JavaScript disabled. Please enable JavaScript to use My News, My Clippings, My Comments and user settings.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

Frail links stretched thin in the Daisy chain


Chief sports columnist and associate editor with The Age

View more articles from Greg Baum

Email Greg

Video settings

Please Log in to update your video settings

Video will begin in 5 seconds.

Video settings

Please Log in to update your video settings

Remember when? Thomas factor fuels rivalry

Dale Thomas is one of only a handful of great players to move between bitter rivals Collingwood and Carlton, Greg Baum reports.

PT0M0S 620 349

Collingwood's inaugural big league captain, Bill Strickland, was recruited from Carlton. That was in 1897. The two clubs were on companionable terms until a torrid grand final in 1910, won by the Magpies. More than 100 years later, the feeling has not abated and still animates the game's oldest extant rivalry. Of the few players who have moved between the clubs since, none was at once as high-profile, accomplished and close to his prime as Dale Thomas, who suits up for the Blues against the Magpies for the first time on Friday night.

"He'll struggle," said Ray Byrne, a nuggety back pocket who crossed the Fitzroy line from Carlton to Collingwood in mid-1978 and whose ultimate distinction was to play an aggregate of four grand finals for the two clubs and win none. "Daisy was there so long. He played in a premiership. I struggled. I'd grown up with Trevor Keogh and Roddy Ashman and them. That was very hard. He wouldn't be human if he wasn't thinking about it."

Byrne cherished his seven years at Collingwood before moving to Geelong for a last fling. "The day we played Collingwood, seriously, I was a mess," he said. "I didn't get a kick. They were very good to me, Collingwood. I reckon he'll find it really hard. But they're different today. Professionals."

Dale Thomas celebrates his first goal for the Blues.

Dale Thomas celebrates his first goal for the Blues. Photo: Pat Scala

Enmity endures, but protocols change. After five years as a fringe player for Carlton, Harry Sullivan rang Collingwood about a game in 1955 and was offered one. When Sullivan told Carlton's chairman of selectors that he wanted to move, he replied: "Off you go."

Sullivan's first game for Collingwood was as a forward, against Footscray great Ted Whitten, and ended badly; he was dropped. Re-tooled in the reserves as a full-back, he went on to play there in the Magpies' iconic 1958 premiership team, andfor Victoria that year.

Of his return games against the Blues, Sullivan, now 82, remembers only stately good grace. One was against the teenaged Serge Silvagni, another against supposedly gruff Wes Lofts, who wished Sullivan good luck not just on his own behalf, but also the Carlton treasurer's!

Three-gamer Mick McGuane.

Three-gamer Mick McGuane. Photo: Vince Caligiuri

The years came and went, and the score that can never be settled, mounted. Byrne remembers that Carlton kept count, more so than Collingwood. "The committee loved to play and beat Collingwood," he said. "At Collingwood, that was nothing new. Everyone wanted to have a crack at them."

Traffic between the clubs was spasmodic. There was no "keep off the grass" deal, says Collingwood president Eddie McGuire. It was just that the clubs were as different as states, and the border formalities were not worth the trouble.

Goalkicking great Peter McKenna spent a year at Carlton after finishing at Collingwood, but ached to have to play against the Magpies and regretted the dalliance. Mick McGuane had a disastrous three-game career with the Blues post-Collingwood. He now makes light of it. "You taught me the Broady way," he says to McGuire. "You said, go and rob them. I did: 70 grand a game."

Ray Byrne with Wayne Johnston.

Ray Byrne with Wayne Johnston.

Heath Scotland has parlayed 53 games for Collingwood into 200 more for the Blues, including a best-and-fairest. No one has made the leap with more success and less fuss.

But most of the rest were either peripheral or past it. Thomas was different. He had arrived at Collingwood when it was at a low ebb, and club and fans had fastened onto him as an appealing figure around whom they could rally. For a while, he personified the club. Thommo's Team 13 made him king of the kids. If not for injury and free agency, Thomas might have been a Pie for good.

But the landscape changed, and both parties recalibrated. Ultimately, Thomas had Collingwood's blessing to move, but there was no "off you go". The way the system works, Collingwood wanted Carlton to pay a price that guaranteed the Magpies a first-round pick as compensation. At length, Carlton did.

Collingwood great Peter McKenna.

Collingwood great Peter McKenna.

