James Hird: Uber-cool

James Hird is ice.  Against the backdrop of doping allegations, resignations and intense scrutiny, Hird has remained calm and affable.  He has made himself available and is capable under fire.

Journalists skulk outside his house each morning.  The interruptions must be frustrating but Hird answers questions in a measured tone, rarely getting impatient, always ready to smirk.  He isn’t contemptuous or grumpy.

Questions about the doping investigation are thrust at him during every press conference he has given in 2013.  Hird has never lost control.  His body language doesn’t betray his emotions.  He appears to be transparent, despite the limitations of the ongoing investigation.

Somewhere, during the press conference, he’ll suggest the questions should move to the game, otherwise he’ll wind things up.

There has been no menace or intent.  While coaches like Mick Malthouse, Ross Lyon and Alistair Clarkson would’ve bristled by round one and lost it by round three, Hird has remained stoic.

His demeanour is extraordinary, as is his performance.  It has been great theatre.

But it is all a front, a bluff.

Hird is uber-cool, like Steve McQueen in The Getaway.   People wanted McQueen’s character, Doc McCoy, to get away with murder and robbery.  Ultimately, McCoy does.

A lot of influential people want Hird to get away without charge from Essendon’s supplement program.  Hird is confident he will, when the truth, as he keeps saying, comes out.

Hird’s press conferences remind me of another fictitious character, Michael Corleone (played by Al Pacino) from Godfather 2.  When Corleone fronts a Senate committee investigating organised crime, he doesn’t smile or frown.  He speaks in gentle monotone.

Pacino’s performance as the Don earned him a nomination as best actor and should’ve earned him an Oscar.  His statement to the committee was a classic moment in cinematic history.

Corleone denied all the allegations and provided the committee with a challenge.  The Senate committee, it seemed, was up for it.  They had a witness in custody ready to testify that Corleone was a murderer, drug dealer and skimmed the profits from Las Vegas casinos.

Corleone, despite the evidence, remained calm.

Watching Hird each day, it’s easy to imagine him reading out Corleone’s statement to the Senate committee.

The statement has been altered, of course, to suit Essendon’s doping allegations…

In the hopes of clearing my family name, and my sincere desire to give Essendon their fair share of the AFL way of life, without a blemish on their name and background, I have appeared before this committee and given it all the cooperation in my power.

I consider it a great dishonour to me personally to have to deny that I am a criminal.  I wish to have the following noted for the record.

That I served Essendon faithfully and honourably, winning a Brownlow medal, five best and fairest awards, a Norm Smith medal and two premierships.  I captained the club and I love it.

That I have never been arrested or indicted for any crime whatsoever.  That no proof linking me to any criminal conspiracy, whether it is called peptides, amino acids or whatever other name you wish to give, has ever been made public.

I have not taken refuge behind the Fifth Amendment, though it is my right to do so.

I challenge the AFL and ASADA to produce any witness or evidence against me and if they do not, I hope they will have the decency to clear my name with the same publicity with which they now have besmirched it.

The Senate committee weren’t impressed with Corleone’s statement.  They were less impressed when their star witness retracted his statement.

We knew Corleone was a murderer and drug dealer.  We knew Doc McCory was a murderer and bank robber.

We know Hird is a legend of the game.  Currently he remains under investigation without charge.  His confidence when he was playing never wavered.  It still hasn’t, publicly at least.

Hird remains the ultimate professional.  When he was playing, no deficit was too great, no injury too severe, no ball too hard to get.  As a coach, ASADA, the AFL and its boss, Andrew Demetriou, are just opponents to be bettered.

As the doping saga drags on to its inexorable conclusion, Hird’s belief in his innocence is unyielding.  He is either in complete denial, as Corleone was, or he is telling the truth.

Hird has fought the doping war with aplomb.  It wouldn’t surprise anyone if he gets away without charge, just like Doc McCoy and Michael Corleone.

 Watch Michael Corleone give his statement to the Senate committee here.

About Matt Watson

My name is Matt Watson, avid AFL, cricket and boxing fan. Since 2005 I’ve been employed as a journalist, but I’ve been writing about sport for more than a decade. In that time I’ve interviewed legends of sport and the unsung heroes who so often don’t command the headlines. The Ramble, as you will find among the pages of this website, is an exhaustive, unbiased, non-commercial analysis of sport and life. I believe there is always more to the story. If you love sport like I do, you will love the Ramble…


  1. Matt

    A lot to like here, not least of all taking us back to Godfather 2, a great film.

    In fact, the similarities continue, in that Michael Corleone was never more fearsome than when he was completely calm, completely confident. It was only then that you saw just how powerful, confident and scary he could be.

    I agree Hird has been generous with his time, coping with daily stakeouts and having to say pretty much the same stuff every day.

    It’s clear though that he believes his innocence, and that begs the question of confidence or delusion being the dominant emotion or state.

