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In the end, Hird bows to pressure

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Hird still wants to coach at Essendon again

Senior sports writer Peter Hanlon analyses the key points from Tuesday night's press conference at AFL House.

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Precisely what transpired once the league's commission sat for a second extraordinary day - one that ultimately concluded with a football icon accepting a 12-month ban from a game - may never be presented in consistent detail. 

James Hird arrived at AFL headquarters on Tuesday morning just as he'd departed the night before: convinced an independent arbiter should rule on his serious misconduct charges and prepared, if pushed, to take his case to the Victorian Supreme Court.

Essendon coach James Hird and his wife Tania leave their Toorak home on Tuesday morning.

Essendon coach James Hird and his wife Tania leave their Toorak home on Tuesday morning. Photo: Penny Stephens

Privately, he was also said to be disgusted by some of what he'd witnessed at the Docklands offices of the AFL in the 24 hours earlier, but those stories - like so many Hird has not told this year - were for another time

Precisely what transpired once the league's commission sat for a second extraordinary day - one that ultimately concluded with a football icon accepting a 12-month ban from a game - may never be presented in consistent detail. But a constant for Hird throughout this seven-month sporting and political battle was his wife, Tania. After a frustrating Monday, she beeped the horn of the Hirds' sleek black car at a photographer blocking an exit from the carpark of Etihad Stadium. And on Tuesday night, she was again by Hird's side as he addressed the AFL Commission shortly after his fate was sealed.

Fighting serious misconduct charges, Hird prepared for a second consecutive sitting at AFL House determined that a commission he viewed as ''compromised'' should not judge his case. In that argument, a football deity had been aggressively backed by some of the best legal minds - human rights expert Julian Burnside, QC, and Steven Amendola of national waterfront dispute fame.

James Hird is said to be privately disgusted by some of the things he saw at AFL House during protracted negotiations.

James Hird is said to be privately disgusted by some of the things he saw at AFL House during protracted negotiations. Photo: Penny Stephens

Entering day two of negotiations at AFL House, the plan in Hird's legal camp was clear: if the commission refused to refer the coach's case to an independent tribunal, proceedings would continue in the Victorian Supreme Court.

Essendon was not authorised to accept penalties on behalf of the four individuals charged with conduct unbecoming, which meant Hird's options were to accept a sanction from the AFL, or disrupt the competition further by taking his grievances elsewhere. In the end, he chose the former, despite saying in a post-match media conference on Saturday night that he disputed "99 per cent" of the charges against him.

The coach had escalated his procedural grievance with the AFL a week earlier, lodging a writ in the Supreme Court that demanded the league's solicitors provide particulars around his charges. As of Tuesday morning, those details - and a request for a list of witnesses who would mount a case against the Essendon coach - had not been provided. Presumably they never will.

Two weeks ago, Hird's solicitors also lodged an extraordinary challenge to the commission by demanding a public hearing of the case against him in an independent tribunal no sooner than two weeks after the conclusion of the finals. Hird had been adamant that the commission was not the appropriate body to judge him after its members were provided with an interim report from ASADA containing evidence that he disputes. He was equally convinced that AFL CEO Andrew Demetriou, also a member of the commission, was a conflicted party who should not sit in judgment of the matter. Hird's lawyers argued that Demetriou has revealed on several occasions that he has formed an adverse view of the Essendon coach. In a now infamous public comment about the Essendon supplements scandal in April, Demetriou said standing aside was "an option he [Hird] has to consider".

Separately, Hird's lawyers had mounted a challenge of the validity of the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority's 400-page interim report that was delivered to the AFL on August 2. That was based on the fact the coach was interviewed by ASADA and AFL investigators only once - in April - and that he was not given the opportunity to respond to evidence gathered in interviews with other parties before the interim report was produced.

By Tuesday night, however, none of this seemed to matter as much as the final result.

Had Hird's wish been granted, and his charges had been heard by a tribunal, such proceedings could not have practically commenced - let alone been concluded - before the end of September.

Now, an increasingly confused, impatient and frustrated football public will get its wish: the finals will be played unbridled. But no one - not even the game's purist fans - has emerged from this forever-tainted football season unscathed.

140 comments

  • I wonder how long his wife has been giving him legal advice, because, damn, she steered him in the wrong direction..

