SO MANY people predicted the Mick Malthouse-Nathan Buckley slow-burning handover would end in tears. Few expected that the heartbreak would still be so raw seven months after Malthouse strode shattered from the MCG for the last time as Collingwood coach.
But shed they have been in recent days, metaphorically anyway. First by the Magpies' 2010 premiership coach on Sunday when he attempted to make some sense in his own hurt mind about why his former players appear a shadow of what they so recently were. In doing so Malthouse chose to take personally what he perceived were slights on his game plan and the state of affairs he reluctantly left in place for Nathan Buckley.
But the fallout witnessed since Collingwood was hammered by Carlton is in fact the tale of two broken hearts. Because Eddie McGuire is nursing one also. McGuire launched his strongest attack on Malthouse yesterday saying he was “shattered” by the former coach's comments. He took Malthouse to task for singling out Dane Swan's final quarter in the grand final, for undermining Buckley and being disrespectful to football manager Geoff Walsh - which Malthouse in fact did not.
McGuire was less hysterical on radio yesterday than he is prone to being. He took some of his former colleague's comments out of context but he clearly did so out of a frustration and hurt that has been building for months. And while McGuire was defending his men it was clear that it was the president himself who has been personally devastated.
McGuire supporters would tell you that he backed Malthouse at a time when few others were prepared to. That when the dogs began barking for Malthouse three or so years ago to be replaced, and the prospect of Buckley coaching became a reality, that Malthouse asked for more time and McGuire suggested a year. Malthouse told him it would take two so his contract was extended for two.
The sweetener - and what a misnomer that turned out to be - was a further three years as coaching director at the club. Again the Collingwood hierarchy would say that Malthouse's final two-year coaching contract was heavily front-loaded with the coach vowing until almost the end that he would fulfil the final three. Clearly now that deal has been exposed as an impossible dream.
It has come to McGuire's attention too in recent times that Malthouse has been critical of not only Buckley but also himself in various speeches, lectures and corporate addresses. Whether or not these so-called attempts to undermine him actually happened, the McGuire camp has seen enough evidence to be deeply hurt by this.
While Malthouse pointed to reasons Collingwood lost last year's grand final there was a view yesterday from the Westpac Centre that he left out one vital factor - his own emotional instability after the defeat.
On Easter Saturday, Collingwood organised a lap of honour for Malthouse before the club's clash with Richmond. Malthouse said he had not been looking forward to the event but had found the occasion quite moving and humbling. And yet behind the scenes there was hurt because the Malthouses say the Magpies refused a club invitation to the official dinner, preferring a private corporate box put on by the club instead.
But the Malthouse supporters read it differently. When McGuire yesterday so emphatically stated that Malthouse walked out on him and not the other way around the former coach's daughter tweeted "lies". Danielle Kearney wondered how McGuire slept at night. It was devastating stuff.
Malthouse, who on Sunday came tantalisingly close to stating he would never coach again, has made an astonishing fist of his new media career but as a support act his daughter - and not the one who made her debut on Channel Nine over the weekend - provided the show-stopper.
But it is true that what the Magpies effectively did was stamp a used-by date on a man who used those dates to contest three grand finals. In the end it was McGuire – because he was a Malthouse man and not seen as part of the perceived enemy camp of Collingwood chief executive Gary Pert, Buckley and Craig Kelly - who became the heartbreaker.
It is also true that senior players who seemed willing to go to war for Malthouse are struggling now. No one could have predicted three ACL injuries across the senior list by round three but the relative struggles of Dale Thomas and Harry O'Brien have been underlined because they were so close to their old coach.
That does not mean there is a player rift, perhaps just some typical disenchantment. Buckley has also lost two respected senior assistants in Mark Neeld and Scott Watters and missed employing a third in Brenton Sanderson.
By late yesterday there was a sense that McGuire was working to keep his feelings closer to his chest. Others at the club and around it kept their disgust from the public eye. Malthouse advisers too will continue to sympathise with this passionate, highly sensitive and still hurt man as he forges his way through this surprising new career. Only Malthouse will know how to deal with the subject of Collingwood over the season if the Magpies' year is a poor one.
It will be fascinating to witness just what becomes of the broken-hearted.