Bombers confirm Hird to keep coaching

Essendon have confirmed suspended coach James Hird will have the role at least until the end of the 2016 AFL season.

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“Having James sidelined for 12 months is also a heavy penalty to pay, but James and the board have agreed he’ll be back as senior coach once his suspension is served,” club chairman Paul Little said in a letter to members.

“(He) will continue in that role until at least the end of season 2016.”

The letter was sent on Wednesday, less than a day after the AFL announced Hird’s ban along with unprecedented penalties on the club over Essendon’s supplements scandal.

On Tuesday night, Hird’s former team-mate Matthew Lloyd first revealed that the coach would receive a contract extension.

Little said the club had had to bring to an end its dispute with the AFL over charges of bringing the game into disrepute laid against Essendon, Hird and three other Bombers officials.

“I know some of you may have preferred that we continue to fight the charges, and I assure you last night’s decision was not taken lightly,” he said.

“We firmly believe, and it’s a view many of you have expressed to me over recent weeks, that bringing these matters to an end was in the long-term best interests of our players, their families and indeed everyone involved with the club.

“The penalties … are tough, but as I said last night I believe they’re fair in the circumstances and reflect the nature of the mistakes and failings in our governance and people management in late 2011 and into 2012.”

The Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority continues to investigate the club, but the Bombers insist they are not drug cheats.

“It’s also important to note that the AFL has now acknowledged that neither Essendon nor any of the individuals charged set out to implement a supplements program that would result in players being administered prohibited or potentially harmful substances,” Little said.

“We should all be clear in understanding that the club, James, Danny (Corcoran), Mark (Thompson) and Bruce (Dr Reid) were not been accused of drug cheating, and we have not been penalised on that basis.

“Our agreement, including our penalties, covers governance and people management failings.

“We made mistakes in these areas – we’ve addressed our shortcomings, we’ve apologised for them and now weve been penalised for them.”