Next month ‘critical’ to James Hird’s coaching career: Tim Watson

Tim Watson: “They (Essendon) have fallen a long way short of their own expectations. I think they have fallen a long way short of other people’s expectations.” Photo: Wayne TaylorFollow the Age Sport on Twitter

Essendon great Tim Watson says the next month is “critical” as to whether James Hird is given the opportunity to coach in 2016.

Hird is contracted for next season but could yet be a victim of a wide-ranging review involving former player and Melbourne coach Neale Daniher.

Watson, the father of injured club captain Jobe, said on Monday that Hird was under pressure with four games remaining in what had been an underwhelming season.

“I have said on more than one occasion about James – ultimately when you are coaching, it’s always going to be about your wins and losses and then there are bad losses and there have been some really bad losses in there as well,” Watson said.

“I think there is still a critical month of football to play out for Essendon and for him as well as to whether or not he is going to be able to secure that position – not extend his contract but whether or not he is actually going to be able to coach his contract out because of where they are at right now.”

The Bombers, having had their recruiting questioned, are in 15th spot on the ladder with just the five wins and face Adelaide, Gold Coast, Richmond and Collingwood in the final month.

“They have fallen a long way short of their own expectations. I think they have fallen a long way short of other people’s expectations,” Watson said on Channel Seven’s Talking Footy.

“It’s right everybody is out there questioning where the club is at. It’s right for the club to be going through a review of itself because you have to – you have to be brutal when you get to this point and then you have got to say, ‘OK, how much of this can be portioned to the WADA affect on the players or are there other reasons where we find ourselves right now?'”

Watson’s comments came as:

* Player agent Peter Jess has called on the AFL Players Association to take legal action against Essendon and the AFL for an alleged failure of duty of care in not preventing the Bombers’ 2012 injecting program. Jess, who manages former Bomber Nathan Lovett-Murray, will meet with players’ association executive Ian Prendergast and lawyer Brett Murphy on Tuesday to argue why action should be taken.

■Worksafe Victoria confirmed on Monday it was still investigating the AFL and Essendon for alleged breaches of occupational health and safety, having cleared the nine remaining Victorian clubs in February.

■The players’ association called for a review of the “systems and processes” of the league’s anti-doping process, including the sharing of information, after continuing leaks to the media.

■Geelong admitted it had sourced the legal drug Actovegin, an extract obtained from calf blood, in 2009 from a company associated with Dank to inject in players but did not follow through on a recommendation to employ Dank after he had met with Steve Hocking, now the club’s football department chief. The drug had earlier been used by former player Max Rooke in 2007 to help him recover from a hamstring injury in time for the 2007 grand final.

■The AFL said it had found no evidence of prohibited substances at Geelong.

■Essendon continued to work behind the scenes on its wide-ranging review, with vice-chairman Paul Brasher spending several hours at the club on Monday. Chairman Paul Little also fired back at Mark Thompson, denying the former coach’s claims that 2012 board members were aware of the injecting program.

Jess said he had sought independent legal advice and believed the PA would have a strong case. “There are obvious breaches of the occupational health and safety act and the AFL is the primary employer,” Jess said. “These breaches are now fairly evident. I have been advocating over a long period of time that the biggest victim in this whole saga has been the truth. We have seen how the AFL systems have systemically failed and, unfortunately, the only way there is going to be accountability is via a prosecution.”

Jess said a legal battle was the only way to compel the central characters in the injecting case – Dank, compound pharmacist Nima Alavi and biochemist Shane Charter – to appear and discover the truth as the case when handled under AFL jurisdiction had failed to have those figures provide evidence in person.

“There has to be accountability and closure on behalf of the players. The players deserve to know the truth, what this regime has done to them,” Jess said.

“What the case would mean is for the first time people would have to go on the record and be cross-examined. Under oath, they would have to tell the truth. This is one of the few forums that has not been explored. So far it has been through the AFL-constituted bodies.”

Jess has long spoken about the failures of health and safety of the supplements program. Just what the players thought has been detailed in a 1294-page transcript from the AFL anti-doping tribunal hearing closed to the public and media earlier this year.

Cook and Geelong football department chief Neil Balme on Monday again denied Dank had been employed by the Cats during their premiership era, while former forward Cameron Mooney said he had never even met Dank.

The club said in a statement: “In 2008 or early 2009 Stephen Dank’s professional services were recommended to the club. Our then assistant general manager of football operations Steve Hocking met with Dank in regard to this, but after that meeting the club decided not to engage Dank’s services. At no time did Dank have a position with our club.”

The Cats said Rooke’s success from using Actovegin in Germany under the guidance of Dr Hans-Wilhelm Muller-Wohlfarth  had in 2009 led the club to source “Actovegin from a company that was connected to Dank. These facts were all made known to the AFL and ASADA in 2013 during their investigation.”

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