Gillon McLachlan will attempt to repair the AFL’s fractured relationship with James Hird when the suspended Essendon coach returns home.
The frustration, even anger, the Hird camp had towards the AFL over the supplements scandal was still obvious last month when Tania Hird again took aim at outgoing AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou.
McLachlan, having officially been appointed as the new chief executive, said it was important the relationship with Hird, who is set to return as coach later this year, was mended.
“I think it’s incredibly important that we move forward with Essendon and every individual there, whether that’s James or Mark [Thompson] or everyone,” he said.
“I think most of the relationships have progressed. I am sure at the right time when James returns we will talk and we will move on because that’s what the industry and Essendon needs.”
Hird is in France completing a degree at a business school.
The AFL and Essendon executives have already worked hard this year to begin afresh, although Bombers chairman Paul Little re-opened debate at the weekend when he claimed the club “gave away all our leverage” by self-reporting last year.
McLachlan was involved in brokering the contentious suspensions of Hird and former football department chief Danny Corcoran last year.
He admitted the controversy at the time, not to mention the later disclosure that Hird, although suspended, was still being paid by the club, had stripped some “skin” off him, but was glad it had not affected his hopes of being offered the chief executive role by AFL chairman Mike Fitzpatrick.
“I don’t propose to go back and look at that. With respect to me specifically in this role, I am sure there was some skin taken off me. There was skin taken off a lot of people,” he said.
“It was an incredibly tough period in the history of our game. We ended up in a position that I don’t think was edifying for a lot of people and it certainly wasn’t great for the game. It probably did take some bark off me, but as I sit here right now, having reached agreement with Mike yesterday, thankfully not too much.”
McLachlan said he expected that if any show-cause notices to players as a result of the investigation by the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority were forthcoming they would be issued in the second half of May.
He said the report into the scandal, compiled by retired federal court judge Garry Downes, would be handed down by Thursday.
As a result of the scandal, the AFL has looked to establish an independent panel that would adjudicate on all serious matters, ensuring the AFL executive and commission cannot again be considered to have had a conflict of interest. This would also avoid the potential for legal appeals.
“We have done quite a lot of work, we haven’t reached the formal conclusion yet,” Fitzpatrick said. “I have got a very good sense of the shape of it but it would be a bit premature to announce it today.”
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