Until Mick Malthouse, no one had coached both clubs. But Gavin Brown has served on each coaching panel. The Collingwood great found that the rivals had much in common, and with every other club, in their day-to-day affairs. "They have to be; they're all in the same business," he said. "But culturally, there's subtle differences." These were played up when they met one another, though not by the clubs. "It builds itself up," said Brown. "It's automatic."

Symbolism matters as much as substance. When Byrne wore a Carlton jumper to Collingwood training one night, he was frowned upon. When Ang Christou wore a Collingwood No 35 jumper as his casual attire to a Carlton Under 19 match, he was sent home.

McGuire said it was only ever about the jumper, which was why he bore no grudge against Thomas personally, understood that he took an offer few would refuse and texted best wishes to him before round one this year. "I won't be calling for his head any more than Marc Murphy's," McGuire said. "I'm not raining on the parade. Obviously, we will be giving plenty, and I'm sure the supporters will as well. But it's all part of the footy pantomime."

Heath Scotland.

Heath Scotland. Photo: Mal Fairclough

McGuire said he became aware of "hate" merchandise when Malthouse first went up against Collingwood last year, and stomped on it. "Yes, we're playing for sheep stations in the football vernacular," he said. "But we never want it to get like Celtic and Rangers. It's only ever a Tattslotto ticket."

Fans have the luxury of not knowing players or clubs intimately, and so can ascribe to them any characteristic they like, and barrack in any way they please. Shane Collins, a barrister and ardent Pies supporter, says he understands that Thomas's decision was fiscal. "Notwithstanding, at the end of the day, do I want Daisy pushing up daisies (metaphorically speaking) when I sight him in a Blues jumper? Yes, yes and yes!" he said.

"I was at the 1970 grand final. I still enjoy the now decidedly cold revenge of beating Carlton whenever. Friday night's victory shall be all the more enjoyable knowing Mad Mick sacked the Blues' best forward and replaced him with an injury-prone wingman."

Variations on that sentiment abound.Though it is 25 years since Magpies and Blues last met in a final, all aver that the rivalry is as intense as ever. "I think so," said Byrne. "Carlton/Collingwood's always been the same, and Mick going over there has thrown a few more logs on the fire." Admitted McGuire, by now pacing the Westpac Centre floor: "I'll be antsy all day Friday."

This is the historical hornet's nest that Thomas has stirred up and now must throw himself into. He might get a handshake from an old teammate, but should not expect greetings from the treasurer. It will be a sterling test of character as well as football. Brown, now observing from a safe distance at North Melbourne, thinks he will handle it. "He'll be a bit toey," he said. "But, knowing Daisy, I couldn't imagine it will faze him too much."

McGuire hopes Thomas is fazed just enough to do as he did for eight years, contribute to another Collingwood win. Whatever happens, this year and for the next five, McGuire envisages Thomas on one more ritual crossing of the Fitzroy line. "When his time finishes over there, he'll come back," he said, "and I'll make sure he's a life member."

The Big Switch

Players who have represented both Carlton and Collingwood in the past 50 years.

Peter McKenna: 180 matches for Collingwood from 1965-1975, 11 for Carlton in 1977. Left when 29.

Ray Byrne: 81 for Carlton from 1973-mid 1978, 121 for Collingwood from mid 1978-1983. Left when 24.

Russell Ohlsen: 47 for Carlton from 1975-78, 50 for Collingwood from 1979-1981. Left when 22.

Mick McGuane: 152 for Collingwood from 1987-1996, 3 for Carlton in 1997. Left when 28.

Barry Mitchell: 13 for Collingwood in 1993, 38 for Carlton from 1994-1996. Left when 27.

Trent Hotton: 17 for Collingwood from 1994-1996, 61 for Carlton from 2000-2002. Left when 22.

Heath Scotland: 53 for Collingwood from 1999-2003; 214 for Carlton since 2004. Left when 23.

Cameron Cloke: 21 for Collingwood from 2004-2006, 36 for Carlton from 2007-2009. Left when 23.

Chris Bryan: 16 for Carlton from 2005-2006, 30 for Collingwood from 2007-2009. Left when 24.

Jordan Russell: 116 for Carlton from 2005-2012, 9 for Collingwood in 2013. Left when 25.

Dale Thomas: 157 for Collingwood from 2006-2013, 6 for Carlton in 2014. Now 26.

