“That is not to excuse some of the things he has not got right and things he has said. There is a silent majority of Aboriginal people who know Ed and trust Ed and who find it hard to reconcile the picture being painted of him.
“He has helped many Indigenous people. The experiences certainly do not correspond with the labels around the club and Eddie. That is not to say he and I have not had discussions around language and previous mistakes, but I am more about challenge the behaviour and support the individual.”
Mifsud said he accepted other senior Indigenous figures in the game, such as Adam Goodes, would not agree with his opinion.
“Adam has a different view and that is OK. He is on record as saying he lost a friend and I understand that,” Mifsud said.
“This should not be seen as a competition among black people. Adam has his own stated reasons and I have great sympathy with Adam for that. There is clearly a difference of view among senior Aboriginal people.
“All I can say is as an Aboriginal person who has walked alongside him for a long time, I think Eddie has support.”
Clinton Wolf, a former player with Fremantle and the managing director of the National Indigenous Times, wrote an editorial that was also supportive of McGuire.
Though Wolf said he had not personally met McGuire, his experiences of the former Pies president through other Indigenous players, was at odds with the image that had been presented by others.
Mifsud is a cousin of Collingwood board member Jodie Sizer, the Indigenous woman who joined the board three years ago as Collingwood sought to undertake significant change in the area of race and inclusion.
Mifsud said there was a need for a more nuanced and sophisticated understanding of race and people, rather than a binary view of every person as either good or bad, racist or not racist.
The Do Better report uncovered systemic racism at Collingwood and was highly critical of the way the club handled racist issues when they arose over decades with incidents dating back to Syd Jackson in 1970.
The report described a system ill-equipped to deal with racial issues when they arose. It described a culture of defensiveness and protecting senior figures in the club rather than protecting the wronged person.
Mifsud said Collingwood’s report was a good and worthwhile document that was a “backward facing report’ – looking at its history – and many clubs and the league itself would emerge poorly from a similar report.
“That does not dismiss the seriousness of the report or the learnings out of it. It is a very good report,” Mifsud said.
“It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when other clubs and the industry will have to deal with this again. There is a significant issue every five years. So what are the teachable moments out of this?
“I am more interested in the teachings in the report than labelling people.
“What we know is Collingwood in the last six years and in particular over the last three years have worked to fill those gaps and the report discusses that,” Mifsud said.
Michael Gleeson is an award-winning senior sports writer specialising in AFL and athletics.