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Collingwood Magpies

Collingwood Magpies

Side by Side in Scandal

Scandals are newsworthy, which has an ironic way of making the scandalous popular. No where is this more evident than in the popularity of the Collingwood Magpies.

The Magpies were established in 1892 to represent the Melbourne municipality of Collingwood; an area that had been described as "pre-ordained to be a slum". In those days, the club itself was a scandal simply because of where it was and who supported it. As a low lying poorly drained region, it was frequently flooded with sewage and the dregs of society. This geography initially led to the club being referred to as the Flatties' or 'Flatites,' which sounded a bit like a cross between a bizarre religious cult and group of people who get squashed.

How the club stopped being referred to as Flatties and came to be known as the Magpies is subject to debate. One story proposes that the club was inspired by the noble South Australian colonial team that had been called the Magpies. When South Australia being the only state not founded with Convicts, perhaps Collingwood residents had dreams that associating themselves with South Australia could improve their image. A second story proposes that the name came from the large numbers of Magpies that nested in the area. Collingwood residents were endeared to the feisty little birds that hit you from behind because they could see much of themselves in such actions. A third possibility is that the name came from 'Magpie' suites, the name given to the Convict uniforms in the colonial era. Given that Collingwood fans and players alike had a close association with Pentridge Prison, it is quite possible that they wanted to pay some respect to their heritage.

With its Magpie name and toilet of a suburb, Collingwood fans were very much the type of people that respectable members of society would not want to associate with, let alone introduce to their parents. According to one commentator:

"Essendon was a staunch lower-middle-class Protestant club, Melbourne was the Establishment Protestant club. Richmond and North Melbourne were Catholic clubs. Carlton, St Kilda and South Melbourne saw themselves as "respectable" working class clubs and everyone saw Collingwood as occupying the lowest social status of all. Working class, Catholic and located in the poorest, most crowded, most unsanitary part of Melbourne, Collingwood players and supporters alike were regarded as aggressive, unruly, and profane. "

Understanding their low social standing, it was said that the fan's desire for success had been driven by a "strong sense of social inferiority". Indeed their sense of inferiority must have been strong for successes were numerous. Prior to World War II, the club won premierships in 1902, 1903, 1910, 1917, 1919, 1927, 1928, 1929, 1930, 1935 and 1936.

The club's culture was built around the ethic that a "champion team will always beat a team of champions." Show ponies or excuse making were never tolerated.

Post-war, the culture began to change. Known as "Greg Norman syndrome" or "Colliwobbles", if Collingwood made the grand final, they showed an uncanny ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. So predictable was this phenomenon that a word evolved to describe it. As regular as blossoming jasmine, Melbourne's spring would bring on the 'Collywobbles'; you could rely on the 'Magpies' to fail when it matters. In all, the club has won 15 grand finals and lost 27.

For a brief period of time, losing grand finals in pathetic fashion was Collingwood's only scandalus behaviour. The 1990s, however, saw a return to the good old days, with scandals coming in the form of sex, drugs and rock’n’racism.

Collingwood’s drug scandals started in 1991 with player Darren Millane getting in a car while he had a blood alcohol reading of 0.322 — which was about six-and-a-half times the legal driving limit. Millane duly drove into the back of a truck and died. For Collingwood fans, Millane’s death was their very own Greek tradegy. Here was a young man who got blind drunk, hopped into a car where he could have killed others, only to kill himself due to no-one’s fault but his own. An out pouring of emotion saw Millane’s jumper retired. This was an honour usually reserved for true legends of the club.

Alcohol scandals continued into the new millennium with players such as Heath Shaw, Rhys Shaw, Alan Didak, Sharrod Wellingham, Chris Tarrant and Ben Johnson all coming to national attention on the back of alcohol fuelled bar-room fights and/or drink driving. Most of the players were subsequently traded to other clubs where they showed a remarkable ability to avoid problems with the drink. One exception was Chris Tarrant who was traded to Fremantle where he escalated it to another level by mooning female bar patrons. The news of the mooning made Collingwood realise they had made a mistake trading him away, and they subsequently engineered a trade to get him back at Collingwood. (Tarrant was the only one to return.)

As the scandals continued to mount, the term ‘rat pack’ was coined in reference to the main offenders, who were subsequently published on the front page of the Herald Sun looking like rats.  Swan explained how they embraced the public shamming:

 "Not many other groups of players have been given a name. Whoever coined it did well. Some people like to see something offensive in it, but we see it as a term of endearment. We love it. It's amazing what it's become. Every time I go to a footy club (for a speaking engagement) people say, 'Here’s our Rat Pack.'"

He also explained the qualification for membership of the pack:

 "You had to be consistent on and off the field. You needed a couple of things on your rap sheet."

Johnson added,

"You had to be caught doing something, by either the law or the club."

