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Johnny Paul's story

Neville was a well-regarded swimming coach who in the 1960s trained Johnny at a club in Sydney’s western suburbs.

It was raining one afternoon after training when Johnny was around 12 years old, so he decided to wait around for the weather to clear. Neville suggested Johnny could give him a lift home, which he declined, but the coach convinced him to wait in the car with him. He then offered Johnny some donuts and started to chat.

‘He gets me in the car and he starts talking about things that I would refer to now as fondling ... He said “have you ever had anyone play with you?” I went “I’m not into that type of stuff”. He said “it would be fun, let me have a bit of a play” ... By this time, I’m on the defensive, and sitting up against the side of the car.’

Johnny told Neville he didn’t want anything to do with him, opened the car door, and ‘just took off’. He stopped training after this, and did not ever disclose to his parents what Neville had done. ‘I kept my distance ... didn’t tell anyone, didn’t share it with anyone.’

Neville went on to have great success as a coach.

‘They made him out to be a bit of a hero, and all this type of stuff. I used to get this bit of a sick feeling [hearing about Neville] ... This guy’s got problems.’

Johnny’s always had the incident ‘in the back of my mind’, and told the Commissioner ‘it’s like a cancer’. The first time he ever discussed the matter was in the early 2000s, when he got chatting to a relative who was a police officer and told her what Neville had done.

She suggested he make a formal report, and doing so gave him a sense of ‘relief’ and ‘release’. After a couple of months he followed this report up and was spoken to very curtly by the officer he dealt with, and told there would be no further investigation or charges – despite there being numerous others who had also made allegations against Neville at this time.

It was never explained to Johnny why the matter was dropped, and he believes Neville’s friendship with a senior policeman may have had something to do with the decision. Finding out that Neville had died a few years later was ‘a bit of a celebration day’, but he was disappointed to learn that a prominent swimming association planned to name an award in his honour.

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