Compiled by JESSE HOGAN

Related Coverage

HuffPost Australia

AFL 2015

Round 1
Thu, 02 AprTimes shown AEDT
CAR 78vs RIC 105 Report Stats
Sat, 04 AprTimes shown AEDT
MEL 115vs GCF 89 Stats
SYD 72vs ESS 60 Stats
BRI 74vs COL 86 Stats
WBU 97vs WCE 87 Stats
Sun, 05 AprTimes shown AEST
STK 78vs GWS 87 Stats
ADE 140vs NTH 63 Stats
FRE 75vs PTA 68 Stats
Mon, 06 AprTimes shown AEST
HAW 123vs GEE 61 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Fri, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
WCE 131vs CAR 62 Stats
Sat, 11 AprTimes shown AEST
RIC 66vs WBU 85 Report Stats
GWS 101vs MEL 56 Stats
COL 63vs ADE 90 Report Stats
GCF 76vs STK 104 Stats
PTA 44vs SYD 92 Stats
Sun, 12 AprTimes shown AEST
GEE 60vs FRE 104 Stats
ESS 78vs HAW 76 Stats
NTH 133vs BRI 51 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 3
Fri, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
COL 140vs STK 66 Stats
Sat, 18 AprTimes shown AEST
CAR 84vs ESS 105 Stats
ADE 80vs MEL 55 Stats
SYD 111vs GWS 90 Report Stats
NTH 105vs PTA 113 Stats
BRI 58vs RIC 137 Stats
Sun, 19 AprTimes shown AEST
HAW 127vs WBU 57 Stats
GEE 105vs GCF 96 Stats
WCE 81vs FRE 111 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 4
Fri, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
RIC 51vs MEL 83 Stats
Sat, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
STK 81vs CAR 121 Report Report Stats
ESS 49vs COL 69 Report Stats
GWS 119vs GCF 53 Stats
PTA 99vs HAW 91 Stats
FRE 74vs SYD 60 Stats
Sun, 26 AprTimes shown AEST
BRI 65vs WCE 118 Stats
GEE 67vs NTH 83 Stats
WBU 125vs ADE 68 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 5
Fri, 01 MayTimes shown AEST
CAR 45vs COL 120 Stats
Sat, 02 MayTimes shown AEST
RIC 76vs GEE 85 Stats
SYD 73vs WBU 77 Stats
GCF 118vs BRI 54 Stats
NTH 70vs HAW 130 Stats
WCE 120vs GWS 33 Stats
Sun, 03 MayTimes shown AEST
MEL 50vs FRE 118 Stats
STK 80vs ESS 82 Stats
ADE 91vs PTA 115 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 6
Fri, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
COL 59vs GEE 100 Stats
Sat, 09 MayTimes shown AEST
NTH 109vs RIC 74 Stats
WBU 87vs STK 94 Stats
GWS 108vs HAW 98 Stats
GCF 78vs ADE 119 Stats
MEL 50vs SYD 88 Stats
FRE 80vs ESS 52 Stats
Sun, 10 MayTimes shown AEST
CAR 75vs BRI 84 Report Stats
PTA 68vs WCE 78 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 7
Fri, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
ESS 82vs NTH 93 Stats
Sat, 16 MayTimes shown AEST
ADE 119vs STK 73 Stats
HAW 155vs MEL 50 Stats
CAR 57vs GWS 135 Stats
SYD 120vs GEE 77 Stats
WCE 135vs GCF 43 Stats
Sun, 17 MayTimes shown AEST
WBU 88vs FRE 101 Stats
RIC 105vs COL 100 Report Stats
BRI 102vs PTA 65 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 8
Fri, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
GEE 140vs CAR 63 Report Stats
Sat, 23 MayTimes shown AEST
STK 78vs WCE 131 Report Stats
GWS 108vs ADE 84 Report Stats
GCF 63vs COL 132 Report Stats
HAW 69vs SYD 73 Report Stats
FRE 115vs NTH 42 Report Stats
Sun, 24 MayTimes shown AEST
ESS 136vs BRI 78 Report Stats
MEL 103vs WBU 64 Report Stats
PTA 43vs RIC 76 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 9
Fri, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
SYD 122vs CAR 62 Report Stats
Sat, 30 MayTimes shown AEST
HAW 93vs GCF 40 Report Stats
MEL 54vs PTA 115 Report Stats
WBU 113vs GWS 68 Report Stats
