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James Hird

James Hird
Personal information
Full name James Hird
Date of birth 4 February 1973 (1973-02-04) (age 36)
Place of birth Canberra, Australian Capital Territory
Recruited from Ainslie
Draft 79th overall, 1990
Essendon
Height/Weight 188 cm / 90 kg
Playing career1
Years Club Games (Goals)
1992–2007 Essendon 253 (343)   

1 Playing statistics to end of 2007 season .

James Alan Hird (born 4 February 1973) is a retired Australian rules footballer and former captain of the Essendon Football Club in the Australian Football League (AFL). Primarily a midfielder–half forward, 1.88 metres (6 ft 2 in) tall and weighing 90 kilograms (198 lb), Hird was often given free rein by Essendon coaches to play wherever he thought warranted. He was the joint winner of the 1996 Brownlow Medal with Brisbane midfielder Michael Voss, as a half forward.

Contents

Career

Early career

James Hird was recruited from the Ainslie Football Club in Canberra, in the 1990 AFL draft. Due to a serious hip injury along with other injuries in his junior football career, he was not selected until pick number 79, Essendon's 7th and one of the last in the draft.[1]

In his first season, 1991, Hird sat on the sidelines for most of the season with constant injuries hampering him. At the end of the season, a vote was held on whether to delist him. The majority (4-2) voted in favour of Hird being delisted, although coach Kevin Sheedy voted to keep him. Eventually Hird remained with the team. He made his senior debut against St Kilda in 1992 at Waverley Park, as a late replacement for former captain Terry Daniher. Hird spent most of the season in the Essendon Reserves, which under Denis Pagan won the premiership that season. He achieved regular selection in the Essendon senior team during the 1993 season. In that season he was a member of what was referred to as the "Baby Bombers", a group of young players (most notably including Hird, Mark Mercuri, Gavin Wanganeen, Dustin Fletcher, Ricky Olarenshaw, David Calthorpe, Paul Hills and Joe Misiti) that played a key role in the side winning the premiership that year. In 1994, Hird won the first of three consecutive best and fairests, culminating in his 1996 season, where he was jointly awarded the Brownlow Medal for the League's fairest and best player with Brisbane Bears midfielder Michael Voss.

Late 1990s

A series of injuries restricted Hird's appearances during the remainder of the 1990s. He could manage only seven games in 1997 and although he was named captain in 1998 (a position he held until the end of 2005), he was restricted to thirteen games that year. An even worse year followed in 1999, when stress fractures in his foot kept him to only two games.

Early 2000s

2000 was a much better year for Hird. Injury free, he received a number of honours, including selection to the All Australian Team, and the Norm Smith Medal for a best on ground performance in the AFL Grand Final. The Essendon team also won the Ansett Cup pre-season competition, and the regular season premiership. The team only lost one game - against the Western Bulldogs - in the season including finals, making it the most successful year for any team in the history of the Australian Football League.

The following season's Grand Final was a disappointment for Hird. 2002 then saw Hird's worst injury, an horrific facial injury sustained when he collided with teammate Mark McVeigh's knee, breaking or fracturing all but a couple of the bones in his skull; Hird was in hospital for a week and missed several weeks of the season.

In 2003, despite again missing eight games through various injuries, Hird tied in the Essendon Best and Fairest with Scott Lucas. He also narrowly missed out on a second Brownlow Medal, finishing three votes behind the winners. He was rewarded with a place in the 2003 All-Australian team.

Late career

On 27 September 2005, Hird handed the captaincy to Matthew Lloyd. After Lloyd sustained a season-ending injury in Round 3 of 2006, Hird served briefly as acting captain until young ruckman David Hille was named captain for the remainder of the 2006 season.

Hird continued to be an outstanding performer in his utility role when fit, but age was forcing him to miss games through injury with increasing frequency. He suffered broken ribs and a calf strain during both his 200th and 250th games, respectively.

Final season and retirement

A red banner featuring drawings of former Essendon player James Hird and former coach Kevin Sheedy
Kevin Sheedy and James Hird farewell banner ahead of their final game at the Melbourne Cricket Ground

Despite much speculation that he would retire at the end of the 2006 season, Hird played out the 2007 season, playing 17 of a possible 22 games. Now aged 34, Hird continued to feature prominently among Essendon's best players, and he concluded his career by winning a fifth Best and Fairest award.

