Bombers out of finals, Hird banned

Written By Unknown on Minggu, 22 Desember 2013 | 20.01

James Hird fronts the media to discuss his 12 month ban from all official involvement in the AFL.

SUSPENDED Essendon coach James Hird says the club has been "unfairly dealt with this year", while his lawyer says the Bombers great was "heroic".

Hird held a press conference outside his Toorak mansion this morning after he was suspended for 12 months in a sensational climax to the saga.

"I am deeply sorry for what happened at our football club in 2012," Hird said.

"I do take a level of responsibility for what happened.

"I should have known what was going on, I should have done more and I'm very disappointed that I didn't."

Asked if he broke the rules, Hird said "not at all".

"I didn't break the rules that I was charged with, those charges have been dropped and we've agreed to move on."

Following the press conference, Hird's lawyer, Julian Burnside QC, said the suspended Bombers coach was "heroic" for accepting the AFL's 12-month ban.

"He (Hird) has been brutally maligned in the press over the past six months - I don't know how he has managed to survive it - and he has wanted to show that he is not guilty of anything,'' Burnside told 3AW.

"But against that, he wanted to do the right thing by the club and the game.

James Hird speaks to media at his house on Wednesday. Picture: Mark Dadswell

"I reckon what he did ... was nothing short of heroic.''

Burnside and fellow lawyer Steven Amendola have been among Hird's advisers during the supplements crisis.

Amendola was insistent that the AFL did not find Hird guilty, but rather reached an agreement on his 12-month suspension.

"Fact: he did not admit any charge. Fact: he was not found guilty of breaching (AFL rule) 1.6. Fact: the charges were withdrawn against him,'' Amendola told ABC radio.

Jobe Watson says his teammates would welcome James Hird back. Picture: Colleen Petch

"What happened was there was a negotiation and an agreement about consequence. There was no individual finding against him, in terms of a breach of 1.6.''

While Hird felt he didn't break any laws, he said that senior coaches were "responsible for a lot of things at a football club".

"There were things that went on at our football club that shouldn't have happened last year, and as senior coach I have to take some responsibility for what happened and not doing more to stop it," Hird said.

The Bombers were last night dramatically booted from September action and fined $2 million, with Hird apologising to the AFL Commission and accepting his ban.

But while Essendon has lost its first two draft picks for this year and the 2014 national draft, dogged negotiations delivered it a selection after the first round of the draft next year.

Essendon has been thrown out of this year's finals series as punishment for its 2012 supplements program.

Hird's ban expires on August 25 next year and while he cannot have an official role with his club until then, he could return to play a key role in the 2014 finals.

Hird said he was glad the saga had finally ended.

"For the good of the game and for the good of our football club, and most importantly for two entities, for our players and our supporters, I'm so glad this is finished and the game can move on."

Hird said he had spoken to his players and they were upset with the sanctions handed down.

"Speaking to the players last night and speaking to them this morning, I think we're all disappointed at the level of sanctions that have been put on the club. But we understand that some sanctions had to be placed on our club," Hird said.

"Our football club is a great football club and it has been unfairly dealt with this year. We do own those mistakes but the way it has been treated I don't think is fair."

Hird said ending his Supreme Court fight against the AFL was the "right nothing to do" even though it was a "matter of principle".

While Hird said he was disappointed not to be coaching next year, he said he was keen to return in 2015.

"I've been an Essendon supporter since I was born, it's part of my family, I don't think I could ever step away from the Essendon Football Club," Hird said.

"It's part of who I am, and it's part of who I'll always be."


He endorsed senior assistant coach Mark Thompson to take his place next year, saying he was "the obvious choice".

In the meantime, Hird said he planned to take some time away with his family before deciding on his next move.

But he said he wanted to "tell my side of the story" in coming days to better explain what happened at Essendon last year.

Meanwhile, Essendon captain Jobe Watson says his teammates would welcome Hird back as senior coach once he has served his AFL-imposed suspension.

Speaking on Wednesday, Essendon captain Jobe Watson says his teammates would welcome Hird back as senior coach once he has served an AFL-imposed suspension.

Watson said the team didn't feel Hird had betrayed them.

"I don't think that's the right word," Watson told Fox Sports.

"In hindsight, people made mistakes. And I think people have accepted responsibility for that.

"I don't think anyone set out to intentionally cause the situation we found ourselves in."

Essendon chief Ray Gunston told Channel Nine at Windy Hill this morning that Hird was "shattered".

