Essendon's secret James Hird move comes to light in new documentary

The Bombers used James Hird as a marketing tool when attempting to lure Jack Bowes to the club last year.

James Hird, pictured here during a GWS Giants game in 2022.
James Hird looks on during a GWS Giants game in 2022. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images) (AFL Photos via Getty Images)

New details have emerged about Essendon's attempt to lure Jack Bowes to the club during last year's AFL trade period, including using James Hird's iconic No.5 jumper. The Bombers were one of three clubs keen to snap up the 25-year-old Bowes from the Gold Coast, however he eventually decided to join Geelong - spurning Essendon and Hawthorn.

The Bombers were willing to give up a first-round pick to get Bowes to the club, and even resorted to using Hird's famous jumper as a marketing tool. In Stan Sport's new documentary 'Show Me The Money II', Bowes' manager Robbie D'Orazio can be seen discussing the pitches he received from Essendon, Geelong and Hawthorn.

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One scene in the documentary shows D'Orazio discussing how the Bombers handed Bowes the No.5 jumper made famous by Hird during a tour of the Bombers' facilities. "Essendon, (list manager) Adrian (Dodoro) picked him up from Brighton, drove him to the airport," D'Orazio says.

"They stopped at Tullamarine, went through the gates and (Essendon coach) Brad Scott was there. He gave (Bowes' partner) Jaz an Essendon hat, gave him No.5, James Hird's number, and then dropped him to the airport, pretty impressive."

D'Orazio revealed that Hawthorn coach Sam Mitchell and list manager Mark McKenzie took Bowes out for lunch and actually offered him the best contract of the three clubs. However Bowes decided to go with Geelong after he and his partner were given a tour of the Cats' facilities by Patrick Dangerfield and Tom Stewart.

"It's been pretty overwhelming. It's been tough, but my gut is leaning towards the Cats," Bowes tells D'Orazio in the documentary. "I feel like they've got their best interests at heart with me. I just had a good feeling about them, meeting them, their culture.

"To get to this point has been a bit of a whirlwind, but I'm excited. I'm keen to get out of my comfort zone, to get out of Queensland and really take my career to the next level."

Jack Bowes, pictured here in action for the Gold Coast Suns in 2021.
Jack Bowes in action for the Gold Coast Suns in 2021. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images) (AFL Photos via Getty Images)

James Hird 'fully lost' to Essendon after coaching snub

Essendon's use of Hird's jumper came after he failed in his attempt to land the head coaching role at his beloved former club, with Brad Scott getting the gig instead. Hird is a former player and coach at the Bombers, but his legacy at the club is shrouded in controversy after his time as coach came to an end in 2015 following the infamous supplements scandal.

Last month, veteran AFL writer Mark Robinson declared that Hird was all but 'fully lost' to the Bombers after missing out on the top job. Hird worked as an assistant coach at the GWS Giants last year, but won't be returning to the role in 2023.

Jack Bowes and his partner, pictured here on a tour of Geelong's facilities.
Jack Bowes and his partner on a tour of Geelong's facilities. Image: Stan Sport

Speaking last week about Hird's departure from GWS, Port Adelaide champion Cornes said he doesn't think Hird will ever be a head coach again. “This was always my issue with James Hird going for the senior job. I didn’t think he’d done the work to get into a position to have success in that senior role and when I say ‘do the work’, just by the very nature that he’s been out of the system,” Cornes told SEN radio.

“When you’re out of it for a while it’s hard. To go back in for a little bit and then take a new senior job I thought was going to be difficult for him.

“Now that he is out of the system completely, is that James saying ‘okay, I’m giving up the job of being a senior coach’ because there would’ve been 10 clubs that would have hired him as an assistant coach. That would’ve been great. If he had gone back, worked in the midfield, coached them and then went to different areas like Michael Voss did at Port Adelaide.”

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