Collingwood Football Club gasps.
It is unfathomable to believe that a club with the most successful sports media figure in the country, whose president could be so hideously wrong within three weeks.
But here we are, with disaffected players, baffled employees and downright supporters.
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“Embarrassing,” a well-known insider told foxfooty.com.au on condition of anonymity.
“Part of the club’s soul has died,” said another.
In essence, switching players to make room for the cap is not a crime. It’s an exercise teams need to move forward and evolve the list. But for the magpies, their offense is twofold: the extent of their purge and their method.
Why should a player sign a contract extension with Collingwood anytime soon? Why would anyone agree to the back-end money to blow the club out on a short-term basis?
List manager Ned Guy was asked to address these issues on the day of trading but all he could confirm was that no other players would be traded … “until next year”.
Make no mistake, the current crisis is on par with an Adelaide training camp. Foxfooty.com.au spoke to more than half a dozen people in the club Thursday evening and Friday morning or with direct knowledge of the insides. The fact that so many people enjoyed talking to each other says a lot about the general feeling among players and staff.
The answer was unanimous: The Magpies ‘failure to adequately articulate why they took this bold approach can tear the club down, as can the Crows’ inability to acknowledge their own mistakes, leading to a mass exodus, a sacking of the coach and exit by soccer boss Brett Burton.
Nathan Buckley is a man of the highest integrity, but his return to serve (excuse the pun) on journalist Sam Edmund’s report has proven to be an unforced mistake.
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Buckley said older players didn’t want him anymore, according to Treloar, who wore a Western Bulldogs polo shirt until Friday’s press conference. Foxfooty.com.au has confirmed these angry members of the leadership group who believed the coach threw them under the bus.
In the days since then, it has created a wedge between the football club’s hierarchy – Geoff Walsh, Guy and Buckley – and some of the players. Scott Pendlebury’s involvement is a little grim. An inside source suggests that the captain didn’t contradict Buckley’s claim that the club was better off trading Treloar.
In either case, there was no widespread revolt against Treloar – and if Buckley suggested it, it is as dishonest as it is cruel.
If it wasn’t clear two weeks ago, it was now part of Buckley and Co’s strategy to make Treloar feel worthless. They knew that if they told him enough that he wasn’t wanted – and even said teammates didn’t want him – he would eventually give in. Nobody wants to work for an organization that doesn’t think you should be there, least of all Treloar, who has spoken openly about his love for the club and was shaken by Buckley’s instruction.
Guy himself is between a rock and a hard place. He’s not a natural media artist, but based on the evidence we’ve seen, he’d have trouble selling Make America Great Again caps at a Trump rally. He also appears to have inherited a list that for some reason requires immediate reform. Another Collingwood insider asked Friday morning, “Who the hell crammed that Excel spreadsheet?”
Surely, Collingwood’s messages had to cover the following basic points:
– Like all clubs that want to fight for a flag, we have an abundance of good players, which of course puts pressure on the salary cap.
– These pressures have forced us to make some really tough decisions that, while not ideal, can hopefully help reshape our playlist.
– Decisions of the past are always easy to criticize in retrospect (Dayne Beams for two first-round players as an example), but we look forward to 2021 after a difficult time in which we have challenged some qualified young men hard.
– We do not expect any further restrictions on the upper salary limit beyond this year.
Instead, Fox Footy viewers received fluff via the “Go To Draft,” which would have been acceptable if Tom Phillips had been traded for a draft with a higher selection than Pick 65. Guy was good at going up front, but his answers left more questions unanswered – and David King’s face told the story.
Treloar camp was hurt by the assumption that he couldn’t play good footy while his fiancé Kim Ravillion was in Queensland pursuing her super netball dreams. There was little evidence of it, although Guy had admitted the trigger for the first conversation about Ravillion’s move.
As noted employer Andrew Jewell recently told foxfooty.com.au, “If your motivation is to act on him because they don’t believe he can play so well in Victoria without his family, it is against anti-discrimination law.”
Then, when we thought Friday couldn’t get any worse, veteran Footy boss Walsh interviewed Triple M in which he denied that the club had any interest in Tom Lynch in late 2018.
The only problem with this is that Buckley confirmed that Collingwood was indeed keen on the former Gold Coast captain and even met with him before signing up to Richmond. Perhaps they were not aggressively pursuing him, as McGuire pointed out in the air, but Buckley himself told Footy Classified in 2018 that they were interested in the key forward.
Inside the club, the Pies switched psychologists – which annoyed some players – and key assistants Robert Harvey and Brenton Sanderson disagreed for most of 2020.
The blowback from fans was vicious. For a snapshot, check out the replies on Collingwood’s official Twitter account when he posted the man’s interview on Thursday night trading day.
The only comforting thing for the pies is that they have six months ahead of Round 1 next year. As with all clubs there will be a sense of optimism by the summer and they still have enough talent to challenge good teams.
But if the mistakes of the past fortnight are allowed to linger internally – as in Adelaide for 18 months – the next season could be a train wreck.
McGuire’s most pointed remark of the year came when he was asked about Buckley’s contract, which is still running for 12 months.
“I love Nathan Buckley,” he said. “But I love Collingwood Football Club more.”
The club’s motto is #sidebyside. At the moment, the magpies and their fans couldn’t be more divided.