Brad Scott has been named Essendon's new head coach, with the Bombers overlooking club great James Hird in favour of the former North Melbourne coach.
The Bombers had been engaged in a wide-ranging search for a new coach after dismissing Ben Rutten at the end of the 2022 season following two seasons in charge.
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Rutten had overseen an encouraging run to the finals in 2021, only for the Bombers to fail to build on that success this season and drop out of the finals race altogether.
The Bombers' coaching selection panel, which is headlined by football boss Josh Mahoney and includes Robert Walls and Jordan Lewis, interviewed Scott on Thursday.
Hours later, Essendon formally announced the 46-year-old as their new coach.
Scott coached North Melbourne from 2010-19 but has most recently worked at the AFL, where this year he served as the league's general manager of football.
He faces an enormous challenge in elevating the club back to its last era of AFL success in the late 90s and early 2000s, with Essendon's last finals win coming in 2004.
With the exception of the Gold Coast Suns, who haven't made the finals since joining the competition in 2012, it is the longest finals winning drought in the AFL.
Hird, who coached the Bombers from 2011 to 2015, had interviewed for the role after rejoining the AFL coaching ranks this year as an assistant with the GWS Giants.
His desire for the role generated a mixed response from Bombers fans, but it was reported soon after he interviewed for the job that he would need further 'apprenticeship' as an assistant.
Melbourne assistant Yze and former Gold Coast assistant Dean Solomon were the others in the running for the role.
Ex-St Kilda assistant Brendon Lade was also interviewed but pulled out to join the Western Bulldogs.
Congratulations to Brad Scott on becoming the Snr Coach of the @essendonfc From a personal point of view i want to say how proud i am of my great mate James Hird! For him to even be in a space which allowed him to apply for this role. That is most important to me #courage 💪🔴⚫️
— Dean Solomon (@SollySolomon) September 29, 2022
And let me just say I hope this process whets James Hird’s appetite and he begins a proper apprenticeship as an assistant and eventually gets another senior gig down the track. Would be great to see
— Ronny Lerner (@RonnyLerner) September 29, 2022
We don’t want Brad Scott. There I said it.
Forget it Essendon.
We should not become prisoner to Barrett and Wilson’s agent provocateur campaigns to impose Brad Scott on us.
We want a coach who bleeds Black and Red.
That man is Hird, James Hird.
— Goody HOW (@Mayella09476043) September 26, 2022
Essendon need a coach that will pour his heart and soul into the club
They need a coach that bleeds red and back
They need a coach that loves the Essendon Football Club
That coach is James Hird.
— Jacob Hays (@Hayzy28) September 27, 2022
Very disappointed that James Hird wasn’t given a second chance. The Essendon football club is in his blood and part of his heritage.
— Joan kerr (@joaniekerr88) September 29, 2022
My heart wanted James Hird, but my head can rest easy knowing that we ended up with Brad Scott. Love the way he operates and think he will be so good for our club.
Can't wait to see his first address as @essendonfc coach tomorrow morning.
Exciting times ahead!
— Don Caldwell ℹ️ (@DonCaldwelll) September 29, 2022
Bombers get their man in Brad Scott after tough 2022 season
After Rutten was sacked, Essendon president David Barham made it clear he wanted an experienced hand at the helm, and Scott fitted the bill.
Scott coached the Kangaroos 211 times between 2010 and 2019, and had a winning record of 50.24 per cent, with 106 victories and 105 defeats.
He led North Melbourne to preliminary finals in 2014 and 2015.
"Throughout the process, it was clear the club required a strong leader and Brad's track record as a player, coach and administrator demonstrated this," Barham wrote in a letter to the club's members announcing Scott's appointment.
"Brad has an incredible resume, with a diverse range of roles and is the experienced figure the club required.
"We believe Brad has all the attributes to be the long-term coach of the Essendon Football club. He's a strong leader who will drive standards and establish a winning culture."
Scott is widely respected in the AFL, and is likely to be warmly received by Bombers fans.
But there is one notable person who may take some convincing about the new role for the former Kangaroos coach - his twin brother.
Dual Geelong premiership mentor Chris Scott said the stressful nature of coaching meant the role came at a cost.
"(Coaching) is not a very good job to be honest," Chris Scott told Footy Classified, when asked prior to the appointment about his brother's potential return to the fold.
"It's just hard work. It's a stressful existence. There's a cost to that position and it needs to be weighed really carefully."
Scott was prepared to quit last year if his players doubted he could lead them to an AFL premiership.
He bluntly asked captain Joel Selwood, Patrick Dangerfield and other players if they believed he could take the Cats to the flag.
"Yeah, I did, absolutely," Scott told Fox Footy's AFL 360 program on Monday night.
"And I made it hard for them. I said 'if you have any doubt at all, you have to tell me'.
"It was a bigger group than just Joel and Pat, I am not going to name those (other) guys.
"But I have done a version of that almost every year I think but at the end of '21 in particular, they were emphatic - and that support was the basis of my drive for '22."
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