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

Cameron Rose Columnist

By Cameron Rose, Cameron Rose is a Roar Expert

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214 Have your say

    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 โ€“ 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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    The Crowd Says (214)

    • July 14th 2017 @ 7:37am
      Mattyb said | July 14th 2017 @ 7:37am | ! Report

      Very fair article Cam in that you have seperated Hird the player from coach while also acknowledging the disgraceful behaviour of us the footy fans.
      Hird may have done wrong but he’s paid his price,Hird is deserving to hand out the medal so the decision to allow him to do so is the correct one.
      This will be a great opportunity for Hird to move forward but also a chance for the footy world to also. Maybe not forgive and forget but certainly forgive and move forward.
      I wouldn’t be surprised if there is still plenty of vitriol to come but people sometimes really do need to get a grip. Hird has paid a high price and certainly doesn’t need to keep paying.

      • Columnist

        July 14th 2017 @ 8:20am
        Cameron Rose said | July 14th 2017 @ 8:20am | ! Report

        Thanks Matty. I agree with all of your sentiments posted there, particularly that last bit.

      • July 14th 2017 @ 11:14am
        LachyP said | July 14th 2017 @ 11:14am | ! Report

        To present the Norm Smith medal is a massive honour for a former player and given Hird’s appalling handling of the Essendon saga I don’t think he deserves it. He showed no respect for his club, players or the AFL over a prolonged period and until he shows genuine contrition and takes significant steps in rebuilding his reputation he should be excluded.

        • Roar Guru

          July 14th 2017 @ 11:24am
          AdelaideDocker said | July 14th 2017 @ 11:24am | ! Report

          “significant steps in rebuilding his reputation he should be excluded.”

          So, until he repairs his reputation with the football community you want him excluded from something that would help ….. repair his reputation?


          • July 14th 2017 @ 11:48am
            Christo the Daddyo said | July 14th 2017 @ 11:48am | ! Report

            I think LachyP’s point is that it’s Hird who needs to take the first step. So far he hasn’t done that…

        • July 14th 2017 @ 11:28am
          mdso said | July 14th 2017 @ 11:28am | ! Report

          So are you like this with every single person you know that makes mistakes?

          I bet you have read every bit of information on the supplement saga and know exactly what happened backwards, not. The word forgiveness mean anything to you.

          The Hird family have paid like NO other. What would you know????

        • Roar Guru

          July 14th 2017 @ 11:53am
          JamesH said | July 14th 2017 @ 11:53am | ! Report

          You talk like he hasn’t copped any punishment. His fall from grace is the greatest we are ever likely to see in AFL circles. It made the Wayne Carey saga seem trivial.

          Forget the fine, the suspension, the official guilty finding. The true punishment is what happened next. Blasted by the media, blasted by the public, he reached pariah status and now (following a drug overdose) appears to be a mentally scarred recluse. How much more does he need to pay before you accept that he has copped his whack, and then some?

          • July 16th 2017 @ 12:17pm
            Deep Thinker said | July 16th 2017 @ 12:17pm | ! Report

            Sure. He’s copped a lot. And so he should have.

            This is a guy who was one of the chief architects in one of the worst examples of systematic doping of players I can remember in any sport. He not only put the players at risk but potentially also their children for decades to come.

            Not to mention the damage he inflicted on their careers.

            This is still a very raw issue.

            It is one thing to forgive him if he has made real strides to fess up and repair the very human damage that he has caused – the ball is in his court to make the case that he has done that.

            It is another thing to place him in a ceremonial ribbon cutting role as a representative of everything that is great in the game.

    • July 14th 2017 @ 7:43am
      Casper said | July 14th 2017 @ 7:43am | ! Report

      Don’t see how this is an issue. He left Essendon due to the team’s poor performances, not because of the drugs saga.

      • Columnist

        July 14th 2017 @ 10:28am
        Cameron Rose said | July 14th 2017 @ 10:28am | ! Report

        I’d be interested to hear in how the two aren’t connected.

        • July 14th 2017 @ 12:59pm
          mdso said | July 14th 2017 @ 12:59pm | ! Report

          How about injured players and lots of soft tissue injuries. Ring Bruce Francis or read some of the material you may change your mind.

