David Evans' shock resignation from the chair of the Essendon Football Club is perhaps a sign that no person, or their position, is more important to the club than James Hird. Not even one whose birthright was such that he was a logical chairman of a board that has been headed by so many outstanding people.

The supplements scandal in which the club is embroiled is, by now, much more than a story about sportsmen and the overreach for success. The parting of ways between the president, Evans, and the coach, Hird, has come to a spectacular end. Hird, it seems, knew his fate and didn't like it. Neither did others at the club. It appeared he was to be the sacrificial lamb.

In reprisal at what he perceived as an injustice, the Bomber coach sought to inflict damage on AFL boss, Andrew Demetriou. The invidiousness of the position this imposed on Evans is clear. The president had forced on him a Sophie's choice, between club and friend.

Perhaps Hird believed he was no-more guilty of a sporting crime than the players, but was the one to be punished and forever besmirched. While sympathisers say his worst crime has been naivete, it was he who on February 5, the day Essendon self-reported on the issue, said: ''I take full responsibility for what happens in our football department.''

He can resile neither from the sentiment nor from its fundamental truth.

Protecting the players from sanctions appears to have been Evans' major priority. If they were deceived, and even abused, while going about their work, every effort would be directed to sparing them further distress. Even if that meant Hird suffered.

A playing list of athletes on international sport's register of drug offenders is hardly what Essendon or the AFL would want. That those players would be sidelined for an extended period, distressed at health ramifications, distraught at damage to their reputations, and perhaps willing to vent their fury on their club via legal reprisal, would be an equally worrying prospect.

Yet for all the logic of this, the club's reverence towards one of its three most iconic players has prevailed. Despite Hird's being inextricably bound to the scandal, the club has held faster to him than to the chairman.

Meanwhile, just as the strain has been telling on prominent figures at Essendon, one wonders whether the same might be true within the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority. The quality of advice delivered by ASADA on the status of the supplement AOD-9604 has long appeared as a significant issue. Also, in recent days, there has re-emerged a claim that in the early days of the investigation an indication was given to Essendon by ASADA that a ''no-fault defence'' could apply in its case.

This, in turn, has caused division to extend to some News Ltd journalists with different perspectives on the same story. Last Wednesday, the Daily Telegraph's Rebecca Wilson delivered a scathing attack on The Australian's Patrick Smith. Wilson claims a document obtained by her paper outlined ''a deal struck between the AFL and ASADA'' in late February. Smith described the content of the document as not a deal, rather ''a framework for a very difficult and unique investigation''.

Sufficiently aroused to anger at that, Wilson was also miffed at Smith's description of her and some of her colleagues as NRL ''sympathisers and sycophants''. She concluded her response by predicting that the story ''is about to get bigger and those who continue to rant whenever a truth is revealed may soon have many eggs on their smug faces''.

Clearly, there is suspicion in the NRL world about that February document, which indicated that the AFL club's players could qualify for a ''no-fault'' defence. Roy Masters reported in The Age on such ''a deal'' back in March. But the CEO of ASADA, Aurora Andruska, told Masters at the time: ''The only time a zero sanction has been given was when the athlete has been unconscious during surgery by a doctor.'' Yet the talk has continued of Essendon's players escaping sanction.

Essendon has pinned much of its hope on the argument that AOD-9604 is not performance enhancing. This is countered by the report in Saturday's Age that the application of the supplement to footballers has been used by its promoters to demonstrate its muscle mass building, and muscle recovery, qualities.

Meanwhile, there has been ongoing speculation at the likelihood of the Bombers forfeiting their points this year and, thus, not playing in the finals. Such a tough call, and bitter pill, could be seen as an antidote to whatever criticism may have been forthcoming were the players to escape sanction. Were it to happen, though, the possibility of legal action - at the least to forestall the effect of such a penalty - couldn't be ignored.

But who knows what to expect. A club known for its solidity, which has now lost its CEO and chairman during this extraordinary season, is in total chaos. Whether its unconditional devotion to its favourite son will see it out of the darkness is anyone's guess.