I think the dust has settled on the Essendon Football saga. ….at least for the time being.
The damage caused by the supplements scandal continues. 34 players suspended for a year. The AFL attempting to protect the integrity of the competition by giving the club significant recruiting latitude. Some players are considering an appeal with an injunction. If this move is successful, 34 players return to the competition. What happens to the new recruits?
How different would things now be if back in 2013, Hird gave the following apology? Am I talking with the benefit of hindsight? Of course, but was it that difficult to accept responsibility at that time? If he had, by now he may be restoring his tarnished reputation by this one bold act of humility.
Could a different decision by Hird back in 2013-14 have made a big difference?
I was as shocked as anyone when I heard others say that the Essendon Football club had been using banned supplements. It was an allegation that cut deeply across everything I believe in and uphold. My natural reaction was to reject the accusation out of hand.
However the club has now conducted a thorough internal investigation led by capable and experienced people. The investigation has revealed significant failings in our management of the supplements program. I am concerned if not ashamed to report that standing before you today I cannot tell you precisely what substances were injected into our players at any given time throughout 2012.
This is simply not acceptable. It should not be tolerated. It is wrong and as head coach I accept responsibility for this poor management. I am sorry.
Sorry for the scandal that has beset the club. Sorry for bringing this great game of ours into disrepute. But above all sorry to the players and their families. They trusted me and my coaching staff to guide and direct them both on and off the field. They submitted to the supplements program because they were directed to by me. Like myself, they believed there were proper controls in place.
As the head coach, the buck stops with me and I have put my hand up to accept responsibility for this situation. Another reason for my current decision is that the players are innocent in all this. They are victims of our poor management. None of the consequences of the supplements program should be visited on them. They have already been through enough.
I have spoken to the AFL management and the Essendon hierarchy and have accepted full responsibility for what occurred at Essendon in 2012. Accordingly I have tendered my resignation effective immendiately. I have tried to protect the players from any sanctions but this has not been possible. ASADA is offering the players a three match suspension in return for a guilty plea with no finding of intentional conduct on their part. How the players proceed is up to them. I repeat that they are innocent in all this. They are victims and their treatment should reflect that fact.
I will now have plenty of time to reflect. At present I am filled with a mix of emotions. I am angry at what has occurred. Angry with myself and with those I entrusted with the supplements program. Supplements are commonplace in modern professional sport. Administered properly they have benefits to offer. In today’s elite competition every team is looking for an advantage, an edge. I believed that it was important that the club was not left behind in this area of the game. I only wanted what was best for the club.
I am angry at the AFL. This issue has exposed weaknesses in the AFL and ASADA. But this is not the time to express my views on those organisations.
I feel embarrassed and ashamed that this has happened on my watch. I am embarrassed that my time at this great club should conclude in this manner, with ignominy.
I am sorry that so many people have been hurt. I am sorry to my family who have been to hell and back on my account. But my experience is no different to the families of the players.
At the same time I am proud of the players. They have shone under immense pressure. They are great young men caught up in a tragic tale not of their making. I am proud of the club. It is a strong club. It will survive these events and be successful again.
I have made this decision in the hope that the club and players and media can move on. That in my absence some equilibrium can be restored.
Thanks for listening. “