October 29th, 2003.

This was originally posted on October 14th, 1999, meaning it was probably written in the week leading up to that day. After I write things I usually give them at least a day and as much as a week before I actually post them. This helps me come back at them with a fresh perspective.

Anyway, way back in 1999, The Collingwood Rant was completing its first year as a Website, (even less, actually, as we formed and opened during the Season) and I was frustrated as hell with what had been going on at the Club.

Thus this, the Decade of Woes.

In writing the new one for this decade, Decade of Hope, I decided to re-post the original, and to even proof it and give it a bit of a touch-up.

Have you heard of the saying, waiting for the other shoe to drop? If not, essentially it means that when things are going well, you're expecting and waiting for something to go wrong to screw it up.

Collingwood's version of this is making that other shoe drop, whether it's off-field, or through on-field implosions, such as occurred in the 2003 Wizard Cup Grand Final and the Home & Away Season Grand Final…and Grand Finals throughout our history. We just can't handle things going too well, so one way or another we find a way of shooting ourselves in the foot...and then some.

What we need is the Robot from Lost in Space to stand in Eddie McGuire's office so that when things like this are about to happen it can warn us with cries of, "Danger! Danger, Eddie McGuire! Danger!"

That or we - Collingwood - have to come to the realization that it's okay for things to go well.

Enough from me anyway. Here's the re-post and beginning tomorrow, Decade of Hope…

Originally Posted: October 14th, 1999.
Digitally Remastered: October 29th, 2003.

Collingwood begun the final decade of the 1900's on top of the world - with a Premiership. However, they finished that selfsame decade with a Wooden Spoon. From top of the world to bottom of the heap within the space of ten years. So one serious question to be asked is, What the hell happened?

A look back...

1990: Triumph!
After two years thereabouts in the Finals in 1988 and 1989, Collingwood finally took the step up. From 1986 when the New Magpies had almost bankrupted the club with exuberant recruiting and imprudent spending - very little of which paid-off - they invested in homegrown talent and addressed positions which needed filling.

Players such as Gavin Brown, Damien Monkhorst and Mick McGuane came up through the Under 19's. There was smart inter-club recruiting, with the pick-ups of Doug Barwick and even Darren Millane, who came via Hawthorn, (who were kind enough to release him because he was unhappy there). Interstate-recruiting addressed the deficiencies in the team, netting Craig Starceivich, Michael Christian, Craig Kelly and Graham Wright, to name a few.

In 1988, Collingwood finished third in the Final 5 but went straight out with consecutive losses to Carlton and then Melbourne - the latter who had been something of a bogey-team for the Woods. In 1989, Collingwood finished fourth in a Final 5 and again suffered the indignity of exiting the finals in the first week - once more at the hands of Melbourne. They wouldn't reverse this trend until they pummeled Melbourne in 90 - perhaps a sign of what was to come.

And in 1990, Collingwood realized the need for some quick onballers and recruited Tony Francis and Scott Russell, two classy and quick small-men. Tony Francis didn't actually want to come down and was persuaded by Norwood when Collingwood picked up the outstanding debt the SANFL-team had owing. Smart, manipulative recruiting.

Due to the refinement in Administration, Collingwood were developing a tight-knit unit - one who had grown and evolved together. Coach Leigh Matthews had innovated the strategy of holding the opposition down to less goals than Collingwood would themselves kick. It sounds silly, I know, but often Teams - such as Geelong in their heyday, for example - would simply go out and kick more goals than their opposition could muster.

Collingwood was short on Forwards. The only genuine Forward they had was Full-forward Brian Taylor, who kicked 100 goals in 1986 but was starting to suffer from arthritic-knees, as well as obvious communication-problems with Matthews. This seems typical of Matthews' regime. He had a kliq of players - once he lost communication with them, (as David Cloke and Paul Hawke had discovered prior), it became impossible for a player to work his way back into the Seniors.

So Collingwood's sole Forwards for that year were makeshift - Peter Daicos, who finished with 97 goals for the year, and occasionally Gavin Brown. Daicos' effort has to be lauded. There aren't many key-Forwards who are only 5'11" in height and have to rely on out-positioning of their opponents. Certainly players with the bulk of Tony Lockett can do it, as Sav Rocca should be doing it now. But Daicos didn't have that luxury. He relied on freakish skills which often bedazzled defenders.

Collingwood and Essendon were the dominant teams of 1990. Hawthorn, who had dominated the 80's, were plagued with injuries and limped into the Finals. Many say that if Collingwood had met Hawthorn in the Finals, we would have went straight out - particularly after Hawthorn defeated us by 14 goals late in the Season. I disagree. 1990 was the year. Nothing was going to deny them and every Team can be afforded one off-day - as Collingwood had against Hawthorn - and it often serves as a wake-up call.

In the Finals, Collingwood drew with West Coast - thanks to Peter Sumich. The West Coast Full-forward had the chance to put the Weagles in front after the siren had he kicked a goal - but he missed and scored a point, tying the game and throwing the AFL into disarray. Collingwood and West Coast were scheduled for a replay the following week - but that precedent changed the Finals in any System so that Extra-time is now utilized in case of a draw, going into Sudden Death if the score remains tied. (Of course, the Grand Final remains exempted).

In the Replay, Collingwood dominated from the outset - thanks largely to Michael Christian and his delightful little left-footers. He took the Weagles apart and Collingwood thrashed them by 59 points. It really was to be expected, though. In the Draw, the Weagles had thrown everything they had against Collingwood. Collingwood had played barely-adequate. This was the Real Thing now.

Collingwood played Essendon in the Second Semi-Final the following week for a berth in the Grand Final. Again, Collingwood dominated and ran out winners by 63 points. Some say Essendon were rusty as - thanks to the tied Final - they had to sit-out another week atop of the week's rest they earned for finishing top of the Ladder as Minor Premiers. Well, that's the way it fell thanks to the Final's System of the time. Essendon's first Premiership in 1897 came via simply finishing atop of the Ladder - there were no Finals. All I'm saying is that you accept the System you're playing in, (as we would be forced to in 1992).