Not suprisingly, many players moved from alcohol to illicit drugs in the pursuit of a rap sheet. As a result, 11 Collingwood players tested positive to illicit drugs in the 2015 off season. As well as using illicit drugs, Collingwood also seemed to be fans of the performance enhancing variety. As a result, it has the dubious honour of having the most number of players testing positive to performance enhancing drugs. Two of these positive tests occurred in the 2015 season when Josh Thomas and Lachie Keeffe tested affirmative for the steroid clenbuterol. Around the world, athletes who test positive to clenbuterol usually make the “tainted beef” defence. Not so the Collingwood pair. In a defence that illustrated just how widely illicit drug use was at Collingwood, they claimed to have used tainted illicit drugs, which resonated far more widely than a tainted beef defence. In between doing some lines of their own, the Collingwood hierarchy obviously could sympathise and so promised to re-draft to once they served their drug sentences. A third performancing enhancing drug result occured in 2018 when young recruit Sam Murray tested positive to a performance enhancing stimulant that was both on the banned WADA drug list and illegal in Australia.

Intertwined with Collinwood’s drug scandals have been a consistent pattern flow of racism scandals. The scandals commenced in 1993 when St Kilda player Nicky Winmar raised his jumper and proudly pointed at his black skin in response to racial insults directed at him by Collingwood fans. In defence of his club, Collingwood president Allan McAlister stated that Aborigines needed to act like white people if they wanted respect. In his own words,

"As long as they conduct themselves like white people, well, off the field, everyone will admire and respect them … As long as they conduct themselves like human beings, they will be all right. That’s the key."

Presumably, McAlister felt the likes of Winmar needed to do more boozing, drink driving and racist name calling like the whites at his club in order to be admired and respected as humans. It was a viewpoint that resonated at Collingwood but not Australia wide. An indigenous tribal elder subsequently placed a curse on the Magpies and immediately the club's season fell apart. They lost their next six games and tumbled from the top 4 to the bottom 4. McAlister finally apologised, resulting in the curse being lifted, and a return to winning ways, but it was too late as the Pies missed the finals.

Unfortunately, the lifting of the curse didn't little to change the Collingwood culture and two years later Magpie player Damian Monkhorst referred to Essendon’s Michael Long as a “black bastard”, which provoked Long into taking a stand. With Collingwood unwilling to pull their own players into line and showing little fear of Aboriginal curses, it was the AFL that finally responded with an anti-vilification policy. For a while, the policy seemed to help Collingwood but in 2013, a 13-year-old Collingwood girl referred to Aboriginal player Adam Goodes as an ape. Admittedly, there was some debate about whether the girl meant Goodes was big and hairy or she was instead referencing derogatory historical narratives that put black people in a sub-human category along with monkeys. Collingwood president Eddie McGuire seemed to clarify the club’s position on the matter when he went on radio calling for Adam Goodes to be used to promote the upcoming King Kong musical. (McGuire later apologised, claiming it was a slip of the tongue caused by his use of mind numbing drugs and steroids.)

In between the drug and racism scandals, Collingwood also kept the media busy with a couple of sex scandals. In 2010, Collingwood players Dayne Beams and John McCarthy celebrated the club’s grand final victory with a gangbang of a young university student, who later claimed to have been pressured into the group sex before being raped by one of the player’s friends. In 2016, Collingwood players Dane Swan,  Travis Cloke, along with former teammates Tony Armstrong and Lachie Keefe took naked selfies and forwarded them on women who were not their partners. The pictures ended up in Woman’s Day magazine. In 2018, Dane Swan was in the news again after he made a complaint to police after a sex tape that he starred in was uploaded to the internet without his consent.

While Collingwood’s scandals have been good for the media wanting to provide running commentary, they have also been good for Collingwood. In their 1990 grand final winning year, the Pies had a membership of just under 15,000. By 2018, after almost three decades of scandal, membership had reached almost 75,000.

There is an Australians adage that defines the difference between a friend and a mate with some criminal vernacular. Specifically,

“If you go out for a big night but some misfortune comes your way and you end up in a holding cell, your good friend will be there trying to organise your bail, but your best mate will be in there beside you.”

Admittedly, the adage is not widely known in Australia. In fact, given its criminal associations, it is probably more accurate to say it’s a Collingwood adage rather than an Australian adage. There the Pie fans see scandal but instead of running a mile, they say they want a piece of that as well. Side by side, they say we’re in the shit together.

Roy Morgan research

Collingwood Magpies supporters are:

2001 when compared to other Australians

  • 27% more likely than the average person to be aged 25-34;
  • 60% more likely than average to have a maximum of Year 11 education;
  • 31% more likely to smoke cigarettes than the average person;
  • 12% more likely to say that "None of this stuff about the information super-highway makes any sense to me"

2004 when compared to other AFL supporters

  • 35% more likely to have a maximum of Year 11 education
  • 26% more likely to be aged 25-34
  • 28% more likely to have gone to a casino
  • 33% more likely to notice the advertisements on shopping trolleys when they go grocery shopping

2006 - When compared to other AFL supporters

  • 22% more likely to have one child under 16 in their household
  • 17% more likely to not like to know too much about what's going on in the world these days
  • 17% more likely to have bought something from a TV offer in the last three months


Club song collingwood theme song

Good old Collingwood forever,
we know how to play the game.
Side by side we stick together,
to uphold The Magpies name.
Hear the barrackers a shouting,
as all barrackers should,
Oh, the premiership's a cakewalk
For the good old Collingwood.

