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Collingwood’s new president Mark Korda has apologised unconditionally to estranged ex-premiership player Heritier Lumumba and any other past players who suffered systemic racism at the club.
New Collingwood president Mark Korda.
Korda, who assumed the presidency outright on Wednesday night, also admitted that the contentious trading of Adam Treloar – and the salary cap management that led to the beloved player leaving the club – could have been better handled. He also revealed the club would have rather signed star ruckman Brodie Grundy on a four- or five-year deal, rather than the seven years Grundy negotiated.
As Collingwood deal with the fallout from the Do Better report that found systemic racism had existed at the club, and McGuire’s mishandling of the media conference that led to his resignation in February, Korda issued an unconditional apology to Lumumba, whose grievances triggered the report.
“It’s sad that Heritier is estranged from Collingwood. We understand why and we’d like to take the opportunity, on behalf of the board and our entire club, to apologise to him. And we would like to see you [Lumumba] at ease with Collingwood again. [We hope] the work we are doing in the Do Better report helps that to occur.”
Korda said that his apology extended to all those past players “of colour” and had “no qualifications”.
Former Collingwood player Heritier Lumumba says he experienced systemic racism at the club.Credit:Pat Scala
Over the past several weeks, following Do Better’s release, the Magpies have been conversing with Indigenous and past players of colour to gain an understanding of what was needed to put them at ease.
Korda has been criticised by Pie fans on social media for having been on the board for 14 years and thus not representing genuine change.
When asked why the members should trust a president who had already served on the board for 14 years and thus presided over the systemic racism and trade/salary cap issues, he said: “I think that, you know, is a fair observation.”
But he said Collingwood commissioning the racism report was “a big step for a club”. Collingwood, himself included, had previously had “very little knowledge of structural racism”.
On Treloar, he conceded that communication to him and to members had not been well handled and the salary cap management that led to that trade as well as Jaidyn Stephenson and Tom Phillips could have been better.
Treloar was upset with Collingwood for suggesting he would struggle to be away from his partner, Kim Ravaillion who had signed to play in Queensland this year.
Korda was vice-president on the board that endorsed the signing of Grundy on a seven-year deal worth close to $6.5m that also has been criticised. “Would we have liked to negotiate a four- or five-year deal? Yes. Did the competitive market push that out? Yes.
“For some times, you’ve got to make a decision. We clearly would have liked a lesser thing, but that was – we are where we are and we [the Collingwood board] signed it off.”
Korda said the signing of Grundy, Darcy Moore and Jordan De Goey in 2020 had been prioritised and caused the need to offload players. “We needed to rejuvenate the list [post 2020], obviously get Nick Daicos and we’ve done those three big signings, something had to give. We knew that.
“We’ll concede that the communication of that to our members, was not good enough … I’m talking particularly about Adam Treloar.
“I don’t think the other two [Stephenson and Phillips] are of that much significance. But the Treloar thing could have been handled better with him. We get that.
“You can’t change those decisions,” he added of the salary cap management. “But, I mean, could we have done better? Of course.”
Korda said he intended to be president for at least the rest of his term, which ends in February 2023. “I’ll go the whole term, right, subject to the board wanting me president. It’ll be what’s in the best interests of Collingwood Football Club.”
He confirmed that the push for well-connected ex-AFL lawyer Jeff Browne, a close friend of McGuire’s, to be installed on the Collingwood board and made president had led to Browne talking to board member Christine Holgate on Monday, but that Browne had expressed interest after the process for interviewing candidates had closed. VRC chairman Neil Wilson was appointed to fill McGuire’s board vacancy.
Asked if he would be interested in getting Browne involved at Collingwood, Korda said: “Yeah, if he wants to be involved, he’s got rights … Jeff’s an outstanding individual and we need skills on the board for women’s sport as well.”
Korda said the members had the right to challenge the board at elections but argued that a spill of all board positions would not be helpful.
“I don’t think spilling the board is a good idea. You’ve seen how much that’s, you know, wrecked clubs. But if there are people that want to put their hands up, then there’s a process we can get through and they can get elected.
“I understand the perception at the moment because of the issues we’ve had. Can’t change that. But it feels calm at the club, I think we’ve got a great CEO [Mark Anderson], we’ve got Graham Wright on board. It feels positive. We’ve got a club that needs to get better and we will.”
Korda said he still expected the Magpies, who enter Anzac Day with a 1-4 record and with injuries to four key players, to make the finals this year.
“I think we’ll do finals this year.
“Nathan [Buckley] and ourselves and [football boss] Graham Wright thinks we’ve got a good enough list and good enough team to make it into the finals.”
The decision on Nathan Buckley’s future – and on the senior coaching position – would be guided by Wright and CEO Anderson, with “help” from board member and ex-player Paul Licuria and board member Peter Murphy.
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