Essendon legend James Hird has been interviewed for the vacant head coaching job at the Bombers.
The Herald Sun first reported the two-time premiership player and Brownlow medalist had spoken to by Essendon’s coaching selection committee on Wednesday.
Hird, who last coached the Bombers in 2015, has officially put his hand up to become Essendon coach again after Ben Rutten was sacked following a disappointing season.
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Hird was appointed Essendon’s coach at the end of 2010 and was stood down by the AFL for the 2014 season after the club’s supplements scandal.
The club was banned from the finals series while 34 past and present players were suspended for two years, resulting in 17 of them missing the 2016 season.
Hird returned to coach the Bombers in 2015 before resigning later that season.
He now enters the mix to become Essendon coach again, joining a list of candidates including Melbourne assistant Adam Yze, former North Melbourne coach Brad Scott, Brendon Lade and ex-Adelaide coach Don Pyke.
Essendon’s coaching committee is made up of Bombers football boss Josh Mahoney, former Carlton coach Robert Walls, four-time premiership Hawk Jordan Lewis, Melbourne Vixens netball coach Simone McKinnis, current board member Dorothy Hisgrove, a people and culture expert and former NAB CEO Andrew Thorburn.
The group began interviewing candidates this week.
Former Fremantle coach Ross Lyon and ex-GWS Giants coach Leon Cameron have rejected invitations to go through the application process.
Hird has spent this year as an assistant at the Giants under Cameron and caretaker coach Mark McVeigh.
Speaking recently on The Howie Games podcast, Hird said he was still interested in coaching but would have to seriously consider taking on an AFL senior coaching role again.
“There’s a lot of elements about it. I was asked by a CEO of a footy club six weeks ago would I like to coach again, not his el club but would I like to coach again, ”he said.
“My honest answer was, there’s some elements about it I really like, I’d have to have some family considerations to do it. I love the fact that you get in deeply and you work with young people to create something really, really special and you create a great team environment.
“But I’ve worked very hard over the last six years to create another sort of business arm.
“I’m 50 – at 40 when it happened I could actually transition and go – at 50 you go down that then that’s almost it. You have to think very carefully about the path that I take and there has to be an opportunity too.”
Hird admitted he “should have been over more of the detail” during the supplements saga.
“We had two people there who were bad people who, I don’t think they cheated but that’s debatable, I still don’t think players took the wrong thing,” he said.
“But the players were put in a very compromised position, which they shouldn’t have been put in. The thing that is the most upsetting is that there’s 34 players who’ve done absolutely nothing wrong and their families and they have suffered enormously for it and the Essendon supporters.
“These people have been the most loyal supporters of all time, they’ve paid their membership, they’ve gone through ASADA, they’ve gone through COVID and now all you want to do is just get a bit of success and go to the footy and win a few games, because there is no group of supporters who have been through more, or maybe Fitzroy supporters, that’s been through more over the last 15 years.”
AFL pundits were stunned by the news Hird was in the mix for the Essendon coaching job.
Footy journalist Rohan Connolly tweeted: “Nothing against James Hird, but (even without the baggage) if Essendon is serious about getting the most-qualified candidate, it would have to twist logic severely to go with a guy who hasn’t coached at the level for 7yrs & had mixed results when he did.”
Sports reporter Matt Forrest said: “A gentle reminder that James Hird was in charge during one of the AFL’s biggest controversy which damaged/ruined more than 40 footballing careers.”
AFL journalist Sam McClure said on 3AW: “I can’t believe that in any way, shape or form that Essendon is considering James Hird as coach again.”