Like it or not, it’s Hird’s time to present the Norm Smith

Mathew Langdon Roar Pro

By , Mathew Langdon is a Roar Pro

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    Former Essendon coach James Hird has accepted an invitation to present the Norm Smith Medal following this year’s AFL grand final. Unsurprisingly, the decision to have Hird represent the AFL on one of its biggest stages has been met with criticism.

    “(It’s) obviously significant, we appreciate him accepting the offer, and we look forward to welcoming him back into the fold,” McLachlan said.

    To say that the relationship between Hird and league head office had been frosty since the supplements saga was uncovered would be an understatement. Both sides spent much air time and dollars in legal fees at each other’s throats.

    But AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan confirmed the move on Thursday; a move which is in line with recent years.

    Since 2013, the AFL has had previous winners of the prestigious medal at the AFL Grand Final to award the newest member of their ranks.

    1995 Norm Smith Medallist Greg Williams awarded the medal to Brian Lake in 2013, 1996 winner Glenn Archer did the same for Luke Hodge in 2014, Andrew McLeod (1997-98) presented Cyril Rioli with his in 2015 and Shannon Grant (1999) awarded Western Bulldog Jason Johannisen.

    Hird is next in line, and for the good of the AFL, I’m glad he’s accepted.

    Speaking to the Herald Sun in June, Hird said: “If they (have asked me), I would love to do it.”

    “It would just be good to be out there on Grand Final day. It’s obviously the best day in the footy calendar, so it would be a nice experience.”

    But some are not happy with the decision to bring Hird back into the AFL spotlight, even going to some extreme examples.

    The real question comes down to whether or not you can separate Hird the footballer with Hird the coach.

    As a player, he is one of the greatest ever to grace the field. As a coach, he was part of a scandal that rocked the very foundations of the AFL.

    And without doubt he has paid a price for that. His almost unimpeachable reputation was destroyed and he suffered financial losses in trying to defend himself.

    I know for every person who will accept this decision and move on, there is more than likely a person who believes Hird should never be associated with the game of AFL ever again.

    There’s no way to sugarcoat it, the scandal ruined the careers of Essendon players, who were forced to watch from the sidelines for a year. For many that is reason enough for Hird to be banished.

    But a two-minute window where Hird will play second fiddle to the new star of an AFL Grand Final after the game has been played I believe is a good starting point for his penance to the AFL.

    Has he earned blanket forgiveness? Of course not. But it is a beginning and doesn’t break with recent tradition.