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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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