Eddie McGuire - The Tim Lane Interview - 20th September
(Credit: The Age /
the football season, does football become the consuming
It's all there. The footy's everywhere because there's
so much involved in calling the matches and doing
The Footy Show and all those types of things. This
year in particular was an interesting one because
I had the Allan Border Medal at the start of the year,
the Logies, the National Driving Test, the Friday
Night Football, and The Footy Show.
privately it's been fantastic. My two little boys
are going well. We had a little baby born in December
last year so that was a fantastic Christmas and New
Year period, and the little fellow, who is two-and-ahalf
now, is just going great guns and is an absolute joy.
One of the highlights of the year for me was last
Sunday when I went down to the Port Melbourne ground
and took my two-and-a-half-year-old with me. In a
lot of ways, the reason I got involved at Collingwood,
I thought at the time it would be a tragedy in five
or 10 years' time, if I had a little boy, and the
Pies weren't there or weren't strong. So to actually
go down and see Williamstown win the preliminary final
against Port Melbourne, in an old grandstand, with
a two-and-a-half-year-old in his Collingwood jumper
sitting on my knee and clapping when we kicked goals,
said your flexible hours give you sufficient time
for family. You're able to maintain that?
Yeah, absolutely. I've got a fantastic wife who fits
everything in to try and do that. Today (Thursday)
for example, or Friday if I'm calling games, I try
to make sure that I've got the mornings to spend and
then get home, as much as possible, to read the books
and have the bath and have a bit of a play. It's very
important to me. I think it was the difference in
my childhood that my father and mother were always
there for football games and you always had that parental
support and advice and guidance and love. Like everybody
else, that's the main thing in everyone's life and
everything else fits around it.
that to say you can "up" your current rate
I don't know. It's an interesting one. I still think
there's plenty more left in me as far as new projects
and getting stuck into things.
do you think one day you may need a major change of
direction to keep your batteries charged?
Over the years I've always looked at those things.
You know, when you're 10 you dream of when you're
20, when you're 20 you dream of when you're 30 and
so on. But I must admit I'm enjoying family, enjoying
my career, and certainly enjoying Collingwood more
than any time in my life. It's a great period at the
moment. I'm pretty satisfied the way things are going,
but certainly trying to develop new things.
it meant trying to get out of the media altogether
and going and doing something else, that's not on
the radar at the moment. The media is obviously still
what I do for a living and I need to do that for a
while yet. Similarly, I've still got another year
to run on the pledge I made to the Collingwood members,
so I'll certainly be there as long as that year.
is the one people keep pointing towards.Could you
possibly see yourself in federal politics?
I could see myself doing it.
the answer at the moment is no. I think the pressure
on the family is enormous and I'm just not sure that
I'm prepared to put in danger the well-being of my
family for politics. However, I think I'm looking
more and more at trying to do things without getting
to some people, being at Collingwood gives you an
opportunity to do a lot of things that even politicians
can't and that's why we've really gone out of our
way to become the number one philanthropic club in
Australian sport and become a leader. So we can actually
make an impact in society and we're able to do that
without going through all the party politics and the
nonsense. I don't know whether I'd have the patience
or the temperament for all the back-room lobbying
and the time spent on the back bench to make an impact.
you have to fend off accusations of being a power
addict. Is the philanthropic idea something that perhaps
helps you deal with that, both within yourself and
It's actually the reason why you do it. I think the
notion of celebrity these days, and the notion of
leadership, has swung around from people trying to
make a contribution to society to people always having
the view, after the '80s probably, that anybody doing
this is only doing it for themselves.
without wanting to sound like Mother Teresa or St
Vincent de Paul, you actually do these things because
you want to contribute.
there a moment when this ambition had its dawning?
Whenever I think of an idea for anything we do at
Collingwood, I really think of it from the position
of being a fan or a young kid. Every week when I drive
to the football, it sounds silly, but I almost get
a tear in my eye when I drive around past the Richmond
Station into Brunton Avenue, and see all these little
kids walking around in their Collingwood jumper holding
their dad's hand. That was still to me the seminal
moment in my life, when I got off the train at Victoria
Park station with my dad for the first time and walked
into Collingwood. The impact that made on me still
resonates to this day. It's very important that you
take into account what the people who fill the stands
are thinking. I trawl the websites every second day,
just looking at what people are saying . . . If it
becomes too corporate, too commercial, you lose the
essence of why the corporate and commercial people
wanted to get involved in the first place.
they all happy with you? Was there any objection when
you indicated you wanted to vet the message on the
No, that's fine, there's no problem with that at all.
I think they've seen what we've actually tried to
achieve and there's constant communication between
the cheer squads and the supporter groups and the
club, and we do respond to them. Given the size and
the nature of our club, I think most people are pretty
satisfied with it at the moment. There's always going
to be people who either perceive me as being something
I'm not or just don't like who I am.
you an autocratic president?
I don't think there's any doubt that I'm pretty autocratic
in the way I operate, not only at club level but in
the things I do. Probably autocratic in making decisions,
but very consultative in getting to that decision.
