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Right thing for Hird to do is step down

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Hird, Essendon facing another drugs crisis

Football writers Caroline Wilson and Jake Niall dissect the latest revelations surrounding the ongoing drugs saga at Windy Hill.

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In early February, as James Hird's world began to unravel, he still didn't get it. Sitting alongside his chairman and his chief executive at AFL head office, the Essendon legend, premiership captain and now coach said: ''I'm shocked to be sitting here.''

Two months later, as the evidence against Hird continues to deeply disturb those who are investigating him, that claim seems fanciful.

An Essendon Football club press conference earlier this year.

An Essendon Football club press conference earlier this year. Photo: Wayne Taylor

The best case scenario now for the highly paid coach who is emerging as a central figure in the club's doping investigation is that he was incompetent and naive to the point of delusional. The worst case is that he has been unco-operative at a time when the Australian sporting landscape is demanding full disclosure. Either way, Hird has been derelict in his duty as head coach of an AFL club ultimately responsible for the careers and welfare of 44 young men.

So many players could potentially be banned by the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority, all of whom were assured by their coach and club hero during 2012 that they broke no rules.

Having embraced and never appropriately questioned the irregular practices implemented by sport scientist Stephen Dank that punctuated the Bombers' ultimately disastrous 2012 season, Hird led by example and worse.

The most honourable move for Hird now would be to resign. At the least Essendon should stand him down until the ASADA investigation into the club has run its race.

The Bombers' internal investigation will almost certainly end the tenure of club chief Ian Robson, who seemed to have no clear picture of the damage that was being done on his watch. Nor has the evidence been kind to Hird's long-time ally and Essendon football manager Danny Corcoran, who also looks certain to go.

Chairman David Evans addressed the Essendon players over two sessions on Wednesday in an attempt to outline his knowledge of what substances they had allegedly unknowingly taken, and the mood among those players has been one of increased concern.

The future of senior assistant Mark Thompson, who introduced high-performance chief Dean Robinson to the club, who in turn brought in Dank, remains unclear. Dank had lasted three months at the Gold Coast Suns before being told to leave and was persona non grata at Cronulla, and yet none of the above checked his credentials or his record.

The club's long-time doctor, Bruce Reid, has told colleagues he wrote to the board expressing concerns about the so-called ''irregular practices''. Hird has told those close to him he trusted the wrong people and feels badly let down.

And yet evidence is mounting that Hird, whose fascination with various supplements dates back at least a decade to his relationship with convicted drug offender Shane Charter, was a key player and supporter of those practices.

As Essendon became something of a part-time lab experimenting and pushing medical boundaries, Hird's players became human pin cushions for a time. According to two players from 2012 now deeply concerned at their actions, Hird and his assistant Simon Goodwin were ''at the front of the queue'' during some injecting sessions.

Dank has alleged to Fairfax Media that Hird, Goodwin and another assistant, James Byrne, took substances outside the World Anti-Doping Agency code. Hird's response has indicated that if he was taking banned substances he did so unknowingly.

But the signs in recent weeks coming from Essendon and the AFL indicate that he will not be protected. David Evans, who worked so hard to bring Hird back to Essendon, will not let his close friendship with the coach come before the football club.

Evans' mantra even before he appointed Ziggy Switkowski to investigate Essendon's internal practices and structure made it clear that the footballers remained his No. 1 priority. He must be feeling sick at the thought of the blind faith those players placed in Hird, who with Evans addressed the players' parents back in February and assured them some ''good news'' was on the horizon.

Those players, including club captain Jobe Watson, who was one of the on-field leaders who demanded a written assurance about the substances with which they were injected, have been advised to seek separate legal representation outside the players-association-appointed Queen's counsel David Grace. The club still faces legal action from its footballers.

Essendon signed Hird, an untried coach, at the end of 2010 to a four-year deal worth close to $4 million. A further $1 million was required to settle with the still contracted Matthew Knights, and Mark Thompson joined as Hird's senior assistant on an annual contract estimated at $650,000.

It was crazy money in the context of Hird's experience but not when you consider his club status and the membership, sponsorship and positive vibe he brought with him.

At that early February press conference a grim-faced Hird said: ''The supplements our players were given, in my opinion and my knowledge, were all approved and within the regulations we all play the game by.

''I'm very disappointed - shocked is probably the best word. I believe we followed processes, we put in place the right sort of processes. My understanding is we worked within the framework given to us by the AFL and WADA.''

More than two months have passed and while so many of his players continued to believe in Hird, the coach can still not guarantee that those young men - whose bodies were experimented with in such cavalier fashion - will not be punished as drug cheats.

For that alone he should step down.

