When the news was breaking last Friday that Fremantle had contacted James Hird with a possible AFL lifeline, the response was certainly mixed from the general public.
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James Hird has been contacted by Fremantle coach Ross Lyon about a football position with the Dockers.
The club contacted the AFL to seek the tick of approval and were given it.
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— Sam McClure (@sam_mcclure) March 2, 2018
No offer has officially been made by the Dockers to the former Essendon coach. But they have confirmed he is a candidate for a role at the club.
Fremantle Manager of Football Operations Chris Bond confirs the role they are looking to fill.
“The club is going through a process to potentially appoint a part-time opposition analyst based in Melbourne.”
Rebuilding a damaged reputation
As a player James Hird was one of the most respected players in the game. A great leader, brave and skilful. Hird has a CV that confirms his status as a champion.
A Brownlow, Premierships, All-Australians, Best & Fairests, a member of the Essendon team of the century and an AFL hall of famer.
But what transpired at Essendon while the two-time Premiership player was coach certainly did plenty of damage to this brilliant reputation.
The 45 year-old quit the Bombers in 2015. When 34 past and present players were forced to sit out the 2016 season as a result of the supplements saga, much of the blame was attributed to James Hird.
While there was plenty of heat put on the coach, the public opinion softened when Hird was hospitalised in January last year. And there are still some convinced Essendon did not actually do anything wrong during the whole ordeal.
James Hird back on the big stage
The Bomber great presented the Norm Smith medal at the 2017 Grand Final to Dustin Martin. In the lead-up to the game, there was speculation the Essendon champ would be met with a barrage of abuse.
Fortunately the presence of James Hird did not detract at all as the 2000 Norm Smith medallist made his first appearance at an AFL event since his controversial exit from the Bombers.
The presentation was only one appearance. But it did raise questions on whether Hird would look to reintegrate into the AFL community. If not coaching perhaps media. Where he was an accomplished performer before taking on the role as senior coach.
Forgive and forget
Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson was quizzed on his views during the Hawks JLT clash with the Bulldogs. Clarkson threw his support behind Hird’s return.
“He made a mistake. We’ve all made them. And whatever mistakes they made at Essendon, their club and the code itself has dealt with that and let’s move on.
“If there’s an opportunity at Fremantle for Hirdy to take on a role there or if it’s at the AFL, or whether it’s with another club then I think it’s a good thing for the game.”
The AFL have said there is nothing stopping Hird accepting an official role. And while some experts such as Scott Lucas and Leigh Matthews have suggested the role from the Dockers is beneath Hird, it represents an opportunity.
Given recent history maybe an opportunity is the best James Hird can hope for.