James Hird's candidacy for the Essendon coaching job may have taken a hit after star Bombers midfielder Zach Merrett reportedly told a panel of reporters and former AFL players he wasn't the right fit.
Merrett, who was drafted amidst the club's doping saga in 2013 and later coached by Hird when he returned to the AFL in 2015, was a guest speaker alongside broadcaster Neroli Meadows, as well as Calrton champion Anthony Koutoufides and Richmond player Sarah Hosking.
Before a crowd of some 600 people at the Crown Palladium for the Women in Insolvency and Restructuring Victoria Footy Finals Luncheon, Merrett reportedly said Hird would not be the right man for the job.
According to the Herald Sun, Merrett made it clear he wouldn't choose Hird if it were up to him, but also said if the club's did hire the former coach they would make it work.
Merrett was coached by Mark Thompson in his rookie season, in which much of Essendon's list was forced to sit out as part of the sanctions for the doping saga.
Hird made a return to the AFL coaching ranks earlier this year when he was made an assistant coach for the GWS Giants, after a brief period consulting for the club.
He was interviewed by the Bombers for their vacant head coaching position earlier this week, after Ben Rutten was sacked at the end of his second season in charge.
Beyond his stint at the Giants, Hird hasn't been in AFL coaching circles since resigning from Essendon in August 2015.
Essendon attempted and failed to lure now-North Melbourne coach Alastair Clarkson, which prompted Ben Rutten's sacking, and a board upheaval, last month.
Some on social media felt Merrett's comments were more reason for the Bombers board to move on from Hird.
Essendon vice-captain Zach Merrett told a crowd of more than 600 at a finals luncheon last Friday that James Hird would not be the right person for the Bombers coaching job. @superfooty Full story: https://t.co/mQZoWvtSwT
— Max Hatzoglou (@MHatzoglou) September 15, 2022
I have actually seen Essendon supporters suggesting Zach Merrett has to be traded now because of his comments RE Hird. Bloody hell 😆🤡
— Tim Rosen (@timrosen35) September 16, 2022
The fact that Zach Merrett says Hird isn’t the right path is exactly the reason Hird is the right path.
— HȺmish Jones 🐧 (@hamishjones) September 16, 2022
Zach Merrett is right, Hirdy wouldnt be the right person, the club needs someone New thats had heaps of Assistant coaching roles like Adem Yze has, james hasnt done a fulltime assistant role, an going by the supplements saga the club needs to go forward, not backwards
— Greg (@Snake405) September 16, 2022
Zac Merrett's comments should be enough now. Time for all to move on from the Hird hysteria. https://t.co/PlMTGR0B7N
— Scott McFarlane (@smcf11) September 16, 2022
Essendon cautioned against James Hird pursuit by Tim Watson
They have long been linked to a dramatic Hird reunion, but fellow club great Tim Watson stressed the strife-torn Bombers needed structure and success rather than a saviour to unite the club.
"Let's say Essendon is broken. What will unite a club will be success," Watson said on SEN Breakfast on Thursday.
"Now, it doesn't have to come from James Hird being the coach of the Essendon Football Club to unite Essendon.
"The club would've been united under Ben Rutten had they been more successful.
"We don't need a saviour to come back to the Essendon Football Club and unite the Essendon Football Club.
"We need somebody who's able to put a plan of action in place that's able to deliver success and to start to build a successful team again."
Watson queried whether a potential Hird appointment would "drag back" memories of the supplements saga but said he'd be surprised if the former mentor was successful.
Melbourne assistant Adem Yze and St Kilda assistant Brendon Lade both also interviewed on Wednesday.
Former Adelaide coach and Sydney assistant Don Pyke and ex-North Melbourne mentor Brad Scott have been linked to the role.
Ex-GWS boss Leon Cameron and former Fremantle and St Kilda coach Ross Lyon opted out of the process, while SEN reported Carlton assistant Ash Hansen had also knocked back interest.
In an interview recorded before the Bombers sacked Ben Rutten last month, Hird left the door ajar for a return to coaching.
"There's a lot of elements about it (coaching) I like," Hird told the Howie Games podcast.
"I was asked by the CEO of a footy club six weeks ago if I'd like to coach - not his club - but if I'd like to coach again.
"I'd have to have family considerations to do it.
"I love the fact that you get in deeply and you work with young people to create something really, really special and you create a great team environment."
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