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Blind pride drove coach's denial and bodies piled up

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Full statement: Hird attacks AFL 'trial by media'

AFL release of details of charges is an "announcement by ambush" and "confirms the AFL is running an agenda", says James Hird as he restates he will contest charges.

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James Hird's coaching career could have been salvaged in February on the day he said with straight and solemn face that he was ''shocked'' to be sitting in the uncomfortable position that he was.

The Essendon coach will say now that Andrew Demetriou and his team are hell-bent on destroying him. But he has brought this on himself. 

In April, too, when the depth of Hird's involvement in the perilous drugs program he pushed, embraced and involved himself in was first revealed, he could have stood aside and worked to salvage his reputation and help his club.

Essendon coach James Hird.

Essendon coach James Hird. Photo: Pat Scala

Last month before he declared his phoney war on the AFL, that option remained open to Hird.

Instead, in choosing to place himself and his precious reputation above that of the game he once made more beautiful but has now helped make so ugly, Hird looks finished.

The Essendon coach will say now that Andrew Demetriou and his team are hell-bent on destroying him. But he has brought this on himself.

As badly as he behaved behind the scenes in 2011 and 2012 it has been the manner in which he has conducted himself in 2013 that has brought Hird undone.

He has been revealed in all his selfishness, his refusal to listen to reason, to heed warnings that seemed obstacles to his naked ambition.

A scandal that could have been resolved by now drags on - and drags the game down with it. Even in speaking to the charges against Essendon on Wednesday Hird spoke only of himself and being ''ambushed''. No mention of his players.

The Hird story will surely become a cautionary tale for all football clubs. The tale of a football hero who was handed the keys to the entire operation and was allowed to believe he could do no wrong. Even if Hird had been more responsible, even if he hadn't wanted to cut corners and allowed his players to be treated like guinea pigs, such a scenario was unhealthy from the start.

Inside and outside the club, Hird was surrounded by yes men. He is seen by the Bombers as inexorably tied to their brand. At some point, if the club is to resolve this war with the AFL, it must cut Hird loose.

Against the better judgment of at least two former presidents, Danny Corcoran was welcomed back to the club despite the messy manner in which he departed in the 1990s. What James wanted James was given. Corcoran's job description included protecting Hird from people he didn't want to deal with. And to get rid of people Hird no longer wanted.

Between them, with the powerful support of Mark Thompson, they ran the football club, casting aside those who stepped in their path. The joint AFL-ASADA investigation was told that Hird, at the end of 2011, wanted chief executive Ian Robson and football boss Paul Hamilton out of the club. If that was his wish, then he got his way in the end.

Hird, Corcoran and Thompson worked together with the support of Dr Bruce Reid. Even Reid's blind faith in Hird was put to one side when he wrote that heartfelt letter listing his concerns about the drugs program back in January 2012. ''… one wonders,'' wrote Reid, ''… whether you would want your children being injected with a derivative hormone that is not free to the community.''

That letter was addressed to Hird, and all the coach would say when he put on his latest defiant front late on Wednesday was that he was being denied natural justice and the release of the letter was designed to damage his reputation.

All year, Hamilton has carried the burden of being thought the lone recipient of the letter.

But if that was indeed the AFL's aim then it was effective. Hird said he denied the charges but all his supportive comments covered process and timing but nothing else. He has known of these charges for 10 days but all he clung to was a discredited allegation that the AFL had ''known'' since February that AOD-9604 was legal. They haven't and it isn't.

Those supporters praying James would ''say it ain't so'' heard nothing from the coach on Wednesday to allay their fears. Hypocritically, he stated he was a victim of a ''trial by media'', which was a bit rich given the spinning he has orchestrated in recent months.

Twice he said he had been ambushed, but he has known for close to a week that this was coming. Demetriou said as much. His blindness to the severity of his position is shown by the legal nonsense his people continue to peddle.

Hird's supporters, including Thompson and Reid and some media, keep saying that the AFL has been playing with their lives. If only Hird had not experimented with the lives of his players.

Reid circulated his letter but nothing was done. Then, in May 2012, Thompson told Stephen Dank to stop the injections. Still they continued.

So many of the major players who helped Hird on his path to power have proved to be collateral damage as he resolutely refuses to take the blame for overseeing and embracing the most irresponsible and potentially dangerous drug program in the history of the game.

