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Side by Side in Scandal
Scandals are newsworthy which has an ironic way of making the scandalous popular. No where is this more evident than in the popularity of the Collingwood Magpies.
The Magpies were established in 1892 to represent the Melbourne municipality of Collingwood; an area that had been described as "pre-ordained to be a slum". In those days, the club itself was a scandal simply because of where it was and who supported it. As a low lying poorly drained region, it was frequently flooded with sewage and the dregs of society. This geography initially led to the club being referred to as the Flatties' or 'Flatites,' which sounded a bit like a cross between a bizarre religious cult and group of people who get squashed.
How the club stopped being referred to as Flatties and came to be known as the Magpies is subject to debate. One story proposes that the club was inspired by the noble South Australian colonial team that had been called the Magpies. When South Australia being the only state not founded with Convicts, perhaps Collingwood residents had dreams that associating themselves with South Australia could improve their image. A second story proposes that the name came from the large numbers of Magpies that nested in the area. Collingwood residents were endeared to the feisty little birds that hit you from behind because they could see much of themselves in such actions. A third possibility is that the name came from 'Magpie' suites, the name given to the Convict uniforms in the colonial era. Given that Collingwood fans and players alike had a close association with Pentridge Prison, it is quite possible that they wanted to pay some respect to their heritage.
With its Magpie name and toilet of a suburb, Collingwood fans were very much the type of people that respectable members of society would not want to associate with, let alone introduce to their parents. According to one commentator:
Understanding their low social standing, it was said that the fan's desire for success had been driven by a "strong sense of social inferiority". Indeed their sense of inferiority must have been strong for successes were numerous. Prior to World War II, the club won premierships in 1902, 1903, 1910, 1917, 1919, 1927, 1928, 1929, 1930, 1935 and 1936.
The club's culture was built around the ethic that a "champion team will always beat a team of champions." Show ponies or excuse making were never tolerated.
Post-war, the culture began to change. Known as "Greg Norman syndrome" or "Colliwobbles", if Collingwood made the grand final, they showed an uncanny ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. So predictable was this phenomenon that a word evolved to describe it. As regular as blossoming jasmine, Melbourne's spring would bring on the 'Collywobbles'; you could rely on the 'Magpies' to fail when it matters. In all, the club has won 15 grand finals and lost 27.
For a brief period of time after World War 2, losing grand finals in pathetic fashion was Collingwood's only scandalus behaviour. The 1990s, however, saw a return to the good old days, with scandals coming in the form of sex, drugs, gambling and racism.
Collingwood’s drug scandals started in 1991 with player Darren Millane getting in a car while he had a blood alcohol reading of 0.322 — which was about six-and-a-half times the legal driving limit. Millane duly drove into the back of a truck and died. For Collingwood fans, Millane’s death was their very own Greek tradegy. Here was a young man who got blind drunk, hopped into a car where he could have killed others, only to kill himself due to no-one’s fault but his own. An out pouring of emotion saw Millane’s jumper retired. This was an honour usually reserved for true legends of the club.
Alcohol scandals continued into the new millennium with players such as Chad Morrison, Heath Shaw, Rhys Shaw, Sharrod Wellingham, Dane Swan, Chris Tarrant and Ben Johnson all coming to national attention on the back of alcohol fuelled fights and/or drink driving. Another player, Alan Didak, was a participant in a drive-by shooting after befriending a bikie in a strip club (although he claimed to have suffered a 10 minute blackout when the shooting occured.)
As the scandals continued to mount, the term ‘rat pack’ was coined in reference to the main offenders, who were subsequently published on the front page of the Herald Sun looking like rats. Swan explained how they embraced the public shamming:
He also explained the qualification for membership of the pack:
Not suprisingly, many players moved from alcohol to illicit drugs in the pursuit of a rap sheet. As a result, 11 Collingwood players tested positive to illicit drugs in the 2015 off season. As well as using illicit drugs, Collingwood also seemed to be fans of the performance enhancing variety. In 2013, Dean Robinson, architect of the Essendon supplement scandal, aired allegations that the Magpies' 2010 premiership against St Kilda came on the back of human growth hormone.
The fact that Collingwood has the dubious honour of having the most number of players testing positive to performance enhancing drugs indicates that there could be truth to the allegations. Two of these positive tests occurred in the 2015 season when Josh Thomas and Lachie Keeffe tested affirmative for the steroid clenbuterol. Around the world, athletes who test positive to clenbuterol usually make the “tainted beef” defence. Not so the Collingwood pair. In a defence that illustrated just how widely illicit drug use was at Collingwood, they claimed to have used tainted illicit drugs, which resonated far more widely than a tainted beef defence. In between doing some lines of their own, the Collingwood hierarchy obviously could sympathise and so promised to re-draft the duo once they served their drug sentences. A third performancing enhancing drug result occured in 2018 when young recruit Sam Murray tested positive to a performance enhancing stimulant that was both on the banned WADA drug list and illegal in Australia.
