Tag Archives: James Hird

Ready to Fire – Essendon

Over the next few weeks Dyson Baker will take a look at how every club has fared this year, exactly where every club is at in terms of development and of course how far away each club is from Premiership success. Today, he looks at Essendon

Currently: 8th, 6 wins, 7 losses & 1 draw, 107.5%

Welcome Sir James.

Essendon fans were singing from the roof tops when the Bombers announced the return of two of their favourite sons. James Hird & Mark “Bomber” Thompson together took the weight of fans expectations into the 2011 Season. The Bombers got off to a flying start with a big win against 2010 Preliminary finalist the Western Bulldogs. Things were looking bright and Talk Back stations around the state were full of Bombers fans wanting to praise their side. After a close loss to the Sydney Swans in round 2, the Bombers then put St Kilda to the sword with a 52 point win.

A draw with rivals Carlton and a 30 point loss on ANZAC day to the Magpies, and the Bombers fans still had high hopes for success in 2011. A home game followed against the Suns and the Bombers managed 15 first quarter goals and won by 131 points. Kyle Reimers booted 8 goals bursting onto the scene as the next big thing for the Bombers. In the next fortnight Essendon had wins over West Coast and Brisbane to cement them in the Top 8.

2011 “Dreamtime at the ‘G” turned into more of a nightmare for the Bombers though, with the 21 point loss starting a string of 5 games where Essendon failed to register a win. Melbourne and North Melbourne, both below the Bombers on the ladder, managed wins by 40 and 21 points respectively while the Bombers couldn’t get over Fremantle at Subiaco or Hawthorn at the MCG.

Hird was suddenly in the firing line as the Bombers quickly slid down the ladder finding themselves on the edge of the Top 8. With 13 individual goal kickers though, Essendon came to play last week and finally got a win up against the top of the table Cats, hanging on in the dying seconds to record a 4 point win.

Prediction: 8th, 8 wins, 13 losses & 1 draw, 99.2%

Going Forward: It’s been a Roller Coaster ride for Bombers fans in 2011 and it’s set to continue that way for a few years. Essendon have a young line up, thought to have been primed for a push at the Top 4, however the young side has struggled to close out sides late in games. In 2011 Essendon will set up an away Elimination Final against Sydney, which they have a chance of winning, any further than that we will see.

A young side with potential, give the Bombers a couple of years and expect them to be regular attendants to September action. Their young brigade have shown talent beyond expectation, in particular Dyson Heppell, who as a first year player has announced himself with standout performances aplenty shortening with the bookies as favourite for the NAB rising star award.

If the Bombers can pick up a true key Half Forward along with a couple of running Backmen who can play a Quarterback type role, they would be set for the years to come. With GWS offering up quality young players the Bombers possibly need to look at dishing off Hille, Ryder or Bellchambers in order to pick up some younger talent while these players still have value within the Market. Tall timber is not hard to come by in the Essendon line up, something that GWS coach Kevin Sheedy will be searching for come their inception in 2012, so expect the Giants to go after Tom Bellchambers with Hille and Ryder more or less hands off as Bombers.

Premiership Window: 2013-2016



A New Breed of Champion.

233 players, coaches, umpires and media personalities have been honoured by the Australian Football Hall of Fame since 1996, including 23 of the games “Legends”, I dare say that the decision made on Wednesday night was probably one  of the hardest. Four champions of the Modern Era, Four players that as a junior  I looked up to and admired and four Brownlow medallists were recognized for their ability, talent and sportsmanship. In no particular order James Hird, Nathan Buckley, Michael Voss and Mark Ricciuto were all inducted into the Australian Football Hall Of Fame.

1138 Games, 1164 Goals, 4 Brownlow Medals and 19 Best and Fairest Awards. These players have become the champions of a modern game, the recognisable faces and names of the 1990s-00s. It is no surprise that these players all became captain of their respective clubs, nor that between them they represented in All Australian sides 24 times. Hird, Buckley, Voss and Ricciuto are the true greats of the modern game.

In a side that was almost proclaimed unstoppable heading into the 2004, Voss and his
Brisbane Lions dominated resulting in 3 back-to-back flags from 2001-2003. Captain of that side, Voss demonstrated true leadership not just through his ability to get his players ready for a big game (anyone could have achieved that with such a side) but through his actions on the field. As hard as they come Voss showed class and brutal strength in contests and the uncanny ability to boot match winning goals at pivotal times in games. James Hird sits, in the minds of Essendon supporters as one of the All-time greats of the club. Along with Coach Kevin Sheedy the two became a face of a club that bred success playing finals 7 straight years over the turn of the century. Hird playing an integral part of the Bombers line up that won 21 games in a row on their way to the 2000 premiership. Hird proved over the stretch his key attribute was his ability in front of goal. Nathan Buckley could very well have been a Lion after starting his career with the Brisbane Bears before moving to Collingwood, where admittedly he is now renowned as one of the best. He has the clubs 7th most games, over the stretch he won 6 Copeland trophies. All Australian 7 times Buckley managed almost every award over his career but on two occasions Buckley missed the opportunity to become another Collingwood Premiership captain. His strength and hard work became two of the keys to his game and proved to be influential in many big finals with the 2001 North Smith Medal.

From its inception Adelaide needed a figurehead, Mark Ricciuto became that figurehead, playing 312 games over a 14 year career “Roo” has been selected All Australian a record 8 times including his Brownlow medal year when he shared the Medal with Buckley and Adam Goodes. After missing the 1997 premiership side, the Adelaide hard man played in his first and only Crows flag in the their win in 1998. Ricciuto like his counterparts was a crowd favourite at AAMI Stadium and set the crowd in Adelaide alive through many a Showdown, taking home three Showdown Medals.

