James Hird has survived as Essendon’s coach in exile having been delivered what appears to have been a final warning from the Bombers board. The suspended Hird and his wife Tania both spoke to the Essendon board at a specially convened meeting on Wednesday morning at the home of Essendon chairman Paul Little, who told the couple they had to allow the club to focus upon its season.
Little is understood to have outlined a more detailed and significantly tougher set of protocols around the Hirds’ public behaviour as part of the suspended coach’s employment agreement with the club.
Essendon chairman Paul Little. Photo: Mal Fairclough
Hird attended the meeting via video hook-up from Singapore while his wife attended in person. Both were emotional and spoke of how they had suffered as a result of feeling forced to accept Hird's one-year suspension. They also spoke of the personal hurt and anguish at ongoing criticism which they believed had been misdirected at Hird.
However the board meeting broke up with the Essendon directors largely satisfied that Hird and his wife would now allow the club to move forward without the distraction of public commentary by either of them.
In terms of the outlying members of the Hird camp - including his father Allan who attacked AFL boss Andrew Demetriou in the Sunday Age - and his various legal and media advisors, Hird agreed to demonstrate his best endeavours to prevent them from focusing upon events from last year.
However the board accepted there were no legal grounds to insist upon silence from those outside Hird’s immediate family.
The couple was told in no uncertain terms that the board had been deeply unhappy at not only the timing of Tania Hird’s outburst on the ABC's 7.30 program but also its inflammatory content and the fact that the Hirds had not communicated with the club regarding details of the interview.
Little drove home to the Hirds that the ABC report had dealt untold stress, damage and harm to the club not only on the eve of its opening round game but that the fall-out had continued to hurt Essendon as it worked to rebuild its reputation.
While the Hirds did not formally apologise to the club directors, the board was satisfied that they had acknowledged the damage Tania Hird’s interview had caused.