Ian Hanke.

Ian Hanke. Photo: Penny Bradfield

To give James Hird the benefit of the doubt, there is no evidence to suggest that he sanctioned the ill-informed spin doctor Ian Hanke to launch a Twitter rant over the weekend against Essendon chairman Paul Little.

But yet again Hanke's nonsensical scattergun approach has done neither Hird nor Essendon any favours; in this case with his disproportionate reaction to a report in The Saturday Age.

The time for questioning why Hird would employ such a character to publicly represent him has past. Certainly the Essendon view was that Hanke had departed the picture although it is true that he has been taking calls on the suspended coach's behalf in recent weeks.

Whatever the truth, Hird, who has been sponsored to undergo an international management course during his 12-month suspension, must now cut Hanke and his accompanying adversarial tactics.

Little appears to have enraged Hanke by saying that Hird would return to coach a better person. Our view is that he must also return as his own man, unencumbered by the weight of his legendary status, by the outrage of those obsessed with his brand.

It is one thing for Hird's father Allan - as he has in a letter published in The Age - to publicly take issue with a football analogy adopted by Little, quite another for the bizarre Hanke to urge Essendon members to flay Little for undermining Hird in an effort to ''appease'' the AFL. Little being the man who backed Hird to the hilt and, after everything, extended his contract until the end of 2016.

To adopt another football analogy, Hird needed no protector as a player. He might not have ''whacked'' his opponents but his brilliance overshadowed his toughness and he required no one to speak on his behalf. He must call upon those qualities as he prepares for his attempted resurrection.

The legal settlement between Hird and the AFL stipulated that neither party criticise the other on any

matter relating to the proceedings that accompanied last year's controversy. Again, to give Hird the benefit, you would hope that Hanke's rant was the result not of any prodding from Hird's supporters.

Notably, Little also told The Saturday Age that Hird was the best person to coach the football club and made it clear that he did not regard the suspended club legend anywhere near as culpable as this columnist has for Essendon's failings. The other clear Essendon view is that recrimination time has past, that responsibility must be shared and that if the club sacked every staffer involved in its failings there would be few left.

Hanke's absurd tweets followed the Saturday report, the result of an interview with Little and a long-overdue meeting in which animosities were pushed aside in a bid to move forward. The chairman of less than a year was flanked by two young men he clearly regards as pivotal in the rebuilding of the club and its damaged brand - Xavier Campbell and Justin Rodski.

Whatever Little thinks about the experimental program of 2012 there is no doubt he now thinks first and foremost about Essendon and its future. His top-order priority is to rebuild his club. The fact he is prepared to settle and do business with this columnist and others who some of his club regard a natural enemy is indicative of that.

But Little also appears to have grasped quickly that the structure and mindset at the club that allowed the events of the recent past to take place was badly flawed.

Whatever other clubs might say about Little's decision to postpone the appointment of a CEO, he does present as determined to restructure his football department and place football, integrity and human resources bosses in radically elevated positions.

Come September, the correct structures should be up and running, but Little must realise that managing the proposed coaching handover come the end of the season and overseeing the rebuilding of James Hird for his return remain his toughest challenge.