Collingwood flag unveiling start time changed after fan fury over AFL premiership ‘gimmick’

Collingwood have marginally pushed back the slated start time of their premiership flag unfurling ahead of this Friday night’s AFL blockbuster with Sydney.

The Magpies issued a media update on Tuesday revealing the unfurling ceremony would begin at 6.15pm, an hour and 25 minutes before the first bounce at 7.40pm.

Fans learned of the early start time when AFL 360 reported a 6.16pm start time, linking it to the 2023 grand final victory resulting in their 16th flag.

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But the timing went down poorly with Pies supporters, who were concerned that most of the 80,000 fans expected to turn up to the MCG wouldn’t make it there for the ceremony.

“Since ‘Fly’ (coach Craig McRae) took over Collingwood he said he wanted to give the club back to the fans,” one wrote.

“A 6.16pm flag unveiling is clearly not for the fans, given the gates open 16 minutes before hand.

“If the mantra Fly spoke about is correct, surely you change it to maximise the crowd.”

Another member added: “Come on Collingwood, rethink this — 6.16pm is a gimmick for something as important as a lag unveiling.

“Half our fans won’t be able to get there in time. Do it at 16 minutes before 7pm (6.44pm) if you want a gimmick.”

But in an updated timeline sent to media by the club on Thursday, the Magpies confirmed the unfurling has now been pushed back — by nine minutes.

Gates open at 5.30pm and a Welcome to Country will be held at 6.16pm, with the premiership flag unfurling ceremony to commence at 6.24pm.

Original plans had the ceremony going for 20 minutes but it has now been cut to just 10.

It will end at 6.34pm, in preparation for the ground to be cleared for Collingwood’s warm-up at 6.50pm.

Collingwood achieved the ultimate last year. Credit: Michael Willson/AFL Photos/AFL Photos via Getty Images

AFL 360’s Gerard Whateley questioned whether the early start might have been because the club has become gun shy following the criticism levelled at them by 1990 Magpies premiership coach Leigh Matthews.

Matthews, who also coached McRae during the Brisbane Lions’ premiership three-peat, took aim at Collingwood’s ‘over-celebrating’ for launching a documentary less than two weeks before the Magpies began their flag defence.

“Revisiting something that happened six months ago, to me that’s never helpful,” the four-time premiership coach said on 3AW last week.

Before the nine-minute change had been made, Whateley said there would not be “a whole critical mass” of fans inside the ground by 6.16pm.

“I hope it’s not that they’re starting to feel awkward about still looking like they’re celebrating (last year’s premiership). This is one of the quaint, beautiful traditions of the game,” the broadcaster said.

“It’s been done at various stages with great pomp and fervour. Wasn’t, (at) Collingwood’s last one, Presti (former Collingwood defender Simon Prestigiacomo) up on the scoreboard sending the flag down?

Simon Prestigiacomo did not play in the 2010 premiership, and retired at the end of that season, but was involved in the flag unfurling at the start of 2011. Credit: Mark Dadswell/Getty Images

“That strikes me as very unusual that it would be so far ahead of when the major part of the crowd will arrive. That’s a stretch to arrive at 6.16.

“Is it because Leigh Matthews called them out on eating popcorn and watching a movie? Does his reach stretch that far? Has it made them feel awkward, self-conscious about it?

“If this is a ceremony for the people, that’s going to miss most of the people.”

Collingwood are also inviting fans to the club’s headquarters from 3pm where there will be a barbeque, food trucks, face painting and giveaways.

From there, club great Paul Licuria will lead a 15-minute march to the ‘G departing at 5.10pm.

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