Port Adelaide great Kane Cornes has gone in to bat for embattled Collingwood president Eddie McGuire after public criticism surrounding his comments on the club’s recent spate of off-field issues.
After heading into the season as one of the AFL’s premiership favourites, the Magpies have been hit both on and off the field, with vice-captain Steele Sidebottom’s COVID-19 breaches and star forward Jordan De Goey’s sexual assault charge both coming in the last week.
McGuire has been questioned for his comments, particularly in the wake of Sidebottom’s alcohol-fuelled breach, where he told Nine News that he was “proud” of the 29-year-old.
Sidebottom and De Goey’s off-field issues are the latest in a long line of troubles for players at the club, but Cornes suggested that the blame for the cultural issues at the club should not be laid solely at the foot of McGuire.
“There’s no doubt that Eddie made some mistakes last week, but for him to be responsible for all those off-field issues is too severe,” Cornes told Nine’s Footy Classified.
“Why does it start with Eddie? In my time of playing, I never had any face-to-face contact with any chairman. Maybe once in my career did a chairman address the group.
“People are wanting people to blame for Collingwood’s rap sheet. If Eddie’s not there that doesn’t mean these things aren’t going away.
“It starts with a strong culture in your playing group, a strong coach who wants to clean out the players like Nathan Buckley has tried to do in the past.”
Cornes’ comments came after Footy Classified co-panellist, veteran AFL columnist Caroline Wilson, claimed that people within Collingwood were worried McGuire’s media comments would derail its season.
“People who love (Collingwood GM of Football) Geoff Walsh are telling me that he and Nathan Buckley are worried that these performances by Ed could derail their season,” she said.
“There are questions being asked at Collingwood this week of the CEO Mark Anderson. Is it time for him to stand up and be a stronger leader and stand up to Ed?
“People in the football community are saying Mark, who has been a really good CEO and driven that club really well behind the scenes, has to speak to Eddie about this.
“I went into Wednesday having some sympathy for Steele Sidebottom, when I compared his punishment to Lachie Hunter’s.
“Pretty much the whole football community by Thursday had had a gutful of Steele Sidebottom and Collingwood, and I have to say it was because of Eddie’s comments on Footy Classified and on Nine News when he said he was ‘proud’ of him.
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“Maybe he does that deliberately to try and cover up the fact that there is clearly a discipline problem at Collingwood.”
One person who immediately called McGuire out on an apparent double-standard when judging Sidebottom’s off-field issues was Essendon great Matthew Lloyd, who challenged the Magpies president last week.
Lloyd said that while McGuire was great for the game, he remained too close to the situation to offer an unbiased opinion on Sidebottom breaking the AFL’s protocols.
“I think Eddie is wonderful for footy,” he said.
“He’s great for the AFL and he’s great for Collingwood, but in this case I didn’t think he could separate himself from Steele Sidebottom and the team he plays for.
“I think Ed was looking for a way to give Steele an out when I wasn’t giving Steele an out.
“He’s let his team down, they would have possibly won that game against Essendon, so he’s just hurt them.”
However, Footy Classified host Craig Hutchison defended the Collingwood supremo, saying that he had been put into a “no-win situation” by his players.
“I have some empathy for him because it was a hospital handball for him, he’s in a no-win situation,” he said.
“He publicly committed to a position, but he can’t be seen to not support his player, so he has to take the public hit. He has had no choice but to look hypocritical.”
Sidebottom still has three matches to serve on his four-match ban, while De Goey is all but certain to miss his side’s Round 6 clash against Hawthorn on Friday night.