Melbourne knocked out a beleaguered Hawthorn in the Elimination Final, before West Coast - rebounding from the thrashing against Collingwood - knocked them out. Essendon and West Coast played in the Preliminary Final, which Essendon won. The game was a low standard. Personally, I simply think both teams sucked.

Early in the Grand Final, Collingwood looked like they'd be taken apart by Paul Salmon, who outmarked Michael Christian and Craig Kelly in turn and kicked two early goals. Peter Daicos then answered and produced a freakish goal from the pocket. A fight at the end of the quarter saw Gavin Brown laid-out and concussed. Later, he said the last thing he remembered was fiddling with the ball in the Rooms before the match. Collingwood emerged focussed in the Second Quarter and overran Essendon. Brown returned fired-up in the Second-half - the epitome of Collingwood's campaign. Nothing was going to deny them. In the end, Collingwood won by 48 points.

Following the drawn-final, no team - in West Coast, Essendon and then Essendon again - scored a goal against Collingwood in the final term of each respective final. And look at the margins - 59 points, 63 points and 48 points. I don't care who you threw in there - Collingwood were not going to be denied and they played that way. They had a stolid defense marshaled by Shane Morwood and a speedy on-ball brigade. Their only problem was the lack of real Forwards.

However, only Tony Shaw, Peter Daicos and Dennis Banks were aged over 25 in that 1990 Premiership team. The rest of the team were in their early 20's. It certainly looked like Collingwood would beget a dynasty to reign terror over the 90's, much as Hawthorn had in the 80's.

But it wasn't to be…

1991: Hangover City.
Paul Williams and pacey-Rover Troy Lehman joined the Collingwood list, with a supposed young brigade of future Champions in Mark Richardson, Andrew Pascoe and Jason McCartney sitting in the Reserves. Well, we all know how far Richardson and McCartney have come, and I believe that Andrew Pascoe is fruitful for the SANFL Magpies.

But not for Collingwood.

After breaking a 32-year Premiership drought, it was time for partying. Several Collingwood players were noticeably plump early in the 1991 Season, which we started appallingly. Six consecutive losses at one point - until we won a tough Grand Final replay against Essendon at Waverly in torrid conditions by 2 points. I remember that game well, because we only finished with 12 fit players and Scott Russell, playing with an upset stomach and diarrhea, finished with brown shorts. (We'd been wearing white-shorts as it was our Away-game).

That provided the impetus for a mad dash at the Finals - now a Final 6. You can't really blame the players for over-celebrating and becoming somewhat complacent, although Leigh Matthews has admitted that he let them party just a little too long. But when we resurrected 91 following the win against Essendon, we ran hot and the teams ensconced in the Final 6 at the time felt a tremor - the Woods were back.

We steamrolled most-everybody, with the high-point being in which we defeated Sydney by 99 points and Adelaide by 123 points at Victoria Park, before traveling to Brisbane, where we defeated the then-Bears by 101 points with Daicos kicking 13 goals, (on my birthday!). Robert Walls, then the Brisbane Coach, proclaimed Collingwood the best team in the AFL even though we remained outside the 6. We'd really given everybody quite a headstart with our rut.

What screwed us was that damn Bye which existed in 1991. We'd developed momentum and were killing everybody who got in our way. Then we had that Bye in the third-last Round. We came back from it looking sluggish, beating Richmond unconvincingly by 33 points. Then we journeyed to Kardinia Park, where we had to win against Geelong to make the Finals. But we'd lose by 41 points. I have no doubt that had we played both these matches before the Bye, or had no Bye existed to get in the way of our run, we would have disposed easily of both.

We finished the Season one game out of the Final 6 in seventh position on 12 Wins, 9 Losses and 1 Draw. But after winning the Premiership in 1990, it could be expected to have something of a drunken-lapse - although Leigh Matthews really should have put his foot down and got the players back into line a lot earlier than he did. The future still looked rosy, though. The Premiership-team was still intact and we had gun-recruits in Williams, Lehman, Richardson, Pascoe and McCartney.

On October 7th, though, Darren Millane was killed in a car-accident while at the wheel with an alcohol reading of .399. Several weeks earlier, Millane and Dennis Banks (and, I've heard, Eddie McGuire was also there, allegedly, but left before the authorities arrived) had hijacked a bus for the drunken hell of it. Somebody should have recognized Millane's self-destructive personality & tendencies and stepped in to do something about it. He was always in trouble in one way or another.

I have a friend who often says that the death of Darren Millane tore the very heart out of Collingwood and I wouldn't be surprised. He was an integral force in the midfield and would have been the next Captain, I'm sure, by 1994 at least. He was quite possibly one of the most influential, mentally-dominant midfielders of the current era - even if he had a bad game, you recognized his presence on the field and damned if on a few occasions I didn't see opposition simply step out of his way and let him through, such was his preeminence, physical and mental.

1992: 90 No Fluke.
In 1992, Collingwood had everything to play for. They were out to prove that 90 was no fluke and that 91 was a drunken aberration. It was their centennial year. And, of course, there was the memory of Darren Millane to dedicate the Season to.

Collingwood begun positively, securing Champion Fitzroy Full-back Gary Pert. Pert, who'd been cut down and slowed by knee-injuries, had lost some of his agility but none of his wiles. However, I'm not sure how necessary Pert was. At the time we had Craig Kelly, Michael Christian and Ron McKeown filling the key-roles in defense, with the former two being able to cameo at Center-half Forward and McKeown able to play at Full-forward.

McKeown was devastated when he was omitted from the Grand Final team in 1990 due to a necessity for "team-balance." Being supplanted by Gary Pert - who was also two years older - must have been another slap in the face for McKeown. Of course, McKeown was an utility-forward-cum-Full-back, whereas Pert was the genuine thing. Still, I think this was an early indictment of the stockpiling Collingwood would perform in the recruiting department in following years.

