Eddie McGuire has been labelled a ‘hypocrite’ by fans and clashed with fellow AFL pundits over his defence of banned Collingwood star Steele Sidebottom.
Sidebottom was handed a four match ban by the AFL for a weekend incident in which he drunkenly breached the league’s strict coronavirus protocols and had to be taken home by police.
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Sidebottom and teammate Lynden Dunn, who has received a one-game suspension, broke protocols by catching an Uber late on Saturday night following a visit to the house of injured defender Jeremy Howe.
The pair were there to console Howe after his devastating knee injury, but Sidebottom's alcohol consumption during that visit triggered a series of events.
While Dunn headed straight home, Sidebottom took an Uber to the house of Daniel Wells, which was another breach given that the Magpies staff member isn't part of Collingwood's COVID-compliant bubble.
Police took Sidebottom home on Sunday morning after finding him in the Melbourne suburb of Williamstown just before 7.30am.
Eddie McGuire defends Steele Sidebottom
Appearing on Nine News and later AFL panel program Footy Classified, the Collingwood club president said he was ‘proud’ of how Sidebottom had handled the situation.
McGuire said Sidebottom “doesn’t normally drink” and “walked out the wrong door” while attempting to visit the bathroom.
McGuire suggested waking up drunk and disoriented was something that could happen to anyone, and that Sidebottom deserved credit for his honesty in reporting himself to the club.
“Just had a bad night, it’s as simple as that,” McGuire told Channel 9 sports reader Tony Jones.
“He did the right thing in every situation as far as going out to see his teammate, whose knee had just been blown out and unfortunately, drank too much of a liquor he wasn’t used to, became disoriented, and from there a few things went wrong along the journey that have been articulated now.
“To his credit, he reported to the club first thing in the morning, reported to the AFL, and when given the option today to appeal the decision today he said no, he wanted to take the four weeks, which is a pretty hard suspension, because he wanted to support the AFL and support his teammates.”
The Magpies labelled the ban ‘inconsistent’ and ‘excessive’, but said out of respect for the AFL’s virus plan, would not submit an appeal.
AFL world roasts Eddie McGuire defence
McGuire later appeared on Footy Classified, where he clashed with co-host, former Essendon champion Matthew Lloyd, over his response to the ban.
Lloyd was less than impressed with Sidebottom’s behaviour and called for him to be removed from Collingwood’s leadership group.
After Lloyd suggested McGuire was ‘too close’ to the situation thanks to his dual role as commentator and club president, McGuire accused his co-host of ‘over-dramatising’ his defence of his player.
McGuire’s defence went down like a lead balloon in the AFL community, with veteran journo Mark Robinson particularly scathing.
Speaking on AFL 360 on Wednesday night, Robinson said: “I wouldn’t have let him get away with the old fashioned ‘drunk on the coach asleep and wake up and go out the wrong door’. How many times have you done that in your life?”
“If you’re protecting Steele, just say it. There’s a gap in this story. What time did he leave Daniel Wells’ house to 7.30 in the morning when a witness told me he was near enough naked in 2 degrees on a Sunday morning?
“The AFL, they know. No one has explained it, Steele Sidebottom says he can’t remember it – and he may not – but witnesses have seen him. Eddie is just trying to turn that into a bit of a joke to what was a very serious question.
“This story has legs still and Collingwood will want it to go away. But the problem is there are questions still to be asked and they need to be answered – the public would prefer [them to be answered]. You’d think Collingwood people deserve to know most of the story here!
“And Eddie McGuire… he whacked Geelong – WHACKED THEM – over Jack Steven. Tell the full story! Do a press conference and tell the full story! Put out a press release and tell the full story! The press release last night didn’t have Steele Sidebottom was taken home by police. Either Sidebottom didn’t tell Collingwood that or Collingwood omitted it from the press release.
“People will say ‘why should they tell you that?’
“Well, when you’re getting suspended for four weeks and the AFL portioned some of that suspension to the moments that happened after you leave Daniel Wells, put your hand up, Steele! Have a press conference and say ‘hey mate, I’ve really mucked up here and this is what happened’.
“Everyone will say ‘good on ya. You’re an idiot, but good on ya.’ We haven’t got the full story.”
Fans were also less than impressed with the Collingwood boss’ arguments.
Should have gone harder on him Lloydy Eddies happy to dish it out when it’s other clubs but deflects and plays down anything to do with Collingwood the arrogance never ceases to amaze me— Dons Man ⚫️🔴 (@man_dons) July 1, 2020
As a Pies member, I’m pretty disappointed with Ed’s response— Melsa5 (@Melsa4) July 1, 2020
Well done Lordo embarrassing by McGuire .— GMP (@Jordycha1) July 1, 2020