The Essendon saga around suspected illegal practices rolled back in this week as new revelations emerged of the relationship that head coach James Hird and chairman David Evans shared in 2012.
AOD-9604, one of the drugs in question throughout the Essendon investigation, took a back seat as these new allegations circled around an alleged emergency meeting as well as a phone call that occurred on February 4, the day before the saga shocked the football fraternity.
In what is akin to a heavyweight boxing match, Evans and Hird, friends for 20 years, find themselves holding differing opinions in relation to that now infamous meeting in early February.
A Fairfax media article written on Thursday revealed Hird’s side of events. “I was at [David Evans’] house that night,” he said. “Myself, Bruce (Reid), Danny (Corcoran), Ian Robson and David were all there and Andrew made a call at some stage in that meeting and the contents of that call were discussed.”
As well as this, the crux of the latest issue of “self reporting” and how the Bombers allegedly handed themselves in the day before the saga broke.
In the same article, it was alleged that Hird was at loggerheads with Demetriou, accusing him of being the key witness who privately spoke with Evans only a matter of hours before the news of the investigation broke.
What this did was open a new Pandora’s box with the Australian Crime Commission. Under clause 39 of the Australian Crime Commission Act, all parties are to keep talks confidential and under wraps. Demetriou late on Thursday was cleared by the ACC of any wrongdoing, further undermining the Hird camp’s assertions.
It was also alleged that Hird leaked crucial ASADA evidence, attempting to muddy the waters of this situation and bring his chairman into questions. This no doubt raised suspicion amongst football circles as to the legitimacy of Hird and his views on the saga.
He stood firm in his account of that day and the actions of Andrew Demetriou, saying: “Andrew made a call at some stage in that meeting (at the home of Evans) and the contents of that call were discussed and I think we’ve all given our version – told the truth to ASADA, and that will come out over time.”
It is imperative to note these statements are now not just being released by Hird as a lone party but rather through a multitude of PR advisers Hird has put together, led by the former Liberal spin doctor Ian Hanke.
The impressive outfit that he has able to have put together is a result of the the daily accusations made against him. While some of it may not be true, the fact that Hird has felt the need to assemble such a team is clearly a sign of the seriousness of this situation.
While we draw ever closer to ASADA handing down their report, we now found ourselves a situation where Hird and his camp are on one side of the fence while Evans and his camp, allegedly backed by Demetriou are on the other.
As has previously been written on Bound For Glory News, Essendon’s players are looking more likely to to cleared due to the ambiguity of AOD-9604 and where it stands, the governance at Essendon is what is likely to be their downfall.
What this previously private but now public spat suggests is that the now strained relationship between Hird and Evans was a sign that there was something intrinsically wrong down at Windy Hill in 2012.
As head coach and chairman, both James Hird and David Evans should know better. They are representatives of over 50,000 members and airing their private differences smacks of desperation and pettiness. The fact that both senior officials appear to have put the needs of themselves above the club should surely anger even the staunchest Essendon fan.
The latest allegations to rock Essendon won’t have any bearing on the final punishment they will most likely face, but they paint a picture of what really went on at Essendon in 2012. If two of the most influential people at the club can’t see eye to eye, it is no wonder that basic governance was severely lacking last year.
The likes of Bruce Reid and Danny Corcoran have come under fire over the past few months but the general populous must surely be starting to come to grips with the enormity of what went on at Essendon last year.
As a result of this week’s explosive revelations, Essendon and football fans are now faced with the prospect of Hird’s legal and PR team up against Evans and his entourage.
The fact that both men have resorted to a mud-slinging more fit for a primary school playground let alone a football club – and it subsequently being played out in the public eye – is a sign that the issues that Essendon are dealing with go much deeper that just the notion of drugs. There has been a systematic breakdown in communication across many at Essendon and this has subsequently let fans and players down.
While the fractured relationship of Evans and Hird will have minimal bearing on the penalties that Essendon will have to face, it is a sign that Essendon as a body wasn’t functioning like it should have in 2012. Loyal fans of one of the AFL’s most revered clubs should feel aggrieved that two senior members of the club have let them down. What is for sure is that after the culmination of this investigation is over, both Evans and Hird will have a lot to answer for and must explain to the public how they let their feud take precedence over the general well-being of the club.