Essendon legend Tim Watson says while he’s not “best mates” with James Hird, he insists he holds no ill feelings towards his premiership teammate, who he hopes will always be recognised as “one of the most revered figures” in Bombers history.
As part of extensive coverage around the 10-year anniversary of the doping saga that rocked Essendon, the Herald Sun earlier this month reported Hird and Watson – who played in the Bombers’ 1993 premiership together – hadn’t been on speaking terms for years.
The newspaper report suggested it was “the coldest of cold wars between the pair” and their relationship was “right now at least is beyond repair”.
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Speaking on his new SEN podcast The Ramble, Watson said: “I don’t have any ill-feeling towards James Hird. Absolutely none.
“I’ve been in his company a number of times and we had a 1993 premiership lunch last year and he was there.”
When it was put to Watson by co-host Garry Lyon that a suggestion had been made there was no chance he and Hird would speak again, Watson said: “That’s not true.
“We don’t have a relationship. We’re not best mates … We were friendlier back in the day. But this whole thing happened (doping saga) and I’ve reached out to him, I’ve reached out to ‘Bomber’ (Mark Thompson). I understand people are moving through this emotionally and mentally in their own time, in their own way – and I respect that.
“But I’d be only too happy to sit down and have a conversation with him. In fact, the 1993 premiership reunion will be this year. There will be a function, we’ll cross paths.
“I hold no ill will towards James.”
Upon Essendon’s sacking of coach Ben Rutten last year and reports that moves were being made to give Hird a third crack at coaching the club, Watson at the time urged the Bombers against parachuting Hird into the role, instead declaring a proper process needed to be run.
Ultimately, the Bombers spoke to various candidates and appointed former North Melbourne coach Brad Scott to lead the club forward. Club president David Barham said the board “fully endorsed” the coaching sub-committee’s recommendation of Scott, although Essendon director Sheedy claimed the boardroom vote was 6-1 as he’d voted for Hird to be the new coach.
Watson this week insisted he didn’t “run some sort of campaign behind the scenes” to ensure Hird wasn’t appointed coach.
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“This is the most difficult thing … when you have been a teammate of somebody and then you have to make a comment around something that they might be doing because you hold a position in the media and you’ve got to have an opinion on these things – my opinion about him being the next coach of Essendon had nothing to do with whatever happened during that ASADA period,” Watson said. “I just didn’t think he was the right person for this time and the club needed to move forward, which was as simple as that.”
Watson added: “I had other people ringing me trying to campaign on James’ behalf to him being the coach. I said to them I didn’t think it was the right thing and they needed to run a process and find the best candidate – which they did, which I thought was the right thing to do.
“I mean, when you read that story about the fact that James and Kevin Sheedy and others were running this as a fait accompli … to me as an Essendon person, the fans and the players deserve the best coach and the best candidate they can possibly find.”
“I think there was that, people talking about ‘we just need to get Essendon people back’. My answer to that was always no you don’t.
“You need to always be conscious of the history and the culture of your football club and those that represented your football club. But you always need to make the best decisions for your football club going forward. They may include Essendon people, but they may not include Essendon people.
“If you go back and look at the last successful period Essendon had, it was getting Kevin Sheedy, a former Richmond person, into the football club – and he changed the football club.”
The Herald Sun also reported Hird was now “fully lost” to Essendon after Barham indicated he would support Hird’s possible return as coach before endorsing Scott, The newspaper reported Hird and Sheedy felt “betrayed” by the president.
Watson said he was hopeful Hird wouldn’t be lost to the club.
“I read somewhere this was sort of like a nail in the coffin of (Hird’s) relationship with the Essendon Football Club,” Watson said. “Now he may have been promised something … I don’t know what he was promised by David Barham. But if he has, I would say to James – if he has a beef, it’s with a person. That person is not the Essendon Football Club.
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“The Essendon Football Club for him really should be his family history with the Essendon Football Club … his own playing career, all the players he played alongside, the premiership of 1993 that he played in and all the people that he made friends with and was an associate with during that period of time – and then right up until 2000 when he was the premiership captain of that group of players as well. That would be the Essendon Football Club for him that he needs to remain connected to.
“So I would hope that he’s forever part of the celebration of our 1993 (flag), forever part of the 2000 (premiership celebrations) and remains one of the most revered figures that has ever passed through the corridors of the Essendon Football Club.”
Story Credit: foxsports.com.au