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 2016

Round 1
Thu, 24 MarTimes shown AEDT
RIC vs CAR 19:20MCG
Sat, 26 MarTimes shown AEDT
MEL vs GWS 13:40MCG
GCF vs ESS 16:35MS
NTH vs ADE 19:25ES
SYD vs COL 19:25ANZ
Sun, 27 MarTimes shown AEDT
WBU vs FRE 13:10ES
PTA vs STK 15:20Adelaide Oval
WCE vs BRI 19:40Domain Stadium
Mon, 28 MarTimes shown AEDT
GEE vs HAW 15:20MCG
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Fri, 01 AprTimes shown AEDT
COL vs RIC 19:50MCG
Sat, 02 AprTimes shown AEDT
ADE vs PTA 13:45Adelaide Oval
ESS vs MEL 14:10MCG
BRI vs NTH 16:35G
STK vs WBU 19:25ES
FRE vs GCF 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 03 AprTimes shown AEST
GWS vs GEE 13:10SO
HAW vs WCE 15:20MCG
CAR vs SYD 16:40ES
View All Fixtures
Round 3
Fri, 08 AprTimes shown AEST
PTA vs ESS 19:50Adelaide Oval
Sat, 09 AprTimes shown AEST
STK vs COL 13:45MCG
RIC vs ADE 14:10ES
SYD vs GWS 16:35SCG
GCF vs CAR 19:25MS
WCE vs FRE 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
NTH vs MEL 13:10BA
WBU vs HAW 15:20ES
GEE vs BRI 16:40SS
View All Fixtures
Round 4
Fri, 15 AprTimes shown AEST
WCE vs RIC 20:10Domain Stadium
Sat, 16 AprTimes shown AEST
ESS vs GEE 13:45MCG
HAW vs STK 14:10AS
BRI vs GCF 16:35G
CAR vs WBU 19:25ES
ADE vs SYD 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
GWS vs PTA 13:10SO
COL vs MEL 15:20MCG
NTH vs FRE 16:40ES
View All Fixtures
Round 5
Fri, 22 AprTimes shown AEST
HAW vs ADE 19:50MCG
Sat, 23 AprTimes shown AEST
SYD vs WCE 13:40SCG
GCF vs NTH 16:35MS
WBU vs BRI 19:25ES
PTA vs GEE 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
STK vs GWS 13:10ES
FRE vs CAR 16:10Domain Stadium
MEL vs RIC 19:10MCG
Mon, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
COL vs ESS 15:20MCG
View All Fixtures
Round 6
Fri, 29 AprTimes shown AEST
NTH vs WBU 19:50ES
Sat, 30 AprTimes shown AEST
MEL vs STK 13:45ES
ADE vs FRE 14:10Adelaide Oval
GWS vs HAW 16:35Spotless Stadium
RIC vs PTA 19:25MCG
GEE vs GCF 19:25SS
Sun, 01 MayTimes shown AEST
BRI vs SYD 13:10G
CAR vs ESS 15:20MCG
WCE vs COL 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 7
Fri, 06 MayTimes shown AEST
RIC vs HAW 19:50MCG
Sat, 07 MayTimes shown AEST
COL vs CAR 13:45MCG
GEE vs WCE 14:10SS
SYD vs ESS 16:35ANZ
GCF vs MEL 17:10MS
WBU vs ADE 19:40ES
FRE vs GWS 20:10Domain Stadium
Sun, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
STK vs NTH 15:20ES
PTA vs BRI 16:40Adelaide Oval
View All Fixtures
Round 8
Fri, 13 MayTimes shown AEST
ADE vs GEE 19:50Adelaide Oval
Sat, 14 MayTimes shown AEST
ESS vs NTH 13:45ES
HAW vs FRE 14:10AS
GWS vs GCF 16:35Spotless Stadium
BRI vs COL 19:25G
RIC vs SYD 19:25MCG
