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Bombers a shambles

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Essendon players 'safe' from doping fallout

Essendon chairman David Evans tells 3AW's Neil Mitchell, he has full confidence his players are clear, but is less forthcoming about coach James Hird.

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Ziggy Switkowski's damning recommendations detailing the managerial failures at Essendon last season did not call to sack anyone. Nor did it miss anyone already singled out in the shambles that was the football operation of 2012.

Club chairman David Evans said he was deeply sorry about all that had occurred and not only placed himself on notice but would not guarantee the positions held by chief executive Ian Robson, coach James Hird nor football boss Danny Corcoran.

The behaviour of Essendon coach James Hird has been described as ''reckless''.

The behaviour of Essendon coach James Hird has been described as ''reckless''. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo

The Switkowski report

Evans and his board, to whom Switkowski also apportioned some blame, will meet in the coming days to carry out an in-depth review of the unabridged version of the investigation's findings. Structural change will be implemented within the football department and heads could still roll well before the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority and the AFL complete their investigation into a raft of allegations, including that players took banned substances.

The AFL and ASADA will also investigate Stephen Dank's assertion that six Essendon staffers, including Hird and two of his assistant coaches, took substances which are prohibited by the World Anti-Doping Agency.

Robson's future at the club remains in question. He chose not to comment on the Switkowski report on Monday, including the recommendation that "the CEO must be accountable for everything that happens within his organisation".

Just as Hird's inadequacies were explained in part by his lack of experience and the fact he was one of several "alpha males who carry the weight of supporters' expectations on their shoulders", Robson's failure to correctly oversee the dysfunctional football department was highlighted against the "commercial priorities" which consumed his time and attention.

Evans would not say whether any other senior staffer at Essendon had chosen to apologise, and certainly no one working at the club, apart from Evans, has taken any public responsibility. Hird, in fact, after stressing in February that the football operation was his responsibility, said with confidence after the Bombers defeated Fremantle in round three that the club would be in a very good position once all was revealed. That could not be said even after a heavily edited version of Switkowski's findings were made public.

Hird's own behaviour in approving medical and scientific practices which approached the line of risk and WADA compliance was indirectly described as "reckless".

Fairfax Media revealed last month that the Bombers' doctor of three decades, Bruce Reid, had been so concerned about the practices being run by sports scientist Stephen Dank with the football department's approval that he wrote to the board detailing his misgivings. It was also revealed the board never received the letter.

Evans said on Monday he could still not explain, despite the investigation, just who had failed to pass on the letter.

That Reid never mentioned his misgivings to Hird, with whom he has a longstanding friendship, remains inconceivable.

Switkowski confirmed what Reid and his fellow medico Brendan De Morton had already reported to the AFL and ASADA: That they had been frozen out, treated by the fitness team as "yesterday's men''.

The overview of the jab-happy environment at Essendon was described thus: "The rapid diversification into exotic supplements, sharp increase in frequency of injections, the shift to treatment offsite in alternative medicine clinics, emergence of unfamiliar suppliers, marginalisation of traditional medical staff etc, combine to create a disturbing picture of a pharmacologically experimental environment never adequately controlled or challenged."

AFL Players Association chief Matt Finnis, whose barely concealed disgust at the club's treatment of its players has been one punctuation mark throughout this whole sorry saga, described the report as "scary".

Evans described it as "uncomfortable" and said his football club was on notice.

He chose to isolate the black period which bookended the report as "a finite time and not what the club was when it started and not what it is now".

And yet the impression continues to grow that Evans, who on Monday said he would face his members at the the end of the season - bringing forward his election by two years - feels deeply let down by men in whom he once had great faith. Clearly his friendship with Hird has been compromised and it remains telling that the two men have different legal representation and that Hird has hired a separate public relations adviser.

His right-hand man, Corcoran, was singled out as one of two key staffers whose responsibilities overlapped and failed to directly manage the rogue elements in the fitness team.

The other, Paul Hamilton, departed somewhat disenchanted late last year. There are also strong indications that similar "fuzzy lines of responsibility" occurred between Hird and his senior assistant Mark Thompson. Evans did not clarify which level of the club failed to report problems such as potentially inappropriate Medicare claims and concealed such problems in "holding depots".

The club continues to remain confident its players will emerge clean from the ASADA investigation. The same cannot be said of the men entrusted to take care of those players.

109 comments

  • Oh dear, poor journos. This is becoming like the climate changes debate.

    Oops, world not warming quickly enough, quick lets change the definition and call it climate change, then hang all sorts of dastardly scenarios off that.

    Bottom line here is nothing to do with, all of a sudden "corporate governance". As yet no-one anywhere has been proven to have taken anything illegal and or remotely performance enhancing. Which if I’m not mistaken is what this whole investigation is all about.

    Inappropriate practices (and who defines inappropriate here) are nothing to do with cheating or drug taking. Two separate issues. Years ago Chiropractors used inappropriate practices according to the medical profession, now they are regulated, are they all of a sudden appropriate?.