Intertwined with Collinwood’s drug scandals have been a consistent flow of racism scandals. The scandals commenced in 1993 when St Kilda player Nicky Winmar raised his jumper and proudly pointed at his black skin in response to racial insults directed at him by Collingwood fans. In defence of his club, Collingwood president Allan McAlister stated that Aborigines needed to act like white people if they wanted respect. In his own words,
Presumably, McAlister felt the likes of Winmar needed to do more boozing, drink driving and racist name calling like the whites at his club in order to be admired and respected as humans. It was a viewpoint that resonated at Collingwood but not Australia wide. An indigenous tribal elder subsequently placed a curse on the Magpies and immediately the club's season fell apart. They lost their next six games and tumbled from the top 4 to the bottom 4. McAlister finally apologised, resulting in the curse being lifted, and a return to winning ways, but it was too late as the Pies missed the finals.
Unfortunately, the lifting of the curse didn't little to change the Collingwood culture and two years later Magpie player Damian Monkhorst referred to Essendon’s Michael Long as a “black bastard”, which provoked Long into taking a stand. With Collingwood unwilling to pull their own players into line and showing little fear of Aboriginal curses, it was the AFL that finally responded with an anti-vilification policy.
For a while, the policy seemed to help Collingwood but in 2013, a 13-year-old Collingwood girl referred to Aboriginal player Adam Goodes as an ape. Goodes pointed the girl out and had her removed from the stadium. The next day, he told the press pack that racism had a face and it was the face of a 13-year-old girl in a Collingwood. Admittedly, there was some debate about whether the girl meant that Goodes was big and hairy or whether she was referencing Charles Darwin era scientific papers that put black people in a sub-human category along with monkeys.
Fortunately for the girl, Collingwood once more brought the face of racism back to Collingwood as a whole when president Eddie McGuire went on radio calling for Adam Goodes to be used to promote the upcoming King Kong musical. (McGuire later apologised, claiming it was a slip of the tongue caused by his use of mind numbing drugs and steroids.)
While it was long known that Collingwood liked to be racist towards players from other teams, it was not known how Collingwood players of colour felt about the racism. In 2017, serious grievances were raised when Brazilian born Heritier Lumumba (formerly Harry O’Brien) announced that he had been subjected to institutionalised racism in the club. Heritier was particularly aggrieved at being given the nickname of “Chimp”. (The name came about after then O'Brien did an impersonation Chimpanzee at a party.) Lumumba allegedly embraced the Chimp nickname because he wanted to fit in but he later concluded that it was used to dehumanise him.
Admittedly, Heritier also took issue with the AFL for not combating institutionalised racism, Australian culture at large for its institutionalised racism, his family for giving him the racist colonial name of Harry O’Brien as well as Brazil for traumatising him with exposure to violent murders. Nevertheless, Heritier walked out of the club a far more aggrieved young man than he was when he walked in, which said something about the Collingwood culture.
Lumumba’s grievances over his nickname were backed up by Aboriginal player Andrew Krakouer, who confirmed that he had heard the Chimp name being used and also said that Lumumba had not wanted to make a fuss for fear he wouldn’t fit in. Krakouer’s comments were particularly damming as his personal journey had made him a Magpie hero. Specifically, Krakouer had been a Richmond player who was delisted after being sentenced to four-years jail. After his release, Collingwood felt his jail time would make a welcome addition to the rat pack. Furthermore, his rap sheet would likely make an Aboriginal player popular with the Collingwood faithful. Krakouer flew the flag as best he could, highlighted by his “jailhouse salute” of crossed wrists in front of 88,000 fans in the MCG. Nevertheless, he said he too had experienced racism at Collingwood although he didn't want to elaborate like Lumumba.
In between the drug and racism scandals, Collingwood also kept the media busy with a couple of sex scandals. In 2010, Collingwood players Dayne Beams and John McCarthy celebrated the club’s grand final victory with a gangbang of a young university student, who later claimed to have been pressured into the group sex before being raped by one of the player’s friends. In 2016, Collingwood players Dane Swan, Travis Cloke, along with former teammates Tony Armstrong and Lachie Keefe, took naked selfies and forwarded them on women who were not their partners. The pictures ended up in Woman’s Day magazine. In 2018, Dane Swan was in the news again after he made a complaint to police after a sex tape that he starred in was uploaded to the internet without his consent. In 2019, he was in the news for making jokes about borderline sexual assault with references to positions like the "Dirty Ralph" and "Dirty Dane". According to the players, a Dirty Dane refers to a man who is rebuffed by a woman who wants to sleep. As a result, he masturbates and then ejaculates on the woman’s face, forcing her to wake up and mumble like a Danish person.