Sun, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
CAR vs PTA 13:10ES
MEL vs WBU 15:20MCG
WCE vs STK 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 9
Fri, 20 MayTimes shown AEST
HAW vs SYD 19:50MCG
Sat, 21 MayTimes shown AEST
COL vs GEE 13:45MCG
GCF vs ADE 14:10MS
PTA vs WCE 16:35Adelaide Oval
NTH vs CAR 19:25ES
FRE vs RIC 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
MEL vs BRI 13:10MCG
GWS vs WBU 15:20Spotless Stadium
STK vs ESS 16:40ES
View All Fixtures
Round 10
Fri, 27 MayTimes shown AEST
SYD vs NTH 19:50SCG
Sat, 28 MayTimes shown AEST
BRI vs HAW 13:45G
MEL vs PTA 14:10TIO Traeger Park
STK vs FRE 16:35ES
ESS vs RIC 19:25MCG
ADE vs GWS 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
CAR vs GEE 13:10ES
COL vs WBU 15:20MCG
WCE vs GCF 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 11
Fri, 03 JunTimes shown AEST
NTH vs RIC 19:50BA
Sat, 04 JunTimes shown AEST
HAW vs MEL 13:45MCG
CAR vs BRI 14:10ES
GEE vs GWS 16:35SS
GCF vs SYD 19:25MS
FRE vs ESS 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 05 JunTimes shown AEST
COL vs PTA 13:10MCG
WBU vs WCE 15:20ES
ADE vs STK 16:40Adelaide Oval
View All Fixtures
Round 12
Fri, 10 JunTimes shown AEST
ESS vs HAW 19:50ES
Sat, 11 JunTimes shown AEST
PTA vs WBU 13:40Adelaide Oval
BRI vs FRE 16:35G
GEE vs NTH 19:25ES
WCE vs ADE 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 12 JunTimes shown AEST
STK vs CAR 13:10ES
RIC vs GCF 15:20MCG
GWS vs SYD 16:40Spotless Stadium
Mon, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
MEL vs COL 15:20MCG
View All Fixtures
Round 13
Fri, 17 JunTimes shown AEST
NTH vs HAW 19:50ES
Sat, 18 JunTimes shown AEST
BRI vs WCE 13:40G
FRE vs PTA 16:35Domain Stadium
WBU vs GEE 19:25ES
Sun, 19 JunTimes shown AEST
SYD vs MEL 13:10SCG
ESS vs GWS 16:40ES
View All Fixtures
Round 14
Thu, 23 JunTimes shown AEST
ADE vs NTH 19:50Adelaide Oval
Fri, 24 JunTimes shown AEST
COL vs FRE 19:50MCG
Sat, 25 JunTimes shown AEST
RIC vs BRI 13:40MCG
GWS vs CAR 16:35Spotless Stadium
STK vs GEE 19:25ES
Sun, 26 JunTimes shown AEST
HAW vs GCF 15:20AS
View All Fixtures
Round 15
Thu, 30 JunTimes shown AEST
WCE vs ESS 20:10Domain Stadium
Fri, 01 JulTimes shown AEST
PTA vs RIC 19:50Adelaide Oval
Sat, 02 JulTimes shown AEST
GCF vs STK 13:40MS
SYD vs WBU 16:35SCG
CAR vs COL 19:25MCG
Sun, 03 JulTimes shown AEST
MEL vs ADE 15:20MCG
View All Fixtures
Round 16
Thu, 07 JulTimes shown AEST
PTA vs HAW 19:50Adelaide Oval
Fri, 08 JulTimes shown AEST
GEE vs SYD 19:50SS
Sat, 09 JulTimes shown AEST
GWS vs COL 13:40Spotless Stadium
GCF vs BRI 16:35MS
WBU vs RIC 19:25ES
MEL vs FRE 19:40TIO
Sun, 10 JulTimes shown AEST
CAR vs ADE 13:10MCG
WCE vs NTH 15:20Domain Stadium