    • July 14th 2017 @ 7:49am
      kevin said | July 14th 2017 @ 7:49am | ! Report

      Yes and Bruyneel will present the team classification in next years tour

    • July 14th 2017 @ 8:01am
      RnR said | July 14th 2017 @ 8:01am | ! Report

      Another self made PR stuff up by the AFL. While Hird was disgracing himself and his club the AFL establishes and then maintains a “tradition” that leads directly to this – only in a monopoly could such incompetence thrive.

      • Roar Guru

        July 14th 2017 @ 11:56am
        JamesH said | July 14th 2017 @ 11:56am | ! Report

        The tradition was established well before the EFC saga. Not inviting him would effectively be a brand new punishment, when the AFL already delivered their own punishment in 2014.

        • July 15th 2017 @ 8:07pm
          JD said | July 15th 2017 @ 8:07pm | ! Report

          Are you sure the tradition was established well before Essendon saga – I can only find that the tradition started 3/4 years ago, if its different please show me where.

    • July 14th 2017 @ 8:14am
      Horrie said | July 14th 2017 @ 8:14am | ! Report

      An appalling decision. Wonderful player, highly dubious person. Will be aptly booed at the Granny for bringing the game into disrepute.

      Disappointing article from an otherwise admired contributor.

      So if Cousins had won the Normie in 05 or 06, would the AFL be seeking day release for him to present the Award?

      The infamous ‘whatever it takes’ or is taken culture at Essendon under Hird is a low point in AFL history. Cuzz poisoned himself not most of a playing list.

      There has not been a jot of remorse from Hird. There is no case presented for his public rehabilitation.

      • July 14th 2017 @ 8:46am
        Mattyb said | July 14th 2017 @ 8:46am | ! Report

        Horrie,the Hird saga wasn’t even the lowest point of his final year in charge at Essendon let alone the history of the game. Crowd behaviour during the 2015 season was far worse than anything Hird did but people conveniently forget that.
        AFL supporters really need to lift their game and here’s a perfect opportunity to support a man that’s been punished for his alleged wrong doings.

        • July 14th 2017 @ 9:51am
          Horrie said | July 14th 2017 @ 9:51am | ! Report

          Yes the public”s treatment of Adam Goodes was appalling. Equally the Trumpski like denials from Hird about the bleeding obvious were also appalling. I still feel feel for the players, inc Zaharakis who for a time was seemingly ostracised.

          I can remember Ratten, after the Blues were collectively rag-dolled by the Dons, taking his fitness people to task as to why their players were behind the 8 ball. That was the year Ratten lost his job. I have wondered about the impact of the loss on Ratten’s subsequent fate.

          The whatever it takes culture had an impact beyond Essendon.

        • Roar Guru

          July 14th 2017 @ 10:01am
          Paul D said | July 14th 2017 @ 10:01am | ! Report

          Well said Matty. When you’re not talking Carlton you’re very readable

          • Roar Guru

            July 14th 2017 @ 10:19am
            Pumping Dougie said | July 14th 2017 @ 10:19am | ! Report


          • July 14th 2017 @ 10:45am
            Darren said | July 14th 2017 @ 10:45am | ! Report


          • July 14th 2017 @ 11:15am
            Mattyb said | July 14th 2017 @ 11:15am | ! Report

            Paul,the unreadabilty of comments regarding Carlton is certainly a two sided fence ๐Ÿ™‚

            • Roar Guru

              July 14th 2017 @ 11:27am
              Paul D said | July 14th 2017 @ 11:27am | ! Report

              It is, but you could always remove yourself from the equation.

              I assure you I would be equally unreadable if I was spewing bile about Port Adelaide

        • July 15th 2017 @ 7:46am
          Mitcher said | July 15th 2017 @ 7:46am | ! Report

          ^^ On point MattyB

        • July 15th 2017 @ 8:09pm
          JD said | July 15th 2017 @ 8:09pm | ! Report

          34 players getting injected with substances of dubious origin that may or may not have been approved for human use at the time is not as bad as booing Goodes, we have 34 players welfare versus 1 persons. That is worse by a significant degree

          • July 15th 2017 @ 8:58pm
            bobburra said | July 15th 2017 @ 8:58pm | ! Report

            I don’t understand your comment. Are you saying that booing Goodes is/was worse than 34 players being injected with unknown substances? Please clarify.

