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Magpies deny Malthouse health rumours

By Adam Cooper 09/08/2006 09:04:39 PM Comments (0)

Collingwood coach Mick Malthouse is experiencing health problems which might prompt him to quit AFL football after this season, it has been claimed.

Malthouse, who turns 53 next week, is in his 23rd season as a coach but is no guarantee to continue coaching in 2007.

The claim was reported on Channel Ten, where Malthouse's daughter Christi is employed as a sports presenter.

She had no on-air involvement in the story.

Collingwood issued a statement emphatically denying the report, which it labelled incorrect, and Magpies president Eddie McGuire also dismissed the claim.

Geelong was also forced into a denial, as its hierarchy played down the on-field impact of a series of rumours, some of a sexual nature, that have plagued the AFL club in recent times.

Coach Mark Thompson and president Frank Costa spoke publicly to dismiss claims of in-fighting between players and also a recent allegation of a sexual nature involving senior club personnel.

The most recent rumour was published on an online chat page on Tuesday, but has since been removed.

Costa admitted the rumours had put Thompson under pressure, but also denied they were true.

"All these nasty innuendos that you're hearing all the time, are a load of rubbish," he told Melbourne radio station SEN.

"There are some awful stories, there was one that came out yesterday or the day before on the internet ... it's totally wrong and I think it's totally unfair."

According to Ten's report on Malthouse, Collingwood is concerned over its coach's health and has been monitoring his well-being since Anzac Day, when he spent the night in hospital with what the club reported was a stomach problem.

Collingwood beat Essendon that day.

It has since been speculated Malthouse has been battling ill-health all season, and that combined with McGuire's possible departure in an official capacity might cause a major upheaval at Collingwood after this season.

McGuire, the president since 1999 and the man who lured Malthouse to the Magpies the following year, was appointed chief executive of the Nine Network earlier this year and is now based in Sydney.

But a spokeswoman for McGuire said Collingwood "would not be responding to issues which aren't true".

McGuire was unavailable for comment and Collingwood chief executive Greg Swann could not be contacted.

Collingwood issued a statement which read: "The Collingwood Football Club strongly denies, as incorrectly reported in Channel Ten's evening news, that its coach Michael Malthouse is in ill heath and may be unable to continue coaching in 2007."

Malthouse is scheduled to hold a press conference on Thursday at 11.30am (AEST), ahead of the Magpies' round 19 game against Essendon on Friday night.

Malthouse is contracted to coach at Collingwood until the end of 2007, while McGuire is yet to commit himself to continuing the presidency next season.

The speculation over Malthouse's health is the latest pre-finals distraction at Collingwood and comes a week after it was revealed Magpies Chris Tarrant and Ben Johnson were involved in a pub brawl in the early hours of July 30.

Collingwood fined both players $5,000 for breaking team rules but played them in last Saturday night's loss to Adelaide after Malthouse conceded they were too important to the side to be suspended.

That incident prompted another distraction, as McGuire claimed Collingwood's disciplinary record was much better now - despite recent off-field troubles - than in 1999.

That prompted a rebuke from club legend Tony Shaw, the coach at the time.

Meanwhile at Geelong, which was also the subject of unsubstantiated rumours about off-season problems last year, Thompson pointed to the Cats' improved form over the past two months as he denied any of the recent claims were true.

"Some of the gossip that the players don't get on and there's fighting and there's blame everywhere, it's just impossible to achieve six wins of the last eight games if that was the case," Thompson said.

"I think they are really rallying against that."

Geelong's improved form has given it an outside chance of playing in the finals provided it can win its last four games.

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