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Headliners No. 5 - Stars on strike

Glenn McFarlane of the Herald Sun  August 9, 2017 9:00 AM

Champions of Collingwood: Scott Burns Each week in 2017, we're winding back the clock to re-live the career of a Collingwood icon. This week, we celebrate Scott Burns.

Collingwood is never far from the headlines.

As any decent news editor knows, if you can get the Magpies onto the front or back page, on the TV or as a lead online item, you'll get readers and viewers.

That results in a lot of Collingwood stories being overhyped. But there's also no denying that we've been involved in plenty of genuinely massive news stories down the years – from sackings, injuries and board coups to player revolts and internal squabbling.

So, to help mark Collingwood's 125th anniversary season, we're counting down the 25 biggest, most explosive news stories in Magpie history, as judged by historian Michael Roberts and the Herald Sun's Glenn McFarlane.

We've ignored Premierships and on-field results, and have instead concentrated on the other elements that have so often seen our club making headlines. It's a fascinating way to look back at our often colourful history.

Each of these stories will be published by Collingwood Media on #125Wednesdays, as part of our mid-week celebration of Collingwood's 125th Anniversary.

Headliners No. 5: Tuddy and Thommo's strike
Glenn McFarlane of the Herald Sun

Two of Collingwood's most important players - its captain Des Tuddenham and star ruckman Len Thompson - stunned the club and football world when they went "on strike" over a pay dispute during the 1970 preseason.

It may have been a relatively short-lived strike, and neither player actually missed a match before they returned to the club before the start of the season. But the players’ withdrawal from training proved one of the seismic moments in the history of the club.

This wasn't the first time Collingwood players had discussed strike action. Forty-two years earlier, in 1928, the fabled 'Machine' flirted with the idea of going on strike when the club announced a cut in wages in the early stages of the Great Depression. The club's captain of the time, Syd Coventry, stood firm and convinced his players that any strike action would impact on their legacy. The idea was shelved.

Almost two generations later, the goal posts in terms of player payments had altered immeasurably. Tuddenham and Thompson were incensed by the Magpies' willingness to outlay an exorbitant figure to coax Western Australian recruit Peter Eakins to Melbourne, while at the same time rejecting their own pay claims.

The action, which came four years before the VFL Players' Association was formed, would have implications for all involved - the club, the individuals involved and their teammates.

Tuddenham and Thompson could not accept that president Tom Sherrin's administration was prepared to offer lucrative sums of money to Eakins, who had won a Tassie Medal at the 1969 Adelaide Carnival, while the club's leadership group faced a stonewall on any pay increases.

The strike became one of the hottest issues of the time, and made front and back page headlines that not only embarrassed Collingwood, but also drove a wedge between the club and the players.

One letter sent to the club on 16 February 1970, which was sold at auction in 2016, came from Tuddenham's solicitors to Collingwood.

It read: "As you are no doubt remember, we act for the above who has instructed us to again write to you in relation to payments for the coming season. It now appears that your Club is making such payments and we on behalf of our client respectfully ask for our client's case to again be considered."

"My client requires $8,000 per year for a three year contract. Kindly let us have your reply by Friday 20th inst as the association club Sandringham are also awaiting our client's decision."

There was an act of brinkmanship from the club - a new match payment structure under a sliding scale - but the strike rolled on for three weeks.

By the second week of March, Tuddenham and Thompson were prepared to return to the club. Each camp claimed themselves as the winners of a dispute that had none. The players argued then, and for years later, that they had paved the way for a better financial future for a host of VFL footballers. The club was just as emphatic it had stared down the action and the players had come back.

While Tuddenham and Thompson returned to training, the pair was not completely welcomed back into the fold. Within hours of their return, the two were replaced as part of the leadership core. Terry Waters was appointed captain, and Wayne Richardson as vice-captain.

On face value, it didn't impact on the team, as Collingwood went on to one of its most dominant seasons. Yet just when it seemed the 1970 premiership cup was theirs for the taking, the Magpies lost what was considered the unlosable 1970 Grand Final, squandering a 44-point half-time lead.

Some wondered if the strike action earlier in the year - and the decision to replace Tuddenham as captain - might have impacted on the unity of the team and the club at an inopportune time. That's an undefinable question that no one will ever know.


Len Thompson played 268 games for Collingwood between 1965 and 1978.

But the divisions could not be hidden a year later when coach Bob Rose sought to have Tuddenham restored as leader. The board was not yet prepared to forgive and voted against his reinstatement. Tuddy was overlooked as club captain in 1971, even if he was appointed skipper of Victoria that same season.

Tuddenham would leave Collingwood at the end of the 1971 season, going on to be captain-coach of Essendon before returning to Collingwood for two seasons in 1976-77.

Thompson went on to win the 1972 Brownlow Medal, but was seemingly always locked in a pay dispute with the club over the years before being traded to South Melbourne at the end of the 1978 season.

In time both players would admit to some regret at how the events of late February-early March 1970 panned out as part of their reconnection to the club, while still arguing the actions of the Collingwood committee caused the initial problem in the first place

Whoever was at fault, and however many headlines the 'Tuddenham and Thompson strike' created; it remains one of the most contentious news stories in the club's 125 seasons.

Headliners - Collingwood's Top 25 News Stories since 1925

No. 25 - McKenna snubbed

No. 24 - Leaving Victoria Park

No. 23 - A pre-season shock

No. 22 - The arrival of a new star

No. 21 - The Grand Final furore

No. 20 - A life ban

No. 19 - Headliners No. 19: Somerville Incident

No. 18 - The Healy-Adams clash

No. 17 - The defection

No. 16 - The Tyson sacking

No. 15 - A bitter election

No. 14 - Eddie arrives

No. 13 - The defections

No. 12 - Two heroes quit

No. 11 - The suspensions

No. 10 - Pies in strife

No. 9 - Our most tumultuous hours

No. 8 - A Magpie handover

No. 7 - A stand at Victoria Park

No. 6 - The toughest year