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 Malthouse – Buckley 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’ code, which is not only undemocratic, but unhealthy to a successful organisation. This autocracy flies in the face of the ‘everyone is welcome’ ethos which 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’.