Stajcic saga gets uglier after fresh claim
A KEY figure in the move to sack former Matildas coach Alen Stajcic sort damaging information about him before he was appointed to the role, it has been claimed.
A senior figure at The Hills Sports High School in north-west Sydney has told The Saturday Telegraph that Heather Reid, the Football Federation Australia director who had to formally retract numerous unfounded assertions made about Stajcic in the wake of his dismissal, had called the school in 2014 to ask if any complaints had been made about the football program that Stajcic oversaw there.
At the time, Stajcic was applying for the advertised role of Matildas coach.
Robert Hawkes was director of sport at the school from 1980 until 2018 and employed Stajcic as head coach of its successful football program for more than a decade.
Though Reid said she had no recall of any such conversation, Hawkes volunteered details of the call after being shocked by Stajcic's dramatic sacking five months ago and the Matildas' disappointing exit from the women's World Cup.
Australia were ranked sixth going into the World Cup but failed to get past the round of 16, losing to Norway in a penalty shootout.
Stajcic, now head coach of the Central Coast Mariners, received a public apology from FFA and Reid last month over the circumstances of his sacking and her numerous communications in which she made lurid claims about his tenure with the Matildas.
She also took leave of absence from the FFA board to undergo treatment for cancer at the end of January but travelled to the women's World Cup this month as a guest of FIFA.
In 2014, Stajcic applied for the role of national coach for the second time, after the applicant he had lost out to previously, Hesterine de Reus, was sacked due to a revolt among the players over her coaching style.
"I had employed Alen as the school's head soccer coach, and in 2014 he told me out of courtesy that he'd applied for the job of Matildas head coach," Hawkes said.
"He was a fantastic asset to the school, and to be honest we didn't want to see him go. But around that time I had a phone call from a lady called Heather Reid, who said she was calling on behalf of Soccer Australia (FFA) and wondered if the school had received any complaints about its soccer program.
"I asked what her position at Soccer Australia was - she told me that she didn't have one, but said someone had asked her to explore this area.
"I told her that Alen was held in the highest possible regard by the school and that I couldn't discuss anyone's personal circumstances as a matter of policy.
"She asked me again and I told that her that the only issues were the usual sort of disgruntled parents upset because their son or daughter was not in the top squad.
"As I always said, I might have been director of sport but I wasn't about to go and tell Alen who to pick in what squad.
"She asked if any of the complaints were legitimate, and I repeated that the school held Alen in the highest possible regard. She seemed disappointed.
"A month or two after I received another phone call from Soccer Australia, as Alen had nominated me as one of his referees.
"This was a different woman, seeking information more directly related to his application, and I didn't get the impression she was seeking negative material.
"A short while after he was appointed to the Matildas job."
In a statement, Reid said she had no knowledge of the call, or the school itself.
"In 2014 I was working for Capital Football as CEO and dealt with thousands of people," she said.
"I don't recall any contact with someone called Robert Hawkes. I don't know anything about the Hills School (wherever it is) or that Alen Stajcic worked there or they had a football program.
"I do not recall any contact whatsoever with the school."