Isolated: Bombers are likely to go it alone from coach James Hird and pursue a plea deal with the AFL. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo
Essendon is likely to go it alone from coach James Hird and pursue a plea deal with the AFL on Monday, which will see the Bombers barred from playing in this year's finals, fined heavily and miss two years of prime draft picks.
But Hird is shaping to continue his personal legal resistance to the charges levelled against him. Unless a deal can be brokered beforehand, he will enter the AFL Commission hearing and insist the AFL was compromised and lacked the jurisdiction to hear the charges against him.
Hird's refusal to agree to a ban of any longer than six months for admitting to a legally redefined and more marginal role in the Essendon supplements scandal was believed to be one of the impediments to finally sealing a plea bargain deal before the commission hearing.
Unless a deal with Hird is reached before the 8.30am hearing Hird's lawyers are expected to inform the commission they lacked the jurisdiction to hear the matter and that they were to pursue their injunction, which forms part of the writ they have lodged in the Victorian Supreme Court.
It is understood Essendon's ability to agree to charges at the weekend was affected by the legal position of Dr Bruce Reid, whose licence to practise medicine and his professional indemnity insurance could be affected by any adverse finding against him.
Former Essendon full-forward Matthew Lloyd said on Channel Nine on Sunday he expected Reid to step down from the club this week.
Essendon is not intending to challenge the AFL's jurisdiction to hear the matter. Essendon is expected to agree to be eliminated from the finals this year but they will be free to play Richmond this week.
They will also be fined $2 million and lose their first and second round draft picks in this year's national draft as well as at least the first round draft pick next year and possibly both the first and second rounds next year.
Reid and football manager Danny Corcoran are both facing six-month bans while assistant Mark Thompson would be fined more than $40,000 but not suspended.
Essendon chairman Paul Little admitted on Saturday night that a deal with the AFL was very close. The deal as it stands now is substantially the same as that which was almost reached with the AFL last week when Essendon rejected the offer and the AFL responded by making public the full list of charges against the club.
Little said on Saturday that he would not only wish for Hird to return to coaching Essendon after any potential suspension but that it would be the club's preference.
Hird said in his lengthy post-match interview after Saturday night's come-from-behind victory that he wanted ''to prove that I'm innocent of 99 per cent of those charges''. ''You look at those charges and they make me sick that they're out there and people would believe that that is the truth about me. I'm determined to clear that up.''