ABC journalist Tracey Holmes has hit back at criticism of her highly anticipated interview with former Essendon coach James Hird, declaring she asked the tough questions.
Holmes was criticised for a "softball" approach in her television interview with Hird on Sunday night, but defended herself when contacted by Fairfax Media.
James Hird speaks out over Essendon saga
Don't silence Hanson, debate her
Pokemon craze grips the world
60 minutes: Adam Whittington leaves Lebanon
Three Anzacs buried in France
Stephen Dank wounded in Ascot Vale
Tasmanian devils face cancer threat
Bill Shorten announces shadow ministry
James Hird speaks out over Essendon saga
In his first live interview since Essendon players were suspended over banned substances, the former coach says the 34 men were 'sacrificed' to send an anti-drugs message. Courtesy ABC News 24.
"Nothing I say will change others' opinions - neither would I want to since everybody is entitled to one. Critics had made up their minds about this interview before it had even begun," she said.
"Some people confuse rudeness with toughness. I don't set out to be rude, but if anyone wants to go through the transcript or watch the video and tell me that questions about Hird failing the players, being naive, being the wrong man for the coaching job, not paying attention to detail are 'soft', then they are not listening."
Speaking for the first time about the Essendon doping scandal since 34 past and present Essendon players learnt last week they would be banned for the entire 2016 season, Hird sat with Holmes at Sydney's Ethics Centre.
Hird told Holmes many friendships had been lost, as he took swipes at former AFL chief Andrew Demetriou, current league boss Gillon McLachlan and former Bombers chairman David Evans, to whom he has not spoken since 2013.
Hird even defended controversial sports scientist Stephen Dank, who masterminded the supplements program at Essendon in 2012, questioning why he would set out to dope players.
But viewers did not appreciate Holmes' interview style, with many levelling criticism at her failure to ask hard-hitting questions and to pursue Hird's responses.
Social media users did not hold back, with many accusing Holmes - who last week had to defend herself against suggestions of being a Hird sympathiser - of taking a softball approach.
Others were exasperated by Hird's constant denials, while others felt some sympathy for a man they described as "delusional".
Jobe Watson 'has every right to feel let down'
Former Essendon coach James Hird speaks of his regret over the club's supplements program and the damage done to players' careers. Courtesy ABC News 24.
Perhaps the best-received commentary came from Rhett Bartlett, the son of Richmond Football Club great Kevin Bartlett, whose sentiments aired on Twitter were retweeted hundreds of times.
HIRD: 'I know who shot JFK' TRACEY HOLMES: 'So tell me about avocados'— Rhett Bartlett (@rhettrospective) January 17, 2016
James Hird outlining what happened at Essendon pic.twitter.com/Si19AM7Qg2— Rhett Bartlett (@rhettrospective) January 17, 2016
How UNLUCKY is James Hird. Everyone around is to blame.— Rhett Bartlett (@rhettrospective) January 17, 2016
Former Essendon player Ted Richards was also unimpressed, suggesting he learnt more from the news updates on the bottom of the screen than from the Hird interview itself.
Learnt tonight that Leicester is on top of the EPL. pic.twitter.com/O49IGEOaEW— Ted Richards (@tedrichards25) January 17, 2016
Richards played 33 games for the Bombers between 2001 and 2005 before leaving for Sydney.
Former Olympian and media commentator David Culbert said the interview was "incredibly disappointing".
Culbert criticised Holmes for failing to ask about thymosin beta 4 - the banned drug at the centre of the Essendon supplements scandal - among other things, but took most issue with her interview style.
He acknowledged it was not easy to ask tough questions straight up in a combative interview, but said viewers would have been better served if Holmes followed up the questions she asked.
"I thought the lack of follow-up [questions] was the most disappointing thing," Culbert told Melbourne radio station SEN on Monday morning.
He said he wanted to hear more about a letter from Essendon doctor Bruce Reid, as well as text messages between Dank, Hird and others.
"I was surprised that, when James Hird said the AFL tribunal found the players not guilty, that wasn't challenged," Culbert said.
Here's what other Twitter users had to say:
Molly Meldrum did tougher interviews on Countdown. #Hird— Paul Nolan (@pwnolan) January 17, 2016
#Hird Lance Armstrong can't believe he didn't think of Hirds defense.. "Why would I cheat?" "It just doesn't make sense."— YNWA (@Jpana75) January 17, 2016
#Hird. I refuse to be blamed for my hairdresser's systematic failure.— Ross Freiberg (@gdayrosco) January 17, 2016
James #Hird has become the toy of social media. There can be no further fall from grace.— Uncle Ro (@rowjamm) January 17, 2016
#Hird well done James, classic George Costanza, it's not a lie if you believe it.— YNWA (@Jpana75) January 17, 2016
Why did anyone ever think this interview was going to accomplish anything #Hird— Kaan (@KaanSerifoglu) January 17, 2016
To paraphrase Shakespeare. Methinks Hird doth protest too much. #Hird— Daveo (@son_of_stowball) January 17, 2016