For the love of Collingwood, it’s time Ed

After endless speculation the last rites have been read and Nathan Buckley’s coaching career is slowly, achingly being lowered into the ground. Eddie McGuire’s tenure must surely be as tenuous . Oddly, El Presidente has thus far escaped the same level of scrutiny.

When Ed took on the role the club was a basket case. It’s been a rollercoaster 20 year ride, but the undeniable fact is the club is once again a shambles.

Yes, Ed dragged his beloved ‘Pies into the 21st Century and quickly put in place the means to achieve both on field and off field success, which at its highest point, returned the Magpies to an enviable/despised position of yore. Ultimately though, one flag over the journey is barely a pass mark overseeing a club of Collingwood’s resources.

There is no denying Buckley botched it. Stubborness, habitually unbalanced line-ups, backing flawed ‘favourites’, over-valuing grunt ahead of skills,  questionable game plans his charges struggled to execute in any case and an inability to develop and extract the best from individuals are common, justifiable criticisms. But Ed’s fate is not simply hog tied to the Buckley-Malthouse succession plan and the latter’s failure to succeed, as many would contend.

Collingwood has not only lost direction under Eddie’s watch, it’s lost the compass. By this pundit’s reckoning, the rot set in when on principle Ed refused to incur tax for spending above the football department cap. So much for Ed’s ‘only the best for Collingwood’ mantra… Not sure Magpie fans were feeling the best watching the Hawks lift cup after cup after cup. You see, they pay the price for the expensive shoes.

Despite Bucks’ perceived failings, a number of mitigating factors traceable to Ed have muddied the waters. For several years Bucks’ support crew have been sporting short pants and Bata Scouts. Green assistants and good old boys who’ve never seen the top of the mountain equates to a low collective coaching IQ, plainly evident on the field and at the selection table every other week. Two recent head scratchers are a case in point; after one season as an assistant at the Cats and Pies, Jared Rivers took the reigns of Collingwood’s VFL team, meanwhile midfielder extraordinaire Robert Harvey is now serving as Bucks’ defensive coach.  It’s no surprise Collingwood’s recruitment and game style has been off trend for years, and now it’s come to light the two departments haven’t been on the same page. A procession of football managers (five in six years) hasn’t helped. Gubby Allan’s tumultuous return at the expense of the accomplished Neil Balme, coupled with a low performing high performance manager and a recruiting/list management duo that long ago lost their mojo… Lucky for Bucks his blonde hair hides the greys so well.

Three separate reviews into the operations of the club is an indictment on the President and CEO and their inability to put the right people in the right positions, or follow due process. Ed appears understandably stale and out of ideas. One can only hope there is actually a process to appoint the next coach, for the President has foregone the right to any more captain’s picks.

Whilst the notion of embracing women’s football and netball teams is lovely, full voting members were not consulted before Collingwood diversified operations to transition into general sporting club. And this at a time when the core product was languishing badly. A retro-fit survey was a laughable, belated attempt to curry favour after the deed was done. Such a shift should have been voted on, but the club wouldn’t know how to run a vote given the cherry picked board and Ed are returned year after year unopposed. Any hint of challenge is portrayed as betraying the ‘side by side’ ethos, which is not only undemocratic, but unhealthy to a successful organisation. This autocracy flies in the face of the ‘everyone is welcome’ ethos that helped bolster membership and attendances to record levels. Everyone is welcome, as long as they pay their membership, buy the merch and STFU.

After the cheer squad’s decimation, club coterie groups have also been given short shrift over recent times, for their contribution pales compared to what a whopping great database and sponsorships delivers to the bottom line. Ah, yes, sponsors… Where would they be without Ed? Well, it’s time to break that umbilical cord which was stretched to the limit after Ed’s monumentally embarrassing Adam Goodes and Caroline Wilson gaffs.

The club’s considerable blue rinse set will continue to back Ed, but any finger remotely near the pulse would ascertain the groundswell of disenchantment. At the ground, on the train, at the pub, on the web forums, you see them everywhere – disillusioned and bereft of hope Collingwood supporters. Watching the likes of Carlton, Melbourne, St Kilda and Essendon (from the abyss, mind you) – hey, virtually every other club – rebuild and leave Collingwood in their wake is galling. Meanwhile, the ghost town that was once a pulsating Ponsford Stand is appalling.

There’s no disputing Ed’s tireless work over the long haul for the club he loves. The shame is tarnishing forever what at one point would have been a legacy to be proud. Last year even Ed questioned his will to continue, only to be talked out of quitting by his own flesh and blood (hardly the requisite unbiased opinion). Is it an egotistical delusion compelling Ed to soldier on like an addicted gambler aching for one last winning hand? Or was it just the 125th anniversary party wake? If ever a wondrous succession plan was required it’s now, well, actually five years ago would have been dandy.

The greatest shame is that by lingering on, clinging to that prime car spot outside the Holden Centre, I can’t get away from the word ‘selfish’.

