Culture trumps talent: why De Goey’s days look numbered at Magpies

They were careless people, Tom and Daisy—they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made” – from The Great Gatsby, by F.Scott Fitzgerald.

If Collingwood judged Jordan De Goey’s situation only as a football decision, it would be easy for the Magpies to excuse his latest and most egregious misdemeanour, which has put him at the mercy of the New York criminal justice system.

But the Magpies aren’t assessing De Goey merely as a fellow who can win clearances and games. He is also being judged as a cultural liability, as a careless character who breaks things and leaves a mess for others to clean up like Tom and Daisy Buchanan. For that reason, he is highly likely to be removed from the club in due course.

But this will not happen until De Goey’s had his day in court and the club has heard his “complete” version of these unedifying events, which started and ended in a dressing gown. That his case will not be heard in New York until December 8 – several days after the “final” list lodgement (November 29) for AFL clubs – means that he probably will remain on Collingwood’s books for at least a portion of 2022.

Collingwood and the AFL are jack of dealing with De Goey’s continued failure to control his impulses. That the club has walled him off from the football program “indefinitely” and has left him to fend for himself legally, for once, is a measure of where the Magpies stand – and that’s not by Jordie.

Jordan De Goey leaves a New York court on Sunday.Credit:Nine News

In years past, Collingwood and indeed most AFL clubs would be sending lawyers, guns and money to protect their precious asset. This was still the club’s stance towards him in 2020 when he faced a charge of indecent assault that Vic Police subsequently dropped. In 2017 and 2018, he fouled the Collingwood nest by lying about a fight in which he broke his hand (2017) and was nabbed for drink-driving (He was, for the record, managed by my brother Ben from late 2017 until late 2019).

But the climate surrounding recidivist miscreants has changed. De Goey, right now, is the AFL name probably most synonymous with high-end talent and low-end behaviour, and Collingwood are a club that is in the throes not only of a conventional youth-based rebuild, but a reputational one.

It would be difficult for the Magpies to be earnest in striving to “Do Better” on racism while harbouring a footballer who either doesn’t care about the mess he leaves, or is so compulsive in hedonistic excess that he cannot avoid trouble and – despite the dropping of a charge, if others are upheld – also carries the whiff of a player with bad form towards women.

The most serious initial charge that De Goey faced was that of “forcible touching” a woman, which if proven contained far more repercussions for the AFL and Collingwood than the still-damaging assault charges (two).

Jordan De Goey parties before his arrest in New York.Credit:Instagram

That the New York Police Department have dropped that most worrisome charge – the second time a charge of that stripe has been dropped in a matter of months (after Vic Police were forced to pay his legal costs from dropping the indecent assault charge) – is certainly a small, yet important win for De Goey from a dismal scenario.

Had De Goey been convicted for “forcible touching”, his viability as an AFL footballer – at any club – would be in grave doubt, as numerous AFL industry insiders have told me.

But the dropping of that charge means that, if and when Collingwood jettison him, he’s more salvageable to whichever of the 17 other clubs reckon they could use an exquisitely talented midfielder/forward who will be available for no draft cost and far fewer dollars than the $750,000-plus he would have otherwise commanded.

Getting in a punch-up, if indeed it happened, will be forgiven more readily by another club. Based on history, it would be surprising if at least one club wasn’t willing to punt on De Goey purely on the cost-benefit equation.

Collingwood are a different story, because the Pies are nowhere near premiership contention and would know that they won’t be pushing for a flag for a few years, at the least. De Goey’s value as a Collingwood footballer, thus, is diminished and they will also weigh up other factors – sponsors, brand, the standards of a new coach, potential for further distraction and, not least, that staff at the club spend an inordinate amount of their time dealing with him.

Collingwood’s problem is that, due to the terrible timing of this incident – barely three weeks after the close of the trading period – the club has greatly reduced prospects of gaining any return for a player who, had he left a restricted free agent this year, would probably command a first-round compensation pick.

Now, the Pies can only gain draft return if they are willing to hold De Goey on their playing list throughout 2022. Even then, his value will be discounted, subject to events in New York.

The Pies might also hope to gain by terminating De Goey as soon as process allows and then save a decent chunk of his substantial 2022 salary, which is thought to exceed $700,000.

One would assume that the Magpies will examine closely whether there is any way of gaining, in draft or more feasibly in salary cap terms, from losing their most-talented match-winner.

The only certain saving, at this point, will be on the cultural front. And that, given the lay of Collingwood’s land, will likely be enough.

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