Collingwood – what is to hate?

Eddie McGuire has done it again.  He’s picked another fight.  It is bad timing.  There is nothing like a McGuire stoush and a Collingwood loss that brings out the howlers.  It doesn’t matter who the Magpies lose to or who Eddie is fighting with.

At the weekend, a 64-point thumping by Essendon and McGuire’s stoush with John Longmire lit up the howlers.

Clearly, Collingwood polarises society.  There is no grey area; they’re either hated or loved.  Anyone who follows football who doesn’t follow Collingwood hates them.  People denigrate Collingwood supporters more than any other club.  People who don’t follow AFL hate Collingwood.

Inane jokes are told about the intelligence of Magpie fans.  Emails are splashed around the country featuring overweight women as pin-up girls for Collingwood.

For a club with two premierships in 56 years, the abuse is unfounded.  If you don’t follow Collingwood and you hate them, ask yourself why.  What has the club done to you?  A level of hatred is understandable for Essendon and St Kilda fans, but few others could adequately explain where the rabid dislike abounds from.

Collingwood has hardly done anything to upset anyone for decades.  Since 1958, every time they’ve made the grand final, with the exception of 1990 and 2010, they’ve lost each time, ten of them; 1960, 64, 66, 70, 77, 79, 80, 81, 2002, 2003 and 2011.

It is an appalling record.

In 1970, Collingwood led Carlton by 44-points at half time and lost.  In 1977, they blew a 27-point lead over North Melbourne at three quarter time and eked out a draw.  In 1979 they kicked the first five goals against the Blues and lost.

In 1981 they led by 21 points late in the third quarter and got overrun by Carlton.  Ten minutes into the last quarter against Brisbane in 2002, they led by ten points and lost.

Collingwood has played in 44 grand finals, more than any other club.  They’ve also lost 28, more than any other club.  With 15 premierships, they have a rich history, something to look fondly upon if you’re 130 years old.  For everyone else born beyond 1950, there’s been too much heartache.

Many AFL fans write off their revulsion with simplistic reasons, citing Collingwood’s army of disparate faithful.  Magpie supporters are labelled as uneducated bogans, a lack of brains, teeth and parentage.

The notion is nonsensical.  All clubs are supported by people fitting the same description.

People’s antipathy towards Collingwood could be based on tradition, of hearing a father, grandparent or brother complaining about the Magpies in seasons long ago.  The scorn might be learned behaviour.

Anyone born beyond 1970, with the exception of Essendon and St Kilda fans, has no conceivable reason to hate.  Similarly, people who are recent devotees of AFL have no reason to hate the Magpies.

Why not hate Hawthorn?  They have won ten premierships since 1970.  The Hawks have a lot of reasons to be hated by a host of clubs and their fans, yet no one is writing articles denigrating them or taking delight when they lose.

McGuire is just like Collingwood, people either love or hate him.  I admire what he’s done for his club and the competition.  He is the mouth of opposition, the man other clubs go to whenever an issue needs addressing.

He is a loud mouth according to everyone who doesn’t follow Collingwood.  But he’s courageous and forthright.  It doesn’t make me hate him.  I just don’t watch his television shows.

I don’t hate Collingwood.  I feel sorry for them.  Tommy Hafey helped spur my sympathy.  With the exception of games against North, my allegiance is always with the Magpies, no matter who they’re playing.

Given Collingwood’s history since 1960, I cannot understand the objection.  Ask yourself a simple question, who would you rather play in a grand final?

I’d love to beat a lot of clubs on grand final day, but I’d like to play Collingwood.  They are more likely to lose a premiership than any other club.

For a club this prone to losing grand finals, we should be hoping Collingwood keeps winning, because they are the only club with a cursed grand final moniker, the Colliwobbles

The Colliwobbles has to give opposition fans confidence.

In an era where there is more to hate, like the cost of living allowance, Essendon’s drugs issue and the fortune afforded to the expansion clubs, surely it must be passé to hate Collingwood now.

So why, in the absence of sustained success, do people hate Collingwood???

About Matt Watson

My name is Matt Watson, avid AFL, cricket and boxing fan. Since 2005 I’ve been employed as a journalist, but I’ve been writing about sport for more than a decade. In that time I’ve interviewed legends of sport and the unsung heroes who so often don’t command the headlines. The Ramble, as you will find among the pages of this website, is an exhaustive, unbiased, non-commercial analysis of sport and life. I believe there is always more to the story. If you love sport like I do, you will love the Ramble…


  1. Dr Goatboat says

    It’s in the DNA……we’re all wired that way…….thank goodness

  2. DBalassone says

    I think quite simply they are hated the most because they have far and away the most supporters. When it comes to the crunch, there is very little difference between one-eyed footy fans of any of the teams. Delusion is part and parcel.
    Ps I wish we got 10 points up in the last quarter of the 2002 AFL Grand Final, but that is not the case. We did hit the front, but Lynch put Brisbane back in front a few minutes later.