Collingwood were one of (if not the) best team in 1992. However, a number of close-finishes in matches saw their percentage suffer and they ended the Season in third position. They were equal on points with both Geelong and then-Footscray in First and Second spot, respectively, but suffered in percentage.

Collingwood also exposed a fallacy of the Final 6 System. They played St. Kilda, who finished 6th, in their first final. To earn a much-deserved second chance, Collingwood had to win their first game. Should they lose they were straight out - and lose they did by 8 points. In the early 90's, St. Kilda was something of a bogey-team for Collingwood - as Melbourne were in the late 80's - and matches were always close, but usually favoring St. Kilda.

West Coast (under Mick Malthouse) would eventually run out Premiers against Geelong, but I'm certain that if Collingwood had played anybody but St. Kilda in the Finals, we would have run out Premiers. Every team has their bogey. St. Kilda was ours (the bastards). Also, this final showcased yet another one-game flash-in-the-pan against Collingwood (much like Teddy Hopkins had done in the 1970 Grand Final) - this being St. Kilda's Mick O'Dwyer.

I remember several things about this Final. Outside the ground, I helped a scalper buy tickets to scalp. (I should have asked him for money). Earlier in the week I'd lined up overnight for tickets for myself and friends and at the game everybody was repaying me with UDL's and beers quicker than I could drink them. A seagull flew over us and shat right on my cousin Rooka's record. It was also the Couch Potato's birthday and that night, a friend of his gave him a stuffed Magpie with its beak tied - which has remained tied to this day and will until Collingwood win a Premiership.

Personally, I think this is a bad omen.

1993: What a Waste!
First off, you could see bad signs setting in for Collingwood.

Despite a litany of small on-ballers, Collingwood unnecessarily drafted high-priced and somewhat overrated Swan's Rover Barry Mitchell. Don't get me wrong - Mitchell was a champion...at Sydney. But there was nowhere to fit him in at Collingwood and he spent considerable time either on the Bench or in the Reserves. I personally believe that at the Swans, Mitchell fit into the niche of the pace of their game and was assisted by playing often on the smaller SCG - at Collingwood he was in a super-quick team playing regularly at bigger grounds.

The move to Draft him seemed a defensive one to stop arch-foes Carlton - where Mitchell would have fit in with the slow, old Blues' brigade - from recruiting him. Mitchell also wanted to join former Swans' teammate Greg Williams at the Blues. But nope...Collingwood had to put a stop to that and Mitchell occupied a huge chunk of their Salary-Cap. So instead of looking to develop our team, we were falling back into the bad old habits of stockpiling unnecessary surplus.

Irrespective, Collingwood got the Season off to a flier, being 6-1 after Round 8. The one loss came at the hands of...St. Kilda in Round 4 at Victoria Park. Following an incident during the match in which aboriginal Nicky Winmar held up his guernsey to proudly proclaim the color of his skin, then-President Alan McAlister made the outrageous statement later in the week, {quote} "As long as they (Aborigines) conduct themselves like white people, well, off the field, everyone will admire and respect them."

It was probably the stupidest thing McAlister had ever said. It was not something he meant and a case of his big-mouth getting in the way of his phrasing. He later retracted it, fumbling his way through apologies. It would also lead to the Committee gagging McAlister and I remember hearing that should he say anything else as outrageous, the Committee would sack him. However, the damage was done. Whether you believe in them or not, an Aboriginal-curse was placed on Collingwood.

We'd lost Daicos earlier (pre-Curse) in the Season to a knee-injury - one he later admitted he should have sat out with for most of the Season, instead of trying to stage a quick-comeback and re-injuring it twice. This wasn't a good sign for the aging Daicos - he'd sat out much of 92 with a popped AC-joint, and now he was out with a troublesome knee. However, from 6-1, top of the ladder and being feared by everybody in the league as, "fast Fast FAST!" (as Kevin Sheedy put it) we finished the Season at 11-9 and in Eighth Spot.

Sixth-placed West Coast finished at 12-8, as did Geelong, sitting seventh and out of the 6 on percentage. It's unequivocally bewildering that we can win 6 of the first 7 games and then only win a further 5 for the rest of the Season. That's simply unacceptable and there should have been some serious questions asked of the players, the Coach, and everybody holding responsible positions at the Club.

However, Leigh Matthews had brought a Premiership to Victoria Park in 1990, so he wasn't to be questioned. He had the job for life - as Alan McAlister stated after the triumph. So instead of keeping Collingwood fresh, evolving and ever-challenging, a complacency had begun to set in - and with it, stagnation.

1994: Stagnation.
A huge Pre-Season!

Peter Daicos is sacked by Leigh Matthews after he pulls out of a night-match with a niggle, (although I heard he actually pulled-out due to a dispute with Matthews). Matthews believes Daicos won't be able to stand-up to the rigors of a full season. Matthews doesn't put Daicos through any sort of fitness-test and the lack of any credible forwards doesn't seem to thwart or make him stop and think twice about his decision.

Sav Rocca seems to be coming up and threatening to become the next Tony Lockett, so that is one consolation and contingency. However, apparently Daicos can't get on the list in front of such [seething sarcasm] stalwarts like Stephen Ryan (who took Daicos' spot on the list) and North Melbourne Reserves' reject Justin Staritski and Bradley Plain, who we traded to Essendon and we now recruited back. Plain's notorious for his injury-problems. But Matthews thinks he must have the Forwards' bases covered.

Fans flock Victoria Park and attempt to get Daicos reinstated, while Daicos himself considers entering the Draft - only to be swayed by the support of this plea from supporters which makes him realize that Collingwood is the only Club for which he'll ever play.

I would have liked to see Daicos enter the Draft and end up at either Carlton or Geelong. It would have been nice to see Daicos line up by Gary Ablett at Geelong as the two tried to outdo one another and bedazzle defenders. That would have been a murderous forward-line with which to contend - no matter where you pushed either they were both still capable of kicking goals. But I would have just as much liked for him to have ended up at the arch-foe in Carlton and kick 60 goals or so and stick it right back up Matthews.

