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How the great survivor Eddie McGuire was finally brought down

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Eddie McGuire has been many things. The president of Collingwood for 22 years, a journalist, radio presenter, TV host, businessman, a friend to the rich and powerful.

But above all, McGuire has been a survivor.

There have been gaffes, controversies, apologies, great highs and great lows, but no matter what, he’s always come out the other side.

When McGuire became the president of Collingwood in 1998, he was just 34 and the club he grew up adoring was a wreck.

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Financially, Collingwood was in dire straits and its home ground, Victoria Park, was dilapidated.

McGuire became the most influential man at Channel Nine.

On the field, the team had been steadily falling since the 1990 Grand Final win and for years had been mired at the bottom end of the ladder.

Off the field, two notorious incidents had cast a dark shadow — the racist abuse of St Kilda’s Nicky Winmar by Collingwood supporters and the racial vilification of Essendon’s Michael Long.

But Collingwood was McGuire’s passion — “I love my memories of Victoria Park and for the first time in my life I felt part of a community,” McGuire said at his farewell press conference yesterday.

McGuire turned Collingwood around.

Under his reign, Collingwood once again became a powerhouse on and off the field, culminating in the 2010 Grand Final win.

He became known as Eddie Everywhere.

Dave Hughes, Eddie McGuire, Sam Newman and Rebecca Maddern stand in a line
McGuire fronted the AFL Footy Show for years.(AAP/Channel Nine: Les O’Rourke)

He hosted the AFL Footy Show, among other TV shows, commentated on games, presented radio programs, and became mates with politicians and business leaders.

For a time, he ran the Nine Network and later set up his own TV production company.

But for all his success, controversy was never far away. And the list is long.

In 2013, Sydney Swans star Adam Goodes was racially vilified by a 13-year-old Collingwood supporter.

McGuire went to the Swans room after the match and apologised, but just days later he joked on his morning radio show that Goodes could help promote the movie King Kong.

McGuire apologises for Goodes gaffe
McGuire was forced into a public holiday for his comments about Adam Goodes in 2013.(AAP: David Crosling)

He was criticised for another incident involving Goodes two years later after the Swans player performed an Indigenous dance after scoring a goal.

“We’ve never seen that before and I don’t think we ever want to see it again to be perfectly honest, regardless of what it is,” McGuire said during the half-time break in the game.

In 2016, he joked on radio about offering money to drown veteran journalist Caroline Wilson.

Three years later, he mocked double-amputee Cynthia Banham about her coin toss before an AFL game.

In 2011 he referred to Western Sydney as “the land of the falafel”, drawing criticism that he was stereotyping a diverse community.

In 2017 he was accused of making an anti-Semitic joke on Millionaire Hotseat.

But through it all, McGuire survived.

Eddie McGuire goes down the slide at Big Freeze 2
McGuire remained a key media performer despite his role at Collingwood.(AAP: Tracey Nearmy)

Each time the pattern has been the same — a joke or comment followed by an apology or some other form of mea culpa.

It even happened last week when Collingwood was forced to speak to the scathing report by Larissa Behrendt that outlined systemic racism at the club after it was leaked to the media.

“This is an historic and proud day for the Collingwood Football Club,” McGuire said at a press conference.

The man whose complaints prompted the report, former Collingwood player Héritier Lumumba, described McGuire’s combative display as “shameless”.

The next day McGuire apologised. “I got it wrong. I said it was a proud day and I shouldn’t have,” he said.

Eddie McGuire looks out from behind Jodie Sizer as she speaks at a press conference
His performance at last week’s press conference turned out to be one misstep too many.(AAP: Luis Ascui)

But for all the apologies, it was the one he didn’t make that angered his critics the most.

A group of supporters called Collingwood Fans Care gathered more than 14,00 signatures on a petition which in part called on the club to make “a formal apology for a pattern of racist incidents”.

McGuire had vowed to stay on as president until the end of the year, but the mounting pressure was too great.

The calls for him to step down were constant.

An open letter calling for his resignation would not ordinarily cause McGuire to bat an eyelid but, in this case, it may have been the thousandth cut.

For the first time in 22 years, Eddie McGuire couldn’t survive.

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