Collingwood FC – the historic underachiever

Date: August 29, 2014 / Posted by Glenn Mitchell

Success over time in a competition like the AFL is primarily judged on premierships with a flag the ultimate barometer of a club’s performance.

For some clubs aspirations and reality have been poles apart.

St Kilda was one of eight clubs that formed the original VFL competition in 1897 and since then it has one a solitary premiership, in 1966

Footscray – or the Western Bulldogs as it is currently known – entered the VFL in 1925 and it too has only one premiership to its name.

The all-time record of 16 premierships is jointly held by Carlton and Essendon.

In second place overall is Collingwood with 15.

While the Blues and Bombers have healthy memberships and supporter bases the Magpies outstrip them both.

This year Collingwood leads all-comers – as it has done for most seasons of late – with 79,347 members, over 10,000 clear of Hawthorn which sits second overall.

The Magpies membership is greater than Carlton and the Bulldogs combined.

As its own website proclaims, Collingwood is the “biggest, most famous sporting club in Australia” – a hard statement to argue with.

Amongst AFL supporters, if you do not follow the Magpies they are almost guaranteed to be up near, if not on top, of the team that is most despised.

Collingwood fans where this animosity as a badge of honour.

Just why such a hatred of the Magpies exists is in itself an interesting question.

For several generations of football fans Collingwood has provided little in the realm of premierships.

Of the 15 the club has won, 11 of them were achieved prior to 1936, including an-all time competition record of four consecutive flags between 1927-30.

In the past 76 years the club has won just four premierships – 1953, 1958, 1990 and 2010.

Compare that with the likes of Carlton (11), Hawthorn (11) and Essendon (10) over the same period and you see how far off the pace the Magpies have been in regard to the sport’s ultimate prize.

Since entering the competition in 1987, both Brisbane and West Coast have won just one fewer as flag than Collingwood has in the past 76 years.

Yet the Magpies continue to possess the biggest fan and membership base.

Collingwood has played more games (2440) and recorded more wins (1485) than any other club.

It possesses a 61.4 per cent winning rate with Carlton (59.1%) and Essendon (57.4%) the next best.

However, come finals time, it is a vastly different story with the clubs’ fans having endured heartache often.

When it comes to winning percentages at the pointy end of the season the Magpies rank third last (44.9%), followed only by St Kilda (41.3) and the Bulldogs (31.8%).

At the other end of the scale, Brisbane (71.9%), Hawthorn (62.7%) and Melbourne (50.5%) make up the top-three.

Finals footy has long been a worry for the Magpies.

Between 1958 and 1990, the club featured in nine grand finals for eight losses and a draw.

It was in the latter half of that period that the term “collywobbles” was coined with many opposing fans delighting in the Magpies inability to take out the big one.

The club holds the all-time record as far as grand final appearances is concerned with 43 but alas for the fans the win-loss record over the journey has been 15-26 with two draws.

Both Essendon and Carlton’s 16 premierships have come from 29 grand final appearances.

After Collingwood drew the 2010 grand final against Kilda, president Eddie McGuire commented that he had seen his club draw more grand finals than win premierships – he was born in 1964!

The team came out the following week and beat the Saints by 56 points to win its most recent flag after a gap of 20 years, which had been preceded by a drought of 32 years from 1958.

This season certainly won’t see a record-equalling 16th flag with the club unlikely to qualify for the finals as it enters the final home-and-away round against reigning premier and second-placed Hawthorn in ninth spot on the ladder.

At this stage, the Magpies next flag appears a way off with Nathan Buckley charged with rebuilding the squad in the coming years.

Yet, while premiership glory will likely elude Collingwood in the foreseeable future, history would indicate that failure to win a flag will not impact on the club’s diehard following.

The Magpie army will continue to find voice in numbers that outgun every other club despite three-quarters of a century that has produced little silverware.

First published on The Roar – theroar.com.au – on 28 August 2014