Collingwood president Eddie McGuire’s on-air outburst this morning over Neil Mitchell’s decision to name the Collingwood players being questioned by police over an alleged sexual assault is threatening to tear a rift in the Melbourne media establishment.

McGuire’s blast, which was delivered on his daily Triple M radio show not long after the 9am morning news, came after the player’s names were kept from public knowledge for four days on the slightly unsteady pretense the police investigation would be prejudiced.

As Crikey reported yesterday, the names have been an open secret for days on online football forums and social media sites such as Twitter. An “off-broadway” website (in McGuire’s words) revealed the names of the two players involved in the police investigations on Monday afternoon, but major media outlets remained silent until Mitchell’s broadcast this morning.

As well as labelling Mitchell as a hypocrite and a “self-appointed, self-important windbag”, McGuire went on to say that the 3AW shock jock had committed a “disgraceful act” and that he had misrepresented the situation that the Collingwood Football Club had threatened media outlets to not publish the names.

“Neil Mitchell stands charged of being irresponsible and possibly even illegal in his utterances this morning,” said McGuire. “3AW should be absolutely ashamed of themselves.”

McGuire said his radio program would not name the players “not because they’re Collingwood people”, and that the revelation was a part of Mitchell’s “grab for ratings”:

“These players, their names, their reputations, their families their possibly even the case that is up before them has now been prejudiced by outside media influence for no other reason than a blatant grab for ratings and notoriety and to have me probably have a go like this right now.”

But McGuire would appear to be on shaky ground, because in his previous role as host of The Footy Show in 2004 the program discussed the Milne-Montagna rape allegations before charges had even been considered (they were never laid). The intrepid reporter who broke the story, Craig Hutchison (who initially incorrectly named Justin Koschitzke as being involved), was later hired by Nine as a reporter on The Footy Show while McGuire was CEO at Nine.

The Collingwood boss has also talked at length about the allegations against Brendan Fevola on Triple M — despite the two being firm friends through Collingwood’s failed attempts to recruit the star forward.

Furthermore, the Herald Sun — which was quick to repeat Mitchell’s exclusive this morning — appear to have removed all stories where the paper said it “chose not to name the players”.  Links from Google News to many of the Hun stories published prior to today’s outing land on a ‘page not found’ site.

Interestingly, McGuire revealed he was set to meet with Mitchell and “other people” for lunch tomorrow — presumably the same Melbourne power elite get together mentioned during Bruce Guthrie’s recent unfair dismissal case.

Peter Fray

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