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AFL imposes deadline on Essendon negotiations

Peter Hanlon and Shane McGuiness try to pass the time outside AFL House, awaiting a decision on the fate of Essendon football club.

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The AFL has told Essendon to accept the deal before it or front the commission to contest the charges and risk a harsher punishment.

Should the Bombers fail to agree to a resolution at AFL headquarters on day two of the protracted talks, the proposed sanctions — which seemed close to being settled late on Monday — would be taken off the table with the club facing more severe penalties.

Fairfax Media understands that an agreement between the AFL and Essendon chiefs appeared imminent before nightfall on Monday before senior coach James Hird refused to accept the wording of the charges against him.

Essendon Bombers coach James Hird leaves his Toorak home this morning.

Essendon Bombers coach James Hird leaves his Toorak home this morning. Photo: Penny Stephens

With the Bombers now certain to miss the 2013 finals series, the club will also be banned from participating in rounds one and two of the 2013 national draft. The AFL will also ban the club from a selection in round one of the 2014 draft and possibly the second round.

The club will also be fined up to $2 million with Hird's one-year ban a non-negotiable for the AFL.

It also emerged that Essendon might not be stripped of its points for 2013 but simply banned from the finals in a reworded penalty that could see Bombers players still eligible for the Brownlow Medal, All-Australian, Rising Star and other prestigious upcoming award ceremonies. In the deal on the table, the AFL appears to have abandoned a push to strip Essendon of points from 2012.

The Bombers' VFL team also faces being thrown out of the finals. The VFL has not yet settled its finals fixture on Sunday. The second tier competition is understood to be pushing the AFL for a resolution on Monday in order to potentially reset this weekend's VFL finals.

That move could see Carlton's aligned VFL team the Northern Blues scrape into the VFL finals on percentage ahead of North Ballarat. Carlton's senior team could also take Essendon's place in the finals.

AFL Victoria bosses told the Northern Blues on Sunday to remain on standby for a finals berth. The team trained on Monday night with the Northern Blues reserves side which has qualified for the finals.

The VFL view on Tuesday was that it would follow suit with the AFL in terms of banning Essendon from the 2013 finals.

While Essendon chairman Paul Little last night indicated the club was prepared to legally distance itself from Hird and the other individuals charged, the Bombers new chief had on Monday refused to accept a deal without Hird's agreement.

Hird had not ruled out making good his threat to take the AFL to the Supreme Court as he headed back to the negotiating table on Tuesday. While Essendon had fully accepted its coach would be banned for 12 months, Hird would not accept he was broadly culpable for failing in his duty of care towards his players from late 2011 through the 2012 season.

With the majority of the AFL clubs privately willing the competition's governing body to demonstrate leadership, cease negotiations and take a strong stand against the Bombers' drug practices — a push strongly reflected on talkback radio early on Tuesday — patience appeared to be wearing thin at head office over the Bombers' tactics.

The AFL's chief negotiators Gillon McLachlan and the league's senior counsel Jeff Gleeson, were reportedly determined to complete a settlement by Tuesday afternoon or immediately schedule a contested hearing before the commission.