Round one hasn’t even finished and Collingwood is already in crisis mode.
Their weekend began with a News Corp report that claimed up to 11 Magpies players tested positive to illicit drugs over the off-season and ended with speculation that Brownlow Medallist Dane Swan could retire due to injury.
Sandwiched in the middle was an 80-point drubbing at the hands of Sydney on Saturday evening, a dire result that made a mockery of the many pundits talking up Collingwood’s top-four chances.
The bad news is set to continue with key midfielder Steele Sidebottom almost certain to be suspended for his late hit on Sydney’s Dan Hannebery.
The success of a season is not determined in round one, but this was a truly disastrous start for a Collingwood side who have not played finals since 2013.
‘Hopefully we can all take a deep breath’
Collingwood President Eddie McGuire hit out at the treatment his club has received in a statement released to Channel Nine on Sunday.
“Now that everyone has had a couple of days of running round with this, hopefully we can all take a deep breath and deal with what this is about,” it read.
“Collingwood has been thrown right under the bus here.
“This testing is designed to stop people getting into further trouble with experimenting or taking drugs. It is for statistical purposes.
“It would be like taking a breathalyser to a workplace the morning after a Christmas party and saying everyone is an alcoholic.
“What I would really like to have come out of this is some community leadership, and maybe for the AFLPA (AFL Players’ Association) and AFL to realise that the people best place to deal with this are the clubs.”
‘They’ve been betrayed’
Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley didn’t swerve questions about the News Corp report following the Sydney defeat.
When asked if there was a link between the allegations and the heavy loss, he said his side performed in a different manner.
“The one thing I do know is that our players, along with the rest of the players in the competition, were prepared to put their hand up to be tested for that [off-season testing for illicit drugs] under the guise of anonymity.
“And our players are the only ones that aren’t … that seem to no longer enjoy that cloak of anonymity.
“So they’ve been betrayed in some sense and it wouldn’t surprise me if they felt that a bit.”
Buckley said he raised the issue pre-match briefly but that they didn’t dwell on it, and that his players “are human”.
“I hate making excuses but in some shape or form, we were different tonight,” he added.
Swan’s future up in the air
The 32-year-old star was uncertain about his playing future after arriving back in Melbourne – in a moon boot and crutches – on Sunday.
Swan, who said earlier this month that he was a ’50-50′ chance of playing on in 2017, suffered fractures to his fibula and foot in a sickening incident in the first quarter.
The fibula fracture could mean up to three months out, but his foot problem might be season-ending.
“If I’m out for the year or whatever it is, then I’ll have a think about it,” he told reporters at Melbourne Airport.
“But that’s a worst-case scenario. I’d like to get back at some stage.
“If I need surgery, I’ll come back and hopefully I get back – whether that’s six weeks or whether that’s 20 weeks or somewhere in between, who knows.
“I hope it’s not my last game but we’ll see how we go.”