  3. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Great question Matt. This quote from Richard Stremski’s Kill For Collingwood might help shed some historical light.

    “The roots of football fanaticism in Collingwood are traceable to the low esteem of the municipality and everything associated with it in the 19th century. Collingwood residents were afflicted with a deserved inferiority complex, which was heightened by the scorn of neighboring suburbs and the Melbourne press. A defensive reaction against these feelings prompted leaders of the Collingwood community in the 1880s to seek vindication of their habitat and vengeance against their neighbors”. (Stremski 986, p.1).

  4. Dr Goatboat says

    As Jack Dyer said: Essendon supporters are Collingwood supporters who can read and write….

  5. The People's Elbow says

    I hate Collingwood in the way I hate Coldplay or the film ‘The Big Chill’ – not a violent hatred, just indifference and a recognition of their artless awfulness.

    That isn’t to say I don’t enjoy seeing them lose, or seeing Eddie make an absolute cock of himself. I love that shit.

    But after Essendon, I’ve no footballing hate left to give.

  6. Dave Brown says

    The most powerful club is always almost universally disliked in every league. In Collingwood’s case while it may not be the most powerful on the field it most certainly is off the field. What’s more, it likes to throw its ample weight around. But that’s all just intellectualising something much more instinctive – you just do.

    And as for Eddie, as the old joke goes, people take an instant dislike to him because it saves time.

  7. Why hate Collingwood? Easy. You said it yourself: two premierships in 56 years” yet they’re the self-appointed ‘greatest club in Australian sport.’

    “What the club done to you?” Only the 1990 Grand Final…

  8. E.regnans says

    A human condition.
    One day even Hawthorn may have achieved as much, but even then, it will never have meant as much to so many.
    Carry on, the rest of you.

  9. How come I didn’t get the memo about the Collingwood poster girl auditions? lol

  10. For those who have grown up in the Eddie era, it is difficult to isolate the hate. Would we even care about them if Eddie wasn’t involved? Growing up in Qld, I didn’t care about Collingwood at all. There was a general vibe of uneasiness about the black and white/magpies, but that was more to do with being attached through school friends to Western Districts Junior AFC who were the local rivals of the Sherwood (Magpies) Junior AFC, (George Negus was president at the time).

    At that point my football love was for St. Kilda and my football respect was for Hawthorn and North Melbourne. I didn’t quite understand why Collingwood and Carlton were the big names when they didn’t really seem to do much. Then again, there weren’t many dyed in the wool adult role models. The only VFL games available were on Sat arvo tv and we didn’t have one until I was well into high school so the only chance I had was to watch with a friend’s dad who was English, and didn’t really understand the game but he did like the action.

    It wasn’t until Eddie came along and Buckley declared he wasn’t staying in Brisbane “to play finals” that the hate manifested in my heart. The hypocrisy of Eddie complaining about the allowances given to Brisbane when they couldn’t keep Buckley who went to Collingwood was mind blowing. That was when it became ‘hate’ for me. Now he is having a crack about Sydney while his team is sliding. He speaks from a vested point of view to protect and strengthen his own club at the expense of others. (Geelong and Port being exceptions to that rule.) As do most ‘club’ people, although generally without a mass television forum to do so.

    The fact that Eddie is so insular about an expansive competition gets my goat. That and reports from DD about how Collingwood fans reacted after winning the 2010 replay. Please note that I am not painting all Collingwood fans with the same brush. Fans can be embarrassing no matter who they support. For the most part the Collingwood people I know are pretty reasonable people. Just can’t abide the holier than thou Edmeister…

  11. Don Meadows says

    Good summary Gus, and pretty much how I see it, as do a lot of my fellow Swans fans.
    The thing that riles me is that people take notice of Eddie when it is plain to see that he is a stumblebum who has done much good for his club but is downright toxic when it comes to matters beyond the club.
    Collingwood is not the problem: Eddie is, and the powers that be who take undue notice of him.

  12. kath presdee says

    I’m with Gus and Don here.

    I’m kinda “meh” with Collingwood. I don’t hate them per se but I can’t say I like them either. Although I did used to back Carlton against Collingwood for a while in a mock bet with a friend of mine who was a Magpie through and through. Not that I like Carlton either; I just did it to have fun with my friend.

