David Evans

David Evans

The resignation of David Evans as chairman of the Essendon Football Club was the result of the enormous personal toll that the club's supplement scandal took on him, as he finally found himself wedged between close friends Andrew Demetriou and James Hird and under internal pressures to take a different approach.

His health also became a consideration in the rooms after Friday night's Hawthorn vs Essendon game. Evans was checked by the club doctor after an exhausting few days in which he had returned from London and immediately confronted the worst days of the crisis.

Ultimately, the extraordinary strain of the past six months overwhelmed Evans, regarded by all within the football community as principled and a conciliatory gentleman. His resignation surprised the club's board and left the AFL depressed and wondering whether his successor would follow Evans' path — which was to work hand in glove with the AFL in dealing with the scandal — or choose a more combative path that would not necessarily see the club bend to the league's will.

Evans had spoken of his desire to stay on as chairman prior to Friday night's game against Hawthorn. Yet, in the Essendon rooms after the game, he was believed to be already thinking of quitting. He was unwell and given the physical and emotional toll, already thinking of standing down. The Essendon board has not yet chosen his successor; his deputy Paul Little, one of Victoria's richest men, is favoured to take over in the interim.

"What is happening at our club right now is a tragedy, but I know that it will survive," said Evans. "I believe in the Essendon Football Club and its people and it will get through this crisis with people like Paul Little, James Hird and Ray Gunston as its leaders."

While this abrupt reversal invited the question of what changed, Evans was not pushed by other board members, who had wanted him to continue, even though there were some who had advocated taking a more fighting stance and had seen him as working too closely with Demetriou - who has made plain his disgust with what went on at the club in 2012 and barely concealed his dim view of Hird's role. The defining ASADA report into Essendon is due out in August.

Evans had been unlikely to stay on for a long term as head of the club anyway, but the tumult of the past week - when he was forced to back up the AFL chief executive Demetriou's version of a phone call to him about the Australian Crime Commission - clearly expedited his exit. This dispute centred on whether Demetriou had tipped off Evans that Essendon was the subject of an ACC investigation. Hird, who was present at Evans' home, had indicated that Demetriou had indeed done so and that he had told this to ASADA.

When Hird went on record backing up a Herald-Sun report about the fateful ACC phone call - the story was viewed to have come from the coach's camp - the pressure on Demetriou, Evans and Hird intensified, as Demetriou was forced to defend his conduct.

By Friday evening, when the divisions and different versions were dominating media, Hird, too, had clearly been affected by the fall-out. In his post-match media conference, an emotional Hird spoke of how people's lives had been affected by the investigation. In the rooms before the game, Evans and Hird had embraced, and the chairman had said he would still be Hird's friend in 20 years.

Evans, unlike every other key player at Essendon in this season - the club's best onfield for a decade, but worst in living memory otherwise - was a voluntary official who did not receive a cent. In fact, the saga forced him to spend large periods of each week away from his six-year-old stockbroking business - another factor he cited for sudden departure.

Evans' departure statement did not duck the diabolical season that the club had endured and hinted at the bind he had found himself in. "Leadership is tough at times and I have tried to lead with fairness and integrity and at the same time acknowledging responsibility to make the right decisions. I am confident that this decision is one of those.

"My involvement, and indeed my family's involvement over many years at both Essendon and the AFL have given me great strength during the last five months, because many of the people that I deal with are close friends.

"This has given me great insight and assisted in making tough decisions, but those decisions now may be seen to be clouded by those relationships or be seen as a conflict, and I am not prepared to have my decisions reflect poorly on the club either now or in future." Evans said he understood that his exit would cause "consternation among the Essendon family" and called the players his inspiration.

The exit of Evans means that the crisis has claimed two of Essendon's three senior figures - chief executive Ian Robson having been forced out in May. Of the three men who sat together when the club announced that it was self-reporting to ASADA in February, only Hird, a hero to the fans, remains in his position.