Who killed Collingwood: Inside the chain reaction that toppled the Magpies empire

Who killed Collingwood: Inside the chain reaction that toppled the Magpies empire


*It’s been described as the worst period in Collingwood’s long and proud history. The president is gone, the coach – a man who bleeds black and white – has stood down, and the playing list is a shambles. So where did it all go wrong? Read part one of Michael Warner and Glenn McFarlane’s feature on the demise of the Pies.* THE STEADY DISINTEGRATION OF Collingwood since November’s salary cap debacle and player fire sale has taken a heavy toll. Coaching great Mick Malthouse, who knows first hand how it feels to exit Australia’s most famous sporting club at a time not quite of his choosing, sensed it in early March when he reached out to his one-time boss, Eddie McGuire. A story by Herald Sun journalist Scott Gullan revealed McGuire had retreated from public life in the wake of his forced departure as Magpies president. Malthouse picked up the phone and arranged for the pair to have a coffee at the Bedggood & Co cafe in East Melbourne. “I just wanted to check that he was OK and a half-hour coffee went for two-and-a-half hours,” Mathouse says. “It was good. Nanette (Malthouse’s wife) came down part way through it and we just discussed old times and what we all went through. “We were broke when we first arrived at the club, we were on the bottom of the ladder and based at Victoria Park. You look where Collingwood are today with high membership, a good bank balance and entrenched inside Melbourne’s sporting precinct. That vision that Eddie had — we all jumped on board and so we spoke about that. But the other thing I said was that football clubs last a lot longer than all of us. It’s a carousel, you jump on and you fall off — or you are pushed off — at some stage. “You very rarely get off on your own terms. That’s just the nature of the beast.” The magnitude of McGuire’s exit in February, amid the fallout from the club’s botched response to the leaking of the “Do Better” racism report, was matched on Wednesday by the fall of favourite son Nathan Buckley. The casualty list at the Holden Centre since the trade period fiasco now includes football boss Geoff Walsh, list manager Ned Guy, billionaire director Alex Waislitz, the senior coach and a 23-year club president. And with a board challenge led by former Channel 9 boss Jeff Browne gathering momentum, another seven directors, including president Mark Korda, could be about to follow them out the door. ONE LINK IN A DAYNE REACTION THE UNRAVELLING OF COLLINGWOOD began in the days after West Coast star Dom Sheed broke a million Magpie hearts with a stunning set-shot goal in the dying minutes of the 2018 grand final. Stories rage about who is to blame for the Pies’ salary cap shemozzle, but in the weeks after that grand final loss, the decision to lure 2010 premiership hero Dayne Beams back from Brisbane on a bumper four-year, $2 million deal in exchange for two first-round picks proved one of the club’s big missteps. Other deals signed in the years leading up to the 2018 grand final, and shortly after, also tilted the scales of the club’s salary cap to the dangerously upper levels of the limit — without going over. The Beams deal started with a phone call from the player to the club. As the Lions captain, he had weeks earlier pledged his support to Brisbane at the club’s best and fairest count. But following the death of his father a year earlier — being closer to him had been one of the reasons why he returned to Queensland in 2015 — he resolved to come back to Collingwood. A number of his former teammates urged the Magpies to make it happen, thinking he could make the difference in 2019. He didn’t. Beams, played just nine more games in black and white before his premature retirement, pocketed an undisclosed settlement included in the salary cap because of an ongoing battle with mental health. The plot thickened this week when Beams made the extraordinary claim on SEN that his contract had been resolved outside the salary cap. Magpies great Tony Shaw says the Sheed goal was the sliding doors moment that cruelled his club. “If Collingwood had won the 2018 grand final, I’m telling you, unless they wanted to leave of their own volition, there is no way known that they (McGuire, Buckley and Guy) wouldn’t be there,” Shaw says. “The fine line is incredible. You’re only two minutes away from winning a premiership, and you wouldn’t be having these issues now — but that’s footy. “The ‘Do Better’ report might still have raised its head but you wouldn’t be worried about the board and a lot of things, but that’s what happens when you win and lose. “Everything that came to a head over the off-season was probably just too much. Can Nathan Buckley coach? Of course he can coach, but it just builds and builds and builds. “It’s a bloody cruel industry.”