    Eddie, on the other hand, I loathe. OK he’s doing his job as Collingwood President. But most Club Presidents don’t have an automatic access to a microphone where they spout bile against their pet hate of the week. Usually out of town teams and usually because, for some reason, Collingwood’s stocks are down somewhat.

    I can’t wait to beat Collingwood because I want to see Eddie’s face. Although I know that when GWS does that (hopefully at Spotless in late August) we are going to have every draft concession, the COLA, the academy, the sink-hole of AFL money for the next 20 years etc thrown back in our face. He’ll do it on his Fox Footy show and his Triple M comments will be covered in print because, lets face it, we don’t listen to him in Sydney. But then, cold felafel can be a real treat Ed. See how you like it.

  13. The People's Elbow says

    This remains one of my favourite photos in all of football

  14. Keiran Croker says

    Nothing to add really. Personally I don’t hate any team, though Carlton goes close for me. I have enjoyed their last 10 years or so!

  15. daniel flesch says

    I’m with Gus , Don and Kath above…don’t mind Collingwood the club , the team , the history , the supporters … but cannot stand Eddie McGuire. The Collingwood supporters i know can’t stand him either. Have sympathy for them and empathy with them , having had to keep supporting Hawthorn when Jeff Kennett was its President.
    Both Jeff and Eddie big mouths with an altogether over- inflated sense of their own importance and relevance, and a shared borderline narcissistic compulsion to capture the public eye as often as possible. In Eddie’s case his Presidency and ubiquitous media profile a plain conflict of interest., as well as a bloody bore.

  16. Dave Nadel says

    I am sorry but I don’t buy that Picaphobia (hatred of Collingwood) is based on Eddie’s loudmouth or his ubiquitousness. Hostility to Collingwood goes back to the late nineteenth century. In the 1990s people explained their hostility with reference to Allan McAlister even before he made his racist statement post-Winmar which might have justified the hostility.

    Before McAlister people referenced Lou Richards and if you go back far enough Collingwood haters referred to John Wren. Wren was a crook even if you only believe half the material in “Power Without Glory” but he was far from the only crook involved in the VFL.

    I would suggest that hatred of Collingwood is about class. The jokes about toothless bogans reek of class prejudice – most of them are actually recycled American “redneck” jokes or English “Irish” jokes. Bigots are not known for their originality.

    Collingwood was the first working class suburb of Melbourne and unlike Fitzroy and Carlton which started as desirable suburbs, declined in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and then gentrified in the late twentieth century, Collingwood was built as a slum and filled with noxious industries. Warehouse developers and young trendies are doing their best to transform twenty-first century Collingwood, but the high-rise flats and the tiny wooden houses continue to remind people of the Collingwood tradition.

    Collingwood was not the only working class suburb to have a VFL team but, after Fitzroy’s run of flags ended in 1922, Collingwood was the only one to stay consistently near the top. Even during the long period of the Colliwobbles (1958-1990) the Pies were still mostly playing in the Finals. Middle and Upper Class fans could patronise working class North Melbourne, Footscray and Fitzroy. They could even tolerate Richmond, whose successes were punctuated by long periods at the bottom, but Collingwood’s success was against the natural order of things. The working class are not meant to be successful, not even on a football field.

    It should be pointed out that everything that I have said about Collingwood in the VFL applies equally to Port Adelaide in the SANFL. In fact Port Adelaide Magpies enjoyed even greater on-field success than Collingwood Magpies. Port Adelaide appear to be as unpopular with supporters of the other SANFL clubs as Collingwood are with supporters of the former VFL clubs.

    I am aware that the class lines around the AFL clubs are less clearly defined than they were in the 1930s. An examination of contributions to the Almanac would suggest Collingwood contributors are at least as well educated and literate as supporters of the other 17 clubs. However, I have no doubt that hatred of Collingwood can be traced back to class attitudes between 1892 and 1970.

  17. Dave Nadel,
    That was one of the best posts I’ve read.
    I must confess I only made it to Collingwood a couple of times despite growing up in Melbourne. I never saw a game at Victoria Park.
    Traditional hate was a key component of my ramble. I am sick of the Collingwood hatred and I am a North member.
    Ever since I was born there has been more to hate in the VFL/AFL than Collingwood.

  18. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Brilliant and heartfelt summation Dave. Worth an article itself.

  19. Dave Brown says

    Interesting, Dave. So a few follow-up questions:
    – why do those of us relatively new to the VFL/AFL hate Collingwood (because that’s just what you do?)
    – how come supporters from other ‘working class’ clubs hate Collingwood?
    – how come the same logic doesn’t apply in Sydney where Manly is the most hated football team?
    – what’s the deal in WA – who is most hated there? Do they fit the theory?

