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Opinion

The fall and burial of Eddie McGuire

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Roar Guru
17th February, 2021
57
2259 Reads

I’ve agitated for change at Collingwood for years.

The club has struggled in various departments over the last decade: primarily, match-day coaching (and related on-field strategies), list management, and everything to do with player welfare (e.g. injuries, and rehab).

I’m sure the club’s done other great things, but as somebody supporting the Collingwood Football Club’s foundational identity – the football team – that’s been my predominant interest. Good on the club for their other endeavours, but I want the AFL team (and now also the AFLW team) to win flags.

Many of these issues have unfolded because we’ve endured the long reign of the same group, which has given culture to stagnancy, administrative incestuousness, and a loss of objectivity. Issues have been met with that attitude of, “It’ll be right – eventually.”

The 2018 season masked these problems with an improbable assault on a flag after four years of missing the finals. That would’ve seemed to be the rebirth of the club, but the club’s had more issues than ever since then, while also going backwards on the ladder.

In light of the trade period debacle, a number of the Collingwood faithful grew outraged. I had several random people contact me about board challenges – not that I have the power, influence, or know-how to underake such a challenge. I like to yell at clouds.

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But it showed me that we’d transcended dissatisfaction. People were demanding change because they also felt matters had grown overwhelming.

Some supporters stonewalled the conversation about the way the club handled the trade period. That’s their prerogative.

But there was enough disgruntlement going around to show me that I wasn’t a lone dissenter, and that the anger was real and widespread, so maybe in this case there were genuine grievances pointed at the club, rather than at the clouds.

Also, what the stonewallers hadn’t realised was that for many, this wasn’t about an isolated incident. This wasn’t just about the trade period. That was just the latest misstep the club had taken – and a grotesque misstep it was – in a long line of missteps over the last decade.

At Collingwood’s seventh virtual annual members forum, Eddie McGuire opened proceedings by announcing his resignation.

Collingwood President Eddie McGuire

McGuire was set to step down at the end of the year (Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)

He said 2021 would be his last season.

Some urged that if he was going to go, he should go immediately. Eddie has often quoted Mick Malthouse, who said if you’re thinking about retiring, then you’re already there.

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Given the tumultuous 2020 season, and how uncertainty would remain prevalent in 2021, I didn’t see anything wrong with Eddie staying to oversee the transition. My only caveat was that that I didn’t want the perpetuation of the same administration and, more importantly, the same attitudes.

I wanted somebody unconnected to the club who could come in, look at everything with fresh eyes, and shake the place up.

Then we had the events of the Do Better report, and the way Eddie handled that press conference. In typically contemporary Eddie fashion, he was confrontational – reminiscent of the conversation he had with Tony Jones on the news earlier in 2020 when discussion surrounded what would happen in relation to 2020 memberships given that COVID-19 now meant they couldn’t be used.

I’ve seen that side of Eddie emerge more and more over the second half of his tenure.

Either he’s grown to believe he’s unfailingly right in everything he does, or he’s grown intolerant of being questioned about anything, failing to distinguish big issues from the small (witness Eddie’s response on Footy Classified to Kane Cornes after Cornes labelled Alex Jesaulenko’s “mark of the century” overrated).

It seemed almost karmic that there was such an uprising about how Eddie handled that press conference.

People responded with the same zeal he often exhibited, leading to his resignation. For somebody who’d put so much into the club, and obviously only ever wanted the best, it was an undignified end.

I have to say the way Eddie’s been treated since then has grown farcical. I’ve seen people on social media who have no interest in football, and know “Eddie McGuire” as nothing more than a name – like a brand – celebrate his demise.

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I’ve seen his notoriety exaggerated. Some in the media have attacked him mercilessly.

Any defence of him is condemned. Any explanation is dismissed.

That’s because nothing is explainable nowadays.

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The moment you try, explanations are used as evidence of guilt. So, instead, people are razed without mercy, without empathy, without understanding. Social media and click-bait journalism have given rise to collectives that show the same fanaticism of the torch-bearing, pitchfork-wielding posses that chased Frankenstein.

Eddie should’ve gone as president around 2010 – when the club was riding a high, and it would be the easiest time to transition into a new era. By that time he’d been there (going on) twelve years.

John Elliott’s spectacular demise as president of Carlton (1983 – 2002) should’ve also remained fresh as a cautionary tale against long tenures. Also, if Eddie had gone then, he could’ve come back at a later date, just as Jeff Kennett has done at Hawthorn.

I can’t see anybody entertaining that notion now.

For the most part, I loved Eddie McGuire as a president during the first half of his tenure, grew increasingly unhappy in the next quarter, and entered a realm of apathy mixed with resignation mixed with frustration in that final quarter.

I know I’m not the only one.

But even as a loud critic of Eddie, and for how he might’ve mishandled certain issues, I can comment that I believe the treatment of him, the vilification of him as a person, and the celebration of his fall, is both staggering and scary.

For as much as we live in a time where attitudes are meant to be growing progressively humanitarian and charitable, this is about as inhumane and uncharitable as you can get.

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People mess up.

I’m not suggesting everything is excused unconditionally, but surely – for the most part – we should be erring on the side of support, rehabilitation, and forgiveness, rather than this exaggeration of misdeeds, celebration of failure, and egotistical glee in proclaiming our own virtue.

We’re so much better than anybody who stumbles nowadays, and we need to prove it by kicking them while they’re down, digging a grave, rolling them into it, filling it up, pouring a whole ton of cement on top of it and waxing lyrically on the tombstone, extolling what monumental villains they are as validation of our own righteousness, rather than as a representation of the truth.

If we want to move into a better world, it’s not going to achieved by riding the prevailing attitudes of today.

Eddie, thanks for your service to Collingwood.