Collingwood couldn't wait to get Mick Malthouse out the door.
Collingwood couldn't wait to get Mick Malthouse out the door.

Malthouse drops bombshell revelations about Pies axing

AFL coaching great Mick Malthouse has revealed how Collingwood president Eddie McGuire wanted to sack him on two occasions prior to the doomed coaching handover deal with Nathan Buckley that forced him from the club.

In the first of the Herald Sun's Sacked podcast series, Malthouse has lifted the lid on his tenure with the Magpies, highlighting how tenuous his position was during his 12-season, 286-game reign.

Asked if he considered the club's decision to seek a coaching handover deal the equivalent of a sacking, Malthouse said: "Yeah, I do, I have always (thought) that."

In a revealing interview, the AFL's coaching games record holder also detailed:

- the personal pain behind his decision to agree to the extraordinary handover deal - in 2009 - which almost destroyed the harmony of the club two years later;

- the stunning job description he says that not only changed, but would have reduced him to a "meet and greet" figurehead, banned from talking to the other coaches;

- the club forced him to sign a confidentiality agreement in the week lead up to the 2011 preliminary final, hiding the fact he was going to leave the club.

- how he was bluntly told to vacate his office without saying goodbye the morning after his final game as coach - the 2011 Grand Final loss to Geelong;

- the huge emotional toll that his four-club coaching career took on his wife, Nanette, and his four children.




Malthouse's anger about his departure from Collingwood has long since subsided, but in this podcast Malthouse lays bare how perilous job security was for one of the game's most successful coaches.

One of those near-sackings came early in a season in which Collingwood made a grand final and almost pulled off a stunning September heist against one of the greatest teams of the modern era.

The other came during the course of a match.

He said then Pies chief executive Greg Swann told him of at least two instances, but he suspected there might have been more times when his position was under fire.

"Greg (Swann) came out of a board meeting in 2002 ... it was after the (round three) Carlton game, surprise, surprise," Malthouse told Sacked.

"He (Swann) said: 'They (the board) want to sack you'. I thought, 'Well, it's not they, let's not use plural.'

"From all accounts, it was (McGuire). And I said 'Am I working or not working?'. A couple of blokes (on the board) said 'let's settle down'.

"We won the next five (games) and played off in the grand final (losing a thrilling premiership play-off to Brisbane by nine points)."

Four years later, in 2006 - following grand final appearances in 2002 and 2003 - Malthouse was again in the president's sights.

It almost came to a head during the course of a round-two game at Docklands when the Magpies trailed the lowly Hawks.

"This one was a beauty," Malthouse said. "We were getting touched up and the call came down from the president, apparently to Greg, who said: 'Get the board, get the board ... he's gone, straight after the game, he's gone.'

"Thank God for this big bloke, big Anthony Rocca, who steps up and kicks six (second-half goals)."

Rocca saved the coach's bacon, in Malthouse's eyes, kicking eight goals for the game on then little-known Hawks defender Zac Dawson, who would later play for St Kilda and Fremantle.

The Magpies won the game by 35 points after trailing by 15 points only seconds into the third term.


The heat instantly switched from Malthouse to Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson, who was criticised for leaving Dawson on Rocca for too long.

"We end up winning - Greg said (to the president) 'I've got the board' and he (McGuire) said 'what for?'" Malthouse recalled.

"They are the ones I know about. I reckon I would have been (almost) done over on a few other occasions.

"I say this, if it is good enough for the great and greatest Norm Smith to be sacked, what right have I to say that I shouldn't be under pressure to be sacked? And I eventually got sacked.

"I don't talk to Sheeds (Kevin Sheedy) that often, not for any other reason that I don't meet him that often. But I guarantee that he would have similar stories.

"I don't think there would be a coach on earth that wouldn't have at some stage tested the patience of a board, where it might have been muted 'Get rid of him', or 'He's out', or whatever the case may be."


This month marks a decade from the AFL's most contentious coaching deal, which the Herald Sun front page triumphantly termed "The Deal of the Century."

It would prove anything but.

When Malthouse signed on in July 2009 for two more seasons as senior coach, agreeing to act as Buckley's director of coaching for three further years from 2012, he was dealing with a number of family hardships.

McGuire and Malthouse in 2011.
McGuire and Malthouse in 2011.

His mother was dying and two of his children were locked in their own private battles.

"It was not an ideal time because things in our household were not great," he explained.

"I was going back to Ballarat very, very regularly.

"My mother was dying of cancer, and she eventually died in August (2009). All of this was in July.

"I had already lost my father two years earlier.

"I'm not going to go through all the details at home. (But) we had a couple of kids going through their own emotional things, and no doubt Nanette (was) as well.

"I thought this is not nearly as important to me as my family, I said 'let's sign the damn thing', and I did. That was it."

