Former Collingwood president Eddie McGuire has rejected Mick Malthouse’s claims he “panicked” by implementing a succession plan and that the Pies would’ve won another flag in the early 2010s if Malthouse had continued coaching.
The comments come after the Hawks announced their own coaching handover, with four-time premiership coach Alastair Clarkson to hand the reins to club great and coaching protege Sam Mitchell at the end of 2023.
Hawthorn on Tuesday confirmed the coaching vacancy at Collingwood had accelerated its discussion and, ultimately, Clarkson-to-Mitchell decision.
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The Magpies in 2009 announced Malthouse would hand the coaching reins over in 2011 to assistant coach and club great Nathan Buckley, who was gathering interest from rival clubs at the time – like Mitchell has been in recent times.
Speaking to 9 News Melbourne, Malthouse claimed Hawks president Jeff Kennett “panicked” by moving to keep Mitchell at Hawthorn, comparing it to McGuire’s move to keep Buckley at the Pies 12 years ago.
“The similarities, the way I see it, is two presidents panicked, not wanting to lose former champions – and that places the coach, in Clarkson’s case here, in a really difficult position,” he said.
“The major difference, of course, is that Hawthorn are near the bottom. Collingwood were in the eight fighting out for a premiership. So that’s probably the most subtle difference.”
Speaking to 9 News Melbourne, McGuire, who was president of Collingwood from late 1998 to early 2021, denied Malthouse’s version of events, saying the succession plan call was made between Malthouse, his manager Peter Sidwell and McGuire before then-chief executive Gary Pert and the board were informed. It was only then, according to McGuire, a successor for Malthouse was discussed, with the club landing on Buckley.
McGuire said “the whole succession plan at Collingwood was based on Mick Malthouse”, adding Malthouse was handed a five-year contract – two as senior coach and three more to stay on as a coaching director – but opted out after the second year.
McGuire later elaborated on his version of events on Channel 9’s Footy Classified.
“Let me tell you once and for all what happened, OK,” McGuire said.
“I love Mick Malthouse. I was accused at the time of being too loyal to him … that I was sticking by him all the way, because he rebuilt our club twice and saved the Collingwood Football Club.
“I thought there were things happening in Mick’s life. I thought his health and that the stress of the job – he talks about it even today, about the aspect of what happened at Carlton and around the place even at West Coast, even at the Dogs – had on the impact on the family. I could see that.
“I had a meeting with his manager, Peter Sidwell, and I said: ‘How do you think our boy’s going?’ He said ‘yeah I’m a bit worried’. I said: ‘Yep, so am I. What do you reckon?’ We kicked around some ideas around a couple of meetings.
“One of the things we came up with was how do we get the best out of Mick Malthouse for the long-term? We came up with an idea that part of it would be coaching and then it would be a chairman of selectors-type role, even coming onto the board of the Collingwood Football Club.
“If I had my way, Mick Malthouse would still be at Collingwood and we would have got through it. Now, Mick got two years into it and he did a great job. Preliminary final, premiers, Grand Final. But the next period he decided ‘no, I still want to go on’. We knew the fire was burning. As soon as that happened, I let him out of his contract.
“People don’t sign a five-year contract unless they’re all in on it.”
Asked if he still thought about ‘what might’ve been’ if he’d coached another year at Collingwood, Malthouse said: “I meet with my player group – not all of them but a fair percentage of them – regularly and that’s all they talk about. But it’s gone, you’ve got to let go of it.”
Asked to respond to Malthouse’s comments, McGuire said: “I could argue there was things happening that I didn’t like where the club was moving and I stopped it.”