Collingwood president Eddie McGuire has tersely defended his response to star player Steele Sidebottom’s four-match ban for breaching the AFL’s coronavirus guidelines, despite critics labelling him a ‘hypocrite’.
McGuire came under fire for suggesting Sidebottom, who was found drunk and shirtless on the streets of Melbourne and had to be taken home by police last month, had simply had a ‘bad night’.
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The Magpies boss had previously suggested players who break the protocols should be fined up to $100,000 and banned for the rest of the season, after three Fremantle players were caught hosting a small party during the earlier stages of the pandemic.
In a tense discussion on Triple M morning radio, McGuire went back and forth with co-host, former AFL player Luke Darcy.
“No one seems to get nuances in this world and everybody wants to go for the gotcha and you’re a hypocrite and all the rest of it,” McGuire argued.
“My point then going into that was you really have to go hard on this to make sure that the players, who maybe don’t get the papers or don’t get it sometimes or as (Matthew Lloyd) says they’ll muck up, you go hard to set the tone.
“The point about going hard I think was well made. Last week what happened was Steele Sidebottom, he did something ridiculous and he got a four week suspension.
“Compared to where the other suspensions were, it was and the point that was made in quotes ‘manifestly unjust’ is the term that’s used that you have to qualify for if you’re going to appeal at the Tribunal on the measure of people being suspended.
“The bottom line is Steele Sidebottom and Collingwood accepted the decision so there’s no hypocrisy in that at all, I don’t understand the hypocrisy.”
Eddie McGuire, Luke Darcy in heated back and forth
For his part, Darcy was keen to press McGuire about whether or not he was hypocritical when it came to his own defence of Sidebottom and calls for punishments for players from other clubs who break the rules in a similar way.
McGuire argued that, thanks to his role as Magpies president, he was privy to the perilous financial situation not only facing the league itself, but also facing the thousands of workers who rely on AFL matches for income.
“I stand by that, that’s why we accept and there was no appeal last week,” he said.
“I don’t understand the situation, I’ve been hard on penalties yeah and we got a hard penalty last week and we accepted it. I would’ve thought it’s pretty simple.
“For the record again, I did call for heavy sanctions, the AFL decided not to in those situations... that’s alright, it’s not a criticism they decided to go down that way, when we accepted the heaviest of sanctions so far and we made the point, accepted the penalty without appeal and moved on.”
Darcy also challenged McGuire over his calls for Geelong to be more upfront about the Jack Steven stabbing incident, suggesting that the Collingwood boss used different language when discussing matters relating to his own club.
“And then these things inevitably happen Ed, at various stages, and I suppose what people have taken umbrage with you over the weekend is that they think you have a different set of language around a Collingwood player than you do around other players in the competition - rightly or wrongly,” Darcy said.
“That’s OK and I totally disagree with that and I think that’s not the situation,” McGuire replied.