Hird played two farewell games: his final game in Victoria at the M.C.G. against Richmond, and his final game overall at Subiaco Oval against West Coast. The games were made higher profile as they were also the final games coached by 27-year coach Kevin Sheedy. Hird was one of the best on field in his final game, amassing 34 disposals, one shy of his career high. As Hird and Sheedy left the field for the last time, the crowd gave them a standing ovation[2].

Before season 2008, the Archer-Hird Medal was created honouring Hird and former North Melbourne Football Club star Glenn Archer. Since 2008, the medal has been awarded to the player showing the most determination, courage and skill in matched between the Kangaroos and the Bombers.[3]

Notable events

1998 - 1999: Navicular Stress Fracture

One of the most feared injuries for a running athlete[4], Hird was first struck with a stress fracture of his navicular bone early in the 1998 season. After traditional treatment for the injury, Hird returned for the start of the 1999 season, but broke down with the same injury again in only his second return game. Many feared it would be the end of his career.

Radical specialist treatment in the United States saw Hird return at the start of the 2000 season. Although technically recovered from the ailment, the injury required careful management for the rest of his career.

2002: Severe Facial Injuries

While running back with the flight of the ball in an away game against Fremantle in 2002, Hird's head collided with the knee of team mate Mark McVeigh. Hird suffered severe injuries to his face, in particular his left eye socket. The force of the impact radiated throughout his face, particularly to his sinuses, complicating the damage[5]. Hird was unable to fly home to Melbourne due to the air pressure fluctuations found in an aircraft during flight creating concern for his health while the injuries healed.

2004: Umpiring Comments

During one of his regular panel appearances on The Footy Show, on Wednesday 7 April, Hird launched a surprising attack on the standard umpiring he believed that Essendon had been dealt in the previous match versus St Kilda."[6].

After previously talking to the AFL about umpiring standards, Hird later wrote, "The umpires' interpretation our our interpretation seemed to be different too often, and we felt we weren't getting fair hearing." His anger spilled out onto the AFL Footy Show, saying:

[Scott McLaren] hasn't been our favourite umpire ... That's something that the club and he have to come to terms with, because at the moment there's a feeling at Essendon that he's not doing the right thing by us ... hopefully the club and he can come to some arrangement where umpiring is a bit better ... I thought the umpiring was actually quite disgraceful on Saturday night ... I just didn't think the free kicks that were there were paid and some of them were paid weren't right, I suppose ... I'm not alleging incompetence. We all have bad days; he had a bad day.[7]

Fellow panelist, Nigel Smart disagreed with Hird's comments. "James, I think you're totally wrong by hanging your dirty laundry out on national TV about the umpires. If you're saying he's had one bad game and you're taking the mickey out of him here." Hird replied by saying, "I'm no taking the mickey out of him, Nigel. I feel very strongly about the way he umpires. This may be one way of bringing it to a head." Smart 'responded with a certain amount of understatement', "Well I think it will."[8] Hird later wrote:

I wasn't challenging Scott's fairness. It was just that I thought a few of his decisions had been going against us and I didn't like it. From my words, some people in the media thought I was doubting Scott's integrity. I definitely wasn't. It was simply that I didn't feel we were getting the run of decisions going our way.[9]

The news didn't find it's way into the next days Herald Sun, although it was published the back page of another Melbourne newspaper; The Age. The story then grew that Thursday night, when Hird's comments were replayed at half-time of the rounds opening AFL match. He later wrote, " ... Eddie McGuire and his co-commentators pumped it up, adding their thoughts and opinions. They really went to town on it ... That only made things worse."[9] The next day, Hird got 'hammered' by his comments. On Friday, The Age's Caroline Wilson wrote:

McLaren will face sledging from crowds at every AFL game at which he officiates, thanks to Hird. The AFL rightly fears that young children around the country — and The Footy Show averaged 500,000 viewers on Wednesday night — will be turned off umping as a result of Hird's comments.[10]

The media attacks didn't end, with the Herald Sun's Mike Sheahan saying, " ... It was the worst possible publicity for umpiring ..." Although this wasn't the first time Hird had brought up the subject, it was the first time he'd gone public about it.[11] Soon after, McLaren responded by saying:

I was surprised and disappointed by the comments he made. This has deeply affected my family and friends ... but I have every confidence with the AFL rules and regulations and that will deal with the situation appropriately ... I have enormous respect for James Hird as a footballer, but I was surprised and disappointed by comments he made on the Footy Show last night regarding my performance as an AFL umpire. I look forward to going out this weekend and calling it how I see it, impartially and without fear or favour.[11]

A few AFL players spoke out in the media criticizing some of the media's negative comments towards Hird. It was according to Hird, the first time he'd ever come under media scrutiny and he was unsure how to deal with it. He later took aim at the AFL players Association. "I don't think I was given enough support from them. I hadn't hurt anybody or been found taking something I shouldn't take, but I felt as if I was in the middle of a police investigation." Later that Friday, Hird called a press conference to aplogise to McLaren.

My comments were a spur of the moment thing, not premeditated, and do not reflect the attitudes of the Essendon Football Club. In voicing my opinions, I had no comprehension of the potential impact my comments could have, on either Scott or the umpiring community, and if it has caused him or his family any grief, I am truly sorry. I have now been involved in AFL football for 15 years and I now realise I do not fully appreciate it from an umpire's perspective. This is one of the bigger lessons I have learned from all this.[12]

The matter by-passed the AFL Tribunal - that he made the comments on a national television program, they need not have determined that they were made; instead it was determined that the matter would be directly determined by a meeting of the AFL Commission, and any punishment Hird would receive would be determined directly by that meeting. The Footy Show airs on Thursday evenings, and the AFL Commission was not meeting until the following week; as such, Hird was given clearance, pending the hearing, to play in the following game against the West Coast Eagles (see Memorable Games).

On the following Wednesday, 15 April, the AFL Commission met[13], deliberated, and ultimately handed down its penalty to Hird. He was fined $20,000, and forced to contribute to a 3-year umpiring development program; the Commission decided against suspension[14]. Hird accepted his sanction and expressed remorse for his actions. In a further controversy, Scott McLaren was one of the umpires rostered for the Essendon vs Carlton game the following Friday night. The pair shook hands at the commencement of the game, bringing closure to the issue, but Carlton fans were particularly hostile to any free kicks given by McLaren to Essendon.

On the occasion of his 300th umpiring appearance in 2008, McLaren described Hird's outburst as a "defining moment" in his career[15].

Memorable Games

Hird was recognized for his ability to win a game almost single-handedly. In 2006 the Essendon Football Club's official website listed his 5 greatest, or most memorable, performances, as voted by fans, including: the 2003 Elimination final against Fremantle; the 2000 Grand Final against Melbourne, for which he won the Norm Smith Medal, and; the 2003 and 2004 Anzac Day clashes, for each of which he won the Anzac medal. He often wins acclaim for his part in the 2001 "Comeback Match" against the Kangaroos.

Grand Final - 2000: vs Melbourne

Hird won the Norm Smith Medal in the Grand Final versus Melbourne[16].

Round 16 - 2001: vs Kangaroos

Essendon won one of the most memorable games of football in history, coming back from trailing by 69 points to the Kangaroos[17].

Round 5 - 2003: vs Collingwood

Hird won the Anzac Day Medal in the annual Anzac Day clash with traditional rivals Collingwood[18].

Elimination Final - 2003: vs Fremantle

Hird played a major part in the first interstate final win by Essendon in several seasons, in what was Fremantle's first ever finals appearance.

Round 3 - 2004: vs West Coast

Probably Hird's most memorable performance is universally considered to be the Round 3, 2004 game against West Coast - the game immediately following his umpiring comments controversy. It was a close, high scoring game, and was particularly intense during its final quarter.

Up until three-quarter time, Hird had 19 disposals and one goal; in the final quarter, he managed 15 disposals and two goals, the latter of which was most memorable. With the scores level at 131 and very little time remaining, the ball was bounced in Essendon's forward pocket, tapped to the boundary line side, roved, and neatly handpassed by Marc Bullen to a goalward-running Hird, who approximately thirty metres from goal, snapped from an acute angle for the game-winning goal. In the emotion of the moment, he ran to the fence and hugged the first fan he saw, a young teenage Essendon fan[19].