 

@JeffDowsing

About Jeff Dowsing

Washed up former Inside Sport and Sunday Age Sport freelancer. Now just giving my stuff away to good homes. Not to worry, still have my health and day job.

Published & unpublished works fester on my blog Write Line Fever.

Comments

  1. John Butler says:

    An eloquent dissection of the consequences of overstaying your welcome, JD.

    As a Carlton person, this is very familiar. Also, as a Carlton person, we can finally say real change is possible. Far be it from me to offer hope to a Magpie.

    Cheers

  2. Phillip Dimitriadis says:

    “Low performing high performance manager” “Any hint of challenge is portrayed as betraying the ‘side by side’ ethos” Funny how the Magpies in our 125th wake are not facing eachother…subconscious division?
    Spot on in every department JD.
    While many people are angry, there is another, more powerful force at work afflicting the Pies and that is apathy. People can’t be bothered if they feel they are being fooled. They just won’t spend the time , money and energy on the club, hence all the empty seats in the Ponsford. Looks like this will be the first year since 1978 that I won’t attend a Collingwood game. I have better things to do than support the Toorak Boys Club masquerading as CFC.

  3. Yeah, real change is definitely possible JB and Collingwood has bounced back quickly from the brink on a couple occasions in my lifetime.

    But right now I have about as much faith in positive change occurring as the people of North Korea.

  4. John Butler says:

    Gubby Allan to return?

    What message would that send?

  5. george smith says:

    Historian Shelby Foote said that Gettysburg was the terrible price the South paid for Robert E Lee.

    Is the Malthouse/Buckley handover our Gettysburg?

  6. JB – don’t start me on Gubby, who in his 5 minutes back in the job consigned us to 4 years of Chris Mayne at 500k pa.

    Phil, nail meets head re apathy. So many I know and know of have lost interest as they see no mechanism that will deliver positive change. Stability is great but not to the point of a fiefdom. Collingwood has been the frog in a slow boiling pot.

  7. Great read Jeff.

    Its frightening to think how disconnected from the supporter group the club is.

    To think Bucks is nearly on double the pay of Bolton.

    Head in the sand stuff.

    Look forward to the next one.

  8. Thanks Ash, I came out of retirement for this one out of utter frustration and a sense of helplessness.

    You are 100% correct – the current administration appears to have no idea what the rank and file (with half a brain) are thinking and feeling.

    My greatest worry is the leadership vacuum as a consequence of a leader that shalt not be held accountable or challenged.

    Ed WAS great, but everyone has a use by date.

    Essentially everyone from the president to the boot studder should be required to reapply for their positions, if the club is fair dinkum about winning AFL premierships.

  9. Great to have you back, JD.
    Even as a long-time Collingwood hater I found myself nodding my head in agreement at the all the points you have raised in this piece.
    Observing from afar, I believe that all the trouble started when McGuire et al refused to countenance the idea that Nathan Buckley should be allowed to find his feet/ move on/ develop his career at another club. The Malthouse/Buckley succession agreement was nothing more than naked selfishness on McGuire’s part: he wanted both Malthouse and Buckley at the club and to hell with any other outcome. I still cannot understand why Malthouse agreed to be a part of it – the bitterness this engendered in him pushed him into the Carlton role rather then retirement, and that period has really diminished his legacy (just ask JB orang other Blues supporter).
    The inexperienced Buckley was handed the keys to the Audi/ Holden without the prerequisite apprenticeship. He is a excellent media performer, was a wonderful player, and seems like a charming bloke, but I reckon Buckley is too often out-coached on game day.
    As for McGuire: he would be the first to point the finger at anyone else who had obviously stayed in a position for far too long, but he just does not seem to get it. It is an indictment on Collingwood (supporters/ members/ board/ coteries/ etc) that no serious alternate has had the guts to put up his/her hand to challenge the incumbent.

  10. Correct Smokie – as the TISM song goes, Collingwood supporters are interested in apathy it seems.

    The problem is, as I see it, Ed’s stranglehold over the club is so strong and has been going so long that no one can see a way past. The club runs its own media/brainwashing service and Ed has mainstream media wrapped up as well.

    Who can fight that? No wonder many supporters have gradually drifted away as there is no compelling alternative or hope for one presenting.

  11. Paul Young says:

    Outstanding work Jeff, pretty much sums it up for the Pies.

    I like the way you have included a subtle reference to the late Alan Jeans famous 1989 “be prepared to pay the price” anecdote.

    However I don’t think the Hawks would be paying more for their footware than Collingwood.

    Seems to me, when it comes to how they roll, the Hawks are prepared to pay for the best and most appropriate shoes, say RM Williams style, while Collingwood would spend more on a nice pair of Dolci Firme Italian shoes and a matching handbag. Look nice on the red carpet at the Brownlow, but won’t get you far on the green carpet of the MCG.

  12. Phillip Dimitriadis says:

    Just realised, JD.
    None of our coaches have played in a Premiership side. None.

  13. Yep Phil, it’s a sad fact not widely known. Hence the line about none of them having seen the top of the mountain.

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