Playing God: Eddie and Collingwood want complete control

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Collingwood President Eddie McGuire addresses the media during a Collingwood Magpies press conference announcing Nick Maxwell as new captain at the Lexus Centre, Melbourne. Slattery Images

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Dane goes to work everyday. His work is physically demanding and sometimes dangerous. The risk of injury is high.

Longevity in his line of work is relatively short. Survive in his work place for five years and you have done well. Survive for ten years and you start to become an exception. Time off is rare.

After work, Dane likes to relax, go out with mates, maybe have a few beers. Nothing too extreme. He is sometimes seen out after dark, but he still performs to his usual high standard when at work.

In fact he is integral to the successful operation of his workplace. He has even received awards acknowledging the quality of his work.

But things start to go wrong for Dane. Rumours begin to circulate about his after work activities. Apparently his behaviour is unbecoming for someone in his position.

There is talk of drug taking. There is talk of a less than committed attitude to his place of work. His reputation is slighted. Some would even call it slander.

So Dane decides to clear his name. He talks to a prominent member of his community, someone who will be able to ensure his message gets out. He wants the opportunity to dispel some of the myths that have begun to build up around him. In short he wants to restore his standing and ensure family and friends (and those at his work place) that he hasn’t been doing anything untoward.

It is a commendable approach and one that his work place should support. Right?

Of course it should, unless the Dane we are talking about is Dane Swan and the employer is the Collingwood Football Club. Then things turn nasty.

Collingwood’s attitude to Swan’s interview on The Footy Show last Thursday night is hard to fathom. Swan did not speak poorly of the footy club. He did not give away any club secrets or criticise the management or playing group. The interview predominately dealt with personal issues.

Surely he is allowed to speak freely about his life and defend himself against scurrilous rumours and innuendo?

To make the matter even more laughable, it was not the content of the interview that Collingwood objected to, it was the fact that permission to do the interview in the first place was not sought by Swan or his manager, Liam Pickering.

This petty approach reeks of Collingwood and its president Eddie McGuire trying to play God and of the club being arrogant enough to think that they can control all aspects of a player’s life, whether it relates to the club or not.

They are all hot under the collar about protocol not being followed. Swan wants to distance himself from rumours of drug taking and all Collingwood are worried about is protocol!

Perhaps if they had been more pro-active when these rumours first came about, the situation may not have escalated into the debacle that it has become.

The war of words that followed between Swan’s manager Liam Pickering and the Collingwood hierarchy is laughable.

Mcguire, CEO Gary Pert and coach Nathan Buckley all chimed in with the company line. Swan and Pickering knew the rules and they broke them. The interview needed club approval, they went ahead without it, and now they will be punished.

Punished for trying to set the record straight on his off field activities. What a joke.

It is time for McGuire and the Collingwood power brokers to take a step back and try and view the situation with some objectiveness.

What crime has Swan really committed? None. Was their precious football club harmed? Not at all.

Did anyone die? No. He received payment for the interview, sure, but so what?

Any fallout from the interview has been caused by the club itself, not Swan. It is the stubborn, dictatorial stance taken by the club that has seen this blow out into a discussion piece that was barely worthy of a mention in the first place.

Had they supported Swan and not got all uppity about precocious protocols, there would have been no issue.

The interview would have aired on Thursday night, been reported in the papers the next morning, and have been quickly forgotten as the next round of the pre-season competition got under way.

The war of words between the two parties wouldn’t have eventuated and the footy club wouldn’t have come away looking the control freak that it now does. In this case they have damaged their own brand, while fuelling further rumours about Swan’s future at the club.

Footballers are paid good money to represent their clubs at the highest level. There is an expectation that players will work hard on the field and present themselves favourably off it. This is a fair expectation.

What isn’t fair though is a football club trying to control a player’s life from the moment he wakes up to the moment he goes to sleep. Players should be allowed to talk freely of their lives, even their football clubs, without the risk of sanction.

When it is all said and done, football at the elite level is a job. It provides employment for several hundred men each year and for the best of them it pays very well.

Most of us in the workforce can talk freely about our jobs. We most definitely can talk freely about our own lives. What makes a football club think that it is any different to any other employer? What right do they have to gag players?

It is football, for crying out loud, not a matter of national security.

Had Swan come out and criticised the club, then that would have shown a lack of professionalism, but he didn’t. He simply addressed some issues that had been simmering in the background for way too long.

He spoke well, giving us an insight into what makes him tick and how he thinks.

He was totally professional in his approach and probably garnered a few extra fans because of it. And yet he was punished.

It is time that football clubs, and the Collingwood Football Club in particular, started treating their players like adults.

Dane Swan has been a magnificent servant of the club and deserves to be treated with respect.

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