James Hird and his wife leave AFL House.

James and Tania Hird leave AFL House. Photo: Simon O'Dwyer

When it's all said and done, the bickering over how James Hird gets his money out of Essendon is largely irrelevent. The potential for infraction notices is still the main game.

The arguments between the Hird camp and the AFL over whether the investigation into the Essendon supplements scandal has been compromised, and whether the processes and tactics employed by the league and its chief executive were fair to the Essendon hierarchy are intruiging, but pale compared to the reality of what happened at Essendon last year.

ASADA is close to completing its investigation into the NRL's Cronulla Sharks, with veteran Sydney Morning Herald journalist Roy Masters suggesting suspensions will be announced in February. Masters also reported on Wednesday that ''ASADA has enough evidence on Essendon now to decide to issue infraction notices and is merely waiting to see if there is any cross-fertilisation with evidence from the NRL inquiry''.

Cross-fertilisation would appear to involve Stephen Dank, the former biochemist involved in the contentious supplements programs at each club. Dank has publicly maintained he won't submit to ASADA's new powers compelling him to be interviewed, but it is believed his stand may be softening. It would come as no surprise if Dank and ASADA met early in the new year.

It should be noted that Sharks' program lasted only two to three weeks and infraction notices seem a formality. Essendon's program ran from late 2011 through to August in 2012.

None of the wrangling between the Hird camp and the AFL changes the accepted scenario of a ''pharmacologically experimental environment'' in which several young, fit players were injected multiple times with a selection of questionable substances. ASADA's damning interim report, and Essendon's internal report by Ziggy Switkowski - which many of Hird's supporters seem to have forgetten - suggest the players Essendon players will struggle to escape penalty, despite the AFL's confidence that they will.

The fall-out from player suspensions will be far greater than anything we have seen so far. It would irrevocably taint the season and devastate the club. One player agent says he has a group of players ready to launch a class action against Essendon, and possibly Hird, should infraction notices be issued.

It will also be at that moment the deal for Hird to return to the senior role late next year would crumble. He could not possibly return under those circumstances.

Indeed, the game the Hird camp, including wife Tania, are now playing is dangerous enough. If the Bombers are paying Hird $1 million a season for essentially doing nothing, that's their prerogative. That there appears to be no formal paperwork decreeing he could not be paid is embarrassing for the AFL. But Hird has taken this and dramatically raised the stakes to portray what he feels has been an injustice and a belief he was railroaded into accepting an unwarranted suspension.

He has also used it to suggest the AFL's investigation was compromised. Again, that's his prerogative. But how is this really showing remorse for the supplements program that already has claimed former chairman David Evans and chief executive Ian Robson? How is this really helping the Essendon board endorse his return to the senior role and rubber-stamp his two-year contract extension?

The AFL's insistence on a joint investigation with ASADA has certainly not been the huge success the AFL suggested it was.

It did give each party greater powers and access to information that wouldn't have otherwise been available had they gone at it alone, but it has come at a cost in terms of public perception and has potentially compromised independence.

The interim report, that ASADA was pressured into delivering essentially so the AFL could protect its brand and integrity by eliminating Essendon from the finals, may not have been the wisest course of action.

While Demetriou has said the joint AFL-ASADA investigation would be a template for future investigations, it's understood WADA will never endorse another joint investigation with a sport and no major sporting code would ever compromise itself by agreeing to a shared inquiry with ASADA.

In the meantime, Hird's comments continue to distract all areas of the club. The heads of the powerful coterie groups will quiz chairman Paul Little after Monday night's annual meeting. The Bombers are already under financial stress, and are facing more legal costs fighting Dean Robinson's claims. More will follow if Hird takes his case to court. And the embattled players are still expected to concentrate on preparing for the 2014 campaign under coach Mark Thompson.

Tania Hird, in her supposedly spontaneous interview when a News Ltd reporter, video operator and photographer happened to be in place outside her house, says she wants the AFL to tell the truth. It's time her husband fronted the media and did the same, detailing all events, beginning with what happened at the club's pre-season training camp at the Sheraton Mirage in Surfers Paradise in December 2011 and his chance meeting with Shane ''Dr Ageless'' Charter.