AFL

Essendon's supplements penalties: live updates

That's it for our live coverage today, thanks for stopping by. Stay tuned to theage.com.au/afl for all the latest stories surrounding the fallout from the Essendon verdict. There will be plenty of fresh analysis from The Age heavy-hitters later today, including a look at the extraordinary Mark Thompson's Footy Classified appearance Tuesday night.

Responsible in part: Essendon coach James Hird.
Responsible in part: Essendon coach James Hird. Photo: Penny Stephens

Richmond skipper Trent Cotchin expects Essendon to "come out firing" in their match this Saturday night at the MCG.

"I reckon they're going to come out with something to prove," he has told afl.com.au.

Cotchin says what the Essendon players have gone through has been a "massive process" which would be "hard for anyone".

And the Tiger cleanskin admits he is happy "nothing like that" goes on at Rihmond.

Melbourne Storm coach Craig Bellamy, who well knows the pain of playing for no points, as Essendon will do this weekend, says it is a "tough time" for the Bombers, but "if they stick together, they'll come through OK".

Storm played the entire NRL 2010 season for no points after receiving harsh penalties for salary cap breaches.

Trent Cotchin.
Trent Cotchin. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo

Greater Western Sydney mentor Kevin Sheedy has discussed a return to Essendon with Bombers chairman Paul Little, but the AFL icon doesn’t expect to be coaching his old club in the absence of James Hird next year.

"It was hard enough coaching them without the problems.

"They’re a good club; they’re fantastic. I don’t think that will come my way to be honest, but it’s all fun.

"I won’t be putting my hand up for it ... I don’t think I’ll put my hand up for a job anymore.

"I learned that down with Melbourne," he added, in reference to his infamous interview for the Demons’ top job in 2007.

Read more.

Kevin Sheedy with captain Mark Thompson and the '93 Cup.
Kevin Sheedy with captain Mark Thompson and the '93 Cup.  Photo: Getty Images
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Jobe Watson
Jobe Watson 

Essendon captain Jobe Watson says the AFL club’s players want James Hird back as coach. Watson says the team doesn’t feel Hird - who has been banned for 12 months for his role in last year’s supplements saga - betrayed them.

"I don’t think that’s the right word," Watson told Fox Sports on Wednesday. "In hindsight, people made mistakes. And I think people have accepted responsibility for that.

"I don’t think anyone set out to intentionally cause the situation we found ourselves in."

The Bombers have lost draft picks, been fined $2 million and been kicked out of this year’s finals series. It means Saturday night’s MCG clash with Richmond will be the club’s last game of the season and the result will have no practical meaning for the Bombers who will place ninth on the season ladder. But Watson said the players were still determined to put in a decent effort.

"We’ll play that game, we owe it to our fans, to the supporters of the AFL," said Watson. "We’ll do that, and we’ll go and plan and be ready for a good pre-season for 2014."

The Bombers have offered Hird a contract extension to return to the club after his ban and Hird wants to take up that offer.Watson said the players would support that move.

"It’s obviously up to him and the club what they want to do," he said.

"As a playing group, we’ll sit down - we want James to continue as coach.

"He has to decide if that’s something he wants to do. "It’s sort of an unprecedented situation for someone to sit out for 12 months and then return."

AAP

Samantha Lane reports that there is fallout for the AFL's governance in the wake of Essendon's shortcomings, highlighted by industry and employment law experts:

The league’s deputy CEO Gillon McLachlan, referred on Wednesday to a meeting in August 2011 between Essendon and AFL officials where the dangers of peptide use in sport was discussed.

"I don’t think that we can shirk it in every instance,” McLachlan said about the accountability of the AFL in the matter.

"I’m happy to take that on the chin in the sense that if we had gone out there (to Essendon) every month and monitored it, then maybe we wouldn’t be in situation, so I’ll take that.

"I think in the end what’s happened here is incredibly regrettable for the players and for the competition. We have resolution, and if people need to take various forms of accountability, I’ll take that.

Read more.

Essendon captain Jobe Watson has spoken briefly to Fox Sports News about the future of suspended Bombers coach James Hird. He said the players wanted Hird to continue coaching them, but "he has to decide if that's something he wants to do".

"It's an unprecedented situation."

 

In the spotlight ... Jobe Watson and Dustin Fletcher make their way onto the ground.
In the spotlight ... Jobe Watson and Dustin Fletcher make their way onto the ground. Photo: Getty Images
Jonathan Brown.
Jonathan Brown. Photo: Getty Images

Injured Brisbane Lions legend Jonathan Brown has admitted to excitement amongst his team at their unexpected opportunity - however remote - of playing finals, as a result of the Essendon sanctions.

"It is exciting for the boys because they are playing for something this week," he said.

"It's like a mini-final.

"It's obviously unexpected and a tough ask going to Geelong.

"But it is good preparation whether we come through or not. It will stand us in good stead.

"Hopefully we will be featuring in the finals in years to come."