"He is obviously disappointed but that is the outcome of the hearing," he said.

AFL Commission Chairman Mike Fitzpatrick reveals the sanctions handed down to the Essendon Football Club, James Hird, Danny Corcoran, Bruce Reid and Mark Thompson.

AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou said he would be making no apologies for the tough penalties.

"This reminds everyone that young people, young men that want to play our game should know that when they go to a football club they will get the best care, the best training that will be welcomed into the most, the absolutely best professional environment," Demetriou said on 3AW radio.


AFL deputy Gillon McLachlan told 3AW that no date had been set the $2 million fine to be paid.

"I think, rather than being too overt about it, it is over a few years," he said.

It comes as controversial sports scientist Stephen Dank refused to answer questions about the sanctions imposed on Essendon.

As he left his Ascot Vale home this morning, he would not say whether he had spoken to the AFL or if he planned to speak to ASADA investigators.

AFL CEO Andrew Demetriou and chairman Mike Fitzpatrick hand down Essendon's punishment.

Thompson, who received a fine, but no ban last night, is the favourite to be Essendon's caretaker coach. Essendon assistant coach Simon Goodwin will coach the club in Saturday's dead rubber against Richmond.

Essendon chairman Paul Little last night said Hird would not only return as senior coach, he would accept a new contract which is believed to include a two-year extension which would take him through to the end of 2016, although he cannot be paid by Essendon.



"James is very keen to continue his coaching at Essendon and the Essendon Football Club is very keen to have him," he said.

Essendon chairman Paul Little says outgoing coach James Hird accepted the penalties for the good of the club.

"I don't want to give you precise details, but there is an undertaking for James to continue coaching at Essendon."

Hird can attend Essendon matches in 2014 in preparation for a return.

Essendon's VFL side can play finals this weekend.

Essendon players were anxious for the club to come to a settlement, which provided Little with a mandate to strike a deal over their finals participation.

Bombers coach James Hird leaves AFL House.

"The players made their point of view very clearly that they wanted it as a priority to be cleared up now and they did not want it to linger," Little said in accepting the penalties.

Demetriou said Essendon players were still eligible for the Brownlow Medal and All-Australian honours.

Essendon will officially finish ninth.

Hird expressed remorse to the AFL Commission, but that contrition was undermined when his QC Julian Burnside said he had "done absolutely nothing wrong" and had been "heroic" in accepting penalties for the club and players' sake.

AFL Chair Mike Fitzpatrick hands down sanctions to the Essendon Football Club.

While Demetriou said ASADA was still reviewing Essendon's case, he stressed the AFL had not issued infraction notices to players when it reviewed ASADA's interim report.

Little made it clear yesterday he did not believe there would be infraction notices.

But he apologised for Essendon's conduct, saying "we have let down a lot of people ... and we are genuinely sorry".

Essendon great Tim Watson said this morning the matter wasn't completely over, with it still unclear whether there will be sanctions against players including his son Jobe.

Essendon chairman Paul Little responds to the sanctions handed to Essendon by the AFL Commission.

"It is still a little bit unresolved. So in terms of being a parent this morning, I am not feeling completely comfortable about exactly what is going to happen from here on in either because as Andrew and others said last night there is still an ASADA investigation that is to be completed."

Club legend Matthew Lloyd said his club might take a decade to recover, and was not only worried about the "mental scarring" to Essendon players next year but the club's future without key picks.

"For Essendon it's like losing Michael Hurley, Dyson Heppell, Joe Daniher and David Zaharakis; that's four players they could lose out on in the next two years," Lloyd said.

"The draft picks in the first two rounds, it's not often Dyson Heppell can step in and have an automatic impact, but it will hit them in three years' time, those four picks they have missed out on, what a hole it has left. It is something that will haunt them in a few years' time," he told 3AW.

"As little as 14 days ago they couldn't wait for finals. They were all about getting themselves right for a finals game in two weeks' time.

"Just what this does to them, we won't know the spirit it breaks and the damage it does over the coming months and years. The scarring is not just for the next 12 months - it could be for five to 10 years."

Thompson told Channel 9 last night he was unsure if he would step in as the caretaker coach.

"After the two days I have had it's hard to think what I really want to do," he said.

Little said he could see Hird playing a role on the coaching staff if Essendon were finalists in 2014.

"James Hird told the Commission tonight that he took responsibility for the shortcomings in the club's 2012 supplements program... so the club could move on," Little said.

- with Tom Minear

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