Barry Mitchell is released and ends up joining Carlton. But Collingwood still has to pick up the excess on his Salary. So a whole year and an early Draft-pick wasted on a player we never needed. Mitchell would play sporadically with Carlton and would never recapture the championship-form he displayed at the Swans.

And Collingwood recruit Nathan Buckley. Buckley had been drafted by the Brisbane then-Bears but indicated that he wanted to play for a successful Victorian-team in Finals' Football. He played 1993 with the Bears, but nominated Collingwood as the Club of his choice. Robert Walls reiterated that he would make whoever recruited Buckley - a made-Champion from his SANFL days - pay through their teeth.

In an dreadful showcase of trade & management, Collingwood nominate "10 Untouchables" - the only players Brisbane can't try and recruit. Brisbane ask for Craig Starceivich and Mark Fraser. Fraser doesn't want to go and is upset that he's becomes trade-fodder. In the end, he absconds to Essendon, with whom his father played. Troy Lehman takes Fraser's place.

Now how many ways can I say how wrong this is?

1) To nominate an aristocracy within the ranks of your Club List is only going to cause dissension. You're segregating the players and making others feel unworthy. Certainly, you'll have these sort of lists discussed within the inner-sects of Administration, but for God's Sake, YOU DON'T ALLOW IT PUBLISHED IT IN THE NATIONAL PAPERS!!! Interestingly, Jason McCartney was on that list and would leave in 1995.

2) This is just a rumor, but I heard that there was a pact made between the 1990 Premiership team in which none of them would ever be traded. James Manson had left earlier to Fitzroy - but that was of his own accord due to his lack of opportunities at Collingwood. (He would later return to become Collingwood's Ruck Coach, coaching Damien Monkhorst who replaced him as the permanent Ruck-fixture - how redundant is that?) When Craig Starceivich was traded - one of Collingwood's best in the 90 Premiership - it demoralized the rest of the ranks. Lehman was a prospect but would inevitably succumb to severe, chronic hamstring problems.

Nathan Buckley isn't immediately accepted into the ranks of Collingwood - either with the List or the Supporters. FIGJAM, as he's known, (Fuck I'm Good Just Ask Me) is seen as a mercenary. The assessment is unfair. Buckley always wanted to come to a Victorian Club, but the Bears secured him with a Draft-pick. But with his intentions unwavering, Buckley became the hottest prospect - courted by Collingwood, Geelong and Carlton. Reputedly, Geelong offer him more money but Buckley elects Collingwood - possibly due to the old Collingwood-Port Adelaide relationship.

Collingwood also lose Draft-pick Brett Chalmers. Chalmers - a Tall who can play either Ruck or a key-position - nominates a price on his head and declares that he won't come down to Victoria if drafted this year. Both factors cause teams to avoid him in the Draft...bar Collingwood, who picks him up anyway. The AFL perceives this as Draft-tampering and Collingwood and Chalmers are fined and Chalmers is banned from playing for Collingwood for two years - and is thus later traded to Adelaide. Just a point - as he stated, Chalmers didn't come down to play. If he had, perhaps the AFL would have found it a little more difficult to ban him.

Collingwood play stolidly in 94, showing forms from both sides of the coins - full of run and skill or just plain crap. They usually go win for loss and limp into 8th spot in the first year of the Final 8 System ahead of Richmond on percentage, both teams having a 12-10 record. They play League Ladder Leader West Coast in W.A. in their one and only Final and run the eventual premiers to within 2 points.

Gavin Brown takes a courageous mark in a pack in the goalsquare with only minutes remaining but the mark isn't paid. The subsequent goal would have won it for Collingwood. In the dying seconds, Mick McGuane spills a relatively easy chest-mark from about thirty out while on a lead. McGuane is one of Collingwood's most reliable goalkickers and could have won the match for them. However, it's not to be and Collingwood bow out.

Tony Shaw, after setting the record amount of games for Collingwood earlier in the year, retires on 313 games - a stalwart and champion of the Club. To have produced such an illustrious career after being declaimed too fat, too slow, can't kick, et al, is a testament to his fighting character and intestinal fortitude - facets he'd be unable to communicate successfully as a coach.

1995: Piss Off, Matthews!
A certain stagnation has begun to creep into Collingwood, even evidenced by a departing Jason McCartney, who says, "There's a stale air at the club." McCartney, who'd been one of the "10 Untouchables" heads for a tenure at Adelaide, before returning back to the Roos. Also amongst the outgoing are Stephen Ryan and Justin Staritski. Isn't it delightful that those two players, who took up a slot Daicos could have occupied, had such sterling one-year careers?

Yeah, right.

Collingwood also miss out on one Tony "Plugger" Lockett. Lockett seems sign, sealed and delivered at Collingwood, but the Committee overrule Alan McAlister on a matter of money and Lockett heads to Sydney. I will semi-defend this decision because everybody expected Sav to come on strong. Hindsight is a great thing. But to pass-up on a Champion like Lockett is inexplicable. McAlister later admits that this is one occasion where he, as President, should have overruled the Committee. I get the feeling that after all the stupid things McAlister had said he'd become tentative to defy the Committee, who'd gagged him. (2003 Footnote: Matthews has also said that the failure to get this deal done told him his coaching-career at Collingwood was done).

Collingwood do draft 31 year old Dermott Brereton, though. While I don't mind them recruiting Brereton (and I actually thought trying to pick-up Derek Kickett when he cut loose from Essendon would have been handy, also), you have to question Matthews' hypocrisy in sacking Daicos a year earlier.

Both Daicos and Brereton were hamstrung with debilitating injuries throughout their careers. For Daicos, it was knee-reconstruction's and stress-fractures of the feet. Brereton suffered an enfeebling hip-injury which kept him out of the game at Hawthorn on and off for 3 years. The injury was such a state that he would retire at the end of 1995, stating that if he played another year he could envision a future in which he wouldn't even be able to pick up his own kids.