Chairman David Evans was cast aside because Hird became paranoid he was no longer supporting the coach as he should.

Hird leaked a story about Demetriou and ludicrously allowed his yes men to allege the AFL chief could end up in prison for tipping off Essendon about the Australian Crime Commission report. At that moment he put himself above the game and diametrically at odds with Evans, who was too close to the coach to have a healthy working relationship. Evans continues to have his heart broken by Hird.

The charges also allege that Hird believed Dr Reid was becoming outdated. Perhaps he, too, would have become collateral damage.

How much more collateral damage will Hird inflict before he finally understands once and for all that the buck must stop with him?

107 comments

  • Someone call the whambulance, Hird has had his feelings hurt.

    He needs to stop playing the victim now and own up to what he has done. The more that is revealed the deeper he digs his head into the sand.

    He needs to be fired, Essendon needs to be fined and points taken away and the boys will need a lot of help to get over the betrayal of trust that has happened here. The sooner the better.

    Commenter
    AussieA
    Date and time
    August 22, 2013, 9:58AM
    • The doctor cares about the players health, Hird only cares about winning and his pay check. These charges will be decided on evidence and facts not Hird's self entitled ego or whether you are a Bombers supporter or not or you win matches. Hird is not Essendon. . Open the other eye and see the damage he is doing to a great football club.

      Commenter
      G Sacramento
      Date and time
      August 22, 2013, 10:21AM
    • AussieA, just like Caroline Wilson when are you going to learn that there is a system that "one is presumed innocent until proven guilty"...What is wrong with people like you that judge so prematurely and ask for blood "all of the time". Let Hird & the EFC have the right to go to court to defend themselves if "they believe" they are innocent and the "Supreme Court" will make the "final decision" not you or anyone else that is outside this investigation. Please stop "the crap, the alligations, the hear says, the misinformation which is then somewhat corrected & then reversed" to suit the media and anyone that wants blood. Talk about biblical "injustice" prosecution....just shut up and wait for "the facts & evidence" to surface when court procedures commence....If Hird & the EFC are proven innocent, start calling for media and AFL heads to roll and then we will see what happens.....which is "very little" as the AFL will state they acted in the best interest which to protect themselves at any cost regardless if "they brought the game into desrepute"...The AFL have failed in many areas, including the way they have conducted themselves to the clubs & the public...what a joke the media (Caroline Wilson), the CEO (Andrew Demitroiu) & the AFL are.

      Commenter
      Ajax
      Date and time
      August 22, 2013, 10:34AM
    • @Ajax, Matthew Lloyd, on 3AW this very morning said that "Essendon should be fined and lose draft picks" for what has been done during Hird's watch.....please continue....

      Commenter
      shemp
      Location
      melb
      Date and time
      August 22, 2013, 10:45AM
    • Ajax and the ASADA report will prove what? Does it need to stand up in court? More powerful sporting bodies and athletes have tried and failed at trying to fight bans.

      Commenter
      Dave
      Date and time
      August 22, 2013, 10:47AM
    • Seems no-one at the club was prepared to cross The Don and his capo henchmen. Evans, Robson and Hamilton realised things were out of control but felt unable to do anything about it and resigned instead. Even the poor Doc was conflicted - he must have known that his resignation would have precipitated this crisis and didn't want responsibility for that, putting love of club before what would have been the right course of action.
      Hird has thrown all those who doubted him to the wolves - those that are left are going to go down with him, including the victims-in-waiting - the players.
      Little should resign with him - his actions in recent days illustrate a lack of the good judgement required for the position.

      Commenter
      Doug
      Location
      Canberra
      Date and time
      August 22, 2013, 10:49AM
    • Im over people confusing criminal law with The AFL's administration of its own policies - the AFL can administer its own documented policies however it likes ... It isn't criminal law .. And Hird is not in front of a judge facing jail time ...

      Commenter
      MrWhippy
      Date and time
      August 22, 2013, 10:58AM
    • @Ajax. Any true Essendon supporter will want this matter resolved very soon. If it goes to the courts it will drag on well into the 2014 season and perhaps beyond. The Bombers have lost their last 4 games due to the sideshow, have fallen outside the top 4 as a result and will be a walk over in this year's finals. Sooner or later sanity will prevail and Hird will be sacked by the club.

      Commenter
      Bio Logical
      Location
      perth
      Date and time
      August 22, 2013, 11:18AM
    • Well written article. The only one who can't see it is Hird.

