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Split reaction to Eddie McGuire’s departure over racism at Collingwood

Former long-time Western Bulldogs president Peter Gordon said McGuire had made “far and away” the most important contribution to the game of any club president in the game’s history.

“In addition to that he’s always shown leadership to the competition as a whole,” he said.

“That leadership has been most evident to me when he took the noble step of agreeing to the competitive balance reforms of 2014, which led to the equal competition that Australian rules football is.

Bulldogs president Peter Gordon.

Bulldogs president Peter Gordon.Credit:Getty Images

“It’s one thing for the president of a struggling club to advocate in our favour. It took someone of Eddie’s leadership, who was in the richer camp, to see the broader interest of the game.”

Gordon also lauded McGuire’s efforts to keep the 2020 AFL season on track despite the challenges posed by COVID-19, adding that he had done extensive work in the area of social inclusion.

“I’m proud to name him as a friend. I’m horrified by the way he’s been treated in the last two weeks. And it’s my hope that in time, history will describe him in the terms he deserves,” he said.

Hawthorn president Jeff Kennett described McGuire’s resignation as a “travesty of justice” and hoped that an ongoing role could be found for him in the game.

Hawthorn president Jeff Kennett.

Hawthorn president Jeff Kennett.Credit:Wayne Ludbey

“He has been forced to resign because of a moment of time when two decades of community work support for the underprivileged and work within the Collingwood Football Club has been overlooked,” he said.

“There will be a lot of people tonight who will be asking themselves what is the cost of this attack on an individual who has for two decades served community in a way the vast majority could not even compare.”

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Magpies legend Tony Shaw, a premiership captain and former coach, described McGuire’s achievements as “amazing” after taking on the role in 1998 as a 34-year-old when the club was at one of its lowest ebbs.

“We were nearly three million in debt, we’re now one of the most financially successful clubs in the league,” he said.

“It’s a sad day for the game, a sad day for Collingwood.”

McGuire’s resignation came after a group of Indigenous community leaders, politicians and a former AFL player sent an open letter to Collingwood over its “insulting and unacceptable” response to the Do Better report.

Victorian Greens senator Lidia Thorpe, a Gunnai-Gunditjmara woman and signatory to the letter, welcomed McGuire’s decision to stand down.

Greens senator Lidia Thorpe.

Greens senator Lidia Thorpe.Credit:Chris Hopkins

“This is a good day. It was not going to be possible for the Collingwood Football Club to deal with its systemic racism with Eddie as president,” she said.

“I’m glad he’s had the self awareness to step down and I hope he will reflect and educate himself more on what his role has been in this long-term saga.

“I hope the people who suffered from ongoing and entrenched racism can feel some consolation today.”

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Labor MP Anne Aly, another signatory, said that she hoped McGuire leaving would lead to cultural change at Collingwood, rather than a way of ignoring the problem.

“You can’t deal with systemic racism by targeting individuals, or by shifting the focus from systemic racism to individual racism — you actually have to change the system, change the culture,” she said.

“If changing the leader is a step towards that, then yes. But if not, then it’s a distancing exercise from dealing with the institutionalised racism.”

Swans chairman Andrew Pridham

Swans chairman Andrew PridhamCredit:AFR

Sydney chairman Andrew Pridham, who has had an at-times adversarial relationship with McGuire while also working with him closely during the COVID-19 affected 2020 season, was broadly complimentary of McGuire.

“You can’t ignore the stuff-ups, but you’ve got to put it in perspective of contribution and time in role. And there are going to be times when you get things wrong, and sometimes you get things very wrong,” Pridham said.

“But I think if you look objectively about his contribution to Collingwood, he’s a major figure in that club’s history. Certainly, financially, Collingwood’s a much better club for him being there.”

“Eddie’s done an amazing number of things for Collingwood. And I think you’d be a very unkind and unfair person not to acknowledge that.”

But Pridham acknowledged that McGuire’s gaffes contributed to his eventual downfall.

“Everyone, and he, has to reflect on what’s led to this, it can’t be ignored,” he said.

Former cheer squad president Joffa Corfe, known for wearing his gold jacket at Collingwood games, heaped praise on McGuire’s tenure.

“His impact on the Collingwood Football Club has been huge – if not for Eddie we might not be in existence,” he said.

“The 2010 was premiership was his work – the players won the flag, but behind the scenes it was all Eddie’s premiership.”

Before McGuire’s resignation, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews again threw his support behind McGuire, saying he believed the Collingwood President was “equal to the task” of reforming the club’s culture.

“You don’t run from challenges, you do everything you can to be equal to them. You don’t run from problems, you work your guts out to try and fix them,” he said.

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