  20. Dave Nadel says

    Working class clubs who succeed are hated but obviously they are not the only hated clubs. Carlton is also hated. Although they were once a club that had both a working class and an upper class component, since World War II they have been increasingly seen as the club of big business and the Liberal Party. Yes, Jim Cairns, John Curtin and B.A Santamaria supported the club and Justin Madden was a former club champion but they are over shadowed by Bob Menzies, Malcolm Fraser, K.G. Luke, Ian Rice, John Elliott, Richard Pratt et al. Manly, like Carlton, are seen as the successful silvertail team. (Melbourne are the other silvertail team but fifty-six years of under performance seems to have turned them into a patronised underdog). You may find that South Sydney fills the Collingwood/Port Adelaide role in Rugby League. I have always barracked for them for that reason.

    I don’t know enough about Western Australian Football but I would guess that the Fremantle teams would have some of the Magpie experiences.

    Supporters of other working class clubs, in particular, Fitzroy and Richmond, hated Collingwood because of local rivalry. In the pre-World War One period suburbs mattered far more than they do now, so suburban rivalry was as big as country town rivalry was later in the century. In the case of Fitzroy, until 1922 Fitzroy Football Club was as strong as Collingwood. The formation of Collingwood as a senior VFA team in 1892, robbed Fitzroy of a source of recruits and Fitzroy resented this. (similar phenomenon in NSWRL in the 40s when Manly was formed out of North Sydney territory) Collingwood residents resented the fact that the Reilly Street drained flowed downhill from Fitzroy to Collingwood and regularly flooded the suburb with sewage and noxious industrial waste. (Stremski)

    Ideas and prejudices remain current long after the economic and social causes of these prejudices have disappeared. There are all sorts of sociological and philosophical theories to explain this. For example look at race relations in the US South 150 years after the end of slavery. You are right to question why people who are new to the AFL or even more interestingly whose parents were not even in Australia when Collingwood was seen as the working class suburb that got too big for its boots (1927-36) still hate Collingwood. I think it is vestigial prejudice.

  21. DBalassone says

    Beautifully expressed Dave. Fascinating thread. Perhaps the real question that is being asked here (without anyone realising it), is why is Collingwood so loved? Why do Collingwood have the most supporters of any club in Australia? (crowds that rival any team of any code in the world). Why do Collingwood have the most loyal, passionate fans in the country? Why is the club so special to so many?

  22. “So why, in the absence of sustained success, do people hate Collingwood???”

    Because the more vocal of their supporters seem to be unaware of said lack of success. Add to that a good measure of hating Collingwood being a tradition from the early days of the league for a number of reasons, Eddie McGuire’s tendency towards boneheadedness and the legendary Colliwobbles, the answer becomes pretty obvious. There’s a Collingwood in every code of sport the world over, people just like to have a punching bag and once a team gets a reputation for being that punching bag it tends to stick. Maybe someone else takes over for a while as has been the case with Essendon recently but it tends to revert back quickly enough.

  23. Dave Nadel has nailed it
    It’s bigotry and racism and it’s ingrained in Melbourne. Wealthy people don’t like poor people and Protestants don’t like Catholics and neither knows why anymore. From hating Collingwood to negative gearing laws and the CGT discount – affluent people don’t want to see poor people thrive. Every joke about collingwood is a joke about low ses people – substitutes in 2021 for IRish and Catholics.
    Unintentionally the author buys into it with his very good article – why do ppl hate Collingwood Carlton and Essendon? Because they’ve won more than any other team in AFL/VFL history. You think history doesn’t matter and it’s too long ago to matter? Then stop talking about it!
    In my experience I don’t hear Collingwood supporters talk about how good they are, I hear non-Collingwood supporters talk constantly about “you’re not as good as you think you are”
    Great article – enjoyed it

  24. Angus I think it what you were saying is true ppl would hate Geelong but they don’t

    The fact that AFL fans in general think that 3 flags from Geelong in a generation is “genius, unstoppable success” yet 2 in a generation is the ultimate failure says it all for me.

    Just as a note Geelong in my lifetime has the same win/loss ratio in a grand final as Collingwood (3 from 9 vs 2 from 6) and all time Geelongs 67% losing percentage in GFs in my life is well above Collingwoods losing % in grand finals of 61%

    So if what you are saying is true ppl would have just as much reason to hate Geelong. It serves as proof of the irrational nature of the hatred

  25. Luke is 100% correct – this article was written 3 and a half years after Collingwood won the premiership declaring they have no success. I don’t see any other club written about in that way.
    Can’t find any articles from Collingwood people from 2014 declaring how successful they are.
    I think one doth protest too much

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