152 comments

  • You call for someones head every week. There wouldn't be be many people left in footy if anybody took your opinion seriously.

    Why sensationalise a story when you clearly don't have all the facts??

    Commenter
    Robbie
    Location
    Port Hedland
    Date and time
    April 11, 2013, 8:01AM
    • I've been thinking the same thing lately. So many articles so "totally disgusted by something" and demanding a "certain person be sacked" as the solution. It's become the "Caroline Wilson formula".

      Commenter
      Cam
      Date and time
      April 11, 2013, 8:28AM
    • The point about this issue that there is no consistency about accepting or rejecting what Danks says.
      Caroline Wilson REJECTS his statements that he has done nothing wrong and vilifies him for this. In the same breath she ACCEPTS his accusations about Hird.
      You would have more credibility if you didn't cherry pick to suit your your point of view, which looks have found Hird and the EFC guilty from the moment this issue was brought into the open, by EFC by the way...not ASADA or anyone else.

      Commenter
      JIM
      Location
      Bayside
      Date and time
      April 11, 2013, 8:29AM
    • There's always a nasty tone to everything she writes or says.

      Commenter
      AM
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      April 11, 2013, 8:36AM
    • Right Robbie. Caroline Wilson has become one of the worst commentators of football. This isn't news. This isn't football. This is ridiculous in the extreme. I wonder if she will ever go back to writing about the game, instead of her usual hearsay, tabloid, cheap, garbage excuse for journalism.

      Commenter
      Stand down Carro
      Date and time
      April 11, 2013, 8:40AM
    • Well said Robbie. Anything to boost your page-clicks huh Caro?

      These are serious allegations that should be handled with due diligence and process. Your shreiking from the cheap seats adds nothing constructive.

      Commenter
      Dr Rock
      Date and time
      April 11, 2013, 8:44AM
    • Couldn't put it any better Robbie. Caro should be writing celebrity gossip colums in Who magazine.
      We've had enough of this misleading, non factual, hearsay, "sources indicate" rubbish which ultimatly results in the Caro catch cry of "sack him"!
      Get a life, and while you're at it.. get some proof!

      Commenter
      2Boards
      Date and time
      April 11, 2013, 8:47AM
    • Don't worry guys. You can always grovel to try and get Matty Knights back, now that he's been vindicated as a superb coach compared with what the "Dream Team" could produce.

      Commenter
      Too Funny
      Date and time
      April 11, 2013, 8:47AM
    • the problem is Robbie - is that she is normally correct (except of course when she slags off at Swanny). Tough times ahead for the Bombouts

      Commenter
      Gaz
      Location
      Yarrawonga
      Date and time
      April 11, 2013, 9:04AM
    • Too funny - you're too funny.

      Commenter
      Ab
      Location
      Canberra
      Date and time
      April 11, 2013, 9:04AM

