WACA removed elite junior cricket coach Jim Watkins's name from trophy after abuse allegation

The Western Australian Cricket Association (WACA) removed a former elite junior coach's name from a commemorative shield presented to under-15 players after abuse allegations from a former player, the governing body has confirmed.

Warning: This article contains content that readers may find distressing

Key points:

  • The Western Australian Cricket Association removed an elite coach's name from a trophy after investigating abuse allegations
  • A former elite player alleged the coach had touched the player's penis after stripping off his pants
  • Jim Watkins confirmed “dacking” the player and “skinny dipping” with two other boys, but denied the incidents were of a sexual nature

In August 2017, WACA chief executive Christina Matthews and board member Christian Bauer met with a former elite junior player who alleged that he had been stripped of his pants and touched on the penis by his coach during an interstate tour of the Western Australia under-19s team in 1978.

Two months after the meeting, the WACA stripped the honour from Jim Watkins, a coach of Western Australia's elite under-16, under-17 and under-19 teams for a decade between the mid-1970s and mid-1980s.

For decades prior, the Jim Watkins Shield had been presented annually to the best under-15 cricketers in Western Australia.

However, after meeting with the complainant and hearing supporting evidence from a witness, the WACA removed Watkins's name from the shield and privately apologised to the complainant.

Speaking to ABC Sport on the condition of anonymity, the former player alleged that in addition to the incident that was the focus of the WACA's investigation, Watkins had bullied and belittled him and, in the aftermath of the alleged incidents, assured him he would “never play cricket for Western Australia again”.

Watkins denies those allegations.

WACA removed elite junior cricket coach Jim Watkins's name from trophy after abuse allegation

Jim Watkins during his time as coach of the Mount Lawley Cricket Club.(Supplied)

In written responses to questions from ABC Sport, Watkins admitted he had “dacked” the complainant, and confirmed that he had accepted the WACA's decision to remove his name from the trophy, but he denied a range of other allegations, including that Watkins had touched the complainant's penis and wrestled naked teenagers in the pool at his home.

Watkins said that he was in his “late 20s” at the time of the “dacking” incident and “acted immaturely”.

In the 1970s, Watkins gained a favourable reputation in the cricket world for his private tutelage of future Test cricket stars.

In addition to serving as Western Australia's under-19s coach, he was chairman of the Western Australian Youth Cricket Council and later coached Mount Lawley Cricket Club to WACA pennant-grade premierships in the early 1990s.

A school bursar for decades, in 2000 Watkins was awarded the Australian Sports Medal for services to cricket.

'I was very vulnerable and naive'

On his first trip away with the state's elite under-19s squad at 16 years of age, the complainant alleges Watkins wrestled him to the ground in a hotel room, stripping off the boy's pants and underwear and prodding at his genitals.

The player said the incident occurred after a teammate had told a lewd story about “a man with a 14-inch penis”.

“Because we were just kids, as a joke, I said, 'Hasn't everyone got a 14-inch penis?' and everyone laughed,” the former player said.

“With just me and two or three others in the room, Watkins came behind me, pulled me backwards and when I was on the floor, he stripped my pants and jocks off me and was poking at my penis, saying, 'That's not 14 inches!' I dived under the bed, but he tried to pull me out from underneath it.

“Eventually I came out, got dressed and left for my room. He [must have] thought I was in a room by myself, so he came along and knocked on the door, wanting to come in. The boy I was with — one of the older boys in the team — just told him to f*** off.”

Watkins denies that he touched the boy's penis or pursued him to his room, but confirmed the “dacking” of the player.

“I dacked him as he was carrying on, boasting that he was hung like a horse,” Watkins said in his written response.

“However, I wish to make clear that I never touched his penis.”

The complainant — who would go on to an accomplished career in the WACA pennant competition, including the captaincy of his club — alleges Watkins also bullied and belittled him in front of other players.

“I was very vulnerable and naive,” he said.

Watkins denies that he bullied or belittled the player.

The complainant said that older players in Watkins's WACA squads developed a practice of warning younger boys from remote areas to decline invitations to sleep over at the coach's house.

He said this followed the experience of two players who allegedly swam and wrestled naked with Watkins in his pool.

“They both slept with their cricket bats in their beds, because they were shitting themselves,” the player said he was told by one of the boys at the time.

“But they wouldn't say anything about it [to WACA officials] because they wanted to be successful cricketers and they knew that he had power.

“It just wasn't normal.”

In response to allegations about the pool incident, Watkins said: “We did skinny-dip but there was no wrestling or any sexual activity. I was in my 20s at the time. Judged by today's standards, driving the players back to my house and skinny-dipping was not the correct thing to do.”

'No, just tell him to get f***ed'

WACA chief executive Matthews confirmed to ABC Sport that, following a meeting with the complainant — in which the hotel room allegations were discussed at length — an investigation of the matter was carried out by WACA board member Bauer.

