His comments on radio linking former Indigenous AFL player Adam Goodes with a stage adaptation of King Kong, his joking offer of money if The Age’s then chief football writer, Caroline Wilson, went down the slide at the Big Freeze charity event and stayed under, and his mocking of double-amputee Cynthia Banham when she tossed the coin at an AFL game were all deeply offensive. He also watched on as The Footy Show’s Sam Newman on many occasions got laughs peddling humour based on crude sexist remarks and racial stereotypes.
For a man who was a driving force in pushing the AFL into the future, McGuire struggled to free himself of locker-room banter and, surprisingly, often had a tin ear when it came to evolving community standards on what was acceptable humour.
These lapses of judgment, though, should be weighed up against his substantial achievements. At Collingwood, his recruitment of Mick Malthouse as senior coach laid the groundwork for its 2010 premiership, he moved the club from its spiritual home at Victoria Park to Olympic Park, and he made the MCG its home ground. Less well known is the club’s philanthropic program, in collaboration with the Salvation Army and others, which provides housing for the homeless and support services for those in crisis.
This week, AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan described McGuire as “a giant of the game” who was “one of the most significant figures in the transition to a national code”. He said McGuire understood better than anyone the history and heritage of Australian football and how to marry it with entertainment for a modern audience.
To the Collingwood faithful, McGuire gave his everything. Jeff “Joffa” Corfe, the head of Collingwood’s cheer squad, said McGuire the person, rather than the club president, was ultimately misunderstood by the public. “Lots of people are wrong about him – I just love the bloke,” he said.
The boy from Broadmeadows has certainly made his mark. Whoever fills his shoes should prepare themselves for the fervour and passion that will come their way. They will be loved, and hated, as any Collingwood president should be.
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