Collingwood turns on its own players
Carlton and Collingwood - old rivals face off with new spice added.
The AFL trade war can be an unsavoury time as clubs produce verbal barbs, undervalue the stock of others while over valuing their own.
But nothing is more unpleasant than a club putting its own players down, as Collingwood has done.
It seemed no one ever wanted to leave Collingwood.
Throughout the year as each inhabitant of that large talent pool spawned by Mick Malthouse – their market value increasing by the round – came out of contract, they re signed. The biggest
and freest fish, Travis Cloke, was never going anywhere despite the protracted negotiations.
Hence my surprise last month on reading the headline: “[Sharrod] Wellingham Goes West for Talks”.
Collingwood were surprised too and then caught out by Wellingham’s sudden public proclamation that he was leaving because “it will be exciting to get back to Perth and to play in front of my family every week”, which was made without consultation with the club. Eddie McGuire demanded “substantial” compensation for a player of Wellingham’s ilk.
Once West Coast’s draft pick no. 17 had been acquired for Wellingham, football manager Geoff Walsh sent him on his way by describing him as just an inconsistent and “handy player who hasn’t scaled the heights”. A bit harsh considering he was supposedly worth hefty compensation.
Also, he was leaving to go home, not to escape Collingwood.
After comments like those Wellingham will certainly know he’s made the right decision. Chris Dawes definitely has, requesting a trade after being effectively replaced by West Coast’s Quinten Lynch.
What is more reprehenible though are the comments made by Walsh towards those squad members who have stayed loyal despite being paid less their market value.
“Are we going to be a flash in the pan, or do we dig in and give some sort of credence to the talent on the list by virtue of performance? “What I do know is our discipline, our attitude, if that’s linked to culture it is something we would feel needs to improve. Our players will understand what we are all about, or if they don’t need to be around for the ride, we are happy to accommodate them elsewhere. We are hell-bent on returning this team to a premiership”, he said.
The team has made the finals for the past seven seasons, reaching three preliminary finals and two grand finals – winning two minor premierships and a premiership. I don’t think “flash in the pan” is an appropriate or a very respectful description of what this playing group has achieved.
The biggest sporting club in the land carries a heavy weight of expectation, of course, hence the obligation to let supporters know that excellence is always a priority. However, to allege a lack of commitment on the part of the players is simplistic and cowardly. Some fans too thought it was apt to abuse the poorly performing Cloke and Dawes even though form rather than lack of effort was clearly the problem.
If criticism is warranted perhaps it should be directed to coach Nathan Buckley (who clearly sanctioned the comments), the coaching stategist Rodney Eade, and the recruiters.
If the team is not premiership material it is more likely due to their failure to develop or modify the midfield-heavy squad and playing style they inherited from Malthouse, than to the players’ attitude.
Also, winning a premiership is one thing.
Winning multiple ones is another. Since 1990 eleven different teams have won the competition.
The modern era has seen Brisbane win three successive titles and Geelong claim multiple flags but it’s extremely unfair to expect this Collingwood team to replicate the achievements of those great sides.
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