'I'm not shocked by anything in this investigation'
Essendon coach James Hird says there seems to be 'a lot of rumour and innuendo that has no fact to it' regarding the investigation into doping at the club.PT1M27S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2rbnz 620 349 August 6, 2013
Essendon has angrily rejected a suggestion from former Crows great Mark Ricciuto on Adelaide radio that Bombers coach James Hird was issued an ultimatum to resign by Thursday in response to the club's ongoing supplements crisis.
On Monday night, Essendon released the following statement: "Essendon Football Club categorically denies the baseless rumours and speculation tonight in the media about an 'ultimatum' in relation to the future of coach James Hird. As a club we are incredibly frustrated by the decision of some sections of the media to report unfounded and untested gossip."
Under the spotlight: Essendon coach James Hird talks with Fox Footy before his team's 79-point loss to Collingwood. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo
Hird told Channel 10 on Tuesday morning that the club had reassured him his job was safe.
The Bombers coach said the club was pleased with his performance and that he had no intention of standing down.
"At no stage did the board, or anyone on the board, ever want me to or asked me to stand down," Hird said.
Bombers coach James Hird walks off the MCG with Dr Bruce Reid (R) on Sunday. Photo: Getty Images
"After my ASADA interview, ASADA actually rang the club and said how pleased they were with my interview, and my honesty, and they had no problems with me staying on in the job."
Just what is gossip and what is fact in the supplements affair remains confusing. A News Limited report on Tuesday morning stated: "No Essendon footballer is expected to be charged with a doping offence as a result of the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority's six-month investigation into the use of peptide hormones at the AFL club."
This comes despite Essendon captain Jobe Watson publicly stating he believed he had taken AOD-6904, a banned substance under World Anti-Doping Agency protocols.
The prospect of players escaping sanction for taking banned substances led Essendon insider Tim Watson to discuss the potential punishments for his club being restricted to matters of "governance" on his SEN program on Tuesday morning.
He predicts that such penalties "will be argued out between both sides and I think it's going to be difficult to get everybody on the same page to get to the same point where they agree to take a punishment that fits the crime".
Protracted negotiations over an appropriate penalty loom as the next aspect of the drama to test the patience of fans. As Watson's offsider Anthony Hudson said on Tuesday: "They wouldn't want to cop it for another year . . . I think that would really hurt people and the game.”
On Fox Footy on Monday night, Bomber assistant coach Mark Thompson said fans would "drop off footy" if a resolution was not found. "If we just drag it through the courts the next couple years, people won't turn up."
On whether Hird should stand down, Thompson was emphatic: "He won't stand down and he shouldn't."
Speaking on 3AW Tuesday morning, Carlton coach Mick Malthouse urged the AFL to spare no reputations in making a strong response to the crisis.
"I think the game's governance is the most important thing in all this. Strong governance, not at any cost, (but) it's got to be a cost that says "we're in control" and we will not tolerate this game being put down in any manner... and that means strong governance at the expense of names, clubs, anything, because then you make a great statement."
Malthouse said he was not worried about the AFL "going soft" on Essendon, but insisted the league needed to show it was in control of the supplement use at clubs.
On the Couch's Mike Sheahan was critical of the failure of ASADA's interim report to make recommendations.
"If they've done all the interviews and collated all the evidence it beggars belief that there's no recommendations there."
On Footy Classified, former Essendon great Matthew Lloyd surprisingly noted the status of embattled Bomber coach and ex-teammate Hird: "No one I've spoken to has questioned James Hird. James Hird . . . is held on a higher plane than I have ever seen anyone at the Essendon Football Club."
Fellow panellist and chief Fairfax football writer Caroline Wilson attacked the notion that she was being "briefed" on the affair by the AFL.
"This is where they're so stupid. Frankly, it's getting irritating and insulting. It is just absolute balderdash. Yes, of course I talk to the AFL, but to think the AFL are so stupid that they would brief myself ...
"These guys can't see the wood for the trees. James Hird sat there in February and took full responsibility for a disgraceful regime that has been slammed by his own club. We know after listening to Dean Robinson last week that this was a shambles. Whether you believe him or not, it was a shambolic, poorly governed, dangerous program."
Watson denied he was blaming Wilson in any way for Essendon's woes.
"I think there are journalists in this that have been briefed by the AFL. We all know that happens in this business, it's part of what they do. I'm saying that she has run a very strong narrative about this story . . . along the lines that Essendon will lose their points.
Watson said as a result of the work of journalists such as Wilson he had prepared himself for the "worst-case scenario" of Essendon being docked points for games won in 2013.
"I don't think Essendon would accept that based on the evidence that's come forward in the ASADA report, so where does that leave us in terms of action they would take?"
While Watson had no idea about potential "governance" sanctions, he wouldn't share his knowledge about another aspect of the affair.
Asked whether Hird should have taken full responsibility for the supplements regime, as he did in February, Watson said: "There is a story behind that which will come out . . . Now is not the time."
Hird said he was now used to ongoing speculation about his future.
"I'm not shocked by anything in this process, it all seems to be a lot of rumour and innuendo that has no fact to it," Hird said.
"I think if you track us through the last six months, there's no need to get frustrated. (The stories have) been from the Australian Federal Police raiding my house to being sacked, there's been a lot of unfounded rumours that we'll move through," he said.
Hird said he did not know how long the club and its players would have to wait to receive an outcome from the investigation.
"The most important thing in this is that our players get cleared and hopefully, very soon, our players will get a chance to come out and say that they're clear," he said.