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Collingwood’s choice of new president is as uninspired as it is undemocratic

Scott Heinrich
·4-min read
<span>Photograph: Joe Castro/AAP</span>
Photograph: Joe Castro/AAP

In an ideal world the appointment of Collingwood’s new president would be a watershed moment that ushers the dawn of a new age at the troubled club. But this is Collingwood. Their world is seldom ideal. If the Magpies are hoping Mark Korda’s ascension is the beginning of the end to a bruising epoch of tumult at the club, they are mistaken.

Related: Mark Korda appointed to replace Eddie McGuire as Collingwood president

On the face of it Korda is the right man for the job. In life he makes his money out of corporate insolvency, reviving businesses from the point of collapse and pointing them to a more sustainable future. If any club needs a leader like this, it is Collingwood.

At the present time they are a shell of an organisation in dire need of fixing. From the “Do Better” report that exposed a culture of systemic racism at the club to the salary cap issues that forced last year’s fire sale to the on-field malaise that sees the club wallowing in 16th place, Korda should be in his element.

But while there is merit in plumping for a head-down president – in comparison to the neon-light omnipresence of Eddie McGuire, Korda is decidedly anonymous – there is a distinct lack of merit in appointing someone with such history at the club.

Korda has been on the Collingwood board since 2007 and as the club’s long-time vice-president shared the interim co-presidency with Peter Murphy after McGuire’s departure in February. It is believed Murphy was favoured for the role but was not burning in his desire to take it. Which left the Magpies with Korda. It was not an inspired choice nor was it democratic. It has also left many wondering how Collingwood can possibly make a fresh start with a man who has been there for the club’s many missteps in recent years.

If ever the Collingwood presidency should go to an election, if ever the paying followers should be given voice, it is now

There will be no honeymoon period for Korda, no time of grace when he will be allowed to warm his seat and find his way. His appointment as the club’s 13th president has been met with widespread disapproval among supporters and members, with calls for an extraordinary general meeting to be held to challenge the board’s decision. If ever the Collingwood presidency should go to an election, if ever the paying followers should be given voice, it is now.

At club level the waters are no less choppy. Korda’s feet are barely under the desk but already there are rumblings of disquiet and a strong push for Jeff Browne to make a move. McGuire spoke on Wednesday of “ghosts reappearing” since he left the club, figures sniping from the shadows to push their own agenda with the balance of power still up for grabs.

“I was really, really worried and that’s why I’ve been very quiet. I don’t want to be running a campaign for anybody. I was absolutely worried that we were going to go back to the bad old days,” McGuire said on Footy Classified. “Tonight, Mark Korda is the president. Rally behind him, get the board right and go forward.”

When it comes to Collingwood that is easier said than done. And when it comes to McGuire, be careful what you believe. The former president is a close ally of Browne, an ex-AFL lawyer and one of the game’s most pivotal figures of recent times. If there are ghosts swirling around the Holden Centre, one of them almost certainly would adopt the form of McGuire himself; nobody should be fooled into thinking that McGuire’s absence from the club means his influence has diminished. He is staunchly in Browne’s corner.

It is understood McGuire is not alone in wanting Browne to be swept into the presidency at Korda’s expense. If the fans get their way and if Browne’s backers get their way, an EGM would pave the way for external candidates to nominate and for Browne to make a meaningful charge.

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It all adds up to a period of unrest at Collingwood when the club should be battening down the hatches and motoring ahead with their stated aims of improving their lot on the field and off it. For Korda it amounts to a time of uncertainty when he should be focused single-mindedly on restoring lost integrity at a fiercely proud club he now leads. “There’s some forces gathering around him and he knows about it,” reporter and co-host Mark Robinson said on AFL 360 on Wednesday night.

It is a situation that won’t go away and one the club could have avoided from the get-go. With the Magpies mired at the crossroads like rarely before in their 129-year history, the appointment of their new president might have been an inclusive affair. Instead it was done behind closed doors by minds closed to the possibilities of a brand new Collingwood. They may live to regret it.