      I'm wondering if his ambition is just too blind. He's totally off the beaten track. Maybe AFL is just still in the untrained limbo between sport and corporate business and hasn't fully found its professional footing and he's a symptom of that.

      Maybe he just couldn't see it, and never will.

      I would have thought a 12 month ban was a mere slap on the wrist. I suspect the High Court will consider far more severe consequences for his actions.

      Commenter
      sarajane
      Location
      melbourne
      Date and time
      August 22, 2013, 11:25AM
    • Interesting spin, shemp. But you somehow neglected to mention that Lloyd prefaced his comments with "If the charges are proven". A slight but rather telling omission! Continue ...

      Commenter
      Laki
      Location
      Windy Hill
      Date and time
      August 22, 2013, 11:26AM

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Related Coverage

Statement in full: Hird attacks AFL 'trial by media' (Thumbnail) Full statement: Hird attacks AFL 'trial by media'

AFL release of details of charges is an "announcement by ambush" and "confirms the AFL is running an agenda", says James Hird as he restates he will contest charges.

AFL has 'open mind' on Essendon charges (Thumbnail) AFL has 'open mind' on Essendon charges

"There has been no predetermination of this matter," says AFL chief Andrew Demetriou as he releases details of charges against the club.

Dons rejected penalties

The AFL wanted Essendon to accept a series of penalties which included exclusion from the 2013 finals, the loss of draft picks for two years, a fine of more than $2.5 million and a suspension of 12 months for coach James Hird.

James Hird to sue over AFL 'ambush'

James Hird is suing the AFL, lodging a claim with the Victorian Supreme Court that he has been denied natural justice.

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Essendon is heading to the Supreme Court after the AFL released details of the charges it faces for conduct unbecoming. Stay tuned for all the reaction to the dramatically escalating brawl between the Bombers and the league over the club's controversial supplements program.

Verbal pushing and shoving most unbecoming

Everyone needs to step back and ask: Why was Essendon anywhere near that line in the first place?

