On February 12 1892, football changed forever.
The Collingwood Football Club was formed in earnest at the Collingwood Town Hall. They were to enter the VFA in season 1892. 120 Years on, they have become the most talked about team in the AFL, loved by their supporters, hated by their opposition. Ironically, it was to be their greatest rival who would give them the chance to play competitive football.
In 1892, the Carlton Football Club gave up its game against a Ballarat side, to allow Collingwood to enter the competition, and to play 18 games. So Collingwood were to play their first ever competitive match, against Carlton on May 7 at Victoria Park. That started possibly the greatest rivalry in Australian sport.
Fast forward four years and Collingwood were the VFA premiers, defeating South Melbourne six goals to five in front of 12,000 people at the East Melbourne Cricket Ground, and in 1897 became one of the eight clubs to break away from the VFA to form the Victorian Football League.
The first decade of the 20th century was a successful one for Collingwood. Premierships in 1902-03 and Runners-Up in both 1901 and 1905. In 1904, the club appointed Bill Strickland, the clubs first VFL captain, as their first coach, although it didn’t last long, staying only for one season before coming back in 1908. Then, football’s first real high-flying full forward Dick Lee arrived. He retired in 1922 after kicking 707 goals from 230 games.
Jock McHale was a star Collingwood player, but in 1912 he turned his hand to coaching, winning the 1917 and 1919 premierships, while also being runners-up in 1915, 1918, 1920 and 1922, But this was before the team named ‘the Bradmans of Football’ came to the fore.
The Machine started coming together after the 1922 loss. They played in six straight Grand Finals, winning an unprecedented four in a row from 1927-30. With names such as the Coventry and Collier brothers, Harold Rumney and Jock McHale as coach, it was hard to see why they shouldn’t be competitive. In the Grand Finals they beat Richmond by 12, Richmond by 33, Richmond by 29 and Geelong by 30 after losing the first Grand Final, but by finishing first they challenged it and won it the next week. During that period Collingwood also had three Brownlow Medal winners; Syd Coventry in 1927, Albert Collier in 1929 and Harry Collier in 1930.
By the time McHale left in 1949, the Magpies had played in a further five grand finals for 2 premierships. Marcus Whelan and Des Fothergill won Brownlow’s in 1939 and 1940 respectively, but after no grand finals in the 1940’s, it was time for a change. Former ruckman/key forward Phonse Kyne would take the top job, leading them for the next 14 years.
Nuggety rover Lou Richards would take over the captaincy in 1953 and would lead them to the premiership over Geelong, before he retired in 1955. In 1958 when Melbourne was on the brink of equalling Collingwood’s record of 4 premierships in a row, Kyne lead the Magpies to one of the greatest upsets in Australian sport, with an 18 point win over the Demons.
Club legend Bob Rose won four Copeland Trophies before he became coach in 1962. From 1962-1971, which was when Rose resigned, Collingwood lost three grand finals by a total losing margin of 15 points. Murray Weideman took over as coach in 1972 and didn’t have much luck.
By 1976, the club’s on and off-field performances came to a head. Collingwood finished last for the first time in the club’s history while President Ern Clarke and coach Murray Weideman fought, which eventually led to the latter leaving the club.
By 1977, the club turned around, at least on the field. Richmond legend Tom Hafey took over as coach and led Collingwood to the Grand Final. With the first match a draw, they headed back the next week but they were defeated by North Melbourne. Hafey continued until he was sacked in 1982, after losing three consecutive Grand Finals in 1979-81.
The ‘New Magpies’ took over the club in 1982. Led by Ranald McDonald, the club almost went broke, and was even told by some banks to shut its doors. The players were forced to take pay cuts, most accepted. McDonald then resigned and board member Allan McAllister took over. The club rejuvenated itself and was back in finals contention by the late 1980’s.
In 1990, it clicked. Before a ball was kicked in anger, the Magpies were written off, but Collingwood didn’t listen.
Coached by Leigh Matthews, who took over after Rose retired for a second time in 1986, with Tony Shaw as captain, the team blitzed Essendon in the Grand Final by 48 points.
Unfortunately in 1991, Collingwood failed to back-up the previous year, missing the finals. Worse was to come in October when the club lost its favourite son, Darren Millane who was killed in drink driving accident.
After a couple of lean years, Collingwood knew they had to make a play for a champion. Nathan Buckley was highly touted as the best young player in the country. These predictions were not wrong when he won the Rising Star as a Brisbane player in 1993.
Collingwood moved walls to get Buckley to join the club in 1994 and it reaped rewards, with him sharing the Copeland Trophy with Gavin Brown in his first season, before going on to win five more before retiring in 2007.
Tony Shaw retired after the 1994 season after 313 games, then the next season Leigh Matthews was sacked. Shaw then took over as coach but the club failed to make the finals under his guidance, before finishing last in 1999.
Eddie McGuire took over as President in 1998 and he wanted, and ultimately succeeded, in turning the club from bottom to top. He appointed Mick Malthouse as coach in 2000 and Gavin Brown stepped aside for Nathan Buckley as captain. Collingwood made the Grand Final in 2002 and 2003, losing to Brisbane both times. They set out to turn the club around again and by 2006 they made the finals and in 2009 they emerged as real premiership contenders.
In 2010, they made the premiership dream a reality. The best side all year did not let down in the finals, and although they did draw the first grand final, they romped home to beat St Kilda in the second match by 56 points. In 2011, Collingwood only lost three games for the season, but all of them were against Geelong, including the Grand Final. Dane Swan won the Brownlow Medal, but even he admitted he’d trade it in for another premiership medallion.
2012 starts a new era for Collingwood. With a new coach in Nathan Buckley, Collingwood will look to get back that Premiership cup. Just what will the next 120 years hold for Collingwood?