Daicos is a fringe-dweller. While he played largely at Full-forward in 1990, he was best on the flanks and in the pockets where he could rove the loose ball. Brereton was a key-player, a man who could bullock his way through packs - who bullocked his way through the Essendon huddle on one occasion. Brereton's game relied on spearing his way into packs and getting the ball. Daicos was a crumber.

Brereton had a poor Season at the Swans in 1994 in which he missed cumulatively 14 games through suspension - both for indiscretions highlighted simply because it was Brereton. The extent of both suspensions were, in my opinion, unfair. Daicos' last Season was in 1993, in which he twinged his posterior cruciate against Essendon and tried to come back far to early, effectively finishing his career.

Matthews sacked Daicos due to age and injury. Now he was recruiting somebody of the same age with injuries which were worse - which had kept him out for thrice as long as Daicos had been. He recruited an aged key-forward whose game was dependent on getting into the packs and bullying his way through, while he sacked a Forward who crumbed off the bigger players and packs and could kick goals from anywhere.

Not much sense there from Matthews. Brereton served the same purpose Daicos would have - if he got a handful of kicks and kicked or contributed to a couple of goals, he'd done his job. That's all you would have expected from Daicos had he played on - to sit in the pocket, get a couple of kicks and get a goal or two. Collingwood hasn't had a genuine crumbing forward since they axed Daicos, although they've tried a swath of options in Bradley Plain, Brad Rowe and now Brad Fuller, just to name a few. (Must be something with these Brads!).

Collingwood lose the first three games of 95; first off against Carlton by 29 points, then they blow a 20-point three-quarter time lead to go down to the Weagles by 4 points (at the MCG) and finally, to Geelong by 27 points before tying against a wayward Essendon in what would become the traditional ANZAC day-clash. In a scoreline of Collingwood: 17.9 (111) to Essendon: 16.15 (111) Big Sav kicks 9.2 and the Lockett-decision seems semi-justified.

However, there's no denying the stagnancy of Collingwood's gameplan. From the time he took over early on in 1986, Leigh Matthews realized his lack of scoring-firepower and forged a tight defensive unit. He realized that Collingwood were rarely going to kick big scores. The plan was to keep the opposition to a lesser score. Ironically, this is the tactic Mick Malthouse utilized with the Weagles and intends to with Collingwood.

The real problem, though, is that while that tactic worked and won Collingwood a Premiership in 1990, it had become stale and Matthews failed to adapt with changes at the Club. Moreover, unlike Coaches with prolonged careers - such as Kevin Sheedy, David Parkin, even Mick Malthouse - Matthews fails to reinvent himself, his strategies and the Club around him. Also, Matthews' growing semi-tyrannical manner is not conducive to prolonged communication with the players. He's the sort of Coach (or was) who has a finite lifespan due to his very intensity. It's only a matter of time before that intensity is neither heeded nor tolerated any longer.

Another problem with Matthews, I believe, was that he overtrained the players, which would explain their tearaway-starts before their bodies broke down on them early-to-mid Season. Worse, he applied the same training regime to players whose bodies simply couldn't handle it, who suffered from chronic injuries - such as Mick McGuane, whose groin troubled him throughout his latter-career. These are players which should have been nursed through training, as Carlton did with their highly-effective geriatric-brigade.

Collingwood flounder to a 0-5-1 record before finishing the Season in 10th position with an 8-12-2 record, (the other draw coming against Footscray). The signs are ominous and Leigh Matthews is finally sacked. He later admits of his own accord that he perhaps overstayed by one year. I think he overstayed by at least two - that he should have made way for a new Coach in 1994.

Many believed that had Collingwood floundered in 1990, the axe would have dropped on Matthews. But Collingwood won the Premiership that year and how many years does a Premiership add to the life of a Coach? At Richmond, only one. At Collingwood, Matthews was given the job "for life."

In 1992, we were genuinely unlucky due to the absurdities of the Final 6 System. But in 1993, the signs & portents of stagnation were starting to show and Matthews should have made way for a new Coach with new ideas who could carry Collingwood on. I get the feeling that Leigh Matthews was given 1994 because of the recruitment of Nathan Buckley that year, hoping the Champion would galvanize the existent list. 1995, though, he definitely should have been gone - and as aforementioned, Matthews himself admitted he stayed possibly one year too long.

Tony Shaw was appointed Coach for 1996. Shaw had been Matthews' Assistant throughout 1995. Retired at the end of 1994, Assistant Coach in 1995, Senior Coach in 1996. That's one helluva joyride. Shaw knocked back an offer from Carlton at the start of 95 to join their Coaching Staff. McAlister was integral in keeping Shaw at Collingwood, stating he couldn't bear to envision Shaw with the old enemy.

You get the feeling that Shaw was told the Coaching-job was his if he stayed at Collingwood. But Shaw would have been better-served carrying out an apprenticeship at another Club with a different-culture. Interestingly, Carlton won the Flag in 1995 and Shaw could have been part of that - could have experienced that. He was served no favors, though, by getting a job so easily and quickly.

This is the first indication that Collingwood's Committee - as an effective Administration - is regressing back to a Boy's Club interested more in taking care of their own to protect some self-serving and yet highly-ineffectual Inner Sanctum, rather than the continuing evolution and future successes of the Club.

I have nothing against a familial atmosphere, a tight-unit impenetrable to outer-influences which won't self-destruct at the first sign of trouble, such as Richmond's Committee does - but not at the cost of football as a business inferred and reflected by successes and failures, wins and losses. Fresh blood is required as stimulus. Otherwise (and succinctly), over-familiarity - such as the Boy's Club at Collingwood - simply breeds inbreeding and we know how backward and detrimental that is. Collingwood's lack of success throughout the 90's substantiates that.

