3 Votes to Eddie as Pies find on-field kumbaya

Those of a non-Collingwood persuasion, which – despite the efforts of sections of the media to imply otherwise – still constitutes the overwhelming majority of the football world, have long become familiar with the Magpies’ desire to dominate the agenda.

After all, in the Collingwood world view, it is all about them.

But even by their lofty standards, the 48 hours preceding their clash with Carlton set new benchmarks for attention seeking.

Firstly, coach Mick Malthouse felt compelled to bemuse and befuddle the masses as he went live-to-air on the Footy Show, to talk his way (again) through an arrangement that has been in existence for 18 months. It’s one, to judge from his performance, he’s still clearly attempting to come to grips with. The furrows competed furiously with the Botox on Sam Newman’s brow as he struggled to follow the reasoning behind the Collingwood coach’s non-confirming confirmation of his place of employment next season. Most watching sympathised with how Sam felt. For once.

Fortunately, as luck would have it, the Magpies had a ‘previously scheduled’ meeting between the main players in this particular little psychodrama due the next morning. Said meeting has been reported to have started with a little chill in the air, but had reached a blessed state of ‘kumbaya’ for all concerned by its completion. At least according to President Ed.

Must have been some meeting.

With various involved factions  now obviously backgrounding the media in the manner of a parliamentary room putsch we will no doubt hear more on this subject.

Then , just because the day hadn’t been eventful enough, there came the minor matter of the Collingwood Betting Scandal. (Am I the only one to find a certain lilting poetry in that phrase?)

As John Harms pointed out on Offsiders on Sunday morning, there’s a long history of gambling-associated controversy in the VFL/AFL, but almost all of it dates back to a time when the players were poorly paid and susceptible to inducement on genuine economic grounds. Which presumably don’t apply to Mr Shaw and Mr Maxwell.

The Collingwood president has been quick to support the proposition that players can’t bet on games and that punishment needed to follow. Given his previous public position on the matter he could hardly do otherwise. At the press conference on Friday it was apparent the players concerned were in no doubt about the public line they had to toe. All the right sentiments were expressed. After the fact.

But what were they thinking at the time?

Inevitably some consider the penalties harsh. Even those who accept there was a problem have sought to bemoan the various injustices and hypocrisies of the world. It is Collingwood we’re talking about after all. Racial vilification, selective morality on gambling from the AFL (and society in general), the wrongdoings of other clubs through history, all these and more have been variously cited. I was waiting for shonky tradesmen and dodgy used-car salesmen to rate a mention.

All of them completely irrelevant.

Amongst a sea of furphy’s, the proposition is simple. Jockeys can’t bet on races. Football players can’t bet on football matches. Plain and simple. The reasons are so obvious we shouldn’t really have to elaborate on them (yet again).

Why Heath Shaw would choose to ignore them, who could explain? Devout Magpie Michael Gleeson valiantly wrote an article for The Age on Saturday which seemed designed to paint young Mr Shaw as a candidate for Mensa. Given his previous track record most will find this amusing, if not hilarious. Reacting to immediate impulse should never be confused with an actual thought process.

By Saturday arvo President Ed was truly ‘everywhere’ in damage control mode. The fact the players in question had ‘fessed up when sprung was being painted as a positive virtue.

An interesting argument this one. And one increasingly in vogue in spin-doctoring circles. If the offender declines to obstruct investigation of said offence he deserves credit. Hmm… I suppose you could view it like catholic confession… Or not.

But what of the captain? A man, as President Ed was at pains to point out at least twice in every interview, ‘of the utmost integrity’. Leigh Matthews and Tom Harley cut admirably to the point on Friday night TV. What was he doing discussing match tactics with the family in the first place?

Is this something he normally would do as a matter of course? Are they on the match committee?

Might not it be reasonable to consider this an imprudent action for a club captain? Or just plain dumb?

And why would the family of a league captain need it explicitly stated for them that it would get messy if they bet using that information? Were they really ignorant of that fact? It’s not like footy gambling hasn’t rated a mention of late.

