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With Robson gone, what's next for Essendon?

Ian Robson's resignation as Essendon's CEO wasn't unexpected, but senior footy reporter Jake Niall says there are likely to be more casualties in the fallout.

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Ian Robson was gracious and sporting when he fell on his sword during another sad Windy Hill chapter in the disappointing recent off-field story of the Essendon Football Club. But in doing so, he studiously avoided two key questions.

One was whether people at the football club had let down the Bombers' chief executive. Robson said it wasn't for him to say. The other was whether James Hird was the right man to coach Essendon. As the former chief executive, Robson said, that was a question for the president.

Now that Robson has rightly been forced to resign, chairman David Evans has apologised and placed himself at the mercy of his club members, and conditioning coach Dean Robinson under suspension pending a permanent removal, Hird's survival must again come under scrutiny.

Former Essendon Bombers CEO Ian Robson

Former Essendon Bombers CEO Ian Robson. Photo: Getty Images

Andrew Demetriou reminded the public on Monday night that a ''shocked'' Hird took full responsibility for his footballers' position when the Essendon peptides scandal broke. Yet Hird has - far from apologising - insisted his club would be in a very good position when this saga is complete.

You could not say that now. Those players grilled by ASADA and the AFL have been discomforted by the messages in the grillings they have received, and still we wait to hear whether they have taken anything illegal.

Robson did not know about the ''disturbing … pharmacologically experimental environment never adequately controlled or challenged'' - Ziggy Switkowski's words - and Hird did, so you'd have to wonder where that leaves the much-loved coach.

His best defence appears to be a leaked email demanding (with no evidence he adequately checked) all supplements and methods employed were WADA-compliant and safe.

Evans and Robson directly linked the chief executive's resignation with the findings of Switkowski, which held Robson's position ultimately accountable. That the board took at least a fortnight following the report's release to remove Robson seems strange, but the Bombers right now are slave to several masters.

The Bombers have been to a degree reliant upon the public relations advice of senior spin doctor Elizabeth Lukin. Hird's legal team has also hired PR advice.

And then there is the thicket of queen's counsels and senior counsels advising the various parties. The club has one, Hird has one, Dean Robinson has one and the assistant coaches - although not Mark Thompson - and football staff share another.

Another is the AFL, which will sit in judgment of the club once ASADA completes its investigation. The impression remains that Evans is working in close consultation with league boss Demetriou, and Demetriou has consistently gone out of his way to praise Evans at any opportunity.

The same cannot be said for Robson, whose name has rarely escaped Demetriou's lips in recent months - until now.

This is not to suggest Demetriou has not been totally sincere in his support for Evans but their relationship is strong and familial. Evans' father, Ron, with fellow commissioner Bill Kelty, formed Demetriou's power base and orchestrated his move from the players union to the AFL executive.

That the football department ''alpha males'' rode over Robson was evidential in the handling of their push for a stand-alone VFL team and the Wangaratta pre-season debacle to which Robson drove and the team and coaches attempted to fly. Robson, not Hird, apologised then also. Now he has become the high profile fall-guy but the view is he won't be the last. Whether or not the club will remove Hird remains to be seen, but is unlikely when you consider that other master every club serves - its supporters.