Is Essendon ready for a future without James Hird?
That’s the simple proposition facing the Bombers boardroom when it meets on Wednesday to discuss the club’s coaching future.
The faint truce brokered between coach-in-exile Hird, the Bombers and the AFL last year was shattered by Tania Hird’s incendiary 7.30 Report interview on the ABC last week.
In that appearance, Tania Hird accused the AFL of a culture of bullying and failing to provide natural justice to her husband despite the negotiated agreement.
Hird has reportedly distanced himself from the attacks on the league, but it remains to be seen whether the latest chapter of the AFL versus the Hirds merits his sacking.
That pathway would likely leave Essendon open to legal action and alienate its supporter base, which has galvanised around the 2000 premiership captain.
With Hird contracted to coach the side during 2015 and 2016, it could also be expensive.
Another option for the board is holding off a final decision and waiting for the results of the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority’s investigation into the club’s 2012 supplements program.
Hird will join the meeting via a link up from Singapore though it appears his wife will not.
On Tuesday Tania Hird described suggestions that she would be hauled in front of the board as offensive.
But whatever the board decides on Wednesday night, at least the Bombers’ on-field form has yet to be affected.
Essendon impressed in a 39-point win over North Melbourne last Friday and Thompson said he didn’t think the omnipresent discussion of Hird’s coaching future would have an impact on the team.
“The best way to play good footy is to concentrate on good footy,” he said.
“It’s not my issue, it’s the club’s issue … (and) I’m happy for that and the players are happy because we can concentrate on footy.”
Pressed for his best understanding of Essendon’s coaching future, Thompson gave a hefty sigh before answering.
“He’s (Hird) coming back. That was the plan. Until it changes, we can’t do anything else,” he said.
While Thompson insisted he wasn’t involved in the board machinations, he didn’t answer directly whether he’d been approached to stay on in the head coaching job beyond this season.
“I wouldn’t expect the club to ask and I wouldn’t change my answer. I’m coaching for the year and that’s it,” he said.