The Machine: The Inside Story of Football's Greatest Team

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Has there ever been a better quarter of footy teams than those that took the field in Collingwood jumpers between 1927 and 1930?

The statistics and history books would say not. They remain the only team in VFL/AFL history to have won four Premierships in a row. The 1929 team is the only one to have gone through a home-and-away season undefeated. The teams and the players set records and benchmarks that stood for decades. And they did it all with such brilliant teamwork that they became universally known as ‘The Machine’.

But while the records and achievements of the Machine Team are well known, the stories behind them are less so. This book takes us inside the dressing rooms and behind the committee-room doors to see the dramas and sensations that the players had to deal with during their tilt at history – from threatened strikes and allegations of bribery to financial scandals and controversial sackings.

The Machine is more than just a football book: it’s also a book about football within a social context. There heroics of those Collingwood teams were played out against a backdrop of social upheaval, bleakness and gloom. The Depression was hitting hard when these teams were at their best – and it hit hardest in suburbs like Collingwood. As with other Depression-era sporting heroes like Don Bradman and Phar Lap, the grim social circumstances of the time seemed to elevate the significance of Collingwood’s achievements. The relationship between club and suburb, between the players and their fans, is central to the story of the Machine.

This book also gives us a rare glimpse into the personal stories of the men who comprised the Machine. Most football followers would know of the Colliers, the Coventrys and coach Jock McHale. But there were 44 other players who pulled on the Guernsey for the club during that heady four-year period. Some enjoyed long careers, others only a handful of games. But each one played a part, and their personal stories are as varied as they are fascinating.

The result is a rich, vibrant and absorbing account of football in a different era – when Collingwood was king of football and the Machine reigned supreme.