Lucky President Ed was there to remind us about the skipper’s integrity (again), or else some of us might be scratching our heads about goings on: even if you take all of Maxwell’s  testimony at face value.

If nothing else, the Collingwood line that all is now rosy in the garden requires a more generous level of credulity from outsiders than most Magpie fans have been willing to offer to, say, certain Visy Environmental Ambassadors.

Despite the diverting lead in, most Carlton fans were silently fearing the main bout wouldn’t live up to the preliminary card. Henderson on Cloke and Thornton pinch-hitting up forward didn’t exactly have a winning sound to it if we were being honest.

Young Matthew Watson could also be excused for pondering the vagaries of selection. A debut in the round 2 practice match against the Suns, followed by the Magpies, then 15 weeks later Collingwood again. Try striking a meaningful average through those three experiences.

But the injuries to Jamison, Waite and Hampson had left few immediate options. Everyone was going to have to make do as best they could.

They didn’t make a bad fist of it. But Collingwood still led from the start, should have led by more but for inaccuracy, and had an answer to every challenge Carlton could throw at them. For the second time this season Carlton were not disgraced but looked some way off toppling the reigning premiers.

Captain Integrity and his boys have been moulded into a formidable unit where everyone knows their role and understands what they should be doing in a given circumstance. When they have the ball they run hard to spots that make them useful to the play. Then they execute efficiently and predictably to each other. It sounds simple but Richmond have been trying to master it for 30 years.

When they don’t have the ball they set the current standard for harassing their opponents into turnover or ineffective disposal. Too often Carlton’s hard work in midfield would result in a high kick to the goal square with only Betts or Garlett as the marking targets, with the obvious result.

The coaching staff – whoever is claiming the credit – have given them a decided edge. Newcomers can be slotted in with a clear understanding of their role and the confidence that if they perform it satisfactorily the sum of the whole will prevail.

The Blues have made definite strides in gathering the sort of talent that will give them a chance, but some key components are still missing. Whether they are on the list, still awaiting development, or await discovery will be shown in time. The reality for Carlton is that they haven’t beaten a top 5 side this year. They’ve shown improvement, but for now the challenge of beating Essendon next week will fully occupy them.

Despite their own best efforts at self-distraction, Collingwood were up to this challenge. If they don’t make too much further trouble for themselves they’ll take a power of beating. Many hold to the theory that the secret to besting them lies in making their defenders accountable and denying them the opportunity to rebound through efficient disposal into the forward line. That’s proving to be a plan more easily contemplated than executed.

But they’re not the certainties many have painted them to be. They would know as well as anyone after this week that the unexpected can always arise. It’s still a long way to October 1st. They have the superior system for the moment, but if that system can be unsettled there are a number of current teams they won’t be able to overwhelm through sheer talent alone.

The team took the points but President Ed deserved the 3 votes. He covered more ground than Dane Swan in his efforts to put out the various fires. Unlike previous incidents, he resolutely avoided any mention of Gold Logies. He picked his approach, stuck to his lines (believable or not) and looked interviewers one and all in the eye as he sold them. He has a clue or two about playing the media game.

As does his team about playing the real one.



3- E. McGuire

2- T. Cloke

1-  S. Pendelbury/D. Thomas (take your pick)


About John Butler

John Butler has fled the World's Most Liveable Car Park and now breathes the rarefied air of the Ballarat Plateau. For his sins, he has passed his 40th year as a Carlton member.


  1. Richard Naco says

    “Heath, this is the President.

    Answer the phone, Heath, you know I hate talking to your silly answering machine. And for Rene Kink’s sake, get rid of the Eye of the Tiger theme on this thing – you’re a Magpie, Heath, a MAGPIE!

    (Get some Acka Dacka or something by Barnsey – we have an image to maintain, Heath.)

    OK, if you’re not going to get out from behind the couch to speak to your President, you can just lie there and listen to this then, Heath.

    Just listen.

    You’ve stuffed up, again. And let us all down, again. We have standards at Collingwood, despite what the journos and those dilettentes on the Almanac say, Heath, and rules. We have rules. You would know them. I think you’ve broken almost all of them now. And Rule #1, Heath, is don’t get caught!


