Evans, Robson & Hird press conference
Evans, Robson & Hird press conference
Essendon CEO Ian Robson during Tuesday's press conference
THE POWERBROKERS of the Essendon Football Club called the football media together at less than one hour's notice on Tuesday to tell them and an anxious supporter base almost nothing.
David Evans (chairman), Ian Robson (chief executive) and James Hird (coach) sat in the media room at AFL House and after Evans read a prepared statement about supplements used by Essendon players last year, said very little else of significance.
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However, the grim looks on their faces betrayed them.
Something spiralled out of control at Essendon and now the club needs to call in the League and ASADA to get to the bottom of it.
About all we know for certain is that some substances given to Essendon players as part of their fitness program ahead of 2012 have subsequently raised concern. It is only in the past two days that the Bombers claim to have become aware of information that forced their hand in seeking experts to determine the seriousness, and presumably, the legality of it all.
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And that was the extent of the concrete information.
Yes, the Bombers are distressed, but they believe they have not done anything wrong.
They say they have been complying with the rules of the AFL and ASADA and have acted responsibly at all times.
They say there was no suggestion of performance enhancing drugs. But they admit it is a self-described "minefield" and the experts will take all the time they need to work through the issues.
Evans remarked that he has learned plenty over the past 48 hours and will doubtless learn plenty more over the next 48. Close observers would suggest this is an issue that has been bubbling beneath the surface at the club for a considerably longer period than that.
Hird looked the most betrayed. Appointed coach of the Bombers amid great fanfare at the end of 2010, pretty much everyone working at Essendon with respect to the club's football operations is there at either his behest or that of Mark Thompson, his assistant coach and whose influence at the club is deep and powerful. All processes and frameworks with which the club goes about its football operations, are by their design and supposedly carries their imprimatur.
If the Bombers have strayed and if the supplements given to the players turn out to be outside what is permissible in the AFL, then they will have some serious explaining to do.
Hird is the golden boy of Essendon, officially the third greatest footballer in the club's history. He was given a free pass when the Bombers faded late in 2011 and scraped into the finals before being thrashed by Carlton because he was, well, Hirdy. Questions were asked last year when more than half the playing list succumbed to soft tissue injuries and the team tailed off again to miss the finals. But again Hirdy, being Hirdy, still had a few credits left in the bank.
But they expire this year, which is why he appeared so crestfallen on Tuesday. Dean 'The Weapon' Robinson, a Thompson-inspired appointee whose strength and conditioning methods seemed to be behind the shocking injury run, has had his influence at the club severely curtailed after just 12 months at the club.
2013 is supposed to be the year that Essendon, with its sleek new training facility and a reasonably clean bill of health, returns to the finals with 50,000 members in tow, all while flexing its muscle as a power club once more.
Instead, its focus as the season draws near is to find out who administered various substances to its players and more to the point, whether they were legal.
The Bombers will cop some flak for calling such a media conference on Tuesday afternoon and then not saying a whole lot more than they could have released in a direct statement.
Truth be told, even had they known much more about it, they would not have been much more forthcoming on Tuesday. But that a matter so serious that it needs AFL and ASADA involvement might have taken place right under the coach's nose without his knowledge or say-so, must be particularly galling for Essendon people.
Perhaps when the facts do come to light, we'll hear much, much more from the Bombers.
You can follow AFL Media senior writer Ashley Browne on Twitter @afl_hashbrowne