James Hird 'deeply sorry for what happened'
Speaking outside his home Wednesday morning, Essendon's suspended coach James Hird maintains he didn't break any rules, but decided to settle on the penalties because "it's time to move on".PT4M28S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2spdy 620 349 August 28, 2013
No one could accuse James Hird of hiding. Every week of this tumultuous season, he has faced up to pre and post-match media briefings, dead-batting questions about the growing supplements scandal with an ironic smile, insisting all would see that Essendon was in a good place once all the facts were known.
Last Saturday, when tensions were at their peak following the AFL's release of the charge sheet against Essendon, Hird overrode the club's media officer after the Bombers had beaten Carlton and extended the briefing so that journalists could ask more questions.
He might have been amused to learn later that this catalysed division in the media, some of whom thought that the ensuing questions were soft and poorly aimed.
Suspended: Essendon coach James Hird outside his Toorak home on Wednesday. Photo: Penny Stephens
In the end, all saw on Tuesday that Essendon was not in such a good place, and nor was Hird. Yet on Wednesday morning, Hird - dressed in non-Essendon blue - calmly addressed media outside his Toorak house, admitting to some regret and accepting some responsibility for the malfeasance at Essendon, but also denying that he had broken any rules.
This was the legal nicety thrashed out by Hird's lawyers and the AFL's. Originally, club and coach were charged with breaches of rule 1.6, concerning ''conduct unbecoming''. As settled, Hird admitted that he had been remiss in a number of fundamental ways, and ''in consequence'' accepted that Essendon had broken rule 1.6.
This allowed Hird and his lawyer, Julian Burnside, to maintain that the charges against him had been dropped, and for Burnside to say that by accepting suspension anyway Hird had been ''heroic''.
This is not precisely a case of one rule for Essendon, one for Hird. But it does reflect the special and high-profile place Hird occupies at Essendon and the way it has complicated almost every aspect of his return to the club as coach and will continue to act as a double-edged sword through the hiatus now upon the club.
About his appointment in 2010, there was plenty of subterfuge. Essendon wanted Hird for his football acumen and as a rallying figure, but it was not as if the Bombers could woo him quietly, nor his dream-team confrere, the then Geelong coach Mark Thompson. The whole thing was founded on fancy footwork.
None the less, it worked. Essendon made ground on and off the field. But injuries and fadeouts in successive years made Hird impatient. We now know that in pursuing one remedy, he was reckless. But as he was blind to those he should have been watching, those who should have been watching him were blinded. Board and management failed to intervene. He was, after all, James Hird.
Soon after the scandal broke, Essendon's solicitor reportedly advised Hird to stand down. If he had, it might have been resolved sooner and with somewhat less fuss. Hird resisted, and the board did not press the case. This was Hirdy, the club's face and force.
Doomed without knowing it, the Bombers played irresistible footy until the hopelessness of their cause dawned on them. Hird appeared not to grasp the gravity of his predicament until it was on top of him. More than ever, he became for fans a rallying figure. ''In Hird We Trust,'' the banners read.
Imagine for a moment if three years ago Essendon had appointed someone other than its favourite son. Progress perhaps would have been slower, but - you imagine - there would have been greater caution and supervision at all levels. With natural improvement, free agency and prudent drafting, the Bombers might have been on the threshold of finals this year anyway, and of a premiership in three years. It would have been a good place.
Instead, the Bombers are a depleted lot, no finals this year, no figurehead - and no coach. It is a no-good place.