Tim Watson's conflicted role in Essendon saga

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Round 1
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CAR 78 vs RIC 105 Report Stats
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MEL 115 vs GCF 89 Stats
SYD 72 vs ESS 60 Stats
BRI 74 vs COL 86 Stats
WBU 97 vs WCE 87 Stats
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STK 78 vs GWS 87 Stats
ADE 140 vs NTH 63 Stats
FRE 75 vs PTA 68 Stats
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HAW 123 vs GEE 61 Stats
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RIC 66 vs WBU 85 Report Stats
GWS 101 vs MEL 56 Stats
COL 63 vs ADE 90 Report Stats
GCF 76 vs STK 104 Stats
PTA 44 vs SYD 92 Stats
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GEE 60 vs FRE 104 Stats
ESS 78 vs HAW 76 Stats
NTH 133 vs BRI 51 Stats
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COL 140 vs STK 66 Stats
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CAR 84 vs ESS 105 Stats
ADE 80 vs MEL 55 Stats
SYD 111 vs GWS 90 Report Stats
NTH 105 vs PTA 113 Stats
BRI 58 vs RIC 137 Stats
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HAW 127 vs WBU 57 Stats
GEE 105 vs GCF 96 Stats
WCE 81 vs FRE 111 Stats
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Fri, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
RIC 51 vs MEL 83 Stats
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ESS 49 vs COL 69 Report Stats
GWS 119 vs GCF 53 Stats
PTA 99 vs HAW 91 Stats
FRE 74 vs SYD 60 Stats
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BRI 65 vs WCE 118 Stats
GEE 67 vs NTH 83 Stats
WBU 125 vs ADE 68 Stats
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CAR 45 vs COL 120 Stats
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RIC 76 vs GEE 85 Stats
SYD 73 vs WBU 77 Stats
GCF 118 vs BRI 54 Stats
NTH 70 vs HAW 130 Stats
WCE 120 vs GWS 33 Stats
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MEL 50 vs FRE 118 Stats
STK 80 vs ESS 82 Stats
ADE 91 vs PTA 115 Stats
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COL 59 vs GEE 100 Stats
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NTH 109 vs RIC 74 Stats
WBU 87 vs STK 94 Stats
GWS 108 vs HAW 98 Stats
GCF 78 vs ADE 119 Stats
MEL 50 vs SYD 88 Stats
FRE 80 vs ESS 52 Stats
Sun, 10 MayTimes shown AEST
CAR 75 vs BRI 84 Report Stats
PTA 68 vs WCE 78 Stats
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Round 7
Fri, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
ESS 82 vs NTH 93 Stats
Sat, 16 MayTimes shown AEST
ADE 119 vs STK 73 Stats
HAW 155 vs MEL 50 Stats
CAR 57 vs GWS 135 Stats
SYD 120 vs GEE 77 Stats
WCE 135 vs GCF 43 Stats
Sun, 17 MayTimes shown AEST
WBU 88 vs FRE 101 Stats
RIC 105 vs COL 100 Report Stats
BRI 102 vs PTA 65 Report Stats
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Round 8
Fri, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
GEE 140 vs CAR 63 Report Stats
Sat, 23 MayTimes shown AEST
STK 78 vs WCE 131 Report Stats
GWS 108 vs ADE 84 Report Stats
GCF 63 vs COL 132 Report Stats
HAW 69 vs SYD 73 Report Stats
FRE 115 vs NTH 42 Report Stats
Sun, 24 MayTimes shown AEST
ESS 136 vs BRI 78 Report Stats
MEL 103 vs WBU 64 Report Stats
PTA 43 vs RIC 76 Report Stats
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Round 9
Fri, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
SYD vs CAR 19:50SCG
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HAW vs GCF 13:45AS
MEL vs PTA 14:10TIO Traeger Park
WBU vs GWS 16:35ES
RIC vs ESS 19:20MCG
ADE vs FRE 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 31 MayTimes shown AEST
BRI vs STK 13:10G
COL vs NTH 15:20MCG
WCE vs GEE 16:40Domain Stadium
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Round 10
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FRE vs RIC 20:10Domain Stadium
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CAR vs ADE 13:40MCG
GCF vs SYD 16:35MS
ESS vs GEE 19:20ES
PTA vs WBU 19:40Adelaide Oval
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GWS vs BRI 13:10Spotless Stadium
NTH vs WCE 15:20BA
STK vs HAW 16:40ES
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MEL vs COL 15:20MCG
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Round 11
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PTA vs GEE 19:50Adelaide Oval
Sat, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
GCF vs FRE 13:40MS
WCE vs ESS 16:35Domain Stadium
NTH vs SYD 19:20ES
Sun, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
COL vs GWS 13:10MCG
STK vs MEL 16:40ES
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Round 12
