Dateline: July 28 2009. A smiling Eddie McGuire proudly presented then Collingwood coach Mick Malthouse and Nathan Buckley to the media.
Collingwood, and football in general was to change forever. McGuire announced that Malthouse had signed a two-year contract extension, as well as a three-year contract to oversee Nathan Buckley, who would take over as coach in 2012, in a director of coaching role.
Eddie had achieved his dream result. He had re-signed Mick Malthouse, his great mate and the man who he had appointed in 1999 to change the fortunes of the Collingwood Football Club, while also keeping club legend and Nathan Buckley out of the clutches of North Melbourne and appointing him as soon-to-be coach.
October 1 2011. After Collingwood’s 38-point loss to Geelong in the Grand Final, Malthouse announced that he would not stick to his contract and would leave the club to join the media.
Throughout the year, many thought this would be the case after Collingwood won the 2010 AFL Grand Final. Nathan Buckley would now have to go it alone.
Malthouse soon announced he would join 3AW and Channel 7. Buckley would lose fellow assistant coaches Scott Watters to St Kilda and Mark Neeld to Melbourne, both for senior roles. Key players Leon Davis and Leigh Brown announced their retirements. All was set for the new-hit drama of 2012.
The first rumblings appeared after Collingwood’s round one loss to premiership favourite Hawthorn. There were rumours that the Collingwood players disliked Buckley’s style of coaching, and that they would not adapt to his new game plan. Malthouse then had his lap of honour at the MCG at half time of the Collingwood v Richmond match.
It then all erupted. Collingwood were defeated by traditional rivals Carlton in the showpiece match of Round 3. North Melbourne legend Wayne Carey came out on Triple M and confirmed that not all of the players like Buckley.
Malthouse, a man of timing, came out swinging, this time on Melbourne radio station 3AW, bagging Buckley’s game plan and responding to comments by Eddie McGuire, who claimed that other sides had figured out Malthouse’s style of play and said that it had gone from revolutionary to middle-class.
He continued on. Leon Davis would have stayed at the club if he was still coach according to him. He also blamed his players and poor umpiring decisions for the grand final loss, rather than his tactics.
Malthouse disagrees with McGuire’s comments about his game-plan, but why then did he change it for the Grand Final last year? Malthouse though is right in a way. McGuire should be keeping out of the media regarding his own side’s game plan. That is the match committee’s job.
Malthouse is bitter. Buckley is taking over ‘his boys’ and he is clearly angry at it. But the fact is, he left the club. He himself admits that it was hard to leave the club, so why did he? Buckley could clearly use his help right now.
Buckley, ever the professional, has remained relatively quiet on this saga, only commenting on it earlier today. He of course took no sides.
This dispute, along with Collingwood’s injury list and poor on-field performances so far is creating a poor atmosphere all around the club, from the fans to the officials.
The sooner this stops the better it is for Collingwood, for now and in the future. Collingwood can finally get on with their season without any distractions. It will also stop tarnishing what Mick Malthouse’s image with the people involved with Collingwood. It’s also splitting the fans and the club in half.
Back in 2009, football experts had their doubt whether the deal McGuire conjured would come off. When he left it was no surprise, but Collingwood felt they could still end up winning out of the deal by appointing Rodney Eade in the role Malthouse was supposed to fill.
This is not an attack on Buckley, in fact I think he’ll be a premiership coach but now it seems there could be only one loser out of the deal, and it’s not Malthouse.