James Hird Must Go and Everyone Knows It

The football public knows, and has known now for a long time, that James Hird cannot continue as coach of the Essendon Football Club. Yet on Sunday night the board released a statement declaring Hird remains the coach of the club.
Why, when it is so clear to the average punter that Hird has to go, has the club dug its heels deep into the ground?
The issue is complex no doubt.
ASADA and the Federal Government deserve blame for this. They are the ones who created this highly emotional and difficult atmosphere. Their press conference in February last year was exaggerated, melodramatic and ultimately counterproductive.
The public expected grand revelations of cheating. The reality was slightly tamer, but no less serious.
Essendon ran a supplements programme. Its own internal investigation was highly critical of the programme ran. It was poorly documented, poorly organised, and poorly monitored.
The players have been placed in the intolerable position of facing bans by ASADA. More seriously, the club is not in a position to clarify exactly what it is the players took. Forget about the legality, was it safe?
If the first role of a coach is to achieve success for their football club, their second is to protect their players. On this count Hird and the Essendon Football Club have failed miserably. The club’s duty of care to its players has been fundamentally breached. The CEO is gone, the chairman is gone, and the coach must now go.
By continuing to fight on, Hird has allowed his once ‘golden boy’ reputation to be destroyed. The football public now sees him as selfish, unwilling to acknowledge his mistakes, or offer an apology. Perhaps had he offered these concessions from the start, we would be more forgiving.
He, and for the most part Essendon, have behaved as if this all a grand conspiracy against them. As if the AFL managed to convince ASADA and the Federal Government to launch this inquiry simply in order to remove Hird from his position as coach.
It is irrational, illogical and wrong.
Even when Essendon challenged the legality of the investigation, the court found against them. Hird is challenging, claiming that it is in the best interests of the club and the players. One has to wonder how it is?
In the NRL, Cronulla cooperated to a greater extent than Essendon and the investigation is over. The players missed three games. It was a joke that angered the footballing public, but it was great for the players. Shane Flanagan is on the verge of being returned to his position as coach. That is what Essendon should be working towards.
But it continues to drag on.
It has cost Essendon millions. Fines, pay-outs, legal fees. A weaker club would have been destroyed by it.
The club has to move on from this. Mark Thompson is the man to take them there. He is a two-time premiership winning coach who has re-discovered his passion for coaching. They have a playing group that should be pushing for a top-four finish. But their last two seasons have essentially been wasted by this ASADA investigation.
They have to move on, the AFL wants to move on, and so do the other clubs.
So how is it that James Hird remains the coach of Essendon when he so obviously shouldn’t be?

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