That's the important thing, the take-home message, but for the rest, read on:
Picking representative teams is tricky, and as selectors you are bound to make decisions that don't please everyone. This happens with every selection event in sport though the problem is compounded in ultimate, where all the personnel involved tend to be friends, armchair commentators or fellow players - and usually all three.
Why is this an issue? Well, some would say it isn't even one. If canvassing opinions over the various regional qualifiers this weekend was any indication, there are two ways this news can generally be greeted. The first, and the least common, is muted indifference. "So?" goes the refrain, "You want to pick the best possible team." People in this camp tend to take it as a given that both Jonno and Mike would be a key component of Team Australia - "the best team possible".
The alternative opinion runs something like - "The process [of selection] is now meaningless. What was the point of applying back in October if they can be added to the team now just because they feel like it?" Outrage abounds: squad hopefuls tend to view late additions as certainties for the team going to Colombia. Why else would they be added this late?
Most tend to feel that the case for adding Neild is more justified than the case for adding Holmes. Since playing 2008 Dingoes, Mike has unfortunately had less and less time to dedicate to the sport. Though a regular - and regularly impressive - fixture at the Big Sky 9's tournaments, his last elite-level play was at 2011 Nationals with Firestorm. Despite this, there seems to be a sort of "standing order", that were Neild's personal situation to allow it, he would be a shoe-in on any representative team: tales abound from Vancouver and from Kaohsiung, not just of his unparalleled athletic ability but of his charisma - his ability to lead and empower those around him. And as of last week, for the most awful and terrible of reasons, Mike Neild is free to commit to any tourney he wishes to. Including World Games.
Does such a set of special circumstances exist for Holmes? A standout player in the 2009 World Games campaign (though, wasn't he hospitalised and put on a drip mid-tourney? we suspect peptides at play) and current captain of the Dingoes, he is an undoubtedly impressive talent. He has come in from the World Games cold, by all accounts, "because he wants to play with Mike." Of the two additions, his has been viewed with more scrutiny and less sympathy. Though perhaps that is less to do with his ability as a player, and more to do with his being a later addition to the squad. That, and the most trying circumstance in his personal life appears to be a forced conversion to vegetarianism.
One thing is clear - a lot of high-level players feel that the way this information is trickling out into the ultimate public (i.e., through usually biased conversations) is not optimal. Changes like this need to be announced, with their rationales, from the highest peaks and the lowest valleys, to quash as soon as possible the idea that World Games selection is some kind of cliquey boys club run by the Rogacki equivalent of Sea Org. Getting this information out as soon as possible was an aim of this blog post.
Transparency and accountability are essential when picking national teams. Without them, trust is quickly eroded. A full, frank and open discussion of situations like this - even if it's just announcing it on the AFDA frontpage - stops the wound from festering. Instead, World Games squad members today received this email, notable for its lack of any kind of explanation:
Jonno Holmes has been included in the 2013 WG Squad. As with Mike, as an inclusion outside of the initial process, both cases have gone through the AFDA Board and been approved. Welcome Jonno!Having trust in selection processes is important for more than just AFDA face-saving. It's important because it has an effect on team morale. Teams are stronger for having suffered together and fought for their spots - if there is the sense that coaches are playing favourites, well, that's not going to go down great with the massive interpersonal pressures of playing a world championship event.
But we digress - storms, teacups. There has not yet been a single selection event. In theory at least, all are on equal footing coming into Melbourne this weekend. The players tacked on to the squad list are all of the highest calibre. And we wish them the very best of luck.