Brown admitted he expected the AFL to come down hard on Essendon but was still surprised by the severity of the penalties.

"It was probably expected but, at the end of the day, it was still a shock to the AFL community," he said.

"The draft picks are probably the most significant of the penalties because it affects a club's ability to build their future.

"Essendon's list is in pretty good shape anyway so they are in as good a position as anyone to combat that.

"It's obviously the biggest penalty in the history of the game but the AFL is big on integrity so you knew they were going to come down heavy-handed.

"We are certainly saddened by it.

"It hasn't been good for the image of the game (but) I think we all want to move on."

Read more.

 

Mark 'Bomber' Thompson cut an understandably agitated figure on Channel Nine's Footy Classified Tuesday night. He spoke for nearly 20 minutes. Amongst the surprising things he said:

"Everyone looks at Essendon as this great club.

"I walked into Essendon (and thought), we’re not a very good club, there’s a lot of areas we need to fix up, let’s get on with this job.

"Not just blaming the board, but … the football department, every part of how we were doing thing wasn’t up to a level that was going to get us back up to the top eight, top four, preliminary finals, grand finals."

Thompson defended the appointment of strength and conditioning coach Dean Robinson, saying no-one had wanted 'The Weapon' to leave when he worked under Thompson at Geelong.

"(Robinson) had the same role at Essendon that he had at Geelong, but Essendon wasn’t a good enough club to manage him. That’s our whole problem."

He deflected talk of becoming the interim Essendon coach whilst James Hird is suspended.

"I said to Hirdy tonight, we’ve just got to look after the players. They’ve been so good, they’ve put up with so much bad stuff. We have to give them the best conditions that we can, no matter what that is.

Thompson even expressed rare sympathy for sacked sports scientist Stephen Dank.

"Dank is struggling, too. We’re all struggling. It’s been horrible. He started to (well) up when I told him the players just wanted to know what happened," Thompson said.

His care for former Bombers chairman David Evans was less surprising.

"This is the biggest thing in sport ever, and in the end it just wore him down. He’s seeing his two best friends' reputation be destroyed, it was a bit too much in the end."


Mark Thompsonarrives at AFL House this afternoon.
Mark Thompsonarrives at AFL House this afternoon. Photo: Getty Images
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Suspended AFL Essendon coach James Hird outside his Toorak home.
Suspended AFL Essendon coach James Hird outside his Toorak home. Photo: Penny Stephens
Bombers coach James Hird has vowed to tell more of his side of the story in upcoming days. He is sure to be a hot ...
Bombers coach James Hird has vowed to tell more of his side of the story in upcoming days. He is sure to be a hot property amongst media outlets. Photo: Penny Stephens

In case you haven't caught up with the official statement detailing the AFL Commission's response to the Essendon supplement crisis, here it is. Read more.

James Hird's lawyer Julian Burnside has described his client's actions during the supplements crisis as "heroic".

"James had been subjected to relentless adverse press over the last six months," Burnside told SEN on Wednesday morning.

Burnside said that Hird would have won his case if he had gone on defending the charges against him. But this would have dragged on for four months

" ... he decided to put the club's and players' interests ahead of his own and in my view that is pretty heroic."

Burnside said he wasn't a football follower and he was unimpressed by what he saw of the code's legal system.

"I don't like what I saw ... (there was) not a great sense of natural justice ... What I saw worried me a lot."

He said it was "astonishing how much sensitive material was leaked to the press".

Burnside characterised Hird's failings as being at the "low end of the scale" and the measures he put in place for the supplements program were "pretty sensible".

"He did actually lay down a protocol very clearly that anything taken by the players had to be approved ... it looks like a couple or rogues might have stepped around it - bit that's not even proved."

Burnside says the last two days involved a lot of intensive negotiations.

" ... Bottom line: he had to decide whether he was going to follow his own interests or .... cop one for the club."

He described the personal falling out between Hird and AFL CEO Andrew Demetriou  as "really regrettable".

He joked that he "might break the habits of a lifetime and go along" to an Essendon game. But not until James Hird was back coaching the Bombers.

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James Hird's lawyer Julian Burnside has described his client's actions during the supplements crisis as "heroic".

"James had been subjected to relentless adverse press over the last six months," Burnside told SEN on Wednesday morning.

Burnside said that Hird would have won his case if he had gone on defending the charges against him. But this would have dragged on for four months

" ... he decided to put the club's and players' interests ahead of his own and in my view that is pretty heroic."

Burnside said he wasn't a football follower and he was unimpressed by what he saw of the code's legal system.

"I don't like what I saw ... (there was) not a great sense of natural justice ... What I saw worried me a lot."

He said it was "astonishing how much sensitive material was leaked to the press".

Burnside characterised Hird's failings as being at the "low end of the scale" and the measures he put in place for the supplements program were "pretty sensible".