ESS vs STK 16:40ES
View All Fixtures
Round 17
Thu, 14 JulTimes shown AEST
SYD vs HAW 19:20SCG
Fri, 15 JulTimes shown AEST
FRE vs GEE 20:10Domain Stadium
Sat, 16 JulTimes shown AEST
RIC vs ESS 13:40MCG
NTH vs PTA 16:35ES
WBU vs GCF 19:25CAZ
ADE vs COL 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 17 JulTimes shown AEST
CAR vs WCE 13:10MCG
STK vs MEL 15:20ES
BRI vs GWS 16:40G
View All Fixtures
Round 18
Fri, 22 JulTimes shown AEST
COL vs NTH 19:50ES
Sat, 23 JulTimes shown AEST
SYD vs CAR 13:45ANZ
GCF vs FRE 14:10MS
WCE vs MEL 16:35Domain Stadium
WBU vs STK 19:25ES
GEE vs ADE 19:25SS
Sun, 24 JulTimes shown AEST
ESS vs BRI 13:10ES
HAW vs RIC 15:20MCG
PTA vs GWS 16:40Adelaide Oval
View All Fixtures
Round 19
Fri, 29 JulTimes shown AEST
GEE vs WBU 19:50SS
Sat, 30 JulTimes shown AEST
GWS vs RIC 13:45SO
HAW vs CAR 14:10AS
COL vs WCE 16:35MCG
BRI vs PTA 19:25G
NTH vs STK 19:25ES
Sun, 31 JulTimes shown AEST
MEL vs GCF 13:10MCG
FRE vs SYD 15:20Domain Stadium
ADE vs ESS 16:40Adelaide Oval
View All Fixtures
Round 20
Fri, 05 AugTimes shown AEST
RIC vs COL 19:50MCG
Sat, 06 AugTimes shown AEST
SYD vs PTA 13:45SCG
MEL vs HAW 14:10MCG
GCF vs GWS 16:35MS
WBU vs NTH 19:25ES
ADE vs BRI 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 07 AugTimes shown AEST
CAR vs STK 13:10MCG
GEE vs ESS 15:20ES
FRE vs WCE 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 21
Fri, 12 AugTimes shown AEST
WBU vs COL 19:50ES
Sat, 13 AugTimes shown AEST
BRI vs CAR 13:45G
HAW vs NTH 14:10MCG
GWS vs WCE 16:35Spotless Stadium
STK vs SYD 19:25ES
PTA vs MEL 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 14 AugTimes shown AEST
ESS vs GCF 13:10ES
RIC vs GEE 15:20MCG
FRE vs ADE 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 22
Fri, 19 AugTimes shown AEST
WCE vs HAW 20:10Domain Stadium
Sat, 20 AugTimes shown AEST
NTH vs SYD 13:45BA
RIC vs STK 14:10MCG
GWS vs FRE 16:35Spotless Stadium
COL vs GCF 19:25ES
PTA vs ADE 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 21 AugTimes shown AEST
CAR vs MEL 13:10MCG
BRI vs GEE 15:20G
ESS vs WBU 16:40ES
View All Fixtures
Round 23
Sat, 27 AugTimes shown AEST
HAW vs COL 12:00MCG
STK vs BRI 12:00ES
ESS vs CAR 12:00MCG
GCF vs PTA 12:00MS
SYD vs RIC 12:00SCG
NTH vs GWS 12:00ES
GEE vs MEL 12:00SS
ADE vs WCE 12:30Adelaide Oval
FRE vs WBU 14:00Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
AFL 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D % Pts
Adelaide Crows 0 0 0 0 - 0
Brisbane Lions 0 0 0 0 - 0
Carlton 0 0 0 0 - 0
Collingwood 0 0 0 0 - 0
Essendon 0 0 0 0 - 0
Fremantle 0 0 0 0 - 0
Geelong Cats 0 0 0 0 - 0
Gold Coast Suns 0 0 0 0 - 0
View all

Follow Us on Facebook

Featured advertisers