Bombers expect sanctions soon

Written By komlim puldel on Jumat, 23 Agustus 2013 | 20.02

Julian de Stoop brings you the latest news from Windy Hill after James Hird cancelled his planned public response to the AFL at the last minute.

PAUL Little has conceded Essendon will cop AFL sanctions for poor governance and people management and says there should be a resolution to the drawn-out saga soon.

The chairman penned an open letter to the Bombers members tonight, heightening speculation the Dons will be tossed out of this year's finals series.

But Little said the Dons would not accept copping the drug cheats tag.

"We have made mistakes in terms of governance and people management, and we apologise for them," Little said.

"We also accept there will be AFL sanctions as a consequence…but the evidence does not extend to drug cheating, and we're working to ensure that the charges and ultimate penalties reflect this.

"The ongoing controversy is harmful to our players and their families, our officials, the club, other AFL clubs and the AFL itself."

The letter came amid talks between Essendon and the AFL that could see James Hird stand down as coach.

Hird left Windy Hill declaring he will stay on as coach, two hours after Bombers assistant coach Simon Goodwin insisted Hird would lead Essendon against Carlton tomorrow.

But discussions with the AFL in a bid to end the dispute could result in Hird standing aside and the club being stripped of its 2013 premiership points - ruling it out of the finals.

The Bombers could retain their draft picks under the deal, The Australian reports.



Under the proposed settlement Hird would be free to continue his legal action against the AFL and defend the charges against him.

James Hird was MIA at Windy Hill this morning as one of his assistants, Simon Goodwin, addressed the media.

Yesterday, Hird launched Supreme Court action against the league over its handling of the drugs investigation.

The Essendon coach lodged documents in the Supreme Court alleging that in February AFL boss Andrew Demetriou and his deputy Gillon McLachlan tipped off the club about investigations into drug use at the club.



He was due to front a huge media pack at Windy Hill this morning but Goodwin took his place in a last-minute switch. Hird told reporters later that he was busy preparing for tomorrow night's match against Carlton.

James Hird at his house in Toorak today. Picture: Hamish Blair

He answered only a couple of questions as he got into his car outside the Bombers headquarters, saying the phone call from a player's mother to radio station Triple M yesterday was "very concerning".

"I think the welfare of our players is something that we all hold in high regard and are very concerned about, so it was very concerning to hear it," Hird said.

The first question asked of Goodwin was whether Hird would definitely coach tomorrow night.

"As far as I know he's definitely going to be senior coach, yes," Goodwin said.

"It's obviously been a very difficult time for everyone, a very stressful time, but to James's credit he has been outstanding with the players, his No.1 thing has been about the players and making sure this team performs. I think now we're really looking forward to Saturday night and putting on a good performance against Carlton."

Western Bulldogs president Peter Gordon speaks on behalf of the 17 clubs who will support the AFL through the ongoing Essendon saga.

Goodwin defended Hird over an emotional phone call yesterday from a woman claiming to be the mother of a young Essendon player who said Hird had made the drugs saga all about him.

"It was hard to listen to for anyone involved in the footy club," Goodwin said.

"I think our primary concern from a club's perspective has been the players and their families.

"The club has been fantastic in really looking after the parents and making sure they're well educated, and I think they're going to continue to have that support."


Goodwin also disputed reports that some players were considering their future at Windy Hill.

"Not that I've seen ... the players have been absolutely resolute," Goodwin said.

Eddie McGuire leads the presidents out of the meeting today at AFH House. Picture: Tim Carrafa

"They want to be here."

He praised young midfielder Jake Melksham for re-signing with the club this week.

Essendon's media spokesman said Hird was "stuck in meetings" and was unavailable to speak.The team trained for about 20min at Windy Hill this morning, with Hird on track for about 10min.

He received strong support from about 100 loyal Essendon fans, with one yelling "Stick it up em, Hirdy!" as he emerged from the players' race while several held banners of support.

There was also a special cheer with club doctor Bruce Reid emerged, one fan calling out "We love you, Doc"

Demetriou this morning said he didn't see the drugs crisis as a personal battle with James Hird.

"These headlines are certainly not of my making. I've consistently maintained that James Hird has been a great contributor, he's a legend of the game ... and he's entitled to have his say and put his case forward," he said on 3AW.

"I don't get personal and I'm not interested in that sort of thing."

The mother of an Essendon player says the AFL club have created the worst nightmare for parents such as her.