Out of all the 16 clubs, only Collingwood specifically mentions the barrackers in its theme song. On the down side, the line: "the premiership is a cakewalk" seems reminiscent of a choking Greg Norman missing easy putts and spraying his drives as he tries to convince himself that golf is an easy game.

Collingwood Humiliation

No, the players were not covering their faces on their way to another court appearance, rather, they had lost another grand final. It was expected that with so many losses that they would just be accustomed to them, but it seemed nothing could stop the players bursting into tears.

Membership slogans

2015 slogan - Side by side we stick together.
2016 - Side by side.
2017 - Side by side


Collingwood doesn't change its slogan from year to year, probably because most of the Collingwood fans are still learning how to read it and it would be foolish to confuse them with a new slogan so soon.

Since we can all agree that dental care is a significant problem amongst Collingwood fans, perhaps side by side would work well with an orthodontist chain. Then again, the teeth of many Collingwood fans are stuck together already as failure to brush results in plague fusing many teeth together.

If a little bit of innovation wouldn't go astray, a similar meaning could be inferred form a slogan like straighten up.

Suggested slogans

Straighten up



Carlton - Collingwood has met Carlton in six grand finals. It has lost five of them. Collingwood's only win was in 1910 was known as the 'Bloodbath' after an all-in brawl developed in the final term.

Since that victory, Collingwood has suffered a string of grand final humilations at the hands of Carlton.

The worst of these was in the 1970 grand final. Leading by 44 points at half-time, Collingwood fell to pieces and lost by 10 points.

Richmond - Traditionally, Richmond has been a working class club who like Collingwood, have extremely passionate supporters. As one Magpie fan explained his hatred for the Tigers:

"I firmly believe that we all hate them 'cause they are like us - passionate, feral and complete nuts!"

Essendon - The rivalry with Essendon hit the big time in 1993 when a low key build up to an ANZAC day clash drew 98,000 fans and resulted in a drawn match.

Essendon also lost the 1990 grand final to Collingwood, thereby becoming one of the few teams not to have benefitted from Colliwobbles. Such is the Collingwood tendency to live on past glories, it is a defeat that Essendon supporters are never allowed to forget.


Collingwood Magpie jokes

1) Three friends all die at the same time and end up at the pearly gates where Albert Einstein is waiting for them. The first chap approached and Alby asks him,
"What is your IQ, my good man?"

"250" the chap replies.

"Ah excellent. We can participate in meaningful and articulate discussions with my mates Plato and Newton about the Theory of Relativity, Chaos Theory, Astrophysics and the Theory of Everything. We will have much to discuss. You may enter."

The second fellow approached the gate and Albert asks him the same question.

"150" was the reply.

"Ah good. We can discuss the fascinating subjects of History, Philosophy, Economics and Sociology. We will have much to discuss. You may enter."

The third chap approaches the gate nervously.

"Now my good man, what is your IQ?"

"50" the third man replies sheepishly. To which Alby's response was ....

"How about those Pies, hey?"

2) Q. What do you do for a drowning Collingwood player?
A. Nothing. You could drag him to the top, but he'll choke anyway.

3)Q. What's the difference between the Collingwood and an arsonist?
A. An arsonist wouldn't waste 26 matches.

4)Q. What's the characteritics of a Collingwood brand bra?
A. Plenty of support, soft and no CUP!!!



  • Jock McHale - Not only did he coach the Pies to Grand Finals, he also managed to keep their mental states together so they didn't fall to pieces in them. McHale never made excuses for a loss, saying a "champion team would always beat a team of champions." Quite a contrast to Eddie McGuire who blames Colliwobbles on salary cap concessions given to Brisbane.
  • Peter Daicos - Although he had an amazing talent for kicking the impossible goal, he also had a terrible mullet.
  • Gordon Coventry - Held the VFL/AFL goal kicking record until it was broken by Tony Lockett.
  • Darren Millane - Courageous wingman whose career was cut short after he killed himself drink driving.
  • Bob Rose - Won four Copeland trophies with an agressive and skilled attack on the ball.
  • Lou Richards - Sly rover. Forged a rivalry with Richmond legend Jack Dyer. The two men personified the differences between their respectives clubs. There was Dyer, a magnificent physical specimen whose mere presence commanded valour, strength and dignity. Besides him was Richards; a sly little weasel who would rob his own mother if given half a chance. 




Brisbane Broncos

Canberra Raiders

Canterbury Bulldogs

Cronulla Sharks

Gold Coast Titans

Manly Sea Eagles

Melbourne Storm

Newcastle Knights

Nth Queensland Cowboys

New Zealand Warriors

Parramatta Eels

Penrith Panthers

South Sydney Rabbitohs

St George Dragons

Sydney City Roosters

Wests Tigers


  Offended by the description of your footy club? Maybe you would be better off watching a TV news report of your team's players in a recovery session standing around in the ocean looking cold. Alternatively, you could listen to news on the radio of your team 'training without incident'. If you are still concerned, then maybe have a read of stereotype formation and suggest a reason for a different steretype.