    I truly believe that, despite being “shocked” to be in the Feb news conferece at AFL House and taking responsibility for everything that happened at the club, he would be staggered if he was charged or indicted and would be a caged lion or cornered rat if that happened.

    This is far from over, but your comments on Hird are very interesting and worth discussion


  2. Steve Baker says

    “Barzini’s dead. So is Phillip Tataglia, Moe Green, Strachi, Cuneo…. today, I settled all family business. So don’t tell me you’re innocent Caro. Admit what you did”

  3. Thanks for the lead-n Matt. It’s a good analogy for the EFC.

    And Sean, it sure as Hell ain’t over yet. Not by a long shot. For openers I’ll see your innocent or delusional, and raise you an arrogant.

  4. Classic analogy Matt. How did Pacino not win an Oscar for that film? One of the great performances of all time.

    Love it, Steve. Could go even further…” Now who approached you? Was it Robinson, or Dank?”

  5. Ripsnorter says


    Pretty spot on regarding James Hird, I had really hoped that he would come out of this well as have always admired him but the longer this goes on the worse it is getting for him.
    He has had months now to put his hand up say sorry and resign and move on with his life and let the bombers move on with theirs but has let everyone down ( particularly himself ) with his attitude.

    Often in cases like this I think what a bad example for his kids that such a supposedly noble, humble man of integrity he once was to continue like this.
    But then I think that people of privilege have a greater lesson for their children and that is : the same rules for most in our society do not apply to us – and so often they are proved right who can really blame them for this belief and attitude.

  6. e.regnans says

    grand Godfather reference, Matt.
    In time this will make an excellent case study of media manipulation and spin doctoring. There’s a Rob Sitch TV show in here somewhere and/or a Ben Elton book (employing a prominant human rights lawyer?) Protect the image. Advance the brand. It’s electioneering really, innit?
    “I will stop
    I will stop at nothing
    Say the right things
    When electioneering
    I trust I can rely on your vote
    When I go forwards you go backwards and somewhere we will meet”
    = Radiohead > OK Computer > electioneering

  7. tom bally says

    Good article Matt. GF2, one of my favorite films of all time. It wouldn’t surprise me if this entire debacle disappears in a dimly lit hallway and the evidence dropped down various chimneys on the way home.

    I’m starting to see a striking similarity between Hird’s attitude and those of any company director who awards themselves an outrageous bonus yet act surprised when public outrage is vented. Completely out of step with reality but you can hardly blame Hird for his solid front when society lets much larger injustices go unpunished.

  8. Matt and e.regnans

    Godfather 2 and Radionhead’s Electioneering in the same stream. Pure bliss. Brilliant song and stunning movie.

    Pity it took a James (T)ird article to get them together

    I’m a bit with Ripsnorter though. I still maintain Hird’s close to the best player I saw, even counting Carey etc, in that he just seemed to have more time than anyone. I thought the way he overcame a number of injury setbacks and willed his team on was stunning. Part of me (an increasingly diminishing part as weeks go by) still has sympathy for him and is more a feeling of disappointed.


  9. Great piece Matt. Godfather 2 is about my fave movie and the analogy is very apt.
    My suspicion is that Hird sees himself as innocent because he did not have illegal intent. He wanted to push the envelope to the edge, not smash through it.
    So in his mind he feels let down by others he trusted.
    He might cop a plea to some level of negligence in not having structures to monitor the program more thoroughly. But he doesn’t act guilty because he doesn’t FEEL guilty.
    As some one who has been very critical of the Bombers over all this, I think the interesting question is how to punish the CLUB harshly while treating the PLAYERS lightly. It will never be possible to entirely disentangle the two, but draft picks and $’s don’t seem enough.
    Points and finals opportunities will have to go for there to be adequate deterrence.

  10. Earl O'Neill says

    Great stuff, Matt, thanx.
    Worth noting that the ending of ‘The Getaway’ movies differs substantially from the bleak and cynical ending in Jim Thompson’s book, ‘pon which they were based.

  11. Earl,
    The ending to Jim’s book has a surreal feel to it. I saw the film first then read the book and wasn’t surprised that Hollywood ensured a feel good ending.
    Still, we wanted Doc and Carol to get away – they did.
    Hird might feel a little surreal after all this is over.
    But the ending, whatever it is, can’t be changed…

  12. Shame about the Getaway spoilers (aaargh) but a great read nevertheless. And that scene in the Senate hearings in GF2 is just so brilliantly authentic, each performance pitch perfect, from the Pacino to the Senators. Magnificent.

  13. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Great Entertaining Article Matt and well put analogy of the situation by Sean and
    Peter B and I to feel James Hird is totally delusional about the situation just wish he had resigned ages ago he should be remembered as 1 of the Greatest Players in
    History his legacy will be remembered for this monumental stuff up

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