THE CAP DOESN’T FIT THE BEAMS RECRUITMENT LED TO a heavily back-ended $900,000-a-season contract for Adam Treloar at a time ruckman Brodie Grundy was negotiating a seven-year, $7 million deal. The club also locked in lucrative deals to keep Jordan De Goey and Darcy Moore, after interest from rival clubs, as the salary cap time bomb ticked away in the background. The Magpie Army had been blissfully unaware just over 250 days ago when they watched Buckley orchestrate one of the greatest wins of his 10-season coaching tenure as the “dirty” Magpies stunned West Coast in an elimination final classic in Perth. In the week leading up to the game, Treloar had told the Herald Sun how much the hard quarantine experience in 2020 had brought the Collingwood group closer together. As it turned out, that proved to be his penultimate game in black and white, having an equal game-high 25 disposals. The crushing semi-final loss to Geelong the following week convinced those within the club that a list reset was required. But no one knew the full extent of it. Just over a month later, Treloar was a Bulldog. Jaidyn Stephenson, the AFL’s Rising Star winner just two years earlier, was a Kangaroo, and Tom Phillips was jettisoned to the Hawks. Three 2018 grand final players offloaded for minimal return. As the blood of Collingwood supporters boiled in the dying seconds of last year’s trade period, when Treloar was shipped off without even a resolution of the salary split between the two clubs, they couldn’t have imagined it would only get worse. Guy’s attempts to explain the club’s fire-sale by downplaying the extent of the salary cap squeeze (as well as suggesting Treloar’s wife’s move to Queensland to play netball had also been a factor) proved one of the train wreck interviews of the year. Walsh stuck to a similar narrative the following day, increasing the ire of fans. It wasn’t until CEO Mark Anderson sensed — or was told of — the members’ anger that he belatedly conceded the club had been forced into the moves by salary cap constraints on top of a belief that the list needed to be regenerated. That public relations disaster was further heightened when it was revealed Collingwood had to annually pay $300,000 of Treloar’s wage for the life of his Bulldogs’ contract. While Buckley may not have been ultimately responsible for the salary cap stuff-up, his stark messaging around Treloar’s departure appeared to be a significant departure from the image of the caring coach who had wrapped his arms around his players and connected with them on a deeper level, as had been the case in the club’s 2018 narrative. After the trade period, Buckley said Treloar took the trade as a “personal” decision, whereas Phillips had seen it as a “professional” one. The comments stung Treloar and his family. After the trade went down, Buckley reached out to him on a few occasions — without success. Walsh had been planning to retire and did so late last year. He was replaced by Collingwood’s 1990 premiership wingman Graham Wright, who had been a part of the Hawthorn program through its recent successes. Guy offered his resignation after the trade period, but the club convinced him to ride out the storm. He did, until May, when he chose to exit the club following the mid-year draft. THE LEAK THAT STARTED A TSUNAMI IF THE SALARY CAP ISSUE impacted on the field — with a 3-9 ledger in the first half of 2021 ultimately costing the coach his job — the leaking and the fallout of the “Do Better” report into a history of systemic racism at Collingwood effectively brought down the most high-profile president in the game. As much as McGuire has claimed since returning to the football media that he’d still be president of Collingwood if he wanted to be, the reality was he was pushed ahead of his planned retirement at the end of this year. The board’s decision to sit on the report after it was returned to the club prior to last Christmas was a disaster waiting to happen. Then McGuire’s decision to go off script at a hastily arranged press conference — where he described it as “a historic and proud day” for the club — started a snowball that ended in his resignation in early February, triggered months of boardroom upheaval and brought about the emergence of a challenger. The fact that the board — sans McGuire — couldn’t settle on a successor for months gave an impression of division, before Korda — who had been a part of the board since 2007 — was finally elevated to the presidency. The call to appoint former professional cyclist Dr Bridie O’Donnell as a replacement for Waislitz also backfired when it was revealed she had not been a member for the required two years to have voting rights as a director. Few around the club took Heritier Lumumba’s claims that he was subjected to racial slurs during his 10-year playing stint at the Magpies seriously until the Pies announced in June last year that its integrity committee, headed by club director Peter Murphy, would investigate “in an effort to search for the truth in the matters raised”. Oversight of the probe was then handed to two independent professors, who painted a damning picture of the club’s history and culture. Despite trying to resolve the fallout with Lumumba, a 2010 premiership defender, that relationship looks beyond repair. The club has adopted all the recommendations of the “Do Better” report, but the pain still lingers.


UPHOLD THE MAGPIES NAME THE SALT IN THE WOUND has been the resurgence of suburban rival Richmond, which has roared past Collingwood to become the biggest club in the land with 100,000 members and three of the past four premierships. The Pies rightfully point to significant cash reserves in the bank, almost 80,000 members, MCG tenancy and funding for another Holden Centre redevelopment as reasons to dispute suggestions of a decline. But as Malthouse says, boardroom instability is the ultimate enemy of football clubs. “Go back over the last 20 years — no team has won a premiership unless the club participates strongly. By that, I mean the board has a vision which is passed down to the administration, which supports the team totally and the coach totally,” Malthouse says. If you’ve got a good team, that gives you an absolute chance — but if there’s any break in that chain you have got absolutely no hope of winning a premiership. “And at Collingwood at the moment the board has been distracted, the administration is under the pump and the coach was under pressure, and that does rub off — I can tell you that from personal experience.” Through all the months of upheaval, Malthouse says it’s the loyal Magpie Army who have hurt the most. “You don’t realise it until you actually get to that club just how big it is. And the ones I really feel sorry for are the supporters,” he says. “They are absolutely outstanding. They live and breathe black and white, they are just uniquely fantastic and the ones who suffer most.”


