AFL great explains Pies’ Eddie headache

Outspoken Collingwood president Eddie McGuire puts constant pressure on the Pies in the same way that Jeff Kennett once did Hawthorn, before being pulled into line by players, Hawks great Shane Crawford believes.

McGuire on Monday fired back at criticism of his recent public stances about penalties for anyone breaching AFL quarantine hub rules, saying that his position was “completely being misconstrued, as usual”.

McGuire has twice been put in an awkward position by Collingwood figures, with vice-captain Steele Sidebottom then coaches Nathan Buckley and Brenton Sanderson sanctioned for breaches after the president touted harsh punishments against quarantine offenders.

Before Buckley and Sanderson were fined over a game of tennis in Perth last Friday, McGuire said that if anyone wasn’t willing to follow AFL hub demands, “we’ll arrange for you to go home”.

Shane Crawford and Eddie McGuire. (The Age)

Crawford said that McGuire’s constant presence in the media, his job outside of the Collingwood presidency, would likely “ruffle a few feathers” among Pies players.

“A situation like Jeff Kennett … he’s been awesome for the Hawthorn Football Club and what he’s brought to the club,” Crawford said on Full Time.

“But we had an issue there for a little while where every week, Jeff was a story and players were having to defend what Jeff was saying.

“It became a bit of a distraction; after a long time, it wasn’t as though there was one or two things being said. Every week, there was something else.”

Crawford recalled Kennett being a constant presence at games and in the dressing room after full-time, where he would let rip with the media, unfiltered.

He said that eventually a player – revered champion Luke Hodge – had a quiet word with the former Victorian premier.

“We said, ‘Pull up a bit Jeff’,” Crawford said.

“I remember as players, I think it was Luke Hodge at the time, I think he had to go and have a good chat to Jeff and say, ‘Can you pull up just a tad? We love ya, we adore you, but you’re just putting a bit too much pressure on our side and we have to defend everything you’re saying’.

“I think that happens with Eddie at times. Eddie puts everything into Collingwood, you know how much he loves them and he really does bleed black and white.

“So you’re certainly getting where he’s coming from but sometimes it’s best the presidents just shut the trap up. Just for a little while, until you sort of work things out; especially when you’re going through a few bumpy periods.”

Hawthorn president Jeff Kennett. (The Age)

McGuire said on his Triple M radio program on Monday that he backed the AFL’s call on what constituted appropriate penalties for hub breaches, despite earlier calling for harsher measures.

As he did with Sidebottom, McGuire said that he was “proud” of the way Buckley and Sanderson had copped their punishment; splitting a $25,000 fine (with a further $25,000 suspended) handed down to the club.

“Again, I’m proud they’ve done that, just as I was proud of the way Steele Sidebottom accepted his four weeks [suspension] and got on with it. I wasn’t proud with what he did in the first place but proud of the way he responded to the situation,” he said.

“I would’ve been far tougher in society on people who transgressed and I would’ve been far tougher on people in the AFL society who transgressed. The AFL then said no, we will do these things and these are the sanction penalties and now I support them 100 per cent.

“Clearly people want to change things around, they want to say that I said this and Buckley should’ve been sacked … no, I’ve said it from the word go, my position has been absolutely consistent. The AFL have taken a different path and here we are, simple as that.”

Collingwood president Eddie McGuire. (The Age)

McGuire said that his media comments only reflected what he had communicated directly to top AFL officials.

“When you’re the president of a football club, you actually have a say as opposed to those in the media who can have a go from the sidelines. You’re actually involved in the conversations,” he said.

“Let me just clear this up once and for all. My position going into the COVID-19 in society and very much in the AFL football world … we had to be very careful.

“I have [AFL CEO] Gillon McLachlan, I have [AFL chairman] Richard Goyder, I sit on these committees and I hear first-hand what goes on and how we have to go about it. When I’m asked my opinion I give my opinion.

“My opinion has been that we needed to go very hard as far as what the sanctions would be and that people had to have personal responsibility.

“It’s similar to what I said last week on this show in regards to those who were protesting without face masks at the Shrine [of Remembrance]. Mate, I would’ve rounded them up and I would’ve put them into the remand centre. How many more times do we have to have the conversation with nothing happening?”

Buckley took responsibility for his breach but suggested that the constantly changing rules made compliance difficult.

“The AFL put a 16-page document out saying here’s what you don’t do … it needs a 17th page saying here’s what happens if you do,” McGuire said.

“The AFL came out last week and said to us that they were going to fine the clubs. It’s not the club’s fault in these situations, you can only tell people as much as you possibly can and from that moment on it becomes the person’s personal responsibility.

“What I would do is this, I would’ve had a sanction that was there for everybody to see. Whatever that point is.”

McGuire has previously taken umbrage at a call from Brisbane Lions great Jonathan Brown that his constant media presence was “hurting” Collingwood while they tried to enact their legitimate premiership claims.

“Jonathan Brown has got zero understanding of what happens in the Collingwood Football Club,” McGuire responded on Footy Classified.

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