RIC 72vs ESS 59 Report Stats
ADE 57vs FRE 68 Report Stats
Sun, 31 MayTimes shown AEST
BRI 86vs STK 108 Report Stats
COL 112vs NTH 95 Report Stats
WCE 120vs GEE 64 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 10
Fri, 05 JunTimes shown AEST
FRE 70vs RIC 97 Report Stats
Sat, 06 JunTimes shown AEST
CAR 90vs ADE 99 Report Stats
GCF 41vs SYD 93 Report Stats
ESS 53vs GEE 122 Report Stats
PTA 100vs WBU 62 Report Stats
Sun, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
GWS 97vs BRI 67 Report Stats
NTH 85vs WCE 75 Report Stats
STK 69vs HAW 132 Report Stats
Mon, 08 JunTimes shown AEST
MEL 85vs COL 110 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 11
Fri, 12 JunTimes shown AEST
PTA 69vs GEE 92 Report Stats
Sat, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
GCF 46vs FRE 53 Report Stats
WCE 96vs ESS 46 Report Stats
NTH 75vs SYD 91 Report Report Stats
Sun, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
COL 119vs GWS 77 Report Stats
STK 85vs MEL 83 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 12
Thu, 18 JunTimes shown AEST
ADE 85vs HAW 114 Report Stats
Fri, 19 JunTimes shown AEST
RIC 70vs WCE 90 Report Stats
Sat, 20 JunTimes shown AEST
CAR 110vs PTA 106 Report Stats
GWS 61vs NTH 117 Report Stats
WBU 146vs BRI 74 Report Stats
Sun, 21 JunTimes shown AEST
GEE 89vs MEL 113 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 13
Thu, 25 JunTimes shown AEST
FRE 80vs COL 73 Report Stats
Fri, 26 JunTimes shown AEST
SYD 77vs RIC 95 Report Stats
Sat, 27 JunTimes shown AEST
HAW 114vs ESS 76 Report Stats
BRI 69vs ADE 82 Report Stats
STK 56vs WBU 62 Report Stats
Sun, 28 JunTimes shown AEST
CAR 103vs GCF 69 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 14
Thu, 02 JulTimes shown AEST
SYD 94vs PTA 84 Report Stats
Fri, 03 JulTimes shown AEST
COL 91vs HAW 101 Report Stats
Sat, 04 JulTimes shown AEST
RIC 78vs GWS 69 Report Stats
GCF 125vs NTH 70 Report Stats
WBU 64vs CAR 53 Report Stats
MEL 60vs WCE 114 Report Stats
Sun, 05 JulTimes shown AEST
ESS 52vs STK 162 Stats
ADE vs GEE 15:20Adelaide Oval
FRE 84vs BRI 48 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 15
Thu, 09 JulTimes shown AEST
PTA 66vs COL 63 Report Stats
Fri, 10 JulTimes shown AEST
RIC 71vs CAR 41 Report Stats
Sat, 11 JulTimes shown AEST
ESS 69vs MEL 60 Report Stats
WBU 95vs GCF 73 Report Stats
NTH 120vs GEE 79 Report Stats
WCE 147vs ADE 91 Report Stats
Sun, 12 JulTimes shown AEST
GWS 84vs STK 49 Report Stats
HAW 115vs FRE 43 Report Stats
BRI 49vs SYD 70 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 16
Fri, 17 JulTimes shown AEST
NTH 93vs ESS 68 Report Stats
Sat, 18 JulTimes shown AEST
GEE 72vs WBU 64 Report Stats
GCF 79vs GWS 94 Report Stats
COL 56vs WCE 87 Report Stats
SYD 57vs HAW 146 Report Stats
FRE 95vs CAR 53 Report Stats
Sun, 19 JulTimes shown AEST
MEL 60vs BRI 36 Report Stats
PTA 113vs ADE 116 Report Stats
STK 73vs RIC 89 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 17
Fri, 24 JulTimes shown AEST
CAR 35vs HAW 173 Report Stats
Sat, 25 JulTimes shown AEST
GWS 42vs GEE 69 Stats
ADE 125vs GCF 80 Stats
RIC 78vs FRE 82 Stats
ESS 116vs PTA 129 Stats
BRI 38vs NTH 110 Report Stats
Sun, 26 JulTimes shown AEST
WBU 104vs COL 86 Report Stats
MEL 46vs STK 83 Report Stats
WCE 103vs SYD 51 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 18
Fri, 31 JulTimes shown AEST
HAW 53vs RIC 71 Report Stats