    So this is your last chance. I know you’ve had a few in the past, but this is serious now. This is your last last chance.

    Until the next one.

    Love ya, Heath. Bye.”

  2. John Butler says

    ‘This is absolutely the last last chance Heath”.

    Rooly trooly.

  3. forwardpocket says

    JB for someone who claims to be sick of hearing about Collingwood I was intrigued that 95% of your piece was about Collingwood.

  4. John Butler says


    It’s like the Mafia.

    Just when you think you’re out, they pull you back in.

    Besides, you didn’t think I wanted to spend too much time talking about the loss did you? :)

  5. John Butler says

    Besides, it was pretty hard to miss Eddie on the weekend.

    I reckon I saw him elbowing the Dalai Lama out of the way on MasterChef.

  6. forwardpocket says

    I’ll talk about Carlton. Both games this year they have not been able to put scoreboard pressure on the Pies but they have not been put away either which is a good sign. They are definitely a prelminary finalist at the least but they need to win the next 4 or 5 to give themselves the best chance. Locking in that top 4 spot as early as possible is the key to finals success.

  7. johnharms says

    Most informative and entertaining JB, and the level of Pie-poke spot on. Sort of the Peter Bosustow elbow resting on the Picken intercostals – just enough pointiness and pressure for Billy to know it’s there.

  8. John Butler says


    I think the Blues best not be dreaming of prelims just yet.

    It would be nice to actually beat a top side for starters.

    Essendon have been troubling to us recently. Getting over them will be enough of a start.


    I reckon Billy would have had the street-smarts not to get sprung in the first place.

    Probably shared a bet or two (and the odd elbow) with Sellers. Those were simpler times (they say).

  9. Meanwhile, the biggest controversy of that game goes unreported – allowing the ‘public’ into the MCC… Collingwood-supporting public no less. I’m sorry, but a 15-year-old Spicers Collingwood tracksuit top does not constitute a ‘collar’ in my interpretation of the dress code.

  10. John Butler says

    Standards dropping everywhere Litza. :(

  11. Litza,
    Disgraceful. I am stunned !
    The Club will never be the same.

  12. forwardpocket says

    Litza, I can smell a (the right sort of) People’s Elbow cooking!

  13. Am penning a letter to the MCC that I plan to reproduce on the site.

  14. JB – enjoyed that. The Pies will be hard to beat even without numbskull in the back line.

  15. Nice piece, JB. I have been musing about the critical factor of what we call ‘instinct’ but is more ‘ingrained habits’. An obvious example is players’ understandable pavlovian* reaction to the whistle and the incoherence of the current advantage ‘rule’ (well explored elsewhere on the Almanac site today).
    I saw half the Blues stoic resistance to the Pica machine on Saturday, and unfortunately all of the Eagles game against the BayBoys. JB’s piece captures that ingrained Blues/Eagles habit of ‘bombing it long’ to undersized/undermanned forwards. Have Hafey and Pagan replaced Ratts and Woosha in the coaching box? Methinks it is just that habit born of pressure and desperation to look up see a jumper and kick toward it. Result – simple Pies/Saints easy rebound and setup.
    What is the alternative? Watching on TV makes it hard to judge where the space is and the players aren’t. But at games I find myself increasingly looking away from the contest to gauge where the herd/press/flood are heading and conversely where improbable opportunity could present.
    I noticed that the Eagles scores came as much from errant/forced kicks to SPACE on our forward line as from coherent play. Sort of like the danger and UNPREDICTABILITY of broken play scoring opportunities in rugby.
    The Magpies obviously have some very good players (Thomas, Pendlebury, OBrien, Jolly) – but I don’t think they are individually better than the nearest competition. To my eye the ability of average players/newcomers to fit into the Pie structure suggests that more is at play than the ‘best players’. Superior fitness or Arizona Elephant Juice as we call it in the West is one part. The other is what you alluded to JB – the discipline and effectiveness of the ‘game plan’. I don’t know what it is, but I am sure that they have had the ‘ingrained habits’ of their junior/other club years coached out of them on fear of death (maybe that is why the electrodes don’t work on their ‘social’ habits – burned them out on the training track). Great coaching and why Eddie would be a fool to entrust the golden goose to Bucks (I doubt that he could scare it into laying so effectively). I can see Eddie offering Mick a million a year to go to Barcelona to see what they do – and stay there for the next 5 years.