"Big Al" McAlister also exits the Club-scene after something of a mixed tenure, bringing a Premiership and some highly controversial financial questions regarding Collingwood's purchase of property. Stepping into the breach as President is Kevin Rose - part of the aforementioned Boy's Club mentality at Collingwood. Rose was neither an Administrator nor a businessman - he was simply a Club Son and the Club protected and propagated its own, irrespective of the cost.

McAlister was the treasurer for the doomed New Magpies brigade which almost bankrupted Collingwood. He stepped into the breach as President and up until 1990, ran the best Administration in the League. And this is due to the near-bankruptcy. McAlister was forced to treat the Club as a business. Once success ensured their position, then he became overly-boisterous and allowed Leigh "Coach for Life" Matthews to run the Club.

Kevin Rose would continue the rot which was setting in at Collingwood - and it was really setting in. Fiscally, Collingwood had made questionable decisions. Their one prime recruit since Paul Williams had been Nathan Buckley, and the management behind that had been appalling. Nobody else stood out in any way - and nobody would, until Collingwood promoted Mal Michael from the Supplemental (now Rookie) List.

1996: No Shaw Thing.
Let's start with some real comedy - firstly, the marriage between us and the NSL's Melbourne Warriors, forming the Collingwood Warriors. This was an union which was meant to run, initially, from 1996-97, but was less successful than most marriages you see on The Jerry Springer Show. The ultimate result was the Collingwood Warriors folding at the close of 1996 due to a lack of money. Who knows how much our Collingwood lost out of it?

You see this sort of stuff occurring, you should take it as an indication of what's going to follow.

Am I suggesting Tony Shaw's coaching-tenure was welcomed to Collingwood through an honor-guard of farce?

Yes, yes I am.

Tony Shaw brings the right ideology to the Coaching-job, wanting to concentrate on, {quote} "...kicking more goals, rather than trying to stop them."

He also brings the work-ethic which made him such a Champion as a player - dedication, intensity, a never-say-die attitude. Unfortunately, Mick McGuane's body can't survive the rigors and he heads to greener pastures at Carlton, where he'll only survive a handful of games in his only Season and best be remembered for clouting teammate Matthew Hogg prior to training. Interestingly, I think this attitude of Shaw's - which made him such a great player - reflected in his recruiting.

Shaw's drafting was questionable and would remain so all the way up to 1999. Amongst his recruits were rejects, also-rans and never-will-be's. Personally, I believe Shaw thought that if he could get these players to apply the philosophies he attended as a player then they, too, could become productive. Nice sentiment, Tony. But it doesn't matter how hard you train a dud, he remains a dud. You, Tony, stood apart because you had heart. You can give a player all the tools, but if he has no heart - irrespective of how naturally talented he is - he just won't get anywhere, and the predominance of Shaw's recruits lacked the heart to succeed.

Another problem is that with the majority of Shaw's early recruiting, it was neither here nor there. It wasn't solely concentrated on youth as it would be in 1999, nor on supplementing the existent team. Shaw lucked-out here. It wasn't until 1999 - too late for him - where he'd decide the Team needed to rebuild. But he should have applied this sentiment immediately when he was appointed Coach or looked to supplement the Squad he had. Instead, he just ran with the pack he had, recruiting seemingly on a whim and hoping he could turn duds into productive players.

As an aside but a testament to our poor recruiting in the 90's, look how few people have really gone on with it. Williams from 1991 - although he's never really lived up to his potential that may be due to the Squad with which he plays, needing the team around him to fire to augment his own finishing-style-of-play - and Scott Burns. How many others have gone on with it that we can truly call our own? Anthony Rocca? Like Nathan Buckley, he was an established talent. Mal Michael's the next one and that recruit in itself - with Michael promoted from the Supplemental List - was something of a fluke.

So in the 90's, the only real stars we can say we've produced or recruited are Paul Williams, Nathan Buckley, Scott Burns, Anthony Rocca and, to a lesser extent (although he's still developing), Mal Michael. This is excluding the 1999-batch. Five worthwhile recruits in a decade just isn't good enough. Dermott Brereton and Richard Osborne were handy pick-ups, but how long were they both around before Collingwood recruited them? We hardly recruited them at their peak or discovered them when they were young. I could reel off the duds we've recruited who have fizzled and disappeared within a solitary Season, but that would only sadden us all.

There were rumors that Shaw and Matthews had a scuffle in 1994, (I think it was). Both had denied it and Shaw had tried to defuse it with the jibe that he wouldn't be standing if they had indeed scuffled. But according to my sources, Matthews was pointing out negative after negative during a team-meeting and sick of it, Shaw got up and asked why they had to continually concentrate on the negatives? why couldn't they look at the positives?

Collingwood sped away to a 4-2 start and Shaw, untried and unproven as a Coach, displayed a far more offensive unit. One guy I always regret losing - and who is rarely (if ever) mentioned - is South Australian Stephen Pitt. Pitt was a handy goalkicker, chipping in when Sav was held. Pitt left after one year, wanting to pursue his career as a policeman in Adelaide and even resisted Footscray trying to recruit him. I respect him for holding to his ideals. We do need him now, though - in his capacity as a policeman, not a footballer; he should return and arrest Stephen Patterson for the crimes he's committed against Collingwood.

However, we also experienced our first winless-June and Collingwood puffed out to finish with a 9-13 record and in 11th position. Hawthorn, who finished clear in 8th position, had a 11-10-1 record. Still, while we flopped out of the Final's race, there were signs of a more offensive Collingwood unit which could ascend the ladder with a few handy pick-ups.

Well, that was the dream.

1997: Didn't we just do this June-thing?
Collingwood managed to secure Anthony "Pebbles" Rocca right before trading ended. Pebbles was a natural talent - far more natural than bigger brother Sav, but somewhat lazy - indifferent, almost - and clearly unfit. His Pre-season was hampered by a nagging knee-complaint. But he could add firepower to a flagging Forward-line.

