Australian Football

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Key Facts

Full name
James Albert Hird

Known as
James Hird

Nickname
Hirdy

Born
4 February 1973 (age 49)

Place of birth
Canberra, ACT (2600)

Age at first & last AFL game
First game: 19y 47d
Last game: 34y 209d

Height and weight
Height: 188 cm
Weight: 89 kg

Senior clubs
Essendon; Australia

Jumper numbers
Essendon: 49, 5

State of origin
ACT

Family links
Allan Hird Jnr (Father)Tom Hird (Son)Allan Hird Snr (Grandfather)Stephanie Hird (Daughter)

James Hird

ClubLeagueCareer spanGamesGoalsAvgWin %AKIAHBAMKBV
EssendonAFL1992-20072533431.3658%13.216.855.87125
AustraliaIR2000, 2004400.00
Total1992-20072573431.33

AFL: 10,291st player to appear, 254th most games played, 143rd most goals kickedEssendon: 968th player to appear, 14th most games played, 13th most goals kicked

Despite being arguably the greatest Canberra-born footballer in the history of the game, one shudders to imagine just how noteworthy James Hird's achievements might have been were it not for his frequent misfortune with injury. After joining Essendon from Ainslie in 1992 he made a comparatively slow start to his AFL career, but from the time he received a Norwich Rising Star nomination in 1993 things began to pick up appreciably, and by the time he retired at the end of the 2007 season there was scarcely an honour in the elite game that he had failed to achieve. Joint Brownlow Medallist in 1996, AFL All Australian on five occasions, Norm Smith Medal winner and premiership captain in 2000, Essendon club champion five times and twice the club's leading goal kicker, captain of Australia at International Rules in 2000 - the list runs on and on.

However, as mentioned above, Hird also suffered more than his fair share of serious injuries, forcing him to miss virtually the entire 1997 and 1999 seasons, and seriously undermining his effectiveness in 2002. When at peak fitness, however, there was no more valuable or eye catching a player in football. Playing nominally as a centre half forward, Hird enjoyed a 'license to roam' which could see him bob up almost anywhere on the ground to telling effect. Despite sometimes appearing almost lackadaisical in his approach, he was actually one of the most energetic and hard working players around, racking up possessions seemingly at will, and invariably using the ball with scrupulous efficiency. His career at Essendon saw him play a total of 253 AFL games and kick 343 goals, both of which tallies would, but for injury, have been considerably higher.

Hird returned to Essendon as coach in 2011, taking the Bombers to the finals in his first season with 11 and a half wins. In 2012 the Dons started with a bang, winning eight of their first nine games but faded badly to finish with just 11 wins and finish three games adrift of September action. The following February saw Hird become embroiled, along with the rest of the club, in what became known as the Essendon supplements scandal - which revolved around a group of Essendon players being injected with allegedly prohibited supplements. Despite the ongoing public maelstrom that ensued, Hird managed to steer his charges to 14 wins for the season, only for the Bombers to be excluded from finals action by the AFL over governance and duty-of-care breaches related to the supplements program.

Along with the penalties handed out to the club, Hird accept a 12-month suspension for his role in the affair, with Mark Thompson coaching the Bombers to 12 wins and a final berth in 2014. Hird took back the reins in 2015 but, after a couple of stirring early season performances, the team slipped badly, losing by over 100 points to Adelaide and St Kilda and suffering several other big defeats. The matter came to a head with the Dons' 112-point loss at the hands of Essendon in round 20 and Hird stepped away from the coaching role after that match.

Hird will forever be remembered as a champion of the game, and a legend of the Essendon football club, but an overall discussion of his football career as a whole will likely be dogged by the controversies that emerged during the coaching phase of that career - an unfortunate outcome given Hird was one of the greatest players and most inspiring leaders even to don the black and red.

Author - John Devaney and Andrew Gigacz

Sources

Full Points Footy Publications

Footnotes

* Behinds calculated from the 1965 season on.
+ Score at the end of extra time.