Greg Swann (chief executive) makes more decisions
at the club than I do, by a long way. But when it
comes to making a decision, we don't have subcommittees
or anything. We make the decision.
you considered John Elliott's fall, and pondered whether
it's a lesson about unrestrained hubris?
Absolutely. I think the trick is to remember you're
only there as part of the club. It's not your club,
you don't own it, it belongs to a hundred years of
people who have been there before you and hopefully
a hundred years going forward. It's the old saying:
`You're a custodian for the time you're there'. There's
always a worry with volunteers at clubs that in the
end, they believe the club owes them and I hope I'm
out long before that. As long as I feel it's an honour
and a privilege and I still get the goose bumps driving
into Victoria Park every time, which I still do, then
I don't think that'll be a problem. When you say autocratic,
one of the first things I said to Neil Balme when
he came to Collingwood was: `Balmey, you've been around
footy clubs for a long, long time. One of your main
jobs is to pull me up whenever you think I need to
be pulled up.'
and presidents don't always get on. Have the coach
and the president ever given each other the steely-eyed
No. I've got enormous respect for Mick. We have a
tremendous friendship. It's good, though, because
there's an age difference between us: Christi's (Malthouse's
daughter) a colleague of mine and not that much younger
than me. She'd hate to hear that . . . she is a bit
younger than me, I suppose. Mick and Nanette are very
good friends of ours. We love each other's company
but we don't mix every day of the week and I think
have admitted that the early period as president wasn't
easy and that you even questioned whether you had
`it'. How long did it take to get over the hump and
The first six months was a blur. I was only 33 and
still hadn't broken the back of my career at that
stage. Every Footy Show was still causing us plenty
of trepidation. I think it was the extra work that
was involved and moving into an area where the people
were already there as opposed to setting up your own
team and really fixing it up. I remember one night
my wife and I, after we'd been flogged, went to dinner
. . . coming home from the MCG. We ordered up the
french onion soup and that went cold . . . we had
the butcher's paper on the table, I pulled my pen
out and structured up the club the way that I thought
a football club would run if I started from scratch
. . . The loneliest moment I've ever had in my life
was the night I was voted on as president, which was
on my birthday. We were down at the Camberwell Civic
Centre, there was a standing ovation, everyone's singing
the song and all the rest of it, and my fellow board
members all linked arms and were singing the song,
and I looked out and realised: `Jeez, this is up to
now it's all going well there and at work, but Nine
don't have the finals. Is that a continuing source
It is and it isn't. Because I know that if we had
the opportunity to get the finals, we probably wouldn't
have had the home-and-away . . . I joked at the time
it was all part of my plan so I could have the finals
off to watch Collingwood and so far, so good (laughs)
. . . I'd hate to have the decision of calling Collingwood
games in finals matches. That might drive everyone
what's the difference?
There's probably no difference, but I'm just talking
about the intensity of it all. It's probably a good
thing that I don't have to face either that ordeal
or question. Having said that, we'd love to have it
at Channel Nine and I'd love to be involved in it.
you like to be calling Saturday's game?
No. I'm probably glad I'm not.
I think for everyone's sake.
there is a certain threshold on the issue?
No, look, I'm always careful. The last thing I ever
want to do is to detract from people's enjoyment of
the game and that's not even taking into account my
enjoyment. As long as I know I'm calling the game
fairly and accurately and not being stupid or one-eyed
or anything, then I'm happy with that. If I felt that
I'd gone over the edge, and there's probably been
one occasion that you could really throw up, that
was probably the Port Adelaide game last year. But
I think this year, I've called the Collingwood games
pretty well and I don't think anyone would have any
complaints with them. And there haven't been. There
were no complaints in, for example, the Essendon game,
and I was able to relax a bit and put in a few comments
regarding my feelings. I think I said in the third
quarter, `This is killing me', or something, and that
was seen more as reflection and commentary of the
whole atmosphere of the game. So I think I've got
you reflect on all the public exchanges, the skirmishes
that occur and so on, and ever come to the conclusion,
`I was wrong'?
Yeah, oh yeah, all the time. I don't like having arguments
with people, which would come as a shock to a lot
of people. In my mind, I don't have any enemies from
me to them, whether people think that of me is up
to them . . . You can have skirmishes and fights and
blues and things and it's always important, and it's
always been my upbringing, to make sure you stand
up for yourself and while you might not throw the
first one, it's always important to throw the last
one. But there are times when you do things that you
think are right at the time that on reflection are
wrong and there are other times when you know you're
right and everyone else says you're wrong, but you
know you're right and ultimately you're proven to
be. If you really believe in your heart that you're
doing it for the right reasons, then that's the test.
With the scrutiny that I've been under, and I invite
the scrutiny because it's good, it keeps everybody
honest . . . There's probably 300 websites that monitor
every second word that I say, so I'm sure if I step
out of line, the world will know about it pretty quickly.
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