But as Malthouse dealt with his family issues, the Magpies turned in an outstanding season, pushing all the way through to preliminary final against eventual premier Geelong.

A year later, in the first stage of the coaching handover plan, Collingwood won the 2010 premiership - the club's first in 20 years.


In his inner-city Melbourne apartment Malthouse retains a document that goes to the heart of his decision to walk away from Collingwood after the 2011 grand final loss.

He hasn't thought to discard it. In a way, it reminds him of why he felt he had no choice but to depart.

Malthouse told the Herald Sun the director of coaching job description role he had agreed to in the middle of 2009 was nothing like how it was going to look in actuality at the end of 2011.

"I must have spoken to Nathan (Buckley), I can't remember when, and he said: 'Look, I don't want you in the (coach's') box - which I can understand - but he should have said at the time (when they signed the deal)," Malthouse said.

"(He said), I don't want you talking to the coaches on the bench, I don't want you talking to the coaches. It is pretty hard not talking to the coaches when you are the director of coaching, so I thought he doesn't want me to be director of coaching.

"There was no point in staying.

"I have kept the amended job description and I would have been a meet-and-greet person. That's not me. I don't think I am a meet-and-greet (person). (They talked about) spending a month in Ireland to recruit players."

He added with a smile: "I would take a month in Ireland."

In hindsight, he can understand why Buckley wanted to be "his own man."

"I get it that Nathan didn't want me there, or in those roles," he said. "I was thinking of the job description ... 'it's definitely not going to work and he wants to be his own man, so he's got it.'"

Collingwood required Malthouse to sign a confidentiality clause in the week of the 2011 preliminary final, to prevent him from divulging that fact he was leaving.

It was another distraction in an already busy and emotional week.

"I had to sign a form in preliminary final week that I wouldn't talk about it," he said.

Pressed further if it was a confidentiality agreement, Malthouse said: "Yeah ... I (signed it) because they wanted me to do it. I thought, 'OK, I wasn't going to talk about it anyway, so who cares?"


As much as he stressed that he has moved on, the one thing that still pains Malthouse is the way it all ended on his last day employed as Collingwood coach, on the morning after the 2011 grand final loss.

He never really got the chance to say goodbye.

"It was business acumen that I don't know anything about," he said of the message he had to leave on that Sunday morning.

"Because you have spent 12 years at a place, you think ... 'I've told them I am not going to stay, so I will drift in and look around the place, and pick up my boots and whatever else, and say goodbye and all that sort of stuff.'

"(CEO) Gary Pert said to me, 'We want you out of the office ... today.'

Collingwood president Eddie McGuire announces Mick Malthouse will continue coaching with Nathan Buckley (right) coming on as assistant coach.
Collingwood president Eddie McGuire announces Mick Malthouse will continue coaching with Nathan Buckley (right) coming on as assistant coach.

"So I went and spoke to the public (at a post-grand final family day), and went back to the office, My two sons came with me, as did my brother-in-law.

"I picked the photographs off the wall ... there might have been a football and an old jumper.

"I probably even left my boots there. Damn it, they are probably still there. And I left."


Malthouse and Buckley are two of Collingwood's most powerful figures of the modern era, but it is unlikely the pair will ever repair the damage done to their relationship.

Those differences were further exposed when Buckley declared on radio last month the pair "don't get on" and that he considered himself "one of the bodies on the side of the road", referencing a comment Malthouse made during his Australian Football Hall of Fame induction speech.

Malthouse and Nathan Buckley's relationship is beyond strained.
Malthouse and Nathan Buckley's relationship is beyond strained.

Malthouse told the Sacked podcast: "As far as the Nathan thing goes, he is going his way and I am going my way.

"We are never going to cross as far as I am concerned."

They had been Collingwood's captain and coach during the club's launch into the 21st century, but Malthouse said both always had contrasting personalities.

"We are just two different types of people, personalities that are just totally at odds ... I am on one side and he is on the other," he said.

"So we were never going to be close."

Yet they worked closely during Buckley's playing career - for the greater good of the club.

"He did come to my daughter's wedding ... Tanya (Buckley's wife) and Christi (Malthouse's daughter) got on extremely well," Malthouse said.

"We went to his wedding, we went to the christening of his kids, he has been to my place for dinner and I have been to his place for dinner."

Collingwood's grand final dinner was the last supper for Malthouse.
Collingwood's grand final dinner was the last supper for Malthouse.

The coaching handover deal, however, brought a different dynamic to the equation

Asked on the Sacked podcast whether he could ever see a rapprochement, Malthouse said it was unlikely, but he would never say never.

As he pointed out, he had recently shaken the hand of Brad Hardie at their Hall of Fame inductions, in a gesture that those close to both strong-willed men would have thought nothing less than a miracle, given their previous enmity.