Friday, July 19, 2024

Ousted Aussie Zac Alexander angry after Commonwealth Games exclusion

Zac raps David Palmer and Arbitration decision that forced him to leave Glasgow on eve of Games

By CHRIS BARRETT – Sydney Morning Herald


A shattered Zac Alexander has lifted the lid on his last-minute omission from Australia’s Commonwealth Games team, saying the morale of the men’s squash squad was shot and that his partner Ryan Cuskelly now “doesn’t even want to step foot on the court” in Glasgow.

The 25-year-old was forced to leave the athletes’ village on Wednesday morning – the day of the opening ceremony – after being told the afternoon before that he was being replaced in the men’s doubles by Matthew Karwalski, 28, owing to a decision by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Alexander flew out of Glasgow immediately, his Commonwealth Games dream in tatters, and believes his 11th-hour dismissal from the team was grossly unfair

Matthew Karwalski: Took case to Arbitration

The Queenslander was preparing to play in the doubles from Tuesday alongside close friend Cuskelly but Karwalski, having not been originally selected, was able to use his higher singles ranking to mount a successful legal challenge.

Alexander hit out at the decision and also took aim at Karwalski’s coach, David Palmer, who is also on the squash team in another doubles pairing. 

“I think at the time of selection he may have been (ranked) three and I may have been five. But the position on the team has not been chosen as a singles player,” he told Fairfax Media from his US base in Greenwich, Connecticut.

“It’s a doubles partnership. And one of his main arguments was they had a friendly doubles tournament in Darwin last year and he played with David Palmer…and they won the whole thing. I’d been injured so I couldn’t even compete. I didn’t hit a ball from June to December last year – I had a hip operation – that’s why my ranking dropped from No.36 to No.100. I was ranked ahead of him from 2010 to 2013.

David Palmer is criticised by Zac Alexander

Alexander learned the bad news via an email from an Australian Commonwealth Games Association lawyer on Tuesday and said his forced exit from Glasgow had hit both he and 27-year-old Cuskelly hard.

“Matt will play with Ryan, who I’ve been training with, living with, doing everything with for the last seven years,” he said.

“We’re best mates, and know each other back to front and would have been a great partnership. And Matt doesn’t get on with anyone else in the team really, apart from Dave, who’s his coach. He’s done nothing but weaken the team if anything.

“We had camp in London for four or five days previous, which Dave didn’t even attend. Obviously he had better things to do apparently. There’s not a lot of team morale there. Dave just rocks up on the Wednesday, the day of the opening ceremony, because he can. Matt’s not even there. No one is really playing for each other. Ryan and I would have killed for each other. Now Ryan doesn’t even want to step foot on the court.”

The blow is compounded by the fact Alexander was overlooked for last year’s men’s world teams championships in France by then national head coach Byron Davis, who Alexander and Cuskelly had fallen out with.

Alexander said being denied a Commonwealth Games debut in such circumstances was tough to swallow.

“It’s our Olympics. It’s literally what you play for,” he said. “The annoying thing was after the world teams last year when they chose Matt ahead of me, they sort of said ‘just cop this one on the chin, you’ve got Comm Games coming up next year’. Then for this to happen, it’s brutal.

“He had two previous appeals to Squash Australia which both got denied and then he went to the court and the judge sent it back to Squash Australia and I thought that was it. That was probably 10 days ago, and next thing I hear he’s appealed again somehow.

“It went through at least 20 different people over the appeals board in different sections of Squash Australia who all unanimously supported my selection and then it can go to a sole arbitrator … to overturn the decision when someone is in the village.

“What’s the point of having selectors when someone can just continuously appeal to get it approved?”

Alexander, who like Cuskelly is trained by former world champion Rod Martin in the US, booked his own flights on Tuesday night and left Glasgow the next morning, having spent three days in the village.  

“You’re never happy to leave a place like that but it was sort of an out of sight, out of mind kind of thing,” he said. “I had a pretty bad taste in my mouth.”

Karwalski told the Newcastle Herald on Wednesday that he felt sorry for Alexander. 

“It’s quite disappointing for him too obviously,’’ Karwalski said.

‘‘I feel really bad for him. His selection was through no fault of his own.’’ 

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