Ive always been of the opinion, the unraveling of Collingwood more than likely began with the Malthouse-Buckley succession plan. Buckley turned out to be a pretty decent coach and had a couple good years (should’ve even won a flag), but something about Collingwood hasn’t felt right since then. Side note: not saying Buckley shouldn’t have become coach at some point. I’ve just always felt the way it was handled did more damage than good.


Has Buckley really been a good coach? He dismantled a young premiership side after he took over, had a brilliant 15 months from half way through 2018 to the prelim in 19 and then it all fell apart. Post 2012 pre 18 Collingwood weren’t exactly a brilliant, fun exciting team to watch. Again through 18 & 19 that changed but again reverted back to how they’d been through the majority of his tenure and he reverted back to the FIGJAM we all know when he said all that shit about Treloar post trade period. He’s a brilliant media communicator and will do well, but is he a good coach? I don’t think so. I don’t think premierships are the only marker but playing exciting footy is one for me, as is getting more than you should put of a mediocre squad. Brad Scott at North as an example.


Not going to argue with you, because I agree with pretty much everything you said. However I tend to see coaches in one of five categories. Bad, average, good, very good or great. Bad and average coaches either don’t make the finals much/at all, or have no impact in the finals/fail to win any. Good coaches tend to make the finals and have an impact/win, maybe even reach a Grand Final. Very good coaches win premierships. They also keep their team relevant and/or successfully rebuild a contender. Great coaches win multiple flags. Based on my rating system coaches like Buckley and Brad Scott fall under “good”. Doesn’t necessarily mean they’re on the same level though, good is a wide spectrum


Yeah I get that, I consider him average personally. It just seems to be continuously brushed over that “oh he’s a good coach” they made a GF. Goodwin made a prelim the same year and i’d’ve been happy with him getting the arse at any point after last season. He might be a great coach inside the club, and around the group but I just can’t seem to understand why it seems to be just widely accepted as fact considering the way his sides played and the results they got.


That’s fair. I guess the main reason I consider him a “good” coach, is that he was able to rebuild a team into a contender and fell just short of back to back grand finals (and made the finals 3 years straight). To me that graduates you from average to the lower end of good. Simon Goodwin is at present, an average coach. The only way he can become a “good” coach this year is to win the flag. A GF loss or anything less keeps him at average until the end of next year, because as of now he hasn’t proved any kind of consistency (the way Buckley did). Does my reasoning make sense at all? Haha


>McGuire had retreated from public life in the wake of his forced departure We fucking wish...


He was though under his anonymous alt E.McGuire.


Actually no that's too obvious... Let's say Eddie M.


Phil inn.




Really after nearly 30 years do you think he would? Pretty ridiculous wish if you ask me.


No, but we live in hope.


I didn't ask you, but uh, thanks for your input anyway.


Mick speaks a lot of sense in that article. If his Carlton tenure hadn’t been so nightmarish, I would almost think having him back as an advisor would be a good thing


Malthouse, for all his faults, has always struck me as an intelligent person. At least on the topic of footy.


I think he’s extremely sensible and intelligent, however I also think he has a temper that can blind those parts of him. I also think his response to the Robbie Muir stuff that came out last year also shows that he doesn’t hold the modern values required to come back into footy at this point either


Nah, remember Ed said the stress of coaching would kill Mick.


Not concerned who did it, just tell me the PO Box to send the reward.


Apparently it was all Dom Sheeds fault. Is Dom is good.


I mean he definitely provided a sliding doors moment. This stuff would have come out anyway but it wouldn't have been as messy if Dom missed


Is it really an Empire when you didn’t conquer that much?


It was neither holy, Roman, nor an empire.


In the next month we are gonna get the news that Pendles is retiring and Collingwood have a draft ban for salary cap rorting meaning they miss out on Daicos. Probably 6 months after that they get moved to Tassie.


You know, at this point I’m preparing for anything to unfold


It’s the darkest timeline for Collingwood


Are all the players expected to wear cut out felt beards now?


Don't forget, De Goey's trial is only a couple of months away!


I’m interested in Micks beast that won’t let him get off on his own terms… I think I’m into it.


When is de goeys trial? Gaol a possibility. That will be huge.