"He did actually lay down a protocol very clearly that anything taken by the players had to be approved ... it looks like a couple or rogues might have stepped around it - bit that's not even proved."

Burnside says the last two days involved a lot of intensive negotiations.

" ... Bottom line: he had to decide whether he was going to follow his own interests or .... cop one for the club."

He described the personal falling out between Hird and AFL CEO Andrew Demetriou  as "really regrettable".

He joked that he "might break the habits of a lifetime and go along" to an Essendon game. But not until James Hird was back coaching the Bombers.

James Hird spoke to the media at 10am.

Hird said it had been a trying time for everybody, especially the club’s players.

"Speaking to the players last night and speaking to them this morning, I think we’re all disappointed at the level of sanctions that have been put on the club.

"But we understand that some sanctions had to be placed on our club and it’s time to move on.

"From my point of view, it’s disappointing not to be coaching next year.

"But I should’ve known what was going on. I should’ve done more and I’m very disappointed that I didn’t."

Hird denied that by accepting the penalties, he conceded that he did break the rules.

"I didn’t break the rules that I was charged with. Those charges have been dropped," he said.

Asked what he was guilty of, Hird replied: "There’s a level of responsibility you have as a senior coach. A senior coach is responsible for a lot of things at a football club.

"There’s things that went on at our football club that shouldn’t have happened last year and as senior coach I have to take some responsibility for what happened and not doing more to stop it."

AAP

Suspended AFL Essendon coach James Hird outside his Toorak home.
Suspended AFL Essendon coach James Hird outside his Toorak home. Photo: Penny Stephens
James Hird joked that he would have to pologise to neighbours for the disruption caused by having the media on his front ...
James Hird joked that he would have to pologise to neighbours for the disruption caused by having the media on his front doorstep for months. Photo: Penny Stephens

James Hird has spoken briefly to the media outside his home.

"I do take a level of responsibility for what happened at our football club in 2012,’’ he said.

"I think for the good of the game and the good of our football club and most importantly for our players and supporters, I’m so glad this has finished and our game can move and our players can move on.

"From my point of view it's disappointing not to be coaching  next year but as I said I should have known what was going on. I should have done more and I'm very disappointed we didn't.

"It's time to move on"

Hird is both contrite but defiant. He says he is "dreadfully sorry" for his team's supporters, and "thing went on that shouldn't have" on his watch, but immediately adds that he feels Essendon has been "unfairly dealt with this year".

"I didn’t break the rules that I was charged with. Those charges have been dropped," he said.

He promised to tell his full side of the story in coming days.

"Give me a few days to catch my breath ... and I will tell my side of the story ..."

Asked why he did not pursue Supreme Court action against the AFL when he believed he was innocent, Hird said: "In fighting a battle in the Supreme Court against the AFL on a matter of principle, I just think it was probably not the right thing to do for the players and even for myself and my family. 

"I think it's time to move on."

Hird mentioned returning to coaching in 2015, and is not sure if he would have a role in the 2014 finals should his team make it - his suspension ends in August 2014.

Hird isn't sure who will coach Essendon in his absence, but he has a preference.

"I've got no idea but I think we'd all like to see Mark Thompson do it. He's the obvious choice and that will be a decision for the club and Mark."

Hird will not coach, but he will not be far from the club during his suspension.

"I've been an Essendon supporter since I was born. (It's) part of my family. I don't think I could ever step away from the Essendon football club. It's part of who I am and it's part of who I'll always be so I've got no intention of stepping away ..."

"I know I'm not allowed to actively work for them but when you love the Essendon footy club and it's part of your heart, you never step away."

Hird recognised that he would have no official duties at Essendon whilst suspended.

 

 

James Hird's high-profile lawyer Julian Burnside, QC, is doing the media rounds Wednesday morning.

On Fox FM's Matt and Jo show, he has called for an AFL internal inquiry, not something he mooted earlier on SEN.

"Yeah, I reckon the AFL should hold an inquiry into its own internal processes to see what happened because the leaking was remarkable if you look at it. I mean, I’m not a football follower, actually, and I had a look at what was getting into the media and had a look at what the sources had to be and tried to work out, well who the hell would have an interest in putting that into the public arena?  And it all rather pointed to the AFL.

"I wouldn’t be able to name individuals because the AFL is a big organisation, but you’re right, the stuff that was leaked, in particular, came from secret ASADA hearings and from a highly secret ASADA report. And yet there were journalists who were actually quoting from the report. And quoting stuff that James would not have wanted to have seen quoted because he regarded as wrong, and I think, none of the other individuals or the club would have wanted it quoted, because they regarded it as wrong.  And they were the only people, apart from the AFL, who had access to the report."

Pressed as to why he has described his client as "heroic", this was Burnside's response:

"The charges were laid, but not pressed.  He (Hird) has not pleaded guilty to anything.  In substance, the charge was withdrawn.  And my opinion, for what it’s worth, is that if he had fought the charge to conclusion, he would have been exonerated."

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