James Hird cops massive blow as Essendon 'front-runner' emerges

James Hird is pictured as assistant coach for the GWS Giants.
James Hird has reportedly been told he needs a further coaching 'apprenticeship' by the Bombers. (Photo by Dylan Burns/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

James Hird's hopes of returning to Essendon as coach have taken a significant hit, with a 'front-runner' candidate emerging from the Bombers' interview process.

Essendon champion Hird helmed the AFL club from 2011 to 2015, missing the 2014 season along with a significant chunk of the club's list at the time as a result of the Bombers' memorable anti-doping scandal.

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Hird only returned to the AFL in an official capacity this year, having joined the GWS Giants first as a consultant and later as an assistant coach.

The Bombers parted ways with former head coach Ben Rutten after round 23, following a disappointing 2022 campaign and a messy last-minute attempt to sign Alastair Clarkson, who joined North Melbourne instead.

Hird was quickly associated with the vacant coaching position, a prospect that divided many AFL fans and was even reportedly written off by star Bombers midfielder Zach Merrett.

Reports have since emerged that former Melbourne Demons star Adem Yze is in the box seat to win the job, having held a second interview with the Bombers earlier this week.

Discussing the Bombers' coaching search on Footy Classified, AFL journalist Caroline Wilson said Hird would need a further 'apprenticeship' before he could be considered a genuine chance to return as an AFL head coach.

“James Hird won’t get the job, and the advice to James is that he needs to do an apprenticeship elsewhere,” she said.

“Adem Yze is clearly the favourite.

"The club has spoken to (him); the club has envisioned him, if he does get the job, potentially bringing Mark Williams to the club with him.

“Brad Scott could throw his hat into the ring next week, Essendon has spoken to him, he won’t do anything until after the premiership has been done and won but Adem Yze might have blown them away, who knows."

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Bombers coaching search continues as James Hird hopes fade

Former Kangaroos coach Scott, who currently holds a position with the AFL, is likely to hold more in depth discussion with the Bombers next week after the grand final, by Yze remains the favourite to win the job.

AFL 360 host Mark Robinson also said his mail was that Yze was the favourite, barring a late change of heart in favour of Scott.

“Adam Yze was interviewed today for a second interview at Essendon - I don’t think it’s a secret now,” he said.

“I don’t know how many other people they’ve got planned to interview. In my understanding Brad Scott is still waiting until after the Grand Final to decide whether he’s going to go through the process.

“Clearly if Adam Yze is getting a second interview that would surge him into favouritism for the Essendon job, in my opinion.”

Tim Watson, a former teammate of Hird and father of Jobe Watson, who captained the club throughout much of Hird's tenure, said bringing back the club champion simply wasn't the right move.

James Hird has interviewed for Essendon's vacant head coaching job in a news that has left AFL fans in a frenzy. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)
James Hird has interviewed for Essendon's vacant head coaching job in a news that has left AFL fans in a frenzy. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

He said Hird's return would simply result in a colossal amount of pressure given the circumstances of his departure in 2015.

"I think for a lot of people it would drag back all those things that happened and occurred during that period of time that he was there as coach,” Watson said.

“I have to say that I’d be more than surprised if he ended up being the coach of the Essendon Football Club."

After a horror season which has seen a swathe of changes in the club's off-field operations, Watson argued it would take more than a figure like Hird to unite the club.

"Let’s say Essendon is broken, I think what would unite a club will be success. It doesn’t have to come from James Hird being the coach to unite Essendon," he said.

“The club would have been united under Ben Rutten or John Worsfold had they been more successful.

“We don’t need a saviour to come back and unite the Essendon Football Club. We need somebody who is able to put a plan of action in place that is able to deliver success and to start to build a successful team again, that’s what we need.”

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