    When and if anybody is found to have cheated with performance enhancing substances, fine, drum them out of the game, it’s all they deserves, but until then, please let’s stop the inappropriate hand wringing.

    Oh, and I'm not an Bombers fan, I'm rather innapropriately a Saints fan.

    Commenter
    Chris
    Location
    Glenelg SA
    Date and time
    May 07, 2013, 8:23AM
    • Lets just wait to see how this scenario play's out. I think you will find that Essendon will not get off scott free. If there is nothing to worry about why are Essendon airing all the dirty laundry now. Basically they have all the spin doctors working their magic and they have definately hoodwinked @chris.
      I can assure you of one thing - despite everything that happens James Hoird will come out of this laughing - he can do no wrong.

      Commenter
      Chopper
      Location
      Windy Hill
      Date and time
      May 07, 2013, 9:13AM
    • @Chris,
      I think you are being myopic here. On numerous levels the report is a lead, to what could possibly be an ugly ending.
      1. On one level this is a PR exercise arranged by Essendon to keep the PR machine moving, possibly deflecting from the real issue, but none the less maintaining control of the communications to the public. After a poor start, I think they are doing well. Many messages are now coming through along the lines that they are victims in all of this.
      2. The report, heavily redacted, concentrates on bad processes, poor governance, and lack of management control. Another way of protecting players and possibly soften the blow of any wrong doing. Lets face it, it is better for a couple of 'office' people (who are no longer are in the club) to be blamed.
      Underneath - if I received an audit report like this in my job, I would be asked to leave on the same day. I would not be allowed to put myself up for re-election in 6 months! If we separate the report from the 'cheating accusations', as you say, then this report still shows unacceptable methods, and ignorant behaviour.

      Commenter
      Aussie Jim
      Date and time
      May 07, 2013, 9:23AM
    • Chopper, I did say "When and if', You can't hoodwink a cynic old china

      Commenter
      Chris
      Location
      Glenelg SA
      Date and time
      May 07, 2013, 9:30AM
    • Chris, as a Saints supporter you should be more worried about the dud of a coach appointed by the cancerous board lead by Greg "Humphrey B Bear" Westaway - the board who will in the end make the decision to relocate the Club to New Zealand.

      Don't think it will happen - just you wait.

      Commenter
      Ho hum....
      Date and time
      May 07, 2013, 9:39AM
    • @Ho hum,

      worry about your own club, mate. After all, your mob are the ones who lost to Gold Coast in the first round, and look like they're on a steady slide down the ladder.

      Commenter
      blu
      Location
      Geelong
      Date and time
      May 07, 2013, 10:11AM
    • Chris, imho anyone who claims not to be a fan of the club they have bothered to defend in the comments section on is lying. You are a Bombers fan desperate to find a way out of the disaster they are now facing (in a year they could actually win the flag!). Ziggy's report is all fluff, you only have to read it (what was released anyway). No detail of what happened. No person singled out. No recommendations on who should be sacked. Nothing about the coach. Just crap about 'fuzziness' and 'distortion' and 'blurring'. The real report is ASADA's and we have to wait until August for that (just before the finals!). And, fyi, I am a Collingwood supporter. The second reason people write comments is to bag the clubs they don't like!

      Commenter
      Psi Cop
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      May 07, 2013, 10:47AM
    • Just a man with a noose around his neck and the trapdoor he stands on about to open suddenly admits his guilt.... Essendon Football Club only called for an "Independant Internal investigation" (is such a thing really possible?) in a desparate attempt to salvage something from this unmitigated disaster.
      Does anyone truly believe the EFC board would have admitted anything if their hand had not been forced? Of course not!
      They deserve to be very harshly judged not just by Asada and the AFL, but by sports journalists everywhere (including Caroline Wilson) and the entire football community (including me) for their completely irresponsible behaviour and for attempting to cover-up their guilt right up until the trapdoor swung.

      Commenter
      Panther
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      May 07, 2013, 10:59AM
    • Chris, global warming and climate change are real. Better roll up your sox before your ankles get wet.
      Best thing is to give football away as a corporate waste of time - gives plenty of time for the cryptic crossword and chess.
      Caroline's got to make a buck and people are completely over discussing the ladder or the draw, margins or impossible angles, sliding rules or post grazing.

      Commenter
      Christopher
      Date and time
      May 07, 2013, 12:04PM
    • I agree very much with most of your comments Chris, but as a big bomber supporter I am disappointed that the club had put themselves into a vunerable situation. There were bad practices in place at Essendon, and hopefully we come out of it as a better club. But we still haven't been found guilty of doing anything sinister other than we put ourselves in a position for something to go seriously wrong. I think everyone at the club needs to take some of the blame....learn from it and move on. Are Melbourne still being looked at? what about the other clubs mentioned ......6 weren't there?

      Commenter
      True Bomber
      Location
      Adelaide
      Date and time
      May 07, 2013, 12:16PM

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