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AFL 2015

Round 1
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CAR 78vs RIC 105 Report Stats
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MEL 115vs GCF 89 Stats
SYD 72vs ESS 60 Stats
BRI 74vs COL 86 Stats
WBU 97vs WCE 87 Stats
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STK 78vs GWS 87 Stats
ADE 140vs NTH 63 Stats
FRE 75vs PTA 68 Stats
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HAW 123vs GEE 61 Stats
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WCE 131vs CAR 62 Stats
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RIC 66vs WBU 85 Report Stats
GWS 101vs MEL 56 Stats
COL 63vs ADE 90 Report Stats
GCF 76vs STK 104 Stats
PTA 44vs SYD 92 Stats
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GEE 60vs FRE 104 Stats
ESS 78vs HAW 76 Stats
NTH 133vs BRI 51 Stats
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COL 140vs STK 66 Stats
Sat, 18 AprTimes shown AEST
CAR 84vs ESS 105 Stats
ADE 80vs MEL 55 Stats
SYD 111vs GWS 90 Report Stats
NTH 105vs PTA 113 Stats
BRI 58vs RIC 137 Stats
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HAW 127vs WBU 57 Stats
GEE 105vs GCF 96 Stats
WCE 81vs FRE 111 Stats
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Fri, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
RIC 51vs MEL 83 Stats
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STK 81vs CAR 121 Report Report Stats
ESS 49vs COL 69 Report Stats
GWS 119vs GCF 53 Stats
PTA 99vs HAW 91 Stats
FRE 74vs SYD 60 Stats
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BRI 65vs WCE 118 Stats
GEE 67vs NTH 83 Stats
WBU 125vs ADE 68 Stats
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CAR 45vs COL 120 Stats
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RIC 76vs GEE 85 Stats
SYD 73vs WBU 77 Stats
GCF 118vs BRI 54 Stats
NTH 70vs HAW 130 Stats
WCE 120vs GWS 33 Stats
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MEL 50vs FRE 118 Stats
STK 80vs ESS 82 Stats
ADE 91vs PTA 115 Stats
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COL 59vs GEE 100 Stats
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NTH 109vs RIC 74 Stats
WBU 87vs STK 94 Stats
GWS 108vs HAW 98 Stats
GCF 78vs ADE 119 Stats
MEL 50vs SYD 88 Stats
FRE 80vs ESS 52 Stats
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CAR 75vs BRI 84 Report Stats
PTA 68vs WCE 78 Stats
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Fri, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
ESS 82vs NTH 93 Stats
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ADE 119vs STK 73 Stats
HAW 155vs MEL 50 Stats
CAR 57vs GWS 135 Stats
SYD 120vs GEE 77 Stats
WCE 135vs GCF 43 Stats
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WBU 88vs FRE 101 Stats
RIC 105vs COL 100 Report Stats
BRI 102vs PTA 65 Report Stats
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Fri, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
GEE 140vs CAR 63 Report Stats
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STK 78vs WCE 131 Report Stats
GWS 108vs ADE 84 Report Stats
GCF 63vs COL 132 Report Stats
HAW 69vs SYD 73 Report Stats
FRE 115vs NTH 42 Report Stats
Sun, 24 MayTimes shown AEST
ESS 136vs BRI 78 Report Stats
MEL 103vs WBU 64 Report Stats
PTA 43vs RIC 76 Report Stats
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Fri, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
SYD 122vs CAR 62 Report Stats
Sat, 30 MayTimes shown AEST
HAW 93vs GCF 40 Report Stats
MEL 54vs PTA 115 Report Stats
WBU 113vs GWS 68 Report Stats
RIC 72vs ESS 59 Report Stats
ADE 57vs FRE 68 Report Stats
Sun, 31 MayTimes shown AEST
BRI 86vs STK 108 Report Stats
COL 112vs NTH 95 Report Stats
WCE 120vs GEE 64 Report Stats
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FRE 70vs RIC 97 Report Stats
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CAR 90vs ADE 99 Report Stats
GCF 41vs SYD 93 Report Stats
ESS 53vs GEE 122 Report Stats
PTA 100vs WBU 62 Report Stats
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GWS 97vs BRI 67 Report Stats
NTH 85vs WCE 75 Report Stats
STK 69vs HAW 132 Report Stats
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MEL 85vs COL 110 Report Stats
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PTA 69vs GEE 92 Report Stats
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GCF 46vs FRE 53 Report Stats
WCE 96vs ESS 46 Report Stats
NTH 75vs SYD 91 Report Report Stats
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COL 119vs GWS 77 Report Stats
STK 85vs MEL 83 Report Stats
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ADE 85vs HAW 114 Report Stats
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RIC 70vs WCE 90 Report Stats
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CAR 110vs PTA 106 Report Stats
GWS 61vs NTH 117 Report Stats
WBU 146vs BRI 74 Report Stats
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GEE 89vs MEL 113 Report Stats
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FRE 80vs COL 73 Report Stats