All three players cut from the same crop of tough, hard and contested footballers paved the way for a new breed of Football. Four players that could bring even the most neutral supporters through the gates. The battles these four players had from time to time demonstrated clearly how evenly matched all four players were. It is a credit to these players that all four were inducted into the Hall of Fame on the same night as to split them in anyway would be almost impossible.

Looking at the History, who ranks as the best player of the four inductees?

Michael Voss – 289 Games & 245 goals

5 x All Australian
Premiership Captain 2001-03
5 x Murray/Merett Medallist
Captain 1997-06 (Club record 210 Games)
Current Brisbane Lions Coach

Nathan Buckley – 280 Games & 284 Goals

7 x All Australian
6 x Copeland Trophy winner
Captain 1999-07
Incumbent Collingwood Coach

James Hird – 253 Games & 343 Goals

4 x All Australian
Essendon Team of the Century
Premiership Captain 2000
5 x Crichton Medal Winner
Captain 1997-07
Current Essendon Coach

Mark Ricciuto – 312 Games & 292 Goals

8x All Australian
Premiership Player 1998
Captain 2001-07
Adelaide Player of the Decade
3 x Blight Medal Winner


A need for caution as the Bombers continue to soar.

At the end of the 2010 football season, I jokingly said to a number of mates that Essendon would finish inside the Top-4 in 2011… Of course, this was wishful thinking and anyone in their right mind would have laughed in response. Eight rounds into the season though, my wish has come true and the mighty Bombers have returned to the upper echelon of the AFL and will sit in 3rd position at the end of the round. Continue reading


There has been plenty of talk in recent years that the now traditional ANZAC Day matchup of Collingwood v Essendon should be shared amongst other clubs. The publicity and buildup to the game, as well as the game itself, has now become so pronounced that the other clubs in the AFL feel as though they are missing out and want in on the action. Continue reading

Glory and fame returns to Windy Hill.

Yes, it’s only March and round one hasn’t been completed, however this afternoon at Etihad Stadium, one of the most successful football clubs of all time awoke from a decade-long slumber. Continue reading

Bomber, have you Hird the Knightmare is over?

After a dramatic 24 hours at Windy Hill, one thing is certain, all opposition clubs will be once again terrified of the powerful, mighty Essendon Football Club, the most successful football club (along with Carlton) in the history of our great game.

The 27th September 2010 started like any other day, yet finished with the possibility of James Hird signing on as Coach and Mark Thompson signing on as Director of Coaching for the 2011 season. The coup, if successful, is huge for Essendon and the return of their last two premiership captains will surely help the once dominant club, return to the top of the ladder within a few years.

Passionate Bomber fans, are fed up hearing from rival fans how Hird will fail due to, ” Having not coached at the highest level before”… To those doubting James Hird as Essendon’s new coach, sit back, understand the facts and then share your opinion;

a) Kevin Sheedy coached the mighty ‘Dons for twenty-seven years and delivered four Premierships from seven Grand Finals, having never had prior experience as an assistant.

b) If Mark Thompson is to be appointed Head of Coaching, given his experience he will probably call most of the shots. James Hird is there as a figurehead who will get the respect out of a young playing group. With this, he’ll get the players to play for him and most importantly play for the club, the mighty Red & Black. The intensity will lift, the passion will return. Something that’s been missing for the last three years under Matty Knights.

In addition to this, many are comparing Hird coaching Essendon to that of Michael Voss coaching Brisbane, which people are calling a failure. To those people, did you realised Brisbane missed the finals in 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008? Did you also realise that in Voss’ first season in charge, Brisbane beat Carlton in the 2009 Elimination Final? Those basing their opinions on this season, a season troubled by injuries to key players I might add, have a  very short memory. If Voss failed this year due to limited coaching experience in the past, how do you explain 2009, when he had even less experience? And of course, James Hird isn’t Michael Voss and Essendon isn’t Brisbane. You can’t compare apples to oranges.

The record under Matty Knights was disgraceful for such a proud, passionate, successful club, having won just 25 of 67 games (37%) while Knights was at the helm. Can it gets worse? Unlikely.

One of the most overlooked aspects in football is the ability of a coach to gain 110% effort out of all his players. There’s more to winning games of football than simply having the skill, the mental aspect is half the battle. Hird will get more out of the current crop of players than Knights ever did, because he’ll have the respect, the admiration. The admiration that a champion brings to the club.

A famous quote from Sun Tzu, a 6th century BC Chinese philosopher and author of The Art of War states;

“Regard your soldiers as your children, and they will follow you into the deepest valleys; look on them as your own beloved sons, and they will stand by you even unto death.”

This sums up the situation with Hird perfectly and highlights the fundamental difference between he and Knights. Essendon’s greatest player and one of the games most decorated players of all time is definitely the man to set the example and be the perfect role model to the next generation of Bomber stars, just as Sheedy was to Hird almost twenty years ago.

And finally, another magical quote from Sun Tzu;

“It is only the enlightened ruler and the wise general who will use the highest intelligence of the army for the purposes of spying, and thereby they achieve great results.”

To all the doubters, I’ll be sure to remind you of your words when the decision pays off and Hird’s once again lifting the Premiership Cup, just like he did in 2000.

Go Bombers!