Thursday, December 7, 2023

Donna Urquart is second Aussie player to call in the lawyers after Commonwealth Games fiasco

More turmoil in camp Oz after it’s revealed Donna was dumped from singles

By CHRIS BARRETT – The Australian Age

Australia’s Commonwealth Games squash team is embroiled in a second selection furore after it emerged that third-ranked Donna Urquhart was pulled from the singles in Glasgow only days before the competition and controversially replaced by the squad’s reserve player Sarah Cardwell.

A day after Zac Alexander hit out over his last-minute booting from the men’s doubles, leading him to fly out of Scotland on the day of the opening ceremony, it can be revealed there is more turmoil in the Australian camp over the axing of Urquhart from the women’s singles.

Sarah Cardwell is ranked No.54 in the world.

Sarah Cardwell is ranked No.54 in the world.

The 27-year-old from Yamba, ranked No.25 in the world, was to be one of three Australians in the women’s singles draw here alongside world No.15 Rachel Grinham and No.16 Kasey Brown but a day after beating Grinham in the final of the Victorian Open a fortnight ago she was told she would be playing doubles only in Glasgow.

She was replaced by world No.54 Cardwell, the daughter of squash great and Squash Australia director Vicki Cardwell, who leap-frogged the higher ranked Urquhart and Lisa Camilleri, to win a late singles spot.

It was a decision that prompted Urquhart to engage Sydney lawyer Chris Barnes, who is also representing Matt Karwalski, the player who arrived in Glasgow on Friday to take Alexander’s spot in the men’s doubles after winning an appeal in the Court of Arbitration for Sport last week.

Urquhart won the Victorian Open just before the Commonwealth Games.
Urquhart won the Victorian Open just before the Commonwealth Games. Photo: Stuart Walmsley

Barnes claims that Cardwell had been in the squad as injury cover, and when it was discovered that the squash team were not permitted to have a non-playing member in Glasgow, the call was made to cut Urquhart from the singles.

“They sat her down and said ‘actually we’re now going to pull you out of the singles’. And the reason was that they stuffed up and didn’t realise that they couldn’t take a player over who wasn’t going to play in an event,” said Barnes, who is also vice-president of NSW Squash.

“At that stage Sarah Cardwell was the reserve but they told (Urquhart) they were putting her in the singles instead, even though she’s ranked massively below Donna and Donna had beaten her about two days beforehand.”

The selection storm comes only a month after Squash Australia was dealt a huge blow, having its high performance funding cut by $320,000 or 35 per cent by the Australian Sports Commission, who described as “limited” the sport’s ability to contribute to the targets of their ‘Winning Edge’ scheme.

The criteria for future funding revolves directly around medal-winning capacity in major international events and Squash Australia’s performance pathway manager, Gordon Young, said the decision to withdraw Urquhart from the singles was made so she can focus on the doubles, in which they hope her and Camilleri can challenge for the podium.

However, if medals here for the squash team could help shore up squash’s immediate future then the rationale has done little to appease Urquhart, according to Barnes.

He said she would be entering the doubles bitterly disappointed about her singles ousting, which he claimed had occurred without the blessing of selectors.

“I can tell you I spoke to the selection committee about the Donna situation and they were appalled and they said ‘no we should be putting our best singles players in’,” Barnes said.

“This isn’t anything against Sarah Cardwell. If they did this from the start then (Urquhart) might have been able to cop it. But what she has found hard is knowing from April (she was playing singles) and training her guts out, to the point that she was on a roll and won the Victorian Open, and the next day being sat down and told ‘you’re not playing’.”

Urquhart had defeated Cardwell, 22, in the quarter-finals of this month’s Victorian Open before upstaging Grinham 12-10, 14-12, 12-10 to claim the title and was approaching Glasgow on a wave of confidence she hoped could put her in contention for a singles medal.

Instead, she had to sit out the singles while Cardwell took her place, losing 11-5, 11-7, 11-7 to Canadian Sam Cornett in the first round in Glasgow.

Young, who is the squash team’s section manager, denied Cardwell had been included at the expense of Urquhart to provide back-up in case of injury, saying the call was made because Australia’s primary focus was doubles.

“The medals in doubles are very important to us and we want everybody at 100 per cent,” said Young.

“We made a team decision to put certain people in certain events and that’s where we have to go. It’s up to us to make sure we maximise our medal opportunities and that’s what we’ve done.

“The athletes have to follow the direction that we give them. They’re not running the show. You have to make decisions for the whole team, not just one individual.”

On the court’s decision on Alexander, Barnes said Karwalski had mounted a case that he deserved selection based on Squash Australia’s selection criteria.


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