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SYD 77vs RIC 95 Report Stats
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HAW 114vs ESS 76 Report Stats
BRI 69vs ADE 82 Report Stats
STK 56vs WBU 62 Report Stats
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CAR 103vs GCF 69 Report Stats
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Round 14
Thu, 02 JulTimes shown AEST
SYD 94vs PTA 84 Report Stats
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COL 91vs HAW 101 Report Stats
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RIC 78vs GWS 69 Report Stats
GCF 125vs NTH 70 Report Stats
WBU 64vs CAR 53 Report Stats
MEL 60vs WCE 114 Report Stats
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ESS 52vs STK 162 Stats
ADE vs GEE 15:20Adelaide Oval
FRE 84vs BRI 48 Report Stats
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Thu, 09 JulTimes shown AEST
PTA 66vs COL 63 Report Stats
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RIC 71vs CAR 41 Report Stats
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ESS 69vs MEL 60 Report Stats
WBU 95vs GCF 73 Report Stats
NTH 120vs GEE 79 Report Stats
WCE 147vs ADE 91 Report Stats
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GWS 84vs STK 49 Report Stats
HAW 115vs FRE 43 Report Stats
BRI 49vs SYD 70 Report Stats
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NTH 93vs ESS 68 Report Stats
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GEE 72vs WBU 64 Report Stats
GCF 79vs GWS 94 Report Stats
COL 56vs WCE 87 Report Stats
SYD 57vs HAW 146 Report Stats
FRE 95vs CAR 53 Report Stats
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MEL 60vs BRI 36 Report Stats
PTA 113vs ADE 116 Report Stats
STK 73vs RIC 89 Report Stats
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Round 17
Fri, 24 JulTimes shown AEST
CAR 35vs HAW 173 Report Stats
Sat, 25 JulTimes shown AEST
GWS 42vs GEE 69 Stats
ADE 125vs GCF 80 Stats
RIC 78vs FRE 82 Stats
ESS 116vs PTA 129 Stats
BRI 38vs NTH 110 Report Stats
Sun, 26 JulTimes shown AEST
WBU 104vs COL 86 Report Stats
MEL 46vs STK 83 Report Stats
WCE 103vs SYD 51 Report Stats
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Round 18
Fri, 31 JulTimes shown AEST
HAW 53vs RIC 71 Report Stats
Sat, 01 AugTimes shown AEST
GEE 113vs BRI 57 Stats
COL 54vs MEL 91 Report Stats
SYD 117vs ADE 65 Report Stats
CAR 54vs NTH 118 Report Stats
GCF 83vs WCE 83 Report Stats
Sun, 02 AugTimes shown AEST
PTA 112vs STK 49 Report Stats
ESS 40vs WBU 127 Report Stats
FRE 84vs GWS 63 Report Stats
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Round 19
Fri, 07 AugTimes shown AEST
ADE 88vs RIC 52 Report Stats
Sat, 08 AugTimes shown AEST
COL 105vs CAR 87 Report Stats
WBU 128vs PTA 64 Report Stats
BRI 100vs GCF 114 Report Stats
GEE 95vs SYD 63 Report Stats
WCE 74vs HAW 88 Report Stats
Sun, 09 AugTimes shown AEST
MEL 92vs NTH 127 Report Stats
GWS 93vs ESS 61 Report Stats
STK 59vs FRE 96 Report Stats
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Round 20
Fri, 14 AugTimes shown AEST
SYD 87vs COL 76 Report Stats
Sat, 15 AugTimes shown AEST
ESS 59vs ADE 171 Report Stats
NTH 120vs STK 83 Report Stats
PTA 111vs GWS 90 Report Stats
GEE 85vs HAW 121 Report Stats
BRI 131vs CAR 67 Report Stats
Sun, 16 AugTimes shown AEST
RIC 138vs GCF 55 Report Stats
WBU 153vs MEL 55 Report Stats
FRE 80vs WCE 104 Report Stats
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Round 21
Fri, 21 AugTimes shown AEST
HAW 86vs PTA 108 Report Stats
Sat, 22 AugTimes shown AEST
COL 56vs RIC 147 Report Stats
GWS 44vs SYD 133 Report Stats
GCF 97vs ESS 95 Report Stats
STK 97vs GEE 97 Report Stats
ADE 131vs BRI 44 Report Stats
Sun, 23 AugTimes shown AEST
NTH 94vs FRE 83 Report Stats
CAR 78vs MEL 55 Report Stats
WCE 162vs WBU 85 Report Stats
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Round 22
Fri, 28 AugTimes shown AEST
GEE 62vs COL 110 Report Stats
Sat, 29 AugTimes shown AEST
GWS 132vs CAR 51 Report Stats
HAW 134vs BRI 62 Report Stats
NTH 73vs WBU 96 Report Stats
ESS 47vs RIC 74 Report Stats
GCF 51vs PTA 88 Report Stats
Sun, 30 AugTimes shown AEST
ADE 126vs WCE 69 Report Stats
STK 38vs SYD 135 Report Stats
FRE 108vs MEL 54 Report Stats
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Round 23
Fri, 04 SepTimes shown AEST
RIC 108vs NTH 67 Report Stats
Sat, 05 SepTimes shown AEST
GEE 119vs ADE 80 Stats
BRI 130vs WBU 122 Stats
PTA 102vs FRE 52 Stats
HAW 59vs CAR 29 LIVE Stats
SYD ($1.04)vs GCF ($12.00) 19:25SCG
WCE ($1.04)vs STK ($12.00) 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 06 SepTimes shown AEST
MEL ($2.40)vs GWS ($1.57) 13:10ES
COL ($1.28)vs ESS ($3.70) 15:20MCG
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Overall standings
Team P W L D % Pts
Fremantle 21 17 4 0 125.10 68
West Coast Eagles 21 15 5 1 143.00 62
Hawthorn 21 15 6 0 156.77 60
Sydney Swans 21 15 6 0 124.11 60
Richmond 22 15 7 0 123.09 60
Western Bulldogs 22 14 8 0 115.12 56
Adelaide Crows 21 13 8 0 115.71 54
North Melbourne 22 13 9 0 106.45 52
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