The AFL has defended its public silence over James Hird’s health crisis, with Gillon McLachlan saying the league had offered support through an intermediary.
The league’s chief executive also revealed he has Jobe Watson’s 2012 Brownlow Medal and the AFL will soon make public a review of its investigation into the Essendon supplements debacle.
Hird, the former Bombers coach, had a drug overdose last month and was hospitalised.
At the time, the AFL made no comment, prompting criticism from some quarters.
But McLachlan noted Hird’s family pleaded for privacy in the immediate aftermath of the health crisis.
“We have reached out to the people we think and hope are having a dialogue with the family to make it clear our concern and to offer to do anything we can,” McLachlan said.
“Why we didn’t do that publicly is because this is a very distressing situation.
“It was clear from the family that it wanted to be quiet and our view was that anything we could make (sic) would have the risk of creating a whole series of other distractions and pressures.
“The appropriate reaction was to talk confidentially … and not speak publicly. If we could help, we’re there.”
The AFL banned Hird in August, 2013 for 12 months over the supplements saga.
He returned after the suspension, but left the club in August, 2015.
Since Hird’s hospitalisation, confidants have commented publicly about the toll the whole saga and its aftermath have taken on his health.
Asked if the AFL had contributed to last month’s crisis, McLachlan blunted replied: “I just think that’s entirely unfair”.
He dismissed as “100 per cent rubbish” speculation that the AFL had intervened to prevent Hird taking an AFL radio commentary role.
McLachlan added the AFL would welcome back Hird.
“Our industry has a history of being open and forgiving … he’s welcome back into football,” McLachlan said.
Also last month, former Essendon captain Jobe Watson officially lost his 2012 Brownlow over the saga.
Watson was one of 34 current and former Bombers players who served doping bans last year.
McLachlan revealed Watson had handed back the medal to the AFL, but gave no further details.
“All I’m saying is, the medal is with me,” he said.
And McLachlan also confirmed that the league’s review into its own Essendon investigation would be made public before the start of this season.
“The exact execution, I don’t know,” he said.
“You review every part – I’ve said publicly, I don’t think we’d change too much, but there are always learnings … you can always learn.”
He said that one example was if a similar situation was to happen again, he – as chief executive – would step down from the commission.