The Roar
The Roar



TOM MORRIS: Buddy booing is a blight on the game and McRae must send a powerful message to Magpies fans

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8th May, 2023
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The booing of Lance Franklin at the MCG on Sunday has already prompted a divided array of takes – and it hasn’t even been 48 hours.

We’ve been here before. Everyone has an opinion on why targeted booing happens, but nobody can say for sure.

We do know this: Collingwood supporters, unlike Hans Moleman, were not saying ‘Boo-urns‘. This booing was unprovoked, and unusually vigorous.

For every ‘USA’ or Coooollingwooooood’ chant the Magpie Army delivers, it can let itself down at other moments.

Defenders of the storied boo say fans pay money so can make whatever noise they want, or that it was an attempt to distract Franklin. Other claims are that fans always boo good players; good players are pantomime villains; fans are passionate and need a release from everyday life; the reasons are endless.

Then there are those who are, at the very least, perplexed by the jeers, and at most, highly critical of them. Unsurprisingly, they include Sydney coach John Longmire, CEO Tom Harley, co-captain Luke Parker, and club legend Michael O’Loughlin.

From the perspective of boo-critics, there are undercurrents of racism and overtones of bigoted disrespect for a champion of our game.


Nestled in between these two distinct factions are another set of supporters who, with no understanding of the media landscape, blame football’s swathe of reporters for their booing. If the media didn’t raise it, then nobody would boo, they contend.

It’s like accusing the media for coaches getting fired. No – clubs sack coaches, and journalists report on it.

So why did Collingwood fans boo Buddy when it was a non-issue beforehand? Why did Pies fans jeer Jason Horne-Francis in Round 2, when it wasn’t on anyone’s radar in Round 1?

Unfortunately, it’s head-bangingly futile trying to ascertain precisely why supporters booed Buddy on Sunday at the MCG. Mob mentality in part means some people forget or neglect their true feelings and adopt behaviours of those around them.

To me, this seems like the most logical – albeit weak – explanation. It’s the ‘well, why not?’ reason.

Although football fans can be robust and one-eyed, they are not stupid or inherently disrespectful. 100,000 of them choose to stay quiet on Anzac Day, they choose to stand up for the national anthem in finals and choose to give generously to Fight MND by the millions.


There is the odd spot fire in the stands, but supporters of opposing teams largely choose to sit harmoniously together, unlike other codes around the world.

The point is this: booing is a choice. It’s premeditated, even if only by a few seconds or minutes. And thousands of people choosing to boo Buddy is bizarre.

Like anything, there is nuance to the booing phenomenon. Apparently it’s OK to boo Jason Horne-Francis this weekend if you’re a North Melbourne supporter, just as it is if you’re a Richmond fan who remembers Tom Stewart’s bump on Dion Prestia last June. Umpires get booed because – in the eyes of some – they stand between their team winning and losing, though it’s more specific decisions that cop jeers over any individual official.

Lance Franklin of the Swans and Darcy Moore of the Magpies shake hands.

Lance Franklin of the Swans and Darcy Moore of the Magpies shake hands. (Photo by Dylan Burns/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

But beyond these niche reasons, booing is past its expiry date, especially when we know the level of hurt it can cause.

Disappointingly, for all Collingwood coach Craig McRae’s triumphs as a second-year coach, he’s dropped the ball not once, but twice on booing in 2023. Simply telling reporters that booing is not allowed in his household is not enough.

On both occasions it was a strategic deflection. McRae placed a flag on the ground but decided not to firmly plant it, a bit like Gillon McLachlan’s initial response to the booing of Adam Goodes eight years ago.


On both occasions – after Round 2 and Round 8 – McRae also said words to the effect of: fans pay their money, so they can do what they want.

Really? Are we that incapable of finding a collective moral compass as a footy fraternity? Can we not be passionate and vocal without disparaging an all-time great who may only have a dozen games remaining?

To Collingwood’s credit, they picked up the pieces on Monday and apologised to Sydney in a formal and public capacity. McRae’s name was on the statement.

Hours earlier, in a position of responsibility and immense influence, it was McRae’s predecessor as Magpies coach who was even more direct on the topic.

“It’s just a no from me,” Nathan Buckley said in a pre-prepared editorial on SEN.

“I love the Collingwood faithful, but I have a message for them.

“Your team is the toast of the town and they’re handling themselves on and off the field with class and poise. So, let’s try and fall in the line on the other side of the fence.


“If we get another chance, I hope Collingwood fans that aren’t ignorant and that aren’t bigots – because there will be some booing – stand up and applaud every time he gets a touch and try to drown that booing out.

“We were gifted an opportunity to celebrate this undisputed champion and a section of the faithful chose to denigrate and I don’t think that we took the opportunity to do the right thing and take the higher ground.”

Where was this direct tone from McRae? It was conspicuously missing in two press conferences, six weeks apart.

What a powerful message it would send Magpie fans if their coach took a meaningful moral high ground in future, as he has done on most other key issues he’s confronted while at the helm.

By comparison, Longmire must partly feel as if history is repeating itself. He was coach when Goodes was booed into an unsavoury retirement, and we’re here again in an adjacent ballpark.

Just because an act is not illegal nor overtly malicious, it should not lead to a free-for-all to participate in it. Offence is in the eye of the beholder, and though Buddy is an intensely private person, it was telling how evocatively Sydney director O’Loughlin, veteran Parker and club chief Harley spoke on Monday.


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They were defending a superstar who is surely headed towards AFL Hall of Fame Legend status, and arguably the greatest player of the 21st century. Let’s not forget that. Buddy is a true icon of our sport and deserves nothing but plaudits as he turns into the final straight.

Yes, his star is sadly fading – they all do eventually – but while the glimmer flickers, we should be doing everything we can to make this modern-day great feel as respected as someone with his status commands.

If Sydney misses finals, Buddy’s last AFL match at the MCG will be in Round 17 against Richmond. Though they are unlikely to do it on the field in 2023, this is an occasion Tigers fans can rise above their bitter rivals off the field.