Refreshed Sidebottom leaves slip-up behind

·3-min read

Steele Sidebottom had two long weeks to agonise over the first and biggest mistake of his AFL career.

In June 2020, the respected Magpie's visit of injured teammate Jeremy Howe turned into a boozy Saturday night that included a series of breaches of the AFL's then-strict COVID-19 protocols.

It ended in a confused Sunday morning police ride home and a four-game suspension from the AFL.

"I just had a slip-up," Sidebottom told AAP.

"Clearly, I just got too drunk. Most people who have drank before have been in a position where they can't remember things and that's just what happened.

"It's not the right thing to do any time, but the timing of it wasn't great at all.

"I didn't break the law as such, but I broke a lot of rules and at that time, the AFL were doing so much to keep the game going and when someone blatantly and goes out and breaks the rules, it's not a good look for the game.

"It was clearly the stupidest thing I've done since I've been at Collingwood and obviously, if I could take it back, I would, but I can't. But like anything, you learn from your mistakes."

Sidebottom was keen to front up but couldn't re-enter Collingwood's bubble for a full two weeks.

"The worst thing for me was that clearly I'd let everyone down and I couldn't come into the club and see everyone," he said.

"I was stuck at home with my own thoughts and stewing on what had happened.

"So it was tough in that sense, and obviously my family as well, the last thing they want to be seeing is me in the paper for all the wrong reasons.

"It was a very s*** time but something that I've clearly put behind me."

Less than two months after the ban, Sidebottom cut his season short as he and fiancee Alisha celebrated the birth of daughter Matilda.

Sidebottom lights up when conversation turns to Matilda, and how she's put the highs and lows of AFL in perspective.

"I love no one else like I love her and I love going home to her and she makes me very proud and she makes me feel special," he said.

"You can probably get caught up in footy, but then there's also a Steele Sidebottom away from footy as well, which is nice."

Sidebottom, 31, doesn't know what he'll do after footy, but confirmed he's got a couple more years at Collingwood to figure that out.

The classy Magpie has relished a rejuvenated, new-look Collingwood under Craig McRae.

Ahead of facing Fremantle on Saturday, that feeling has Sidebottom believing Collingwood can, like in 2012 and 2018, overcome qualifying final defeat to win a semi-final.

"When there are new coaches and everyone comes in and creates an environment where everyone can just be themselves and have fun, that's when guys are at their best," he said.

"Guys are turning up, giving all of themselves and looking to get better every day.

"If we can keep doing that, then who knows what's possible?"