Fri. Nov 18th, 2022

The mere fact that should Eddie go now? is a genuine question for Collingwood – one posed to McGuires friend and Premier Daniel Andrews, who said he should stay for his allotted time – is a measure of McGuires dented position within the club and arguably the AFL and media landscapes in which he has been so ubiquitous, successful and influential.
The latest bout of Eddie trouble came on Monday when the club held an astonishing media conference, at which McGuire began by heralding a historic and proud day for the Magpies with the release of the Do Better report on racism – words that jarred with the damning contents of a leaked report that outlined systemic racism in the past at Collingwood.
It was evident from the first minutes that there was blood – Eddies – in the water at the media conference, in which the content of the report – a sincere attempt to grapple with and repair Collingwoods unflattering racial resume – were utterly overshadowed by McGuires proud and historic blunder, another instance of him – as a media performer with untold flying hours before microphones – making comments that were not scripted by the club or agreed upon in advance.
It was noteworthy that the media pack were emboldened in their questioning of McGuire (this reporter was there), grilling him on the report and his history; there was a sense that he no longer held an intimidatory aura and that his vulnerability – and hurt – were palpable.
On Thursday, Collingwoods players – men, womens AFL and netballers – released an apology to those who had suffered from discrimination and racism at Collingwood, a pointed intervention following the botched media conference (for which McGuire apologised the next night at the clubs annual general meeting).
This followed a lengthy meeting between the players of all Collingwoods teams, chief executive Mark Anderson and Sizer, where leading AFL players voiced what was described to me as passive-aggressive questions about the report, which some players felt they had been unable to contribute to yet were being asked to comment upon.
President Eddie McGuire and Collingwood integrity committee member Jodie Sizer on Monday.Credit:Joe Armao
The players apology only added to the sense that the clubs people were unhappy with McGuires handling of the racial report, which – as star player Darcy Moore noted – was the issue that really mattered.
The AFLs view, too, was that the media conference had distracted from the important message of the report. Weve lost sight of whats important, said a senior AFL figure.
But in truth, McGuires troubles were not simply about his misplaced words, they were due to an accumulation of controversies – none more damaging to him and Collingwood than the 2013 King Kong comment on champion Adam Goodes (which, ironically, followed McGuires attempt to comfort Goodes after a young female fan called Goodes an ape); this in turn, led to Heritier Lumumba (then Harry OBrien) confronting McGuire, and was perhaps the beginning of Lumumbas fraught and now hostile relationship with Collingwood, which triggered both the Do Better report and a Supreme Court writ from the premiership ex-player.
Former Collingwood player Heritier Lumumba.Credit:Pat Scala
The simple question – should McGuire go soon? – was posed to a variety of people, Collingwood-connected and within AFL circles by The Age. The former top public servant of the Victorian government under Jeff Kennett, Lendlease director and Collingwood fan Elizabeth Proust, was firmly in the camp that McGuire should leave as soon as possible.
Proust, who has been sounded out about a board position at Collingwood in the past, believes the Magpies cannot achieve the cultural change they need while McGuire remains at the helm. The culture cant be fixed while Eddies still there, says Proust, who has just moved to Sydney and is not interested in standing for the board.
Hawthorn president Jeff Kennett said McGuire would be a significant loss to the AFL, but that decision was one for McGuire and his board. The loss of his knowledge would be a very sad thing. Hes the most experienced and knowledgeable of any of the presidents, said the former premier, who called McGuire a lightning rod like himself.
Leading television journalist and Collingwood fanatic Barrie Cassidy took the view that even if McGuire remains president for the rest of 2021, he should not be involved in Collingwoods attempts to repair their issues with race and that it was debatable whether, as outgoing president, he should be driving calls on the coaching position (Nathan Buckley is coming out of contract in his 10th season) and football.
If Eddie is to stay on until the end of the year, then the resolution to the racism issue and by extension the rebuild of the clubs culture must be done at arms length to him, Cassidy says.
Somebody from outside the club with expertise in the field has to be brought in to manage the implementation of the recovery program as outlined in the review. The process has to have absolute credibility.
Cassidy said he was concerned that when McGuire announced his exit he would spend the time remaining as president setting up a new era. Wrong attitude, he says. As the outgoing president he is responsible for 2021. The new administration should take it from there.
Lawyer David Galbally, an ex-board member at Collingwood, praised the presidents phenomenal work for Collingwood, yet also felt it was preferable if McGuire went earlier: All it is about is the future of the club.
McGuire also has supporters and those who believe, given that hes going anyway, he should be given the opportunity to step away as planned to avoid disruption.
Two enormous ironies colour his presidency: The first is that he arrived at Collingwood determined to rid the club of the racism taints from the Nicky Winmar, Michael Long and Allan McAlister incidents of the 90s. The second is that his problems were invariably the product of intemperate comments on air from a consummate media performer.
Whether it is in the coming days, or weeks, Eddie McGuires future at Collingwood is largely out of his hands. A six-member jury of his peers will shape the nature and timing of his exit.
It being Collingwood, it being Melbourne and football, it wont be straightforward, says Proust, who – like the author of that name – has a remembrance of (Collingwood) things past.