            • Roar Guru

              July 16th 2017 @ 12:29am
              Paul D said | July 16th 2017 @ 12:29am | ! Report

              I reckon he’s saying “34 players not as bad as Goodes – disagree – it’s 34 players welfare vs 1 person so it’s worse”

              Which is in itself a breathtaking display of ignorance, because an Aboriginal man getting booed for showing pride in his race impacts hundreds of thousands of indigenous people in this country.

      • July 14th 2017 @ 11:42am
        mdso said | July 14th 2017 @ 11:42am | ! Report

        You Sir either cannot read or are deaf, how many times does this man have to apologise to be heard. The deaf never listen do they? Hird and his family has paid dearly for everyone’s mistakes. And you, know little of what actually went down apart from what you’ve probably read in the media?

        Try reading the whole file on what really happened. Mr.Stephen Dank and Mr.Dean Robinson on the other hand should not have working in the AFL. Who cleared them to work at Essendon from the Gold Coast Suns? Oh that’s right the AFL did and also by doing so, covered up drug taking at the Gold Coast Suns.

        You sir, think you know but how much do you really know or, you think you know? Were you there?

    • July 14th 2017 @ 8:20am
      JD said | July 14th 2017 @ 8:20am | ! Report

      Only getting Norm Smith awards from past winners is only a new tradition.

      My reasoning about hird is that he has no publicly apologised after the initial press conference, he may or may not have known what was occurring under him, but been in charge of the overall football program in the end he has to accept responsibility of such a heinous act under his watch. The CEO, Football Manager, President all went, he dragged it on and kept fighting when in the end he was the last one doing any of this. This made the pain to the essendon players, football club and supporters drag out unnecessarily.

      How do the players that were effected view this – have they been asked? What about the players parents who would still be worrying about ongoing health effects that may arise? – Has anyone asked them?

      The scenario that could occur is if Melbourne or Port are in the grand final, say Paddy Ryder wins the grand final or another former Essendon player – how would that be received by the player on the day?

      As such this to me would be way too early with no contrition from Hird at all. Only after we here public utterances of that sought and all players concerned have finished their time at AFL level would be the bare minimum to me before you could ask him back for such things.

      • July 14th 2017 @ 8:39am
        Casper said | July 14th 2017 @ 8:39am | ! Report

        There has been no talk that Ryder, Hibberd or Melksham have got any grudge against Hird. I’ve never heard that any player holds Hird responsible. They were there and they know it’s all Stephen Dank.

        • July 14th 2017 @ 9:14am
          northerner said | July 14th 2017 @ 9:14am | ! Report

          Actually, no, it’s not all about Dank. It’s about the club turning a blind eye (and that’s the best possible interpretation of the club’s behaviour) to Dank’s very dubious practices when the club’s administration clearly had a duty of care to their players. Don’t forget that, aside from the CAS ruling, Essendon pled guilty to OH&S violations for its role in the whole sorry affair, and that the court ruling for the Worksafe violations made specific reference to failures by various people, Hird included, in overseeing the program.

          • July 14th 2017 @ 10:56am
            Casper said | July 14th 2017 @ 10:56am | ! Report

            Of course it’s about Dank. The club took on face value that Dank was doing the right thing. There is no suspicion that the club thought that Dank was giving the players illegal PEDs but decided to turn a blind eye.

            The club is guilty of a lack of governance, but that’s all.

            • July 14th 2017 @ 11:10am
              northerner said | July 14th 2017 @ 11:10am | ! Report

              Of course there’s a suspicion the club knew what was going on. Proof, no, because, by gosh, the records have disappeared. It’s fairly clear that the club deliberately kept the doctor out of the loop (and he appears not to have dug too deeply himself) which is kind of an indicator the club knew there were issues with what Dank was doing, but wanted “plausible deniability.” Well, they got the deniability all right, but how plausible it is, is a question.

              Sorry, no, it’s not about just Dank. It’s about a culture that allowed Dank to operate unfettered. Responsible employers and managers do not do that. They don’t assume that some sports scientist is going to do the right thing: they set up clear protocols, in consultation with the club’s medical staff, to make sure he does. And they make sure it happens.