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ADE vs HAW 19:50Adelaide Oval
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RIC vs WCE 19:50MCG
Sat, 20 JunTimes shown AEST
CAR vs PTA 13:40MCG
GWS vs NTH 16:35Spotless Stadium
WBU vs BRI 19:20ES
Sun, 21 JunTimes shown AEST
GEE vs MEL 15:20SS
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Round 13
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FRE vs COL 20:10Domain Stadium
Fri, 26 JunTimes shown AEST
SYD vs RIC 19:50SCG
Sat, 27 JunTimes shown AEST
HAW vs ESS 13:40MCG
BRI vs ADE 16:35G
STK vs WBU 19:20ES
Sun, 28 JunTimes shown AEST
CAR vs GCF 15:20ES
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Round 14
Thu, 02 JulTimes shown AEST
SYD vs PTA 19:20SCG
Fri, 03 JulTimes shown AEST
COL vs HAW 19:50MCG
Sat, 04 JulTimes shown AEST
RIC vs GWS 13:40MCG
GCF vs NTH 16:35MS
WBU vs CAR 19:20ES
MEL vs WCE 19:40TIO
Sun, 05 JulTimes shown AEST
ESS vs STK 13:10ES
ADE vs GEE 15:20Adelaide Oval
FRE vs BRI 16:40Domain Stadium
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Round 15
Thu, 09 JulTimes shown AEST
PTA vs COL 19:50Adelaide Oval
Fri, 10 JulTimes shown AEST
RIC vs CAR 19:50MCG
Sat, 11 JulTimes shown AEST
ESS vs MEL 13:40MCG
WBU vs GCF 16:35CAZ
NTH vs GEE 19:20ES
WCE vs ADE 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 12 JulTimes shown AEST
GWS vs STK 13:10Spotless Stadium
HAW vs FRE 15:20AS
BRI vs SYD 16:40G
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Round 16
Fri, 17 JulTimes shown AEST
NTH vs ESS 19:50ES
Sat, 18 JulTimes shown AEST
GEE vs WBU 13:45SS
GCF vs GWS 14:10MS
COL vs WCE 16:35ES
SYD vs HAW 19:20ANZ
FRE vs CAR 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 19 JulTimes shown AEST
MEL vs BRI 13:10MCG
PTA vs ADE 15:20Adelaide Oval
STK vs RIC 16:40ES
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Round 17
Fri, 24 JulTimes shown AEST
CAR vs HAW 19:50ES
Sat, 25 JulTimes shown AEST
GWS vs GEE 13:45SO
ADE vs GCF 14:10Adelaide Oval
RIC vs FRE 16:35MCG
ESS vs PTA 19:20ES
BRI vs NTH 19:20G
Sun, 26 JulTimes shown AEST
WBU vs COL 13:10ES
MEL vs STK 15:20MCG
WCE vs SYD 16:40Domain Stadium
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Round 18
Fri, 31 JulTimes shown AEST
HAW vs RIC 19:50MCG
Sat, 01 AugTimes shown AEST
GEE vs BRI 13:45SS
COL vs MEL 14:10MCG
SYD vs ADE 16:35SCG
CAR vs NTH 19:20ES
GCF vs WCE 19:20MS
Sun, 02 AugTimes shown AEST
PTA vs STK 13:10Adelaide Oval
ESS vs WBU 15:20ES
FRE vs GWS 16:40Domain Stadium
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Round 19
Fri, 07 AugTimes shown AEST
ADE vs RIC 19:50Adelaide Oval
Sat, 08 AugTimes shown AEST
COL vs CAR 13:45MCG
WBU vs PTA 14:10ES
BRI vs GCF 16:35G
GEE vs SYD 19:20SS
WCE vs HAW 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 09 AugTimes shown AEST
MEL vs NTH 13:10MCG
GWS vs ESS 15:20Spotless Stadium
STK vs FRE 16:40ES
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Round 20
Fri, 14 AugTimes shown AEST
SYD vs COL 19:50SCG
Sat, 15 AugTimes shown AEST
ESS vs ADE 13:45ES
NTH vs STK 14:10BA
PTA vs GWS 16:35Adelaide Oval
GEE vs HAW 19:20MCG
BRI vs CAR 19:20G
Sun, 16 AugTimes shown AEST
RIC vs GCF 13:10MCG
WBU vs MEL 15:20ES
FRE vs WCE 16:40Domain Stadium
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Round 21
Fri, 21 AugTimes shown AEST
HAW vs PTA 19:50ES
Sat, 22 AugTimes shown AEST
COL vs RIC 13:45MCG
GWS vs SYD 14:10Spotless Stadium
GCF vs ESS 16:35MS
STK vs GEE 19:20ES
ADE vs BRI 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 23 AugTimes shown AEST
NTH vs FRE 13:10ES
CAR vs MEL 15:20MCG
WCE vs WBU 16:40Domain Stadium
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Round 22
Fri, 28 AugTimes shown AEST
GEE vs COL 19:50MCG
Sat, 29 AugTimes shown AEST
GWS vs CAR 13:45Spotless Stadium
HAW vs BRI 14:10AS
NTH vs WBU 16:35ES
ESS vs RIC 19:20MCG
GCF vs PTA 19:20MS
Sun, 30 AugTimes shown AEST
ADE vs WCE 13:10Adelaide Oval
STK vs SYD 15:20ES
FRE vs MEL 16:40Domain Stadium
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Round 23
Fri, 04 SepTimes shown AEST
COL vs ESS 00:00MCG
RIC vs NTH 00:00ES
HAW vs CAR 00:00MCG
GEE vs ADE 00:00SS
SYD vs GCF 00:00SCG
MEL vs GWS 00:00ES
BRI vs WBU 00:00G
PTA vs FRE 00:30Adelaide Oval
WCE vs STK 02:00Domain Stadium
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Fremantle 8 8 0 0 155.29 32
West Coast Eagles 8 6 2 0 158.17 24
Sydney Swans 8 6 2 0 127.36 24
GWS Giants 8 6 2 0 118.87 24
Collingwood 8 5 3 0 129.90 20
Adelaide Crows 8 5 3 0 116.32 20
Hawthorn 8 4 4 0 145.81 16
Richmond 8 4 4 0 107.64 16
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