwards, their first step should be clear – investigate why half the board quit in quick succession and take the steps necessary to ensure management stability, sound governance and a clear vision for the future.

Oh, and try to work out a way to salvage a ground redevelopment that is starting to wobble after the budget blew out an estimated $30 million.



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