“If Collingwood had won the 2018 grand final, I’m telling you, unless they wanted to leave of their own volition, there is no way known that they (McGuire, Buckley and Guy) wouldn’t be there,” Shaw says. “The fine line is incredible. You’re only two minutes away from winning a premiership, and you wouldn’t be having these issues now — but that’s footy. “The ‘Do Better’ report might still have raised its head but you wouldn’t be worried about the board and a lot of things, but that’s what happens when you win and lose." --- To say you wouldn't be having any issues if you won the flag..... I mean. Wow. It is unlucky and cruel, true, but there were clearly still issues.


I mean, there’s a very clear link. They win in 2018, they don’t go for Dayne Beams, or at the very least don’t pay him that much. Without Dayne Beams, the impacts of the rest of the issues are much less severe.


So.... which direction did Beams going to Collingwood come from? Beams (and by rumour, his wife pushing for relocation) wanting to go back, or Collingwood wanting him back and being willing to bend over backwards to get him? Or was it a little from Column A and a little from Column B? Because that deal stank to high heaven from where I stood as a Brisbane fan, even if we got great value out it - he gives a speech accepting the club champion award, swearing that he's going nowhere and seeing out his contract, a week before trade week starts, he's at a function with Fagan and other senior officials and players at Brisbane, and then suddenly, five minutes (figuratively speaking at least) from the end of Trade Week, he's going back to Collingwood. There's been a lot of rumours, and nothing really makes a lot of sense.


Winning forgives all sins. West Coast in the mid 2000s, Luke hodge drink driving with no penalty from the club, Wayne Carey still being employed, the list could be endless


Yes, but West Coast had massive problems as a club, which they acknowledged and moved forward from. They didn't say there were no issues because they won a flag. The others are not club wide problems showing a bigger issue,.


Exactly. We spent years trying to change the culture at the club.


You could argue that the cultural problems / drug abuse problems were well known before it all came crashing down but was overlooked because the players involved were delivering the wins My point isn't about Collingwoods issues in particular, just that success will allow people or organisations to overlook problems. This applies to many facets of life


When a club great dies, your best player is running from booze busses, your other best player leaves due to the issues and there’s a bad story a year about the players from that time you have no other choice but to acknowledge them. If they weren’t so public wce definitely would have swept them under the rug until they couldn’t, hell I would say there’s stories we’ll never hear from that time that the eagles are happy to keep silent.


The salary cap would have seemed less dumb if it worked.


I for one welcome our new Tasmanian Devils merger.


Collingwood killed Collingwood. The end.


A lethal dose of poison


Yes, what we really need is another article on Collingwood rehashing the same topics over and over again. I get everyone is always obsessed about us, but the feeling ain’t mutual folks.


Just wait until Buckley releases his coaching memoir


It can't have a worse title than Malthouse's.


Sure it can, "A Proud and Historic Memoir" Actually, that's the title of Eddie's


Actually I think Eddie's memoir is titled "The President vs Kong Hehehe Just Kidding, No Really, I Didn't Mean it Like That in Spite of Hundreds of Years of Racist Jibes, I've Been Really Tired, Cough Cough, It's My Medication, I've Said I Apologised Can't We Just Move On"


Who amongst hasn't accidently walked out the wrong door?


It took a couple years for constant articles on Adelaide's camp to end. So enjoy the next few years.


I constantly hear that Collingwood are Australia’s biggest club, so unfortunately it comes with the territory


But they aren't, that title belongs to the MCC, just.


Not any more they aren’t


It might be time for you to have a break from Reddit, and media generally, if this is starting to get to you. If not, harden up princess! I was a kid in the 80s and there wasn't a lot of fun in being a Richmond supporter during that time and longer. I do distinctly remember Collingwood fans going the hardest in their ridicule during Richmond's dark days. All that anyone who loved the Tiges could do was suck it up and either hide away their passion or wear it proudly and defiantly in the hope one day the tables would turn. Well guess what? We have been waiting a while and the supporters of many other clubs would feel the same, you toothless cunts have had your table burnt to the ground and no one is letting you up anytime soon


I mean Collingwood and Richmond had a war trying to steal each other's players in the 80s that almost destroyed both clubs, probably should be surprising that supporters of the two clubs didn't get on too well.


Jack Dyer hated Collingwood so much, he wouldn’t watch a black and white movie


That was before the war


I couldn’t care less about other clubs failing, all I care about is Collingwood succeeding. Once you start barracking for others to lose you’re pretty pathetic in my eyes.


If you don't care stop whining and move on. Collingwood are a long way from succeeding and your bitching is not going to help


Nah, I’ll post what I want thanks. Go off and indulge your cuckold fetish if you don’t like it 😂


Another reason why this is fun to watch.


Eddyo killed the collingwood star!