Controversially, Hird did not receive any Brownlow Medal votes from the umpires for his 34 disposals; the media speculation was that the umpires deliberately snubbed him because of his earlier comments; the votes went to Matthew Lloyd (three votes, seven marks, eight goals), Ben Cousins (thirty disposals, three goals), and eventual Brownlow medallist Chris Judd (twenty-three disposals)[20].

Hird's winning goal was the focus of a popular installment of the Toyota Memorable Moments advertising campaign[21].

Round 5 - 2004: vs Collingwood

Hird won the Anzac Day Medal against Collingwood in the annual Anzac Day clash with traditional rivals Collingwood.

Round 17 - 2006: vs Brisbane

In Essendon's horror 2006 season he returned one week early from a minor injury to lead his side to a drought-breaking win over Brisbane in round 17, 2006. It was Hird's first match since round 13 against the Kangaroos and the Dons' first win since April Fools' Day of the same year.

Honours

Hird jointly won the Brownlow Medal with Michael Voss in 1996, the award for the fairest and best player in the Australian Football League. After his retirement, Hird stated that being a member of the "Brownlow Club" was a privilege[22].

In 1997, the Essendon Football Club named the then-triple best and fairest winner in its Team of the Century on the half-forward flank[23].

In 2002, the Essendon Football Club conducted a fan-voted promotion to find the "Champions of Essendon". Hird was eventually named as the number three player on the all-time list of Essendon players[23].

Personal life

Hird married Tania Poynton on October 11, 1997 and they have four children - a daughter, Stephanie (born April 25, 1999[24]), and three sons, Thomas (born March 28, 2001[25]), Alexander (born August 7, 2003[26]) and William (born February 20, 2009[27]). Tania is the sister of former Young Talent Time performer Greg Poynton.

Hird's grandfather, the late Allan Hird, was a notable player and president for the Essendon Football Club, and his father Allan Hird, Jr. had a brief playing career with Essendon.

Hird completed a degree as a civil engineer in 1998, and in that capacity has worked as a consultant on the CityLink project[28]. He is now involved heavily in football-related media work, but he has also spent time working for a stockbroking firm. Hird currently co-owns a restaurant called "Red Mullet Fishcaf" located in Glenferrie road, Malvern[29] and is an active partner in "Gemba"[30] - a sports marketing and media consultancy firm based in Melbourne.