Collingwood raced away to a 6-2 beginning to the Season and Top of the Ladder, prompting many journalists to declare them "the real thing." And indeed they did look like that with a freeflowing style of play and multi-pronged goalkicking-attack, although it still remained largely dependent on the Roccas.

Following this start, the Kevin Rose Administrative Boy's Club extended Shaw's contract by another year. However, Rose's position and Administration were challenged by outsider David Galbally. Galbally said that were he elected, every position would come under review - including Shaw's, irrespective of the fact that he had a year to run on his original contract and now two with the extension.

Perhaps Galbally's sweeping reforms awakened memories of the New Magpies as he was voted-down, and the Boy's Club led by Kevin Rose remained in power. It's a pity, because I'm certain we would have been in a far better position than we are now had Galbally won his way into the Presidency. And Eddie McGuire...? Well, he would have remained just an ubiquitous media personality.

Collingwood lost the next match to Sydney by 37 points but retained top spot, then lost, and lost, and continued to lose through a second winless-June, dropping additional rungs on the ladder with each continued loss. What was the problem? Absolutely no idea. But I'm sure this second consecutive winless-June was what set Shaw into atypical mode, throwing players out of position in attempts to restart the engine.

Following Round 20, Tony Shaw says that he'll go at the end of next Season (1998) {quote} "if the Club's on-field performances had not improved." (I have the article in which he states that pasted in my scrapbook).

At the end of the Season, Collingwood finished 10th with a 10-12 Record. Brisbane finished 8th with a 10-11-1 record. It's unbelievable that Collingwood couldn't win 5 more games in the last 13 Rounds to make the 8. Even playing poorly, they would only have needed 1 win every two and a half games. While that's statistically impossible (to quote "a half game" as a definitive measuring standard in relation to the game of football), it does illustrate how poorly Collingwood played after their flying start.

Collingwood was in a rut.

1998: Piss Off, All!
The season begins appallingly with the collapse of a three million dollar sponsorship deal with Viatel. Collingwood are one of many organizations conned by charismatic Viatel boss John Massey, but never receive any monies. Collingwood eventually make Spicers their main sponsor.

You know, most would take that as an indication that things weren't quite right in a world where stuff was already decidedly off-center. Not us, though. Shooting ourselves in the foot isn't enough. We have to shoot ourselves in the nuts, bandage that up, then fellate the barrel of the shotgun and blow our damn heads off before we sit up and take notice.

As far as football goes, Collingwood get off to another flier of a start, being 4-2 after six rounds, but again the wheels fall off for yet another winless-June. Collingwood only won another 3 more games in the last 15 rounds, to finish with a 7-15 record and in 14th position. Essendon occupied 8th spot with a 12-10 record.

Late in the Season, Tony Shaw approaches Kevin Rose and asks whether he'll be retained for 1999, despite Shaw's 97-pledge that he'll step aside should he not see a marked on-field improvement by the end of 98. Rose and the Administration balk. There's a rumor that former Richmond-Collingwood Ruck David Cloke - a successful coach at Ainslie - is approached and asked whether he'd be interested in becoming Caretaker-Coach of Collingwood should the position suddenly become vacant. This is never substantiated.

While Shaw awaits an answer, the Rose Administration sounds out Sydney Swans' Assistant Coach Damien Drum about taking the job for 1999. Drum declines, opting for the Coaching-job at 15th-placed Fremantle instead. Later, Drum reveals that the Rose Administration has unrealistic expectations for Collingwood in 1999. Buckley and Brown and several other plays approach the Administration and ask that Shaw stay. (2002 Footnote: I wonder if this was prompted by You Know Who).

Subsequently, Eddie McGuire and Co. sweep into power in a bloodless-coup, with Rose and several other Boy's Club-members stepping aside for the eddie World order. McGuire says Collingwood needs a business-like approach, much like Diamond Joe Gutnick brought to Melbourne. McGuire secures Shaw's position, showing a dignity which is rather alien for modern-day football.

However, this is not truly the case.

1999: Wooden Spoon Wonders!
Collingwood open the Season 0-7, finally breaking the drought against Wooden Spoon Favorites in Fremantle, (in a game in which Clinton King starred). Despite the tragedy the Season is becoming, Eddie McGuire continually comes out and defends Tony Shaw's position against media-scrutiny, iterating and reiterating that Shaw unequivocally has the position for the extent of 1999. Collingwood, as we all know, ended the Season 4-18 and in 16th position - Wooden Spooners!

In my opinion, Eddie McGuire wasn't being noble in defending Tony Shaw. He displayed a ruthlessness which was far more savage than anything we've seen in Football - ever.

McGuire had his sights set on Dermott Brereton or Mick Malthouse as Coach for the following Season. Of course, neither would be available until the year 2000. So he required an interim-Coach for 1999 - so there won't be the appointment of any new Coach. He could sack Shaw mid-Season but then that would necessitate the requirement of a Caretaker. And what if the caretaker was successful? McGuire's plans for either Brereton or Malthouse would have gone awry. I do have to state, though, that perhaps McGuire was trying to salvage some dignity from the debacle the Kevin Rose Administration had made of the Coaching position.

But one wonders what would have happened had Brereton pulled McGuire aside and said he wanted a taste of Coaching before he committed himself to the possibility of a Full-time position. Would Shaw have survived 1999? I doubt it. I think he would have been shown the door quicker than any of us could blink and Brereton would have been instituted as Caretaker-coach for 1999.

Shaw would resign of his own volition after Round 12. Or did he? I'm certain Eddie McGuire told him that unless Collingwood produced a miracle there was no way Shaw could realistically expect to retain his position in 2000. So why not resign mid-Season in a dignified little liturgy, thus freeing the eWo up to start scouting early for Coaches without inviting innuendo from the media?

The eWo sacrificed the entirety of 1999 so that they could have all the pieces set and ready to start 2000 afresh. Brereton pulled out of the Coaching-race and the onus fell on securing Malthouse. I'm sure there was also a list of players Collingwood intended to discharge at the end of the Season - amongst those Clinton King, if required - and players they sought to recruit, as well as contingencies dependent on availability and unavailability, respectively.