Demetriou repeated it would be best for the game if the issue was resolved before the finals and said there was still an open invitation for Essendon to attend Monday's commission meeting despite the club asking for a deferment.

"If they still want to show up on Monday obviously they can, but at this stage it will be up to lawyers to decide when that date will be in the future. But it is important to get this resolved.

Demetriou also refuted the allegations in Hird's Supreme Court writ.

"It was impossible to tell Essendon anything when I was not privy to the information," he told ABC radio.

Demetriou said he had yet to discuss the writ with the AFL's legal counsel, but he did not believe it would stop him sitting on the AFL Commission when it heard the case against the Bombers.

21 August 2013 will go down in Australian sporting history as the day that the AFL and one of its oldest clubs, Essendon, declared war on each other.

Last night, Western Bulldogs president Peter Gordon said the 17 clubs had met without the AFL and Essendon and "resolved to unanimously support the integrity of the AFL Rules".


After almost three hours of crisis talks at AFL House, one club president told the Herald Sun: "The 17 clubs have had enough.

"We want it resolved and we want it resolved within the AFL structure. The mood among the presidents was thatEssendon has been fast and loose, and we have to protect the game.

"We all believe Essendon has a right to defend itself, but none of us want one club to stuff up the competition."

Essendon coach James Hird wants to have the charges against him heard by an independent tribunal.

Gordon said: "In our view, it is of paramount importance that every effort be made to resolve these matters within the AFL industry. We wish to unanimously express our confidence in the AFL Commission and AFL management.

"In the meantime, we call upon all parties to exercise restraint and discretion in any public comments about this matter, and with the safety and welfare of players and their families and the integrity of the game as the paramount considerations."


Bombers chairman Paul Little declared on Wednesday that his club had "lost total confidence in the AFL executive".

The club declined to comment, but high-level talks to resolve footy's greatest fight are believed to be continuing.

Finals are just 15 days away.

The Bombers are guaranteed a berth in an elimination final - if their points are not docked as punishment for their 2012 supplements program.


Hird took charge of training and showed no sign of standing down ahead of tomorrow night's clash with Carlton at the MCG.

Before the meeting, Port Adelaide president David Koch walked in, saying: "No one wants a slanging match.

"I think there are all sorts of questions that everyone has on where we're up to.

"We just want as much information as we can. We all have a duty of care to our players and that includes having the very best information."

Hawthorn president Andrew Newbold said: "It needs to end as soon as it can.

"I'm really concerned about the good of the game and the effect that it's having on the sport in general, on the kids out there.

''The other codes in Australia must be looking at us and rubbing their hands in glee."


Carlton president Stephen Kernahan said: "We all read (the charges) yesterday and it wasn't great reading. I go in with an open mind."

"Sticks" would later leave, backing the AFL.

This morning, Former Kangaroos CEO Eugene Arocca said Essendon had backed Hird until now but it should be looking after itself.

"There's obviously an argument or view that things are starting to split up and the football club is always first and should always be first," he told 3AW radio.

"It seems to me that outside of it at some stage those interests are going to diverge and the club has to make a call. It's hurting the club."

On radio earlier in the day the mother of an unnamed Bombers player directed an on-air tirade at the club.

"It's all right for James and the board of Essendon to say they have not cheated," she told Triple M.

"The whole question is not about cheating. The whole question is about morals, it's about ethics and it's about the trust that the parents put on the club for the club to take care of their child, their kids."

The club said it couldn't identify the caller.

James Hird's writ detailed a meeting on February 5 where McLachlan allegedly told club officials: "You can't say Essendon did not use drugs, because my information is you have used them.

"(AFL integrity officer) Brett Clothier knows the names of the drugs and he will be here soon.

"The Australian Crime Commission is going to hand down a report. There is going to be a meeting of all the (sporting) codes.


"If you come forward earlier and invite ASADA to investigate, then the investigation will look better for you."

The AFL declined to comment.

ACC chief John Lawler said: "Given legal proceedings have been initiated, it would be inappropriate for the ACC to make any further statement at this time."

Hird is arguing in court for the convening of an independent tribunal and the removal of Demetriou and other AFL commissioners from any hearing.

He is also seeking:

PROPER particulars of the charges against him.

DETAILS of the witnesses the AFL proposes to call.

COPIES of all documents the AFL will seek to tender.

DETAILS of the substance of the evidence they will give.

It is expected that Hird's legal team, led by Julian Burnside, QC, will front Monday's AFL Commission to repeat its demands, despite the other clubs' resolve.

- with Warwick Green, Michael Warner, Sam Edmund

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