The return of James Hird to Essendon’s coaching group next month would no doubt spark a massive media sideshow, but the Bombers are confident their players can handle the disruption.
Hird is serving a 12-month AFL ban for his part in the club’s 2012 supplements program and is due back from a study tour of France later this month.
The club great is free to join Essendon’s coaching box for their round-23 clash with Carlton on the last weekend in August.
Hird’s former assistant Mark Thompson has been appointed to a one-year term as coach in Hird’s absence, and has guided the club to a 9-7 win-loss record and seventh place on the ladder after 17 rounds.
Thompson, a two-time premiership coach at Geelong, was listed to appear at a media conference on Friday morning.
However, assistant coach Simon Goodwin was a last-minute replacement.
Goodwin said Thompson had been delayed because of a meeting, leaving reporters unable to ask Thompson how he felt about having Hird potentially cause disruption to his side going into a finals campaign.
Former Essendon captain Tim Watson has led calls for Hird to stay in the background until the end of the 2014 season.
Goodwin says while a decision hasn’t been made yet, the players can handle it either way.
“When James get back on the 28th of July, he’ll sit down with the footy club and discuss the best role for the footy club at that time,” Goodwin said.
“Whether that’s coming straight back into the fold or whether that’s holding out until the end of the year, we’ll just have to wait and see.
“It will be a discussion based on what’s best for the club.
“We haven’t spoken about it at all.
“We’ll wait for James to get back.
“I’m sure the players will just get on with what they’re doing.”
Goodwin says the players love having Hird around the club.
“Whether it’s a distraction or not, I don’t think it will be,” Goodwin said.
“This playing group has been able to be so resilient over such a long period of time that they’ll just get on with trying to perform.”
Essendon’s wins over top-eight sides Port Adelaide and Collingwood in the past two rounds have highlighted the character of the side according to Goodwin.
ASADA last month sent show-cause notices to 34 current and former Essendon players, prompting Federal Court action from the club against the anti-doping body.
“The growth of that one aspect of resilience is something I know the group pride themselves on,” Goodwin said.
“The players are in a good place.”
Essendon face the Western Bulldogs (6-10) at Etihad Stadium on Sunday.