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Ross Fitzgerald: Time to let the Pies’ go, Eddie McGuire

7 April 2017 14 views No Comment

TONIGHT, with both sides yet to register a win, Collingwood and Sydney play a crucial game of Aussie rules at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

The Sydney/Collingwood contest under lights has all the hallmarks of a blockbuster, especially as it will see Sydney’s superstar Lance (‘Buddy’) Franklin celebrate his 250th senior AFL game.

And yet something doesn’t feel quite right.

Perhaps it’s the oddly quiet build-up to the match from two teams usually all too happy to trade barbs across the border. Or perhaps it’s just the calm before the storm?

Collingwood’s president has been nowhere to be seen when it comes to firing potshots at his Sydney counterpart, Swans chairman Andrew Pridham.

As a lifelong supporter of Collingwood (which this season celebrates its 125th anniversary and which for years has been in the doldrums) I think that it is well and truly time for a root and branch reform of the once mighty Magpies.

In particular this means that not only Nathan Buckley — our hugely unsuccessful senior coach since 2012 — but also (and especially) the ubiquitous Eddie McGuire, our president since 1998, should either resign or be replaced.

About this time last year the Swans relocating their game against Collingwood from ANZ Stadium to the SCG sparked McGuire’s ire. McGuire labelled the Swans ‘disrespectful’ and the AFL a ‘villain’ for moving the match 18km down the road.

Personally I’d rather see my club’s president jumping up and down about yet another season under Buckley that’s looking just as grim as the last. But it’s important to remember that it was McGuire who chose Buckley to replace our highly successful senior coach, Micky Malthouse.

Both Sydney and Collingwood have started the season with successive losses. But while last week the injury-depleted Swans blooded three debutants and fielded seven players with a combined total of 36 games AFL experience, they still put on a competitive performance against the reigning premiers.

In contrast, the Pies squandered opportunities, kicked for goal atrociously, and blew a handy lead against Richmond. Buckley said his men ‘failed to maintain the rage.’ Well Nathan, we Collingwood fans are having no such trouble. There is no question that, as a player, you were a magnificent contributor to our club, but as coach it’s time for you to go.

Similarly, in the last two years, our president has done very little to progress our football club or the game itself.

It really is time to go Eddie.

But while McGuire still remains in charge of Collingwood, I’d like to see him use some of his influence to back calls for umpiring reform. Umpiring is fast becoming the biggest farce in the game.

‘Questionable’, ‘disgraceful’ and ‘putrid’ were some of the descriptors attributed to the umpiring of last weekend’s round of matches — and it was frequently the interstate clubs that found themselves at the wrong end of bad umpiring decisions.

Tonight one of two great teams will break their 2017 drought, and one of the game’s greatest players will celebrate a milestone. Let’s hope come Saturday morning we’re talking about the contest, rather than questioning decisions that impacted the result.

So who might hold the key to victory?

If Buddy Franklin plays a blinder and kicks a bag of goals, the Swans could win in a canter. But if Franklin doesn’t fire, the Pies might just sneak over the line.

Ross Fitzgerald is Emeritus Professor of History and Politics at Griffith University and the author of 39 books, including ‘Heartfelt Moments in Australian Rules Football’.

The Daily Telegraph on-line, April 7, 2017
The Geelong Advertiser, April 7, 2017.