Mark Thompson and James Hird discuss plans in 2012. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo
Interim Essendon coach Mark Thompson has suggested that the decision to keep James Hird away from a match-day role in 2014 was influenced by the media and public perception.
Speaking three days after the Bombers confirmed that Hird would play only a peripheral part in the club's 2014 finals push when he returns from his 12-month suspension on August 25, Thompson hinted that if the situation were placed in a vacuum, Hird would return without delay.
“You guys are powerful ... the media drive agendas,” Thompson told Fox Footy's AFL 360 program on Monday night.
The 10-7 Bombers currently sit seventh on the AFL ladder, and are positioned well for what would be just their third visit to the finals since 2004. With the stakes so high, Thompson believed the decision to keep Hird away from the coach's box had been made to promote the best interests of the club's players.
“We feel that if he is seen out on the ground then the story will be about him and not the players.
“The players missed out on the finals last year and to go through another series ... people don’t want it to be about James Hird. They want it to be about the footy."
Thompson denied accusations that Hird has been shunned by Essendon.
“We haven’t shifted him, we haven’t shut him out,” he said.
“The club won’t be disadvantaged. He’ll be involved. He’ll be doing lots of work, the day he comes back.”
Thompson also indicated he had spoken with 39-year-old Dustin Fletcher about the prospect of the defender venturing into a 23rd AFL season in 2015. Fletcher has 392 games to his name but mixed form in recent weeks has raised questions about whether he will play on in an attempt to become just the third man in VFL/AFL history to play 400 games.
“I had a chat to him. We’ve had a chat with him and his manager just to clear everything up,” Thompson said.
“We’ll see what happens.”