Australian Olympic legend Kieren Perkins declared golfing great Greg Norman needs to “stop and listen” to his LIV golf detractors as he preached the importance of diversity and inclusion for the future good of sport.
Perkins, who is now the CEO of the Australian Sports Commission, recounted to the National Press Club how a poolside moment with Noman at the 1996 Olympics was a “centring moment” which helped him focus before he successfully defended his 1500m title in a swim for the ages.
But after recalling that moment 26 years ago, and asked what he would say to Norman today, Perkins made a pointed suggestion for the LIV boss to listen to those who have labelled the rebel tour a ‘sports washing’ exercise, designed to try and paint over Saudi Arabia’s poor human-rights record.
Perkins said he was an advocate of Norman’s plan to “disrupt” what the Australian great has long seen as a US PGA Tour monopoly on global golf, a monopoly which has also cost Australian events their status in the world game.
But having used his speech to talk about the importance of inclusivity and the need for sport to play a responsible and leading role in promoting unity, suggested Norman should think about who he was working with.
“What would I say to Greg today? I think I would probably reference some of the things that I said earlier that while I understand and appreciate the need to disrupt sport and make it better and I think that the opportunity to create more competitive sport as well as opening the door for more inclusion is incredibly important,” Perkins said.
“But just stop and listen to the people around you Greg and think about some of the stuff that‘s been told to you and see if actually there’s some value in instead of assuming that you actually have all the answers.”
Norman has lured Australian stars Cameron Smith and Marc Leishman to LIV golf, which will play its sixth event in Thailand this week, with plans to bring an event to Australia in 2023.
It’s understood either the Gold Coast or Adelaide will play host.
Recalling the 2006 encounter in Atlanta, Perkins said a reminder from Norman that he was “a champion” played a part in him bouncing back from qualifying eighth fastest for the final to secure a second-straight gold medal.
“I‘d never met him before. obviously knew who he was and was inspired and amazed by the success that he’d had long term in his career,” Perkins said.
“The poor bugger, he actually was in the crowd. He bought a ticket. He was just sitting in the crowd, normal human being with his son, massive line of people wanting autographs at the side and (Australian coach) Don Talbot saw him and asked the security guard to bring him over.
“He came down the pool I never met him. We had one of those shoot the breeze conversations about nice weather and enjoying the games, blah, blah, blah. And we just got to that moment there was nothing else to talk to when he said to me “looks like you had a rough morning this morning. You’re a great champion, you know what you’re doing. You’ll be fine”.
“And it was it was a centring moment. It was kind of one of those actually I don’t need to panic here. Takes me What 10 seconds to say that it, took me 24 hours to work it out properly but I got there in the end.”