    * Footnote for the Floreat Pica members – Steve Pavlov is Matthew’s father and played on the half forward flank for West Torrens in the 1970’s. He was an experimental psychologist in his native Croatia before coming to Australia to grow tomatoes and father Matthew.

  16. Speaking of elephant juice Peter, what’s Whoosha’s qualification? (Outside footy)

  17. Sorry Phantom, forgot Woosh was apprenticed to George Way at Ascot in a previous life, until he put on too many kilos and turned to facial reconstructive surgery as a profession (Tony Modra says the craggy scarred look helped him no end with the ladies – I here there are a few blokes who would like to give ALovett a facelift)

  18. You know what I mean Peter.

  19. Andrew Starkie says


    I thought ‘Collingwood betting scandal’ dated back to John Wren days.

    Agreed with a lot of what you said, but I can’t agree with your defense of your ‘Environmental Ambassador’. Dirty money, mate.

    Surely we haven’t reached the stage when players can’t tell their families what position they’re playing on the weekend.

  20. John Butler says


    I know the Navy Blue makes you see red. Fair enough.

    But given Carlton’s recent history, and the attention the Judd deal got, if there’s one arrangement that the AFL would have gone over with a fine tooth comb it’s that one.

    It’s not like he’s the only player in history employed by a club benefactor. Been going on for over a 100 years. By all clubs.

    As for players talking to the family. Part of the price everyone in the industry pays for the AFL accepting big betting sponsorships is that this becomes a very touchy area. Yes, players will need to think twice about anything match related that they discuss. And who they discuss it with.

    The footy industry leaks like a sieve. Where do bookies get their inside info? But that only makes it more imperative that lines are drawn as clearly as possible as to what is or isn’t acceptable. It’s not a question of being morally righteous, it’s necessary for the game’s credibility. Footy was under a cloud of gambling doubt all the way up to WWII. It can easily happen again.

  21. John Butler says


    If we had certain answers to that we’d all be employed by clubs. :)

    But I think Collingwood’s advantage is their predictability to each other. Their players kick hurriedly but find team mates far too often for it to be random. The kicker knows where he is supposed to kick it to, and the others are committed to running to the right spot.

    Discipline, repetition, muscle-memory, all are involved. Plus players able to think clearly under pressure. And a plan everyone understands clearly and buys into.

    The Pies hold to a certain structure even as their zone moves. They have get out options when they need them. And they work together to give the ball carrier time.

    They didn’t invent any of this, they just do it more efficiently and consistently than the other teams. For the present.

  22. Hi JB
    Shaw wears his IQ on the back of his jumper. Mind you the Shaws have swam down the shallow end of the gene pool for some time. I thought we were lucky not to be down by 6 goals at quarter time and unlucky not to be infront at three quarter time. Clearly Betts needs abig bloke to give him some scraps in in the absence of Waite. Why not kick it to a non contest and let the little blokes use their leg speed. The improvement in Jammo has never been more evident in the past 3 weeks. His absence, and the continuing presnce of Mrs Thorntons boy have caused big concerns. Henderson remains a worry. The kids can’t mark and continually jumps off two feet reducing his leap. Still I look fwd to seeing thew Blues in the flesh this Saturday night as beating the Cesnas would be a joy. Are you still keen to go the game?

  23. John Butler says

    Howdy TR

    Eddie just needs to do something against Collingwood full stop.

    I think Henderson also needs to work on his acceleration. But I have some sympathy for him. Reduced pre-season and thrown down back to plug holes.

    We need at least one more big bodied key position type, even after Jamo and Waite return. Don’t suppose the Eagles would be interested in a Thornton>Kennedy trade?

    Thought not. :(

    I’ll be in touch re Saturday.

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