Collingwood president Eddie McGuire has hit back at claims of hypocrisy following his stance on Magpies midfielder Steele Sidebottom who was caught up in a COVID-19 breach.
Sidebottom was last week hit with a four-week suspension for multiple breaches of the AFL’s COVID-19 return to play protocols.
McGuire back in April challenged the AFL to come down harder on players who breached coronavirus protocols when he suggested the league should consider hitting individuals with a $100,000 fine and/or season-long suspension.
When asked by Essendon legend Matthew Lloyd last week whether the club would take a hardline stance and strip the midfielder of his vice-captaincy duties, McGuire assured footy fans that wouldn’t be happening.
The Collingwood president’s response to the situation left a number of pundits puzzled. Former AFL star and McGuire’s Triple M The Hot Breakfast co-host Luke Darcy this morning called him out for accepting the league’s lesser punishment in the case of Sidebottom.
But McGuire had a strong riposte, leaping to the defence of his club and shooting down any suggestions of hypocrisy, arguing it was the AFL who had decided “they wouldn’t go that hard” on player “transgressions.”
Full Transcript below:
Eddie McGuire: Let me take you through it OK? No one seems to get nuances in this world and everybody wants to go for the gotcha and you’re a hypocrite and all the rest of it.
Let me just take you through that. That was a situation, what was that, April 29. I think it was the Fremantle Dockers blokes had had a party or whatever it was the situation there.
I was involved and have been involved in the war cabinet, so I was intimately involved in how much money was at stake and how parlous the whole thing was.
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We weren’t playing at that stage, right, so we were talking about possibly going back into hubs and we were thinking forward into those sorts of situations.
So Lloydy comes up with ‘Oh there’ll be other blokes who do it’, we know that there was going to be transgressions. My point was that the AFL, I believe, needed to go hard from the word go, OK? That’s what it was at that stage. The AFL for their own decision and right or wrong, I’m not saying they’re right or wrong, but they decided that they wouldn’t go that hard when we had a number of transgressions including people ending up in hospital et cetera et cetera, they didn’t go that hard.
Luke Darcy: It stared with the Adelaide Crows on their first training camp didn’t it? Where they had players interacting that shouldn’t have been interacting, so it’s been a rolling number of breaches.
McGuire: My point then going into that was you really have to go hard on this to make sure that the players, who maybe don’t get the papers or don’t get it sometimes or as Lloydy says they’ll muck up, you go hard to set the tone. They didn’t set the tone in that situation OK?
They know, the AFL knows that when it got to last week when the state governments and particularly Queensland and New South Wales came out and said you’re soft on these blokes… it threatened the whole competition as late as last week Darce.
The point about going hard I think was well made. Last week what happened was Steele Sidebottom, he did something ridiculous and he got a four week suspension.
Compared to where the other suspensions were, it was and the point that was made in quotes ‘manifestly unjust’ is the term that’s used that you have to qualify for if you’re going to appeal at the Tribunal on the measure of people being suspended.
The bottom line is Steele Sidebottom and Collingwood accepted the decision so there’s no hypocrisy in that at all… I don’t understand the hypocrisy.
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Darcy: I think probably the question will be and I’m just playing devil’s advocate here Ed, people say that you’ve had very strong language around other breaches and the Jack Steven incident was one…
McGuire: So can I come back on that…
Darcy: Well I haven’t finished the question yet…
McGuire: No well let me just jump in on that because this is another example Darce, I said at the time on this very show, don’t speak about it, not that you had to speak about it, I said don’t speak about the Jack Steven situation but if you have a press conference don’t then (criticise) the reporters for asking the questions on speculative situations.
Darcy: I think you said if you do you need to give the full details. As always what happens then is it comes around and it’s your club’s turn and certain details are released at one level on a press conference and then I think the language you used was that you were really proud of Steele Sidebottom…
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McGuire: The way he responded yes and took his four weeks, yeah.
Darcy: And I think at the same time probably being critical of other people who have had breaches, in a language sense has left you.
McGuire: Where was I critical of anyone along the journey there Darce?
Darcy: A lot of the Adelaide Crows players, the Geelong players at the time, I think you’ve had very strong language around AFL players and suggesting your quote 100 thousand dollars and a suspension should be the appropriate response.
McGuire: I stand by that, that’s why we accept and there was no appeal last week. I don’t understand the situation, I’ve been hard on penalties yeah and we got a hard penalty last week and we accepted it. I would’ve thought it’s pretty simple.
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For the record again, I did call for heavy sanctions, the AFL decided not to in those situations … that’s alright, it’s not a criticism they decided to go down that way, when we accepted the heaviest of sanctions so far and we made the point, accepted the penalty without appeal and moved on.
Darcy: So if you had your time again you wouldn’t just pull your language back a little bit around…
McGuire: What, back on April 29?
Darcy: Just in terms of having 800 players put through this period of time the fact that you probably suggest that the protocols are changing, the social distancing changing, the likelihood is that you’re going to have players make mistakes including your own players at your own club…
McGuire: Darce, again and this is not a criticism of you, you’re missing the point. This time last week they were going to close the borders and not let clubs in because the premiers of various states thought the AFL had gone easy.
Darcy: No I’m not missing that point at all.
McGuire: Well I’m making the point then. When I first said that on April 29, we were highly aware of the situations that were going to bring the whole season undone. So there we were.
Darcy: And at the same time we understand the nuances of when a player has a great friend who’s injured, you want to support him, you want to go to his house…
McGuire: There’s nothing wrong with that.
Darcy: And then these things inevitably happen Ed at various stages and I suppose what people have taken umbrage with you over the weekend is that they think you have a different set of language around a Collingwood player than you do around other players in the competition, rightly or wrongly.
McGuire: That’s OK and I totally disagree with that and I think that’s not the situation.