James Hird remains Essendon coach, but it appears only a matter of a few days before the AFL club sacks him.
The Essendon board has taken a collective deep breath over one of the biggest decisions in the AFL club’s history – sacking coach and Bombers icon James Hird.
After meeting with Hird on Thursday, Essendon chairman Paul Little said the board would make a call on Hird by early next week.
But Hird’s confirmation that he will appeal against the devastating Federal Court verdict puts him squarely at odds with his club.
In another chapter of Essendon’s tumultuous supplements saga, it now appears a matter of when, not if, they will sack Hird.
Unless there is a major development over the weekend, Essendon will decide Hird’s fate on Monday.
“We would have preferred James had not appealed,” Little admitted.
“He took the decision to do that and we’re still talking to him about that decision.
“I think Essendon fans would rather have deliberation around this in a meaningful way, (rather) than a quick, knee-jerk reaction.”
The Bombers coach lodged papers with the Federal Court on Thursday.
He is appealing against the decision by Justice Middleton on September 19, that the joint investigation by AFL and the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority was conducted lawfully.
Before meeting with club officials, Hird released a statement detailing his reasons for breaking ranks with Essendon and its playing group by continuing legal action.
“I have been advised and believe that there are strong reasons why that decision is incorrect and that this is the proper and appropriate course to vindicate the legal rights of Essendon and its players,” he said.
“The challenge to the lawfulness of the joint investigation was and is an important step in showing that Essendon, its players and staff were submitted to a compromised investigation and were treated unfairly.
“If we don’t appeal our players may be stained forever by the innuendo, misconceptions and falsities that resulted from an investigation that we believe was conducted unlawfully.
“It is important that an investigation based on unlawfully gathered information never occurs again to any person, sporting club or organisation.”
Hird did not attend Wednesday night’s club best-and-fairest function, where Little and caretaker coach Mark Thompson made lengthy and emotional speeches.
Hird was not mentioned in either of them.
“James took it upon himself not to come and I think that was appropriate,” Little said.
If Essendon sack Hird, it could pave the way for Thompson to reject a potential offer from Gold Coast and stay with the Bombers.
While Thompson is favourite to take over from sacked Suns coach Guy McKenna, he made it clear in Wednesday night’s speech that he loves Essendon and wants to stay.
Thompson left Melbourne on Thursday for an overseas holiday.
Hird said it would have been simpler for him to accept Justice Middleton’s ruling, but he was compelled to appeal because he did not believe that any Essendon players had been exposed to any banned supplements or drugs.
“I am extremely sorry for the pain this saga has caused the players (at) Essendon, their families, Essendon staff, Essendon supporters and the football industry as a whole,” said Hird.
“I am requesting expedition of this appeal and will not ask for a stay of the notices.
“The players and ASADA will be able to continue with the show-cause process whilst a full court deals with the legality of the investigation.”
Last week, ASADA announced they were ready to proceed with revised show cause notices against 34 current and former Essendon players.
ASADA said they would only go ahead if Essendon and Hird decided not to appeal.
AFL Players Association chief executive Paul Marsh has also urged ASADA to issue the show-cause notices.