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by Lisa Albergo reporting for AFANA from Chicago

James Hird was known as the "Golden Boy" of the AFL - a moniker given him by the media - who could do no wrong. His only blemish was a fine for criticizing an umpire on "The Footy Show" after being badgered by co-host Sam Newman. He was always brilliant on the field, so much so that in the latter years of his playing career, then coach Kevin Sheedy gave him license to instruct teammates during a game. Sheedy once said at the time it was like having a coach out on the ground. Always a favorite son of the club and a third generation Bomber (both his grandfather and father played for Essendon), Hird was appointed senior coach at the end of 2010 after the club axed Matthew Knights.

  Determined to elevate the team back to premiership contention after a dismal 2010 season, events saw former Geelong senior coach Mark Thompson return to the club as an assistant. Enter high performance manager Dean Robinson who had worked with Stephen Dank previously. Enter Stephen Dank and the start of what would become the ill-fated supplements saga which has yet to be resolved with the WADA appeal still to be heard by the world court. And finally the ongoing saga has claimed the coaching career of the "Golden Boy" James Hird. Had it been anyone else at the helm, that person would have been axed long ago. With the losses mounting, the club initiated a full review of the football department shortly after mid-season and Hird was having regular meetings with chairman Paul Little. Things came to a head after the Bombers were mauled by Adelaide in Round 20 to the tune of 112 points. A determined and tenacious James Hird still insisted he could do the job. However, at a board meeting three days later, it was mutually agreed that he tender his resignation with chairman Paul Little later saying the club needed a fresh start and a new voice. Little said Hird understood he had to accept responsibility for the performance of his team and that the 2015 season had fallen way short of expectations. He did say injuries - and the ASADA and WADA issues - had played a part in the team's poor performance. While Little would not divulge details of the settlement which was reached between the board and Hird, it is believed to be several million dollars.

An emotional Hird fronted the media, flanked by the playing group, many of whom had tears in their eyes as Hird said the players and supporters needed space and time to get back to being a normal football club. He also touched on the chronic media attention surrounding the ongoing supplements saga and defended the players. "These players have to be allowed to play ... the industry has to let them play and give them some space ... My hesitation in leaving ... is because I believe the players still need strong guidance and care, which I hope to continue to provide".

While Hird said he felt the club had let him down, he did not feel like a scapegoat. He admitted that the events of the past few years had been tough on his family, causing a lot of strain and stress. He added that being away from the club would take the media spotlight off his family, jokingly saying "Maybe tomorrow you guys will be at the front door, but then you can give us a spell. I think we deserve it." Hird reiterated that the club had made mistakes regarding the supplements program but the level to which the club and players had been "crucified" was undeserved.

Assistant coach Matthew Egan, an All Australian defender with Geelong, will coach the team for the rest of the season. Paul Little, who stepped in as chairman after Mark Evans quit during the midst of the ASADA investigations, said he would remain until the WADA appeals hearing was completed and the decision by the world court rendered.

Source: sen.com.au, afl.com.au, author notes

Article last changed on Friday, August 21, 2015 - 4:24 PM EDT


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