As well as leading the way in sex, drug, alcohol and racism scandals, Collingwood has led the way in gambling scandals. To avoid such scandals, all AFL players are subjected to education programs that explicitly state that they MUST NOT gamble on AFL matches and that strict punishments await if they do. For some reason, Collingwood players that have inside information and power to influence results have felt gambling on matches is just too much of an opportunity to pass up. In addition, they have felt that they are smart enough to gamble and get away with it. In 2011, Heath Shaw was the first to be caught. Shaw had found out that his captain Nick Maxwell would be starting in the forward line. Shaw duly placed $10 on Maxwell kicking the first goal but only won himself an 8 game suspension. Maxwell was smart enough not to actually place a beat, but he was fined $10,000 when his family members mysteriously placed bets. In 2015, Jack Crisp was fined for betting the previous year and simply offered the excuse, “I forgot players can’t beat on the AFL.” In 2019, rising star Jaidyn Stephenson was suspended for 10 matches after taking multi-bets in at least three matches that included how many goals he would kick, player disposal numbers and his team’s winning margins. Also in 2019, a star player required an extended absence from the club due to mental health issues brought about by 6 figure gambling debts. Finally, the year also saw usually reliable sources spreading a rumour that Collingwood had had 10 players involved in a gambling syndicate and the club was going to be banned from the finals. Although the rumour was not true (and was publicly denied by the president), those who knew Collingwood found it so easy to believe that they took it as fact without any evidence in support.
While Collingwood’s scandals have been good for the media wanting to provide running commentary, they have also been good for Collingwood's popularity. In their 1990 grand final winning year, the Pies had a membership of just under 15,000. By 2018, after almost three decades of scandal, membership had reached almost 75,000.
There is an Australians adage that defines the difference between a friend and a mate with some criminal vernacular. Specifically,
Admittedly, the adage is not widely known in Australia. In fact, given its criminal associations, it is probably more accurate to say it’s a Collingwood adage rather than an Australian adage. There the Pie fans see scandal but instead of running a mile, they say they want a piece of that as well. Side by side, they say we’re in the shit together.
Roy Morgan research
Collingwood Magpies supporters are:
2001 when compared to other Australians
2004 when compared to other AFL supporters
2006 - When compared to other AFL supporters
Club song collingwood theme song
Out of all the 16 clubs, only Collingwood specifically mentions the barrackers in its theme song. On the down side, the line: "the premiership is a cakewalk" seems reminiscent of a choking Greg Norman missing easy putts and spraying his drives as he tries to convince himself that golf is an easy game.
2015 slogan - Side by side we stick together.
Collingwood doesn't change its slogan from year to year, probably because most of the Collingwood fans are still learning how to read it and it would be foolish to confuse them with a new slogan so soon.
Since we can all agree that dental care is a significant problem amongst Collingwood fans, perhaps side by side would work well with an orthodontist chain. Then again, the teeth of many Collingwood fans are stuck together already as failure to brush results in plague fusing many teeth together.
If a little bit of innovation wouldn't go astray, a similar meaning could be inferred form a slogan like straighten up.
Carlton - Collingwood has met Carlton in six grand finals. It has lost five of them. Collingwood's only win was in 1910 was known as the 'Bloodbath' after an all-in brawl developed in the final term.
Since that victory, Collingwood has suffered a string of grand final humilations at the hands of Carlton.
The worst of these was in the 1970 grand final. Leading by 44 points at half-time, Collingwood fell to pieces and lost by 10 points.
Richmond - Traditionally, Richmond has been a working class club who like Collingwood, have extremely passionate supporters. As one Magpie fan explained his hatred for the Tigers:
Essendon - The rivalry with Essendon hit the big time in 1993 when a low key build up to an ANZAC day clash drew 98,000 fans and resulted in a drawn match.
Essendon also lost the 1990 grand final to Collingwood, thereby becoming one of the few teams not to have benefitted from Colliwobbles. Such is the Collingwood tendency to live on past glories, it is a defeat that Essendon supporters are never allowed to forget.
Collingwood Magpie jokes
1) Three friends all die at the same time and end up at the pearly gates where Albert Einstein is waiting for them. The first chap approached and Alby asks him,
"250" the chap replies. www.convictcreations.com
"Ah excellent. We can participate in meaningful and articulate discussions with my mates Plato and Newton about the Theory of Relativity, Chaos Theory, Astrophysics and the Theory of Everything. We will have much to discuss. You may enter."
The second fellow approached the gate and Albert asks him the same question.
"150" was the reply.
"Ah good. We can discuss the fascinating subjects of History, Philosophy, Economics and Sociology. We will have much to discuss. You may enter."
The third chap approaches the gate nervously.
"Now my good man, what is your IQ?"
"50" the third man replies sheepishly. To which Alby's response was ....
"How about those Pies, hey?"
2) Q. What do you do for a drowning Collingwood player?
Why kind of country has four codes of "football"?