    And I hope Thompson isn't replacing him, because, damn, he gave some bad advice too by the looks of it.

    Commenter
    sarajane
    Location
    melbourne
    Date and time
    August 28, 2013, 6:40AM
    • Lance Armstrong would have loved a 12 month suspension

      Commenter
      George
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      August 28, 2013, 7:35AM
    • For someone who appears to have no idea of how a partnership works your comment is either stupid, antagonistic or stupidly antagonistic. Going from past comments you have made I am in favour of the stupid.

      Commenter
      rastus
      Date and time
      August 28, 2013, 7:50AM
    • well, you do that rastus.

      Commenter
      sarajane
      Location
      melbourne
      Date and time
      August 28, 2013, 8:18AM
    • Trotting the wife out is classic PR spin 101, pity it makes him look like a loser.

      Surprised he wasn't hiding behind his kids as well, because he couldn't possibly be a drug cheat if he's got a nice looking family right?

      Hird is lucky he only got 12 months, he's lucky no one will now look into his playing career when he was paying for "nutritional advice" from Shane Charters.

      The Essendon players are very lucky too, no other sport in the world allows players to take illegal drugs and not be sanctioned.

      There are so many parallels with Lance Armstrong here, massive ego, holding to the "I never tested positive" defence, the legion of deluded angry fans...

      Great to see their downfall.

      Commenter
      Blues man
      Date and time
      August 28, 2013, 8:59AM
    • I'm seeing the same similarities Bluesman. I love how they report that Hird 'backed down' for the good of his club. The way I see it, he was defiant until the eleventh hour. If he really cared for his club he would have done something sooner. All the supporters arguing that nothing was proven are just fanboys. Do we really need a document to prove that what they did was wrong??? I think we are all smart enough to see that all was not above board at EFC. The lack of medical records is enough to scream a degree of guilt.

      Commenter
      Ame
      Date and time
      August 28, 2013, 9:10AM
    • Truly ignorant comment Sarajane

      Commenter
      Tim
      Date and time
      August 28, 2013, 9:24AM
    • Bluesman, perhaps you would like to cut and paste where it is you found that the Essendon players have been taking illegal drugs? Even the AFL havent found that piece of evidence !

      Commenter
      Is don is good
      Location
      Windy city
      Date and time
      August 28, 2013, 9:27AM
    • @Blues Man What was even better was beating your less than average side last week ensuring you can't even make the finals when a team in the 8 is banned. Well done on your stellar management team once again bringing in an overpriced, loud mouthed, under performing coach. A truly pathetic side.

      Commenter
      Tim
      Date and time
      August 28, 2013, 9:30AM
    • I'm over this, just as I'm completely over sarajane's comments.

      How on earth s/he is able to be the first person to post a comment so frequently defies belief.

      Doesn't s/he have another life? Some people have work commitments, family life, and are time poor. Not our favourite commentator SJ. I'm over it.

      Commenter
      Roger
      Location
      St Kilda
      Date and time
      August 28, 2013, 9:41AM