Sat, 01 AugTimes shown AEST
GEE 113vs BRI 57 Stats
COL 54vs MEL 91 Report Stats
SYD 117vs ADE 65 Report Stats
CAR 54vs NTH 118 Report Stats
GCF 83vs WCE 83 Report Stats
Sun, 02 AugTimes shown AEST
PTA 112vs STK 49 Report Stats
ESS 40vs WBU 127 Report Stats
FRE 84vs GWS 63 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 19
Fri, 07 AugTimes shown AEST
ADE 88vs RIC 52 Report Stats
Sat, 08 AugTimes shown AEST
COL 105vs CAR 87 Report Stats
WBU 128vs PTA 64 Report Stats
BRI 100vs GCF 114 Report Stats
GEE 95vs SYD 63 Report Stats
WCE 74vs HAW 88 Report Stats
Sun, 09 AugTimes shown AEST
MEL 92vs NTH 127 Report Stats
GWS 93vs ESS 61 Report Stats
STK 59vs FRE 96 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 20
Fri, 14 AugTimes shown AEST
SYD 87vs COL 76 Report Stats
Sat, 15 AugTimes shown AEST
ESS 59vs ADE 171 Report Stats
NTH 120vs STK 83 Report Stats
PTA 111vs GWS 90 Report Stats
GEE 85vs HAW 121 Report Stats
BRI 131vs CAR 67 Report Stats
Sun, 16 AugTimes shown AEST
RIC 138vs GCF 55 Report Stats
WBU 153vs MEL 55 Report Stats
FRE 80vs WCE 104 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 21
Fri, 21 AugTimes shown AEST
HAW 86vs PTA 108 Report Stats
Sat, 22 AugTimes shown AEST
COL 56vs RIC 147 Report Stats
GWS 44vs SYD 133 Report Stats
GCF 97vs ESS 95 Report Stats
STK 97vs GEE 97 Report Stats
ADE 131vs BRI 44 Report Stats
Sun, 23 AugTimes shown AEST
NTH 94vs FRE 83 Report Stats
CAR 78vs MEL 55 Report Stats
WCE 162vs WBU 85 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 22
Fri, 28 AugTimes shown AEST
GEE 62vs COL 110 Report Stats
Sat, 29 AugTimes shown AEST
GWS 132vs CAR 51 Report Stats
HAW 134vs BRI 62 Report Stats
NTH 73vs WBU 96 Report Stats
ESS 47vs RIC 74 Report Stats
GCF 51vs PTA 88 Report Stats
Sun, 30 AugTimes shown AEST
ADE 126vs WCE 69 Report Stats
STK 38vs SYD 135 Report Stats
FRE 108vs MEL 54 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 23
Fri, 04 SepTimes shown AEST
RIC 108vs NTH 67 Report Stats
Sat, 05 SepTimes shown AEST
GEE 119vs ADE 80 Report Stats
BRI 130vs WBU 122 Report Stats
PTA 122vs FRE 53 Report Stats
HAW 113vs CAR 56 Report Stats
SYD 127vs GCF 64 Report Stats
WCE 125vs STK 30 Report Stats
Sun, 06 SepTimes shown AEST
MEL 103vs GWS 77 Report Stats
COL 92vs ESS 95 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 24
Fri, 11 SepTimes shown AEST
WCE 96vs HAW 64 Report Stats
Sat, 12 SepTimes shown AEST
FRE 69vs SYD 60 Report Stats
WBU 102vs ADE 109 Report Stats
Sun, 13 SepTimes shown AEST
RIC 88vs NTH 105 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 25
Fri, 18 SepTimes shown AEST
HAW 135vs ADE 61 Report Stats
Sat, 19 SepTimes shown AEST
SYD 51vs NTH 77 Report Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 26
Fri, 25 SepTimes shown AEST
FRE 67vs HAW 94 Report Stats
Sat, 26 SepTimes shown AEST
WCE 80vs NTH 55 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 27
Sat, 03 OctTimes shown AEST
HAW 107vs WCE 61 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
AFL 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D % Pts
Fremantle 22 17 5 0 118.73 68
West Coast Eagles 22 16 5 1 148.22 66
Hawthorn 22 16 6 0 158.40 64
Sydney Swans 22 16 6 0 127.12 64
Richmond 22 15 7 0 123.09 60
Western Bulldogs 22 14 8 0 115.12 56
Adelaide Crows 21 13 8 0 115.71 54
North Melbourne 22 13 9 0 106.45 52
View all

Follow Us on Facebook

Featured advertisers