Collingwood president Eddie McGuire and Essendon great Matthew Lloyd have gone head-to-head on whether Steele Sidebottom should retain his vice-captaincy in the wake of his COVID-19 breaches.
McGuire has defended Sidebottom after his alcohol-fuelled incident last weekend landed him a four-match ban from the AFL, saying he will not be stripped of his leadership role.
However, Lloyd wondered whether Sidebottom’s leadership role could be questioned by younger players, next time he is called to make a decision on a teammate who steps out of line.
“I’d be embarrassed if I was Steele, in this period of time, adjudicating on someone else,” Lloyd told Footy Classified.
However, the Hall-of-Famer’s comments left McGuire less than impressed, with the Magpies supremo questioning the harsh treatment of Sidebottom.
Here’s how the full exchange took place.
Eddie McGuire: “These days (in the media), you could cure cancer and then get a parking ticket on the Monday and the lead will be the parking ticket.”
Matthew Lloyd: “I can speak from my situation, and that’s how I feel. You are very close to the situation, Ed.”
McGuire was then told by veteran AFL columnist Caroline Wilson there there was a reason by Sidebottom’s off-field incident was of public interest, before the back-and-forth with Lloyd continued.
EM: “Of course it’s a big story, I’m just saying to Matthew, there’s only been one person allegedly without sin and they put him on the cross. You’ve got to forgive and have empathy.”
ML: “You’re too close to this situation.”
EM: “No I’m not!”
ML: “Ed, you’ve got a love for this guy, which is fine. I heard you three weeks ago, Ed, you said, ‘How are these guys doing it?’, I said, ‘You know what, someone else will make a mistake’ and you were going, ‘These players they don’t know what they’re doing’.”
EM: “I think you’re over-dramatising what I said.”
ML: “I’d love to get it up if we could because that’s exactly what you said.”
EM: “Hang on, why are you going on the prosecution line here, mate? We’re saying the guy has accepted his situation.”
ML: “Exactly, and he’s made a mistake and we’ll get on with it.”
EM: “Yeah, OK, that’s what I just said. I was asked if I was going to sack him as vice-captain of the club and I said no.”
ML: “It will be a consideration. I’d be shocked if it wasn’t.”
EM: “Well, you can ask me because I’m the president, I said no.”
ML: “It will come down to (Nathan Buckley), I would have thought.”
McGuire defends Sidebottom despite ban
EM: “Well, it will still come back, but it comes back through the board, and the answer at the moment is no.”
Despite Sidebottom being by far the highest-profile AFL player to have breached the COVID-19 protocols, McGuire has constantly played down the incident, saying the dual best-and-fairest winner’s leadership role would not be put on the agenda.
However, McGuire did offer a deeper insight into the events of last Saturday night which resulted in the star midfielder being driven home by police.
“He did the right thing by going to his teammate Jeremy Howe’s house, who had just blown his knee out, was turning 30 the next day,” he said.
“They sat down together, Lynden Dunn came a bit later, which probably kept them going.
“To be honest, he’s not a scotch drinker, but they were having a few scotches and he became disorientated.
“The situation was, he ended up at (Collingwood staffer Daniel Wells) Wellsy’s place and was asleep on the couch, got up, we believe to go to the bathroom, and walked out the wrong door and found himself outside totally disorientated.
“Victoria Police came along and they said that his behaviour was exemplary, they drove him home, and the next day when he realised, he self-reported.
Sidebottom handed monster AFL ban
“People make mistakes. In life, if people go out to try to blow things up, or they’re selfish, or they deliberately do something, you take a different view on it.
“I’ve got empathy for his situation and I think a lot of people watching tonight would have empathy as well.
“There’s no one more disappointed than me or him. There’s no excuses being made here, he mucked up big-time.”
Despite Sidebottom missing the next four weeks, McGuire said the veteran midfielder will be taken up to Perth when the Magpies travel there after Round 6.
Due to his AFL ban, Sidebottom will miss clashes against Essendon, Brisbane, Geelong and either Fremantle or West Coast.