External links

Notes

  1. ^ "Essendon Football Club Draft History". Essendon Football Club. http://www.essendonfc.com.au/team/drafthistory.asp. Retrieved 2009-03-16.  
  2. ^ Clarke, Tim (2007-09-01). "Teary sendoff for Essendon's Kevin Sheedy, James Hird". PerthNow. http://www.news.com.au/perthnow/story/0,21598,22346448-5005401,00.html. Retrieved 2009-03-16.  
  3. ^ Archer-Hird Medal to continue rivalry
  4. ^ "Navicular Stress Fracture". http://injuryupdate.com.au/injuries/foot_&_ankle/navicular_stress_fracture.php. Retrieved 2009-03-22.  
  5. ^ "Hird has surgery on facial injuries". Sydney Morning Herald. 2002-05-02. http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2002/05/05/1019441459678.html. Retrieved 2009-03-22.  
  6. ^ "Hird faces ban over umpire outburst". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 2004-04-08. http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/200404/s1084375.htm. Retrieved 2009-03-16.  
  7. ^ Hird (2006), p. 199.
  8. ^ Hird (2006), p. 199–200.
  9. ^ a b Hird (2006), p. 200.
  10. ^ Hird (2006), p. 201.
  11. ^ a b Hird (2006), p. 202.
  12. ^ Hird (2006), p. 203–204.
  13. ^ "Hird faces music today, umpire tomorrow". Sydney Morning Herald. 2004-04-15. http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2004/04/14/1081838795749.html. Retrieved 2009-03-16.  
  14. ^ "Hird can now face another blue". Sydney Morning Herald. 2004-04-16. http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2004/04/15/1081998305816.html. Retrieved 2009-03-16.  
  15. ^ "Hird attack a 'defining moment': McLaren". Australian Football League. 2008-04-09. http://www.afl.com.au/tabid/208/Default.aspx?newsid=57632. Retrieved 2009-03-16.  
  16. ^ "2000 Grand Final, Essendon v Melbourne - 4 Minutes To Go". Seven Network via YouTube. 2008-06-03. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-vruSa1ZCY0. Retrieved 2009-03-22.  
  17. ^ "The Greatest Comeback Of All Time". Seven Network via YouTube. 2008-06-29. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lnWay8S8xqI. Retrieved 2009-03-22.  
  18. ^ "James Hird - Anzac Day 2003". Nine Network via YouTube. 2008-09-21. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7M0C338zQZU. Retrieved 2009-03-22.  
  19. ^ "James Hird's Winning Goal vs West Coast 2004". Network Ten via YouTube. 2006-10-28. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bUhhHA-AJvc. Retrieved 2009-03-16.  
  20. ^ "Judd claims West Coast's first Brownlow". Sydney Morning Herald. 2004-09-21. http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2004/09/21/1095651257787.html. Retrieved 2009-03-16.  
  21. ^ "James Hird Toyota Commercial". YouTube. 2007-01-16. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bUhhHA-AJvc. Retrieved 2009-03-16.  
  22. ^ "Winning Brownlow a privilege". Fox Sports Australia. 2007-09-24. http://www.foxsports.com.au/story/0,8659,22469440-23211,00.html. Retrieved 2009-03-16.  
  23. ^ a b "Essendon Team of the Century". Full Points Footy. http://www.fullpointsfooty.net/all_star_teams.htm. Retrieved 2009-03-16.  
  24. ^ "More Baby Bombers!". Essendon Football Club. 1999-04-26. http://www.essendonfc.com.au/news/news.asp?nid=61. Retrieved 2009-08-13.  
  25. ^ "Hird the Proud Father of a Baby Boy". Essendon Football Club. 2001-03-29. http://www.essendonfc.com.au/news/news.asp?nid=782. Retrieved 2009-08-12.  
  26. ^ "Hird's Latest Baby Bomber". Essendon Football Club. 2003-08-08. http://www.essendonfc.com.au/news/news.asp?nid=2774. Retrieved 2009-08-12.  
  27. ^ "James Hird and his wife have another boy". Melbourne: Herald Sun. 2009-02-24. http://www.news.com.au/heraldsun/story/0,,25098623-11088,00.html. Retrieved 2009-08-12.  
  28. ^ "James Hird RMIT Alumni Profile". RMIT University. https://www.alumni.rmit.edu.au/NetCommunity/Page.aspx?pid=467. Retrieved 2009-03-16.  
  29. ^ "Ready for your order?". Herald Sun. http://www.news.com.au/heraldsun/story/0,21985,23389089-5006031,00.html. Retrieved 2009-03-16.  
  30. ^ "Gemba Corporate Site". Gemba. http://www.gemba.com.au/. Retrieved 2009-03-16.  

References

  • Hird, James (2006). Reading the play: on life and leadership/James Hird. Pan Macmillian Australia. ISBN 978-1-4050-3764-8.  
Sporting positions
Preceded by
Gary O'Donnell
Captain of Essendon
1998 - 2005
Succeeded by
Matthew Lloyd
Preceded by
Shane Crawford
Captain of Australia
2004
Succeeded by
Chris Johnson
Andrew McLeod
Preceded by
Nathan Buckley
Captain of Australia
2000
Succeeded by
Michael Voss
Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Gary O'Donnell
Essendon Best and Fairest Winner
1994 - 1996
Succeeded by
Sean Denham
Preceded by
Scott Cummings
Essendon Leading Goalkicker
1995 - 1996
Succeeded by
Matthew Lloyd
Preceded by
Paul Kelly
Brownlow Medallist
1996
Succeeded by
Robert Harvey
Preceded by
Shannon Grant
Norm Smith Medallist
2000
Succeeded by
Shaun Hart
Preceded by
Matthew Lloyd
ANZAC Day Medallist
2000
Succeeded by
Chris Tarrant (footballer)
Preceded by
Jason Akermanis
Jim Stynes Medallist
2000
Succeeded by
Matthew Lloyd
Preceded by
Mark Johnson
Essendon Best and Fairest Winner
2003
Succeeded by
Adam McPhee
Preceded by
Mark McGough
ANZAC Day Medallist
2003-4
Succeeded by
Andrew Lovett
Preceded by
Scott Lucas
Essendon Best and Fairest Winner
2007
Succeeded by
David Hille (footballer)







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