James Hird cops bitter blow as Brad Scott appointed Essendon coach

James Hird and Brad Scott are pictured side by side.
James Hird was overlooked for the Essendon head coaching job in favour of former Kanagroos coach Brad Scott. Pictures: Getty Images

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.

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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.

Brad Scott is pictured embracing North Melbourne players in 2019.
Brad Scott led North Melbourne to two preliminary finals during his tenure at the club from 2010 to 2019. (Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images) (Getty Images)

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."

With AAP

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