Bauer interviewed both Watkins and another witness to the hotel room incident and, soon after, informed Watkins of the decision to remove his name from the under-15 shield.

Matthews said the trophy was under the jurisdiction of the Western Australia district cricket council, not the WACA, but added that she was aware that the complaint related to the player's experiences as a WACA under-19s representative.

WACA removed elite junior cricket coach Jim Watkins's name from trophy after abuse allegation

Christina Matthews said an investigation had been carried out after the allegations were made.(Getty Images: Paul Kane)

Matthews said Watkins was “contacted for a meeting and he didn't want to meet”, but in a phone conversation with Bauer had agreed to his name being removed from the trophy.

She said the complainant's primary focus in the 2017 meeting was the trophy issue.

The complainant told ABC Sport that he had openly shared the story with family and friends for decades, but said that he did not want to make a statement to police, believing it was a matter of principle that should be dealt with by the WACA.

The matter has never been the subject of police attention and Watkins confirmed he had never faced disciplinary action from the WACA during his coaching career.

The complainant said he was satisfied with Matthews's “very supportive” and empathetic handling of his complaint, but he refused to accept Watkins's offer of a personal apology and said the WACA “got off lightly” when the removal of Watkins's name from the shield did not become public knowledge.

WACA removed elite junior cricket coach Jim Watkins's name from trophy after abuse allegation

The WACA opened an investigation that led to Jim Watkins's name being removed from the shield.(AAP: Richard Wainwright)

“The WACA contacted [Watkins] to say why his name had been taken off the shield,” the former player said.

“His reaction was: 'He's a bitter and twisted bloke who is blaming me for his lack of success in cricket .'

“Later he rang them again to say that he's very sorry, he hopes I'm OK and, if required, he'd make a personal apology to me in person. My lawyers asked me if I wanted to do that and I said, 'No, just tell him to get f***ed'. That was it.”

In response to those claims, Watkins said: “I did say to Christian Bauer that it may be that the complainant was bitter about his non-selection in the under-19s for that year and, maybe, that was his reason for raising the dacking issue now.

“I offered to meet with [the complainant] to apologise in person, in the hope that such apology may bring him peace and closure.”

Watkins labelled the complaint, “one player's revenge that has been bent and twisted, presumably to unfairly discredit me for whatever reason”.

'It was like it was a joke'

The complainant said he wants his allegations to be told publicly because he has become increasingly dissatisfied with the failure of cricket administrators to appropriately confront historical abuse issues in the sport.

In light of former Australia under-19 cricket star Jamie Mitchell's story and the suffering of survivors of ACT coach Ian King's abuse, the former player said cricket's culture of “sweeping things under the carpet” needed to end.

He said his 2017 complaint was not the WACA's first knowledge of the issue.

“I had no problems telling people about what happened, but it was like it was a joke,” he said.

“Everyone would laugh and say, 'Oh, that's gross'. The WACA knew about Watkins, no doubt.”

In the early 1980s, a year on from the alleged incidents, he said he shared his story with Western Australia Sheffield Shield coach Daryl Foster, but that no action was taken and Watkins's elite coaching career continued.

At the time of that disclosure, the complainant said Foster told him: “If it happens again, come and tell me.”

“I said, 'It's not gonna happen again, because I'm not gonna go anywhere near him and I know that this year, I'm not gonna get picked in the state under-19s team, because he's already told me I'll never play for the state again'.”

Foster told ABC Sport he had no recollection of such a conversation, adding: “I'm not saying he didn't, but I certainly have no recall of it.”

In response to the allegation that the player was told he'd never be picked for his state again, Watkins said: “That is not correct. I pushed for his selection in the first squad as I thought it would be a good experience for a promising young player, but his second tour did not produce very good results.

“I was not the sole selector and, when we looked at his previous tour performances and then-current grade performances, it did not merit selection.”

On the topic of his non-selection, the complainant said: “I was a successful first-grade batsman. I was doing well. I was taking some wickets. One of the guys who got picked ahead of me had played two games of third-grade cricket.”

'We will deal with it openly and honestly'

Unrelated to the Watkins allegations, WACA chief executive Christina Matthews confirmed to ABC Sport that the organisation has been dealing with a range of historical sexual abuse claims in the past decade.

Matthews assured survivors they would be supported if they reported their abuse.

“I encourage anyone that has experienced any form of abuse when they have been involved in WACA programs to come forward and we will deal with it openly and honestly,” Matthews said.

The WACA is the only one of Australian cricket's powerful state associations to have signed up to the National Redress Scheme in response to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

Matthews also said the WACA “would be naive to think there isn't more” abuse allegations to come.

“Our position has always been to not hide from these things, and to try and make the process as less painful as possible for the victim,” Matthews said.

“You've got to deal with the truth.”

Do you have more information on this story? Contact jackson.russell@abc.net.au

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