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Caro's Call: An extraordinary week in footy

Chief football writer Caroline Wilson reflects on what has been an extraordinary week in football.

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Doctor Bruce Reid's disenchantment with the fitness and conditioning regime embraced by Essendon coach James Hird has added another damaging layer to the star coach's predicament following allegations he took banned substances.

A respected medico who has been part of the club's inner sanctum for more than three decades, Reid had told the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority and the AFL he was marginalised by that inner sanctum after voicing his fears to several levels of the club's hierarchy.

Reid is not only the Hird family's general practitioner but it was in his offices that club chairman David Evans met Hird when the club legend was being lured back to the club. That he warned Hird and others about the practices being adopted by Dean Robinson and Stephen Dank has been a matter of grave concern for the AFL.

Essendon club doctor Bruce Reid with coach James Hird at training this morning.11th April 2013.Picture Sebastian Costanzo. The Age.

Essendon club doctor Bruce Reid with coach James Hird at Windy Hill training on Thursday. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo

Reid and the club's other doctor Brendan De Morton have been interviewed by ASADA with AFL investigators in attendance. He said he wrote to the board last year expressing his misgivings but according to Essendon on Thursday that letter was never tabled.

Hird is expected to be interviewed next week.

Thursday's allegations made by Dank came as no surprise to the AFL or to Essendon, which has become increasingly concerned at Hird's role in the supplements regime.

James Hird will coach the Bombers against Fremantle on Friday night despite the banned substance allegations against him. <strong>Photo:</strong> Jarrad Seng. Click for more photos

James Hird and Essendon arrive in Perth

James Hird will coach the Bombers against Fremantle on Friday night despite the banned substance allegations against him. Photo: Jarrad Seng.

  • James Hird will coach the Bombers against Fremantle on Friday night despite the banned substance allegations against him. <strong>Photo:</strong> Jarrad Seng.
  • Under fire Essendon coach James Hird was still able to manage a smile when confronted by the media pack. <strong>Photo:</strong> Jarrad Seng.
  • Brownlow medallist Jobe Watson chats to the media on his way through Perth Airport. <strong>Photo:</strong> Jarrad Seng.
  • Essendon club doctor Bruce Reid reportedly voiced his fears at the supplement regime at the AFL club. <strong>Photo:</strong> Jarrad Seng.
  • Bombers captain Jobe Watson cut a figure of grim determination after arriving at Perth Airport. <strong>Photo:</strong> Jarrad Seng.
  • James Hird gets stopped by reporters at Perth Airport. <strong>Photo:</strong> Jarrad Seng.

As recently as Thursday night Evans was briefing parents of Essendon players in Perth. This time the club has included the families of former players along with the current list. The brother of Port Adelaide recruit Angus Monfries, for example, was summoned to Windy Hill on Wednesday night.

Even considering the prospect of an honourable resignation from a club champion headhunted on a multimillion-dollar contract to rebuild his football club is no easy call. But that's the awful dilemma facing Evans as both he and the AFL remain desperately worried about players who unknowingly took substances allegedly not adequately tested for human consumption and potentially banned under the World Anti-Doping Agency code.

AFL chief Andrew Demetriou admitted recently he had erred early last year in not acting more strongly on his fears sport scientists were overruling club doctors. Both the AFL and the players' union spoke out at the time but fell short of changing the rules concerning them within clubs.

AFL Players Association chief Matt Finnis said on Thursday night of the Dank allegations: ''They remain allegations but as to them I can't in my role think of too many more disturbing scenarios than this one.''

The language on Thursday from both Evans and Demetriou made it clear just how seriously they regard the allegations involving Hird.

Evans said no coach or staff member would be stood down until the internal club investigation at the very least had run its course, but he made it clear again how seriously he took the allegations against his senior coach and close friend who has engaged separate legal representation from the club.

''They are very disturbing particularly when they relate to the health and welfare of young men,'' said Demetriou, who added: ''It is very clear that if any coach or official puts the duty of care of their players at risk then they should be held accountable. There is no place for them in the game.''

Demetriou said he was looking forward to hearing what Hird had to say.

Choosing his words carefully regarding Hird's status in the game Demetriou concluded: ''It doesn't matter who you are in this game.''