Hird will fight for Essendon's reputation
As Essendon coach James Hird left his house this morning he vowed to fight for the club's reputation amid doping allegations.PT1M56S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2rt26 620 349 August 13, 2013
Watching the Essendon Football Club and James Hird cling so desperately to the last vestiges of their eroding and scandal-torn season would be sad if it was not so shameful.
Listening to the Hird camp's repeated and pathetic attempts to hold the AFL accountable for the revelation of the invidious program the coach helped create and failed to control has become tedious and irrelevant.
And witnessing an internationally respected businessman such as Paul Little speak so ill-advisedly before Sunday's capitulation to West Coast shows how this great game and the aura surrounding its heroes - like Hird - can cloud the clearest of minds.
James Hird is still trying to hold the AFL accountable for exposing the scandal he helped create. Photo: Getty Images
Perhaps Little was being clever when he declared at Essendon's pre-match function that ''we remain steadfast in our belief that the players did not take harmful or performance-enhancing substances''. Because the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority report found evidence that illegal substances were given to the players - at least one of which was performance-enhancing.
''We hope … this will mean for the first time we are uninhibited in our ability to set the record straight,'' Little said.
This sounds achingly similar to the stand Adelaide took last year before the AFL fined the club, stripped it of draft picks and suspended key executives. And then, suddenly, Adelaide accepted the punishments and was not prepared to submit itself to hard questions.
Essendon president Paul Little appears convinced that if the club made mistakes it did so without intent and therefore should fight. Photo: Getty Images
Little appears convinced that if the club made mistakes it did so without intent and therefore should fight.
It just seems baffling though that anyone who has read the ASADA summary along with the Switkowski report and has taken on board the views of the players' union should remain so publicly unrepentant.
At any rate, nothing has prevented Essendon from setting the record straight. Former players, ranging from Tim Watson to Mark McVeigh, have been briefed and spoken publicly often yet said nothing which excuses what Essendon allowed to happen to the young men it should have cared for better.
Indeed, Hird for months now has selectively been leaking his increasingly irrelevant and unconvincing side of the story and yet been unable to explain the email and text message trail along with mounting anecdotal evidence linking his name to the pharmacologically experimental program which Essendon tried to keep secret.
For someone who read the play so beautifully as a player he has read this one so badly. We said this in April and we say it again: Hird still doesn't get it.
Had he stepped aside and worked willingly behind the scenes to salvage his reputation and his career while Essendon moved relatively unfettered through 2013 with its players the primary focus, this quagmire could have been avoided. The narrative of this dirtied season could have been a little cleaner.
He is still trying to hold the AFL accountable for exposing the scandal he helped create, never mind it won't excuse him and never mind he betrayed and ultimately ended the tenure of his great friend David Evans in doing so. Does he truly think that removing Andrew Demetriou from the judicial process will save him?
Hird's spin doctor Ian Hanke used the Essendon letterhead to deny the AFL had warned him in late 2011 against the use of peptides. Even though it was true.
He employed Stephen Dank a month or so after that warning and then, early the following year, looked with Evans at investing in AOD-9604. Interestingly, Hird told the joint investigation that he attended the drug presentation at Evans' bidding, while Evans says he went at Hird's behest.
But then Hird is not alone in failing to put his hand up, according to the ASADA summary.
In the end he emerges from it poorly but no worse than Dean Robinson, with Danny Corcoran, Dr Bruce Reid and even Mark Thompson also culpable because they failed to stop this dreadful systematic drugs program instigated by Dank.
As Essendon vows to fight against some of the proposed AFL sanctions, there is no doubt the club, among other punishments, will be handed a hefty fine. Some say a multimillion-dollar fine would be meaningless, but not if the AFL divided up the money and distributed it to the other 17 clubs whose seasons Essendon has tarnished.
And Hird? His reputation has been further hurt by his ill-advised strategy and internally even some football department staffers and at least two board members have lost some faith in him.
''It's been the toughest year that any group of footballers could ever imagine,'' Hird said on Sunday evening, ''and the toughest that any group of footballers has had to deal with, and they have been terrific.''
This is so true, but how disappointing the coach could not back up those compassionate words with his own behaviour last year when he failed to show adequate concern for those players.
How devastating that the hero who returned to save Essendon has instead allowed it to be dragged down so low.