2000 awaits.

Collingwood has already taken steps for next year. Mick Malthouse has been appointed Coach and high hopes are placed on recruited-Ruck Stephen McKee - witness the delistment of Damien Monkhorst, the Club's Ruck Stalwart throughout the decade. Lee Walker retired of his own accord, his war-torn knees unable to take the rigors not of playing, but of surgery, any further. Alex McDonald also announced his retirement, similarly to injury - his a bad hip. Jason Wild, Cameron Venables and Scott Crowe have been delisted. Josh Fraser is apparently a lock to join recruits Mark Kinnear, Andrew Ukovic and Rhyce Shaw.

So where do we go from here?

2000: D-Day.
Realistically, with a strong supplement of recruits and some of the youth hopefully taking the next step up, you would expect Collingwood to jump at least 6 positions - Top 10 material. I never subscribed to the view that the quality of Collingwood's list justified a Wooden Spoon finish. This was largely the same list - with better young recruits - which had gotten Collingwood off to 4-2 starts in the prior 3 years.

There's no denying the quality of Nathan Buckley as a Champion. He must be behind only Wayne Carey as the best player in the League - and Carey predominates because he's in the game-winning position of kicking goals. This isn't as easy for an onballer, although naturally you expect them to chip in with 1 or 2 every now and then. And it's almost impossible for an onballer playing off the half-back.

Paul Williams is a quality-player and capable of far much more if he played on the ball - as he did in one game against Essendon, kicking 5 goals. Williams has very little defensive aspects to his game. I'm not sure if Shaw was trying to impress this upon him by playing him at half-back, but overall, he was simply wasted. The same could almost be said for Scott Burns - although he's far grittier and less flashier. He can provide that sort of impetus from half-back. But on-the-ball, he's also the sort who'll actually go in and get the ball for you and feed it off to running-finishers like Paul Williams.

Tony Shaw wanted to play rebound-football from the half-back. This is mystifying. I've always been of the opinion that if your midfield is good enough, it won't hit the half-back enough to require rebounding. Buckley, Williams and Burns provide one helluva nucleus for a midfield; add to that newcomers in Tyson Lane, Rupert Betheras, Nick Davis, Mark Orchard and Paul Licuria, then you have a very handy running brigade indeed. Instead of a tight onball unit, Shaw opted for strong position-players (playing out of position), sacrificing lines for marshals.

Now all Collingwood's hopes for posterity and prosperity depend on the forces the eWo and Mick Malthouse can put together. As aforementioned, Malthouse is of the same philosophy as Leigh Matthews - keep the opposition down below the score you can kick. At Brisbane in 99, we witnessed the Lions play the same style of running-game Collingwood played in 90. The difference is that Brisbane have multiple quality-finishers and goalkickers. Collingwood didn't back then and still don't.

Under Malthouse, the Weagles played stoic drone-like football. There were rare specialist-players, outside for the obvious such as Matera or Jakovich. Just about anybody could substitute for anybody in any position. They kept their opposition down to below what they themselves could kick. West Coast had about as many scoring options as Collingwood - Peter Sumich early, Scott Cummings in 1999. The difference, perhaps, was Fraser Gehrig, ably (but not proficiently) filling the Center-half Forward slot. Collingwood has never had somebody to consistently fill that position, although some have played cameo-performances.

Saverio Rocca finally has to stand up and be counted. On a bad day, Sav might not kick any. To join the ranks of Dunstall, Lockett and Ablett, on a bad day Sav still has to kick 3 or 4. His one redeeming feature is that he draws the opposition's best defender - against Carlton, he always draws Silvagni, for example. He'll maul a halfhearted opposition. But Sav has to learn to run straight and let the opposition become apprehensive of him rampaging through packs, as they were with Lockett.

There has to be continual improvement from the likes of Kinnear and Tarrant, and Anthony Rocca also has to continue to step up - although his performance in 99 was largely a standout. If he was left in position, he could have dominated, but Shaw used him as another spare part's player, tossing him around to fill gaps. Both Roccas need to learn to kick straight and Kinnear and Tarrant have to bulk up, although they also have to be careful not to do so to the detriment of their agility and ability.

A Top 10 position is imperative, although I expect Collingwood to at least slug it out for that fringe-dweller 8th spot, which can be and usually is tied up on points but separated by percentage by teams occupying 6th-to-10th positions. Anything higher would be a bonus.

Collingwood's Decade of Woes - with all its poor financial decisions and recruitment's, its performances and low-finishes - may have killed a lesser Club, such as the Western Bulldogs or Geelong. Melbourne and Hawthorn almost went under and merged at the end of 97 and Hawthorn had stockpiled 5 Premierships and 10 Grand Final appearances from 1983-91. While supporters rallied to keep them intact as separate entities, continued bad Seasons (and some AFL manipulation) would have killed them off for good.

// Collingwood has survived off its once-daunting stature, but this can't carry them forever. Continuing seasons of mediocrity could pull the switch on them. While I have more confidence in the management under the eWo than I did under the Kevin Rose Boy's Club, it's the performances on the field which count ultimately. We don't go to watch the Administration - we go to watch Collingwood.

And we don't go to watch them lose.

If there are no prizes for second, then there can only be penalties for losing. Collingwood's lost enough and suffered enough. In the last decade we've experienced frustrations which eclipse - for me, at least - the heartbreak of the 32-year drought. In that time, Collingwood was constantly defying odds, with Bobby Rose and Tommy Hafey and other Coaches pulling up patchwork teams into Grand Finals. But in the last decade, particularly from 90-94, we had the team which could have set a dynasty alight in the AFL, could have continued to be doing so with smart management, reigning with the terror Hawthorn impressed in the 80's and Melbourne in the 50's.

But we wasted it. Let's not do it again.

This is the time.