Former Essendon coach James Hird is likely to play a role in this year’s AFL Grand Final.
Hird has indicated he is keen to accept the AFL’s invitation to present the Norm Smith Medal to the player judged best on ground in this year’s grand final.
Hird’s invitation is a matter of protocol as the AFL has since 2004, used the order of the Norm Smith medallists to determine who should be the presenter.
North Melbourne’s Shannon Grant, the 1999 Norm Smith winner, presented the medal at last year’s grand final to Western Bulldogs defender Jason Johannisen, making Hird next in line.
Hird was quoted on Thursday night as saying he would love to present the medal, one of the game’s most coveted individual awards.
But the news sparked heated debate on social media. AFL caller and television personality Andy Maher said the invitation was a bad look, while another user said the move was akin to doping cyclist Lance Armstrong presenting the Tour de France winner’s medal.
There's a reason Gary Ablett isn't a Hall Of Fame Legend.
The look matters.
The James Hird decision, under that measurement, is a shocker.
— Andy Maher (@AndyMaherDFA) July 13, 2017
Several others came out in support of the Bombers great, saying it was time to forgive and forget.
James Hird hasn't been invited to present the Norm Smith – it's his god given right. You stupid ignorant bogans it will be up to him not you
— The Red Sash (@The_Red_Sash) July 13, 2017
Hird is reportedly in Europe and yet to see the league’s official invitation.
Hird has had no official involvement with the game since he left his job as Essendon coach during the 2015 season.
The ongoing fallout from the Bombers’ supplements debacle means his grand final involvement will be controversial, regardless of how routine it is.
He was a key figure in the supplements saga and it took a heavy toll on his health.
The AFL suspended him for 12 months towards the end of the 2013 season.
Despite the ugly controversy, Hird remains revered at Essendon as one of the greatest players in the club’s history.
The 1996 Brownlow Medallist captained the Bombers to the 2000 premiership, their most recent flag.
It was Hird’s second premiership and he was clearly best afield in the convincing grand final win over Melbourne.
While Hird has stayed out of the spotlight since leaving Essendon, it emerged earlier this month that Hird had started to re-establish ties with the club.
He travelled to Hobart in June for a local club coterie function.