Jackson, the league’s chief executive when Port Adelaide entered the AFL in 1997, is concerned the South Australian club is talking its way out of a premiership while seeking to win the long-running battle to wear its traditional black-and-white “prison bars” guernsey in Showdowns.
“If they carry this on for too long, it will distract the players and the team by having the issue become bigger than Ben-Hur,” Jackson told InDaily.
“They have made their point. Now they need to make sure they win some games – and focus on their real goal, their second AFL premiership.
“There is a real risk of taking the attention of the players away from what is important.”
Port Adelaide president David Koch is caught up in a public slanging match with McGuire, whom he describes as “the Donald Trump of the AFL”.
“It has become churlish,” Jackson said. “This is a moment when Port Adelaide needs to be firm and strong – and sensible.”
Jackson was recently called on by Port’s leadership team to review the conditions attached to its AFL entry in 1997; in particular, the need to add teal and silver to its uniform to avoid a jumper clash with the black-and-white Collingwood.
No document has been uncovered to show Port Adelaide signed away its rights to wearing black and white in the AFL, as it has done in the State league SANFL since 1902.
The club has worn black-and-white jumpers five times in the AFL – for heritage rounds in 2003 and 2007, the farewell game at Football Park in 2013, the 2014 elimination final against Richmond and to celebrate its 150th anniversary in last year’s lone Showdown at Adelaide Oval.
Jackson has subsequently advised a senior Port Adelaide leader on how the battle to wear black and white annually can be finally won – with AFL approval.
“The AFL language has changed on this matter in the past week or two,” Jackson said.
AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan has described Port Adelaide’s plea to wear the prison bars in the Showdown as a “fair request”, despite banning the guernsey being used in Saturday night’s 49-point win against the Crows at Adelaide Oval.
Port Adelaide players changed from their black V-line jumper to the black-and-white bars on returning to the changerooms for the post-match celebrations and singing of the club anthem in recognition of taking a 25-24 lead in the Showdown ledger.
This has created its own sideshow, in particular with McGuire claiming the act was a “direct poke in the eye to Gillon McLachlan and the AFL Commission” and “Port Adelaide is playing with fire now … they’re starting to overplay their hand a little bit here.”
Jackson always has argued Port Adelaide needed to wait for McGuire to abdicate – as he did in February after a 22-year reign at Collingwood – to end the saga on its prison bars jumper.
“Now, Eddie has gone and the AFL has opened the door,” said Jackson, the league’s chief executive from 1996-2004. “This is no longer impossible to achieve – and it does not require the AFL to step in.
“Collingwood has a new president (Mark Korda). He does not need the distraction of Eddie carrying on. So Koch and his club’s new chief executive (Matthew Richardson) should meet with Korda and the Collingwood chief executive; they should sit down as mature people to commit to the jumper being worn in Showdowns.
“But Port Adelaide also need to back off making this a public issue.”
Port Adelaide senior assistant coach Michael Voss says the jumper issue is out of the changerooms and back in the executive offices and he never feared a distraction to the players. However, he accepts Jackson’s advice that the battle is best left with club leaders.
“If distractions are about following through on what you believe in, then it is a worthwhile distraction to have,” Voss said. “We are pretty strong on our culture and our background and our heritage. And we are keen to stand for that. So that never becomes a distraction.
“We have a cause we can believe in. As a player you want to get behind that cause. It is a significant piece for us – and at the same time we have a job to do.
“For us, it is about parking that conversation and letting the powers to be have those conversations behind closed doors.
“Clearly, as you can tell the prison bars are symbolic for our football club. And we are keen to make sure they represent us going forward. Those conversations will be had. It won’t be let go. But for us (as a team) it is time to move on.”
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