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Evans thrown under bus

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Beleaguered Bombers plot next move

David Evans is the latest casualty in the Essendon saga after exiting Saturday night, but coach James Hird is staying put for now.

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David Evans' emotional and physical health issues aside there is no doubt James Hird's decision to leak a chunk of his Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority evidence in a bid to discredit the AFL precipitated the rushed departure of the popular Essendon chairman as well as impacting heavily on Evans' state of mind.

The game had become so dirty, the Hird camp so unpredictable and Evans so distraught that his family would have forced him to step aside had he not done so himself.

Hird on the other hand is standing firm as the dominoes fall around him. Perhaps he still sees himself as Essendon's saviour.

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Hird threw his chairman under a bus as well as targeting the AFL just weeks before the investigation into the club was at its end. His camp did not back off all weekend, implying to anyone who wanted to listen there was more to come.

Andrew Demetriou's deputy Gillon McLachlan has been mentioned by Hird's team as talking out of school about the Australian Crime Commission - a suggestion denied by all others at a crucial February meeting. And even commissioner Bill Kelty, who visited Hird at an early flashpoint of the crisis, has been thrown up as a Hird backer. Hird's people have implied Kelty's conversation with Hird that night was ''fascinating''.

Where it heads now is anyone's guess. What we described on Friday as ''Hird Inc'' more closely resembles ''cult Hird'' where his disciples' blind faith prevents them from seeing what sits so clearly in front of them. And it has been a strategy closely resembling the corporate governance at Essendon from late 2011 until late 2012 - scattergun and reckless.

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Paul Little, who looks certain to assume the interim and probably longer-term chairmanship of the club at a specially convened board meeting on Monday, had become increasingly critical of Evans' strategy in working closely alongside the AFL.

Little, the long-time Toll Holdings chief executive, has money as well as his supporter's passion invested in Hird, having helped finance the coaching ''Dream Team'' that seems to have transformed into more of a nightmare.

He is a tough operator, litigious and determined to take on the AFL and media outlets that have crossed Essendon. He and Evans were diametrically opposed on that view. But if Hird emerges badly from the ASADA-AFL investigation Little will not protect him.

Evans and a small team of advisers had worked closely and united for five months towards a favourable outcome for the Essendon players but that focus has now clearly shifted to saving Hird. The club appears convinced the players

will not receive infraction notices and now saving Essendon and the senior coach appears one and the same. Certainly in Hird's mind.

In recent weeks the Bombers engaged the services of Queen's Counsel Jack Rush, a St Kilda director who was cleared by his club to represent Essendon as it faced sanctions from the AFL.

Now it is unclear whether the Little regime will retain the entire team that worked with Evans although it is unlikely to shift now.

Hird supporters refuse to see that the senior coach oversaw the implementation of a drug program so dangerous and reckless players still remain in the dark about what they were given and the potential long-term effects.

Ditto the folly of Hird's decision to declare war on AFL chief Andrew Demetriou - the very same executive who will sit on the commission in judgment of him and his club next month - in a move that must have horrified and disenchanted Evans who was already under pressure from his board to distance himself from the AFL.

And all the while the Hird camp was subtly reporting that Evans had let Hird down when all the chairman was doing was working to save his players and unearth the truth of Windy Hill's experimental pharmacological program.

Hird's move was as transparent as it was hypocritical. The week before his team leaked his evidence to News Limited it released an inaccurate media statement slamming this columnist in which it said: ''James Hird has agreed not to disclose matters discussed at his interview until the completion of the investigation.

''Representatives from the club have requested all parties to the investigation to guarantee confidentiality and to afford natural justice. Breaching this confidentiality directly undermines the trust in the process and selective disclosure of information relating to the investigation appears to be deliberately threatening the integrity of this process.''

The following week after Hird breached that confidentiality by sanctioning the leaking of his own evidence, divisions at board level were revealed and the club took its time in issuing a statement supporting the chairman. It denied divisions and then two days later Evans resigned in a move that seems to have shattered the industry.

You have to wonder how Hird feels and whether he sees himself as having Evans' blood on his hands. He would not be alone in that view.

144 comments

  • For someone who relies on leaks and secret sources I find it interesting that Caroline is criticising Hird for leaking information if he indeed did so. I hope she is as critical of her own sources...

    Commenter
    Tanks
    Location
    Footscray
    Date and time
    July 29, 2013, 6:42AM
    • She's a journalist. He's the coach of a football club. Do you need it explained in terms any simpler?

      Commenter
      DanB
      Date and time
      July 29, 2013, 7:49AM
    • Im not a Essendon supporter but what evidence does Caroline have that it was Hird that leaked. Quite defamatory and gives him no right to reply due to the embargo he is under.

      Who is the Hird camp? I doubt any of them would talk to Caroline directly as all she has done is attack Hird from day one.

      Commenter
      WhatThe
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      July 29, 2013, 7:58AM
    • Of course, everyone knows Hird is beyond critisicsm.

      Didn't t Hird say (re drugs) "I take full responsibility"? Utter lip service. He's certainly not looking like someone takng "full responsibiity". Everyone else has resigned while Hird still stands claiming "we're innocent".

      I wonder if/when he'll be forced into taking any responsibility at all?

      Commenter
      CT
      Date and time
      July 29, 2013, 8:26AM
    • @ DanB - Let's see... If someone talks to Caro, it means they are stabbing their colleagues in the back and need to go. If they don't talk to Caro, it means they have something to hide and they need to go. Yeah, sorry, call me stupid but you'll need to explain yourself a bit better. Everything is evidence of guilt in Caro's eyes.

      Commenter
      Zebba
      Date and time
      July 29, 2013, 8:27AM
    • Caroline has never complained about leaks - yet Hird constantly whines about them only to leak information himself when it suits him. The hypocrisy is astounding- not sure why thats hard to understand. Hird's mantra of "the truth will come out" is stating to make him sound like Ricky Nixon - especially when then their version of the "truth" seems to keep changing as we learn more about what really happened.

      Commenter
      Sick of Windy Hil Spin
      Date and time
      July 29, 2013, 8:29AM
    • I'm not necessarily a fan of Caro, but I don't think Caro is the problem right now.

      Commenter
      Steven
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      July 29, 2013, 8:57AM
    • Just have a good look at who Hird has retained to advise him on this matter and you will then see that he has more than a drugs scandal at Essendon to worry about. If you want a good example of bad team selection then Hird has just written chapter 1 of how not to do it with the employment of a failed Liberal Party spin doctor. It's no wonder he is under increasing scrutiny.

      Commenter
      Robbo
      Location
      Mt Eliza
      Date and time
      July 29, 2013, 10:14AM
    • @CT - the leaks that are coming from the ASADA investigation, and there are plenty, are all pointing to the fact that Essendon *are* in fact innocent when it comes to taking banned substances. That's really the point. We might cop a sanction for poor governance - as highlighted by Ziggy's report - but it seems that ASADA okayed the use of AOD.

      Like all Essendon people I can't wait for the release of the ASADA report.

      Commenter
      Laki
      Location
      Windy Hill
      Date and time
      July 29, 2013, 11:00AM
    • @Laki that is totally untrue and wishful thinking mate.

      Commenter
      Don
      Location
      Geelong
      Date and time
      July 29, 2013, 1:51PM

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