Collingwood will head into battle against West Coast on Saturday night without one of their biggest midfield weapons.
Instead of scorching up and down the Optus Stadium wings, Steele Sidebottom will instead be watching on from home on the couch.
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The star midfielder made the decision to step out of the AFL bubble and leave his Collingwood teammates in late August. He opted to return to Melbourne to be with his then pregnant partner Alisha Edwards.
On September 12, Sidebottom and Edwards welcomed baby girl Matilda into the world with the Pies star posting three images of the new family member with the caption: “Matilda arrived on Saturday and it was the happiest and proudest day of my life. Lish was an absolute star and we are excited to become a family of three”.
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As his teammates go up against the Eagles as the underdogs, Sidebottom will be tuning in – most likely with the volume down low – and willing his club on as they look to advance to a semi-final showdown against Geelong.
The number 11 pick from the 2008 draft has produced a stellar career in the black and white stripes, but made the easy decision to step away to be with his partner for the birth of his first child. A decision that had the backing of the club.
“It’s always been this way, by the way, it’s not a new story,” Collingwood president Eddie McGuire said.
“It might be new to everybody here, but obviously Alisha is having a baby, their first baby, and it wasn’t applicable (for her) to go up to Queensland.”
Collingwood were hopeful Sidebottom could return in time for finals action, but the star opted to stay in Melbourne and be with his partner and daughter.
Sidebottom wasn’t the only player to leave the AFL hub this season with Geelong’s Gary Ablett flying home in July to be with his partner Jordan and son Levi who the couple
announced was diagnosed with a rare and degenerative disease.
Sidebottom endured a rollercoaster 2020 season where he was hit with a four-match suspension after he and teammate Lynden Dunn breached the AFL’s coronavirus protocols
After the round four loss against GWS, the duo visited injured teammate Jeremy Howe before taking an Uber — which is not allowed under the AFL’s strict guidelines — back to Dunn’s home.
Sidebottom is reported to have visited the home of part-time Collingwood employee Daniel Wells, who is not among the approved staff members players can be in contact with.
A witness told The Herald Sun Sidebottom was “partially naked” when he was spotted by police.
Sidebottom played nine games in the 2020 season with his last outing coming during a round 13 victory against North Melbourne.