          • July 14th 2017 @ 1:12pm
            mdso said | July 14th 2017 @ 1:12pm | ! Report

            I’m very pleased you have that much knowledge. Remember there is a triparted agreement between the AFL, every club and every player.. Which makes the AFL every player’s employer. The AFL failed dismally when it came to OHS because they covered up drug taking at the Gold Coast Suns with both Robinson and Dank. The AFL knowing what had happened at the Suns cleared both men to work at Essendon. No one can work at any AFL club without first being cleared by the AFL. How very convenient that was.

            The AFL knew something was happening at Essendon because of the ACC. The AFL sat on their hands and did nothing. they allowed whatever Robinson and Dank were up to, to continue. The AFL
            with ASADA sent them to Germany without informing the club or the players. Incidentally the tests were negative. ASADA and the AFL had a secret deal before someone blew the whistle to the NRL and ASADA reneged on the deal. There is an awful lot the media did not report on and that could be accidental but I doubt. So before people go off making judgements most do not know all that went down prior to, during and after the saga. Therefore they do not know the whole story just bits of it.

            • Roar Guru

              July 14th 2017 @ 1:21pm
              Cat said | July 14th 2017 @ 1:21pm | ! Report

              There is an awful lot the media did not report on

              So then how do you come to have all this ‘inside info’ that hasn’t been reported?

              • July 14th 2017 @ 6:43pm
                mdso said | July 14th 2017 @ 6:43pm | ! Report

                If you want to know, really want to know, get in touch with and read Justice for Essendon 34 site. There is information on YouTube some it through FOI from ASADA.

                Much of what happened, the media weren’t interested in printing. Yet there were some very interesting facts about ASADA and the AFL and their practices.

                An organisation who breaches its own policies and failed to protect its employees.

              • July 15th 2017 @ 7:55am
                Mitcher said | July 15th 2017 @ 7:55am | ! Report


          • July 14th 2017 @ 1:21pm
            mdso said | July 14th 2017 @ 1:21pm | ! Report

            And the AFL an joint employer escaped any blame whatsoever. Absolutely incredible how they managed that one. When every player has a contract stating they are in a triparted agreement with the club, the AFL and themselves.

            EFC and the Board at that time, escaped hands free, reputations intact and walked away. The club paid a fine. The players, the coach and coaching staff wore the brunt of the saga.

            • July 14th 2017 @ 4:06pm
              northerner said | July 14th 2017 @ 4:06pm | ! Report

              EFC walked away with a substantial fine as I recall. It would have been larger, I suspect, if they hadn’t admitted guilt. Which kind of weakens the argument about the AFL. As for the players, they are responsible for what goes into their bodies. Period. Ignorance is not an excuse, not even when it involves Australians. The attitude here, that the rules we support when it comes to the Russians, the Chinese or the Americans, don’t apply here because the players didn’t know, just boggles my mind.

              • July 14th 2017 @ 6:54pm
                mdso said | July 14th 2017 @ 6:54pm | ! Report

                Yes now the players are responsible for what goes in their bodies, as of code change in 2015. But did you know and would you care, if the rules and the code were changed midstream in the investigation from 2012 code and no one, informed the players who play AFL. In 2012 all player’s had to fill in a form and advise if they had taken anything banned within the code or taken within seven days of the blood test. The players didn’t lie, they followed the rules that were the code at that time. They weren’t advised of the rule change and how the code change until well after 2015. The AFL’s governance of all clubs at that time, was appalling and almost non-existent.

                How can ASADA and the AFL change the code in the middle of an investigation and at least two years after the supplement saga had ceased? This change in the rules after the event, made ALL the players guilty.

              • July 15th 2017 @ 7:59am
                Mitcher said | July 15th 2017 @ 7:59am | ! Report

                Why would WADA change a longstanding rule midstream about a sport they probably didn’t even know existed.

                I get the Victorian bubble is a thing. But this is next level.

              • July 14th 2017 @ 7:23pm
                northerner said | July 14th 2017 @ 7:23pm | ! Report

                Athletes have always been responsible under WADA for what goes into their bodies. This is not some new rule implemented in 2015: it’s been there for years. And if you need to know what is and is not considered a PED, the WADA website is available at a fingertip. There was no rule change: the rules were always there.

