Mick Malthouse has hit out at Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley and says he has no regrets about his relationship with former Magpie Heritier Lumumba.
Malthouse was responding to claims from former player Heritier Lumumba that he had endured a “culture of racist jokes” at the club and was not properly supported by Nathan Buckley, who took over from Malthouse as Magpies coach in 2012.
Lumumba wants a public acknowledgement from the club that his claims are true.
Malthouse, the AFL’s all-time record-holder for games coached, said he never heard the former defender referred to as the “Chimp” as Lumumba claims he was called by teammates.
Lumumba played under Malthouse’s coaching for the first seven seasons of his 223-game AFL career and was part of the Magpies’ 2010 premiership team.
“I can’t remember him (Lumumba) being called that. If he was, it wasn’t something that I jumped and thought ‘is he really worried about it’,” the three-time premiership coach told ABC Radio.
“He was a very important part of our football side. It hurts a lot to think that he thought he was vilified at any stage and we didn’t do anything about it.
“We had a great relationship and he never mentioned anything to me while I was at the football club that he was embarrassed, hurt or anything else other than the fact he got on so well with his teammates.”
Buckley says he’s keen to reach out to Lumumba, but the former Magpie has no interest in sitting down with the club’s hierarchy behind closed doors.
After Collingwood’s draw against Richmond on Thursday night, Buckley said the Magpies had “been able to able to grow” since Lumumba left for Melbourne at the end of 2014.
“I would love to have him come to his old football club and see what we have become and the culture of acceptance, a celebration of difference, no matter your colour, religion,” Buckley told reporters.
But Malthouse bristled at those comments, declaring Collingwood was a welcoming club before Buckley took over as coach.
The pair’s relationship has been strained since Malthouse’s tenure at Collingwod ended in a famous coaching transition to the Magpies’ former star player.
“I wasn’t surprised to hear and find out (Lumumba) didn’t get along with Nathan,” Malthouse said.
“There was a suggestion by Nathan that they were trying to fix up the culture when he took over.
“I find that very disappointing that anyone would suggest or make remarks about our culture.
“We played it differently, we played it hard, we played with the flair those players wanted to and player for one another. It was a winning culture.
When asked by Kelly Underwood whether Malthouse had seen “any form of racism during his time at Collingwood,” Malthouse was clear.
“No. Absolutely not,” he said.
“It hurts a lot to think that if [Lumumba] thought he was vilified at any stage and we didn’t do anything about it I’d be … I would have jumped on it straight away. And I reckon his teammates would have jumped on it too.
“I’m really worried about that.”
“I have no regrets about how that side came together or Harry (Lumumba).”
Lumumba took to social media this week to detail his experiences at Collingwood, claiming he endured a “culture of racist jokes”.
The 33-year-old, who retired from football in 2016 after repeated concussion problems, accused Buckley of failing to adequately support him.
He reiterated the claim that he was called “Chimp” by Collingwood teammates, which was publicly backed up by Andrew Krakouer in 2017.
“Collingwood is making statements about their ‘growth’,” Lumumba said.
“Growth means accountability. Reconciliation without accountability is not possible.”