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MEL 115 vs GCF 89 Stats
SYD 72 vs ESS 60 Stats
BRI 74 vs COL 86 Stats
WBU 97 vs WCE 87 Stats
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STK 78 vs GWS 87 Stats
ADE 140 vs NTH 63 Stats
FRE 75 vs PTA 68 Stats
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HAW 123 vs GEE 61 Stats
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RIC 66 vs WBU 85 Report Stats
GWS 101 vs MEL 56 Stats
COL 63 vs ADE 90 Report Stats
GCF 76 vs STK 104 Stats
PTA 44 vs SYD 92 Stats
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GEE 60 vs FRE 104 Stats
ESS 78 vs HAW 76 Stats
NTH 133 vs BRI 51 Stats
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COL 140 vs STK 66 Stats
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CAR 84 vs ESS 105 Stats
ADE 80 vs MEL 55 Stats
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NTH 105 vs PTA 113 Stats
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HAW 127 vs WBU 57 Stats
GEE 105 vs GCF 96 Stats
WCE 81 vs FRE 111 Stats
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Fri, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
RIC 51 vs MEL 83 Stats
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STK 81 vs CAR 121 Report Report Stats
ESS 49 vs COL 69 Report Stats
GWS 119 vs GCF 53 Stats
PTA 99 vs HAW 91 Stats
FRE 74 vs SYD 60 Stats
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BRI 65 vs WCE 118 Stats
GEE 67 vs NTH 83 Stats
WBU 125 vs ADE 68 Stats
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CAR 45 vs COL 120 Stats
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RIC 76 vs GEE 85 Stats
SYD 73 vs WBU 77 Stats
GCF 118 vs BRI 54 Stats
NTH 70 vs HAW 130 Stats
WCE 120 vs GWS 33 Stats
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MEL 50 vs FRE 118 Stats
STK 80 vs ESS 82 Stats
ADE 91 vs PTA 115 Stats
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COL 59 vs GEE 100 Stats
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NTH 109 vs RIC 74 Stats
WBU 87 vs STK 94 Stats
GWS 108 vs HAW 98 Stats
GCF 78 vs ADE 119 Stats
MEL 50 vs SYD 88 Stats
FRE 80 vs ESS 52 Stats
Sun, 10 MayTimes shown AEST
CAR 75 vs BRI 84 Report Stats
PTA 68 vs WCE 78 Stats
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Fri, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
ESS 82 vs NTH 93 Stats
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ADE 119 vs STK 73 Stats
HAW 155 vs MEL 50 Stats
CAR 57 vs GWS 135 Stats
SYD 120 vs GEE 77 Stats
WCE 135 vs GCF 43 Stats
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WBU 88 vs FRE 101 Stats
RIC 105 vs COL 100 Report Stats
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Fri, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
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FRE 115 vs NTH 42 Report Stats
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ESS 136 vs BRI 78 Report Stats
MEL 103 vs WBU 64 Report Stats
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Fri, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
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Round 11
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Thu, 09 JulTimes shown AEST
PTA vs COL 19:50Adelaide Oval
Fri, 10 JulTimes shown AEST
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ESS vs MEL 13:40MCG
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PTA vs ADE 15:20Adelaide Oval
STK vs RIC 16:40ES
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ADE vs GCF 14:10Adelaide Oval
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ESS vs PTA 19:20ES
BRI vs NTH 19:20G
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MEL vs STK 15:20MCG
WCE vs SYD 16:40Domain Stadium
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Fri, 31 JulTimes shown AEST
HAW vs RIC 19:50MCG
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COL vs MEL 14:10MCG
SYD vs ADE 16:35SCG
CAR vs NTH 19:20ES
GCF vs WCE 19:20MS
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ESS vs WBU 15:20ES
FRE vs GWS 16:40Domain Stadium
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Fri, 07 AugTimes shown AEST
ADE vs RIC 19:50Adelaide Oval
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COL vs CAR 13:45MCG
WBU vs PTA 14:10ES
BRI vs GCF 16:35G
GEE vs SYD 19:20SS
WCE vs HAW 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 09 AugTimes shown AEST
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GWS vs ESS 15:20Spotless Stadium
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Fri, 14 AugTimes shown AEST
SYD vs COL 19:50SCG
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ESS vs ADE 13:45ES
NTH vs STK 14:10BA
PTA vs GWS 16:35Adelaide Oval
GEE vs HAW 19:20MCG
BRI vs CAR 19:20G
Sun, 16 AugTimes shown AEST
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WBU vs MEL 15:20ES
FRE vs WCE 16:40Domain Stadium
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Round 21
Fri, 21 AugTimes shown AEST
HAW vs PTA 19:50ES
Sat, 22 AugTimes shown AEST
COL vs RIC 13:45MCG
GWS vs SYD 14:10Spotless Stadium
GCF vs ESS 16:35MS
STK vs GEE 19:20ES
ADE vs BRI 19:40Adelaide Oval
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CAR vs MEL 15:20MCG
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Fri, 28 AugTimes shown AEST
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HAW vs BRI 14:10AS
NTH vs WBU 16:35ES
ESS vs RIC 19:20MCG
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STK vs SYD 15:20ES
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Round 23
Fri, 04 SepTimes shown AEST
COL vs ESS 00:00MCG
RIC vs NTH 00:00ES
HAW vs CAR 00:00MCG
GEE vs ADE 00:00SS
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