James Hird has earned the right to present the Norm Smith medal

Cameron Rose Columnist

By , Cameron Rose is a Roar Expert

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    James Hird has been welcomed back to the AFL in an official capacity, with an invitation to present the Norm Smith medal on grand final day.

    Hird was a player whose outrageous talent was matched only by his courage. As a coach, the size of his ego was matched only by his stupidity.

    Hird’s stellar career achieved almost every possible pinnacle – premierships, including one as a captain, best and fairests, All-Australians, Anzac medals, a Brownlow, a Norm Smith, Essendon team of the century, AFL Hall of Fame.

    He was a player of immense skill, flair and heart, and was one of that very special breed that was not only consistently great, but also a big game and big moment player. In the crunch seconds, he invariably delivered.

    Hird’s coaching career was the antithesis of his playing days. No premierships, no winning finals, no glory of any kind. Of course, the black cloud of the drugs saga hung over his 2013 and 2015 seasons, with a suspension for 2014 in between.

    Rarely has a fall from grace been from so dramatic. It wasn’t swift, but it was brutal.

    Essendon Bombers coach James Hird celebrates with Jobe Watson. Photo: Will Russell

    Photo: Will Russell

    The reactions to the Hird story when it was broken on social media were as predictable as they were vitriolic. Disgraceful. Pathetic. Laughable.

    Hird put a target on himself with his behaviour throughout the drugs saga, appearing to lack grace, humility and any idea that he was culpable of wrong-doing. He was combative rather than apologetic. From the outside, it looked like Hird was all about himself, with the affected players under his care an afterthought, if that.

    After being a much-loved player, he became a much-despised public figure.

    But, James Hird the player won the Norm Smith medal in 2000. Just as Shannon Grant the player won it in 1999. Before him, Andrew McLeod the player won it in 1997 and 1998. Glenn Archer the player won it in 1996.

    Grant, McLeod and Archer have sequentially presented the Norm Smith medal to the winners over the last three seasons. The AFL started a tradition whereby the previous winners would have the honour. Hird is next in line. Shaun Hart will be asked to do it next year.

    Hird has served his penalties. His crime was one of governance, and the failure to insist on protocols that could have prevented a rogue agent like Stephen Dank going off the reservation. His greatest crimes were probably inexperience, trust and pride. They say the latter comes before a fall. He fell alright.

    The price Hird has had to pay has gone well beyond his crimes. However misguided you think he was at various points of his coaching tenure and beyond, he is still a human being; a father, a husband, a son.

    Hird was always going to be welcomed back to the AFL fold in some capacity. Presenting the Norm Smith medal, an honour earned as a player, is as good a starting point as any.

    Cameron Rose
    Cameron Rose

    Cameron Rose is a born and bred Melbournian, raised on a regime of AFL, cricket and horse racing. He likes people who agree with him but loves those that don't, for there's nothing better than a roaring debate. He tweets from @camtherose.

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