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by Lisa Albergo reporting for AFANA from Chicago 

On the night of January 3, former Essendon coach James Hird was rushed to a hospital in suburban Melbourne to be treated for a drug overdose. He was later transferred to another facility for treatment. Whether or not the overdose was deliberate or accidental is unknown. The hospital to which he was taken would not reveal anything regarding the incident or Hird's condition due to patient confidentiality rules. A spokesperson for Ambulance Victoria also refused to comment.

Friends and sources close to the Hird family have, over recent weeks, expressed concern for Hird's mental state. One source claimed that Hird, 43, has been "putting on a brave face" in public while the turmoil of the four year supplements ordeal has taken a heavy toll on him. In one interview, Hird called the World Court's decision to reject the players' appeal as a "miscarriage of justice". He later apologized to the players and their families and claimed his trust had been broken by others at the club. He said in one interview that he was concentrating on being head coach and trusted that club protocols were being followed during the supplements program when in fact it was not. In hindsight, he said he should have trusted less, asked more questions and demanded more answers. He has expressed a range of emotions over the issue - anger, regret, shame and guilt. So much so that he has been a no-show at a number of Essendon functions, including reunions of the 2000 premiership team, telling close associates that he could not face some of the people who did attend.

It is often said that players at AFL clubs form extremely close and life-long bonds with teammates and coaches. However, Hird has lost many of those close relationships, and thus what could have been a strong support base amidst all the turmoil. As well as the constant media scrutiny, Hird has been a constant target of criticism from many sectors both in the media and wider community for his alleged lack of contrition despite his many public apologies. It is the above mentioned cool public demeanor he has shown which triggered the criticism. Many believe he has failed to take any responsibility for the events that unfolded in 2012.

Essendon chairman Lindsay Tanner has issued a statement, pleading with the public and media to give the family the space they need and to respect their privacy and has pledged the support of the club. Tania Hird has also made a similar request, especially to the media contingent camped outside of their home, saying the health of her husband is the primary concern. She also expressed appreciation and thanks for the support the family has received since Hird's hospitalization.

Former Hawthorn president Jeff Kennett, who heads up Beyond Blue - a support organization for sufferers of depression - has also urged the media to back off. He said in such situations, it is the entire family who are affected and need time to heal. He spoke on SEN radio saying, " I understand how the media latch onto these things, but having reported it, it is important ... that the media step back.". He described the incident as a "cry for help". Melbourne Age writer Rohan Connolly (and an Essendon supporter) also spoke on SEN and said he was appalled and disgusted at some of the "absolutely tasteless" vitriol towards Hird which has appeared on social media since Hird's hospitalization. He said he has never witnessed "... such venom towards one individual ... " by the general public and even some in the media. Connolly went on to say, “If something like this isn’t a call to people to back off, there are lives at stake, then I don’t really know what would be ... regardless of what you think about the rights or wrongs about the saga, if you cannot at this point go, ok a guy may have tried to take his own life, let’s back off. If you’re still going to make jokes about it, then you’re a pretty sad human being ... ". He, too, echoed the sentiments of Jeff Kennett that the media needs to back off, quit camping out in front of the Hird home and respect their privacy, “... there has to be a line drawn ... surely giving them some sort of sanctuary in their own private residence ... has to be a bottom line ... " and described the media camping out as sad.


Article last changed on Friday, January 06, 2017 - 2:45 PM EST

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