                Whether the Essendon players didn’t understand the rules, or whether they were careless, is irrelevant. The rules have been there for years. It just seems to me that a lot of Australian sportsmen don’t “get” what the rules actually mean.As though, we’re Aussie, so the rules don’t apply.

                I don’t know whether the athletes/coaches/lied, and I’m not saying they did. What they all admitted to, was total ignorance of what was being injected. And no athlete should be in ignorance of what is being injected. Period.

        • July 14th 2017 @ 11:42am
          JD said | July 14th 2017 @ 11:42am | ! Report

          I have no idea how the players personally feel about Hird, but wouldn’t it be best for all concerned not to have any potential issues be magnified by a possible less than happy interaction between former coach and player on GF day at this stage.
          For some the wounds may still be to raw with the suspension just ending last year after 3 previous years (4 in total) of hell.
          Players/Supporters/us do not know it was just Dank – we only know he was the man with the direct link. We know from a legal point of view about OH&S infractions and work cover findings. Its up to each individual to make a decision on how far it went or strongly suspected within a club.
          I will ask you this question, do you believe no one else suspected/knew at essendon when it involved 34 players, continually go off site and excluding the club doctor from any of the treatments?

          • July 14th 2017 @ 12:17pm
            Casper said | July 14th 2017 @ 12:17pm | ! Report

            Of course the club knew that the 34 players were getting injections (compliant supplements). Reading Dustin Fletcher’s book, it just appears that Dank lost track of what he was doing and didn’t document who did or didn’t receive injections on a particular day. The Doc wasn’t concerned about the players receiving AOD9604 but apart from that I haven’t heard about any other concerns.

            I’ve never understood the issue with giving injections off site. Why is that a nefarious activity?

            • July 14th 2017 @ 4:07pm
              northerner said | July 14th 2017 @ 4:07pm | ! Report

              The doctor wrote a letter to Hird expressing precisely his concerns about what was going on.

      • Columnist

        July 14th 2017 @ 10:30am
        Cameron Rose said | July 14th 2017 @ 10:30am | ! Report

        I think Hird showed contrition once it was all over, and he was essentially a broken man.

        • July 14th 2017 @ 11:33am
          JD said | July 14th 2017 @ 11:33am | ! Report

          I still have not really seen in contrition, he was a very broken man – the amount of mental disintegration he would have had over the 4 years would of been unbelievable (and eventually caught up to him in a very unfortunate way – we do not want to happen to anyone)

          But as the article stated “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.” – I would like to be proven wrong and be pointed to the statement/article with his quotes confirming the contrition- I just haven’t seen that myself.

          To my view (whether it could be considered objective/subjective do not know) he is still more in line with above quote from the article, than any remorse.

          Even if he has shown the remorse, it is still to early and should at least occur after current players directly affected are no longer playing, otherwise it comes across as disrespectful to players, player parents, Essendon, AFL community overall and supporters of all teams.

          • July 14th 2017 @ 11:58am
            paulywalnuts said | July 14th 2017 @ 11:58am | ! Report

            Your second paragraph nails it for me. I don’t even really care about the “cheating” aspect of it. Personally I think it’s a shame modern professional sports have fallen in line wth WADA’s self-serving hysteria.

            But a measure of a man is how he goes about accepting responsibility, and on this Hird was sadly lacking. Whether he’s contrite because he thinks he behaved terribly or because of what its cost him, is not really clear to me.

      • July 14th 2017 @ 11:29am
        JW said | July 14th 2017 @ 11:29am | ! Report

        Frankly, if the players who have served their suspension can play on grand final day, surely hird can present a medal. He’s served his time also.

        • July 15th 2017 @ 8:00am
          Mitcher said | July 15th 2017 @ 8:00am | ! Report

          Quality comment.

      • July 14th 2017 @ 11:49am
        mdso said | July 14th 2017 @ 11:49am | ! Report

        Once again, the deaf fail to hear anything they do not want to hear. Obviously, you’ve been reading the wrong papers or maybe you only watch the footy show. How many apologies will ever be enough for people who think James Hird should forever pay, pay, pay. The Hird family have paid and paid and paid.

        But; perhaps not enough for you and others like you who want him forever to be persecuted. Sad.

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