ESSENDON champion James Hird has opened up on the horrific injury that left him with multiple facial fractures commonly seen in high-speed car accidents.
During a round six clash against Fremantle in Perth in 2002, Hird was running with the flight of the ball when he collided heavily with the knee of teammate Mark McVeigh, who was coming from the opposite direction.
The impact of the clash was almost immediately obvious as Hird lay motionless on the ground with blood streaming down his face.
THAT'S A WRAP Who's in, who's out after the Trade Period
In an episode of The Bombers: Stories of a Great Club, which airs on Tuesday night on Fox Footy and Kayo, the 1996 Brownlow medallist recalls the sickening moment that left him requiring reconstructive surgery and seven metal plates inserted into his face.
"As I'm watching the ball come over my shoulder, I tripped and fell forward as the ball is coming over and Mark (McVeigh) is coming to spoil, and his knee hits me straight in the head," Hird says in the documentary.
"Next thing I knew, I was on the ground looking for my teeth and trying to feel my face."
Bruce Reid, who served as club doctor between 1982 and 2018, said he knew instantly how serious the nature of Hird's injuries were.
"His whole face was distorted," said Reid, who died in 2020 after a battle with cancer.
"You could see one eye was back and things were rotated.
"It was obviously major fractures in his face and probably behind his eye. His pain level was extreme."
Hird was administered the 'green whistle' painkiller and rushed to hospital after the incident, though Reid was reluctant to offer any more pain relief due to concerns about the star Bomber partially losing his eyesight.
"I had him (Bruce Reid) by the throat going, 'Reidy, give me something for the pain'," Hird said.
"All he gave me was the green stick with something in it and it did nothing.
"He wouldn't [give me pain relief] because he was worried I was going to lose my left eye and he needed my reaction to be OK.
"I think it took four hours until they gave me [heavier] painkillers back in the hospital in Perth."
Remarkably, Hird returned to the field just nine weeks later wearing protective head gear.
Reid recalled a moment in Hird's comeback game against the Western Bulldogs where the two-time premiership player displayed extraordinary courage.
"Most people when they've had major fractures in their face will get their head out of the way of things, because it's human nature," Reid said.
"About a minute into the game, if you watch the replay, the ball is out on the wing and he runs sideways and slides on to the ground as someone is coming the opposite direction, and their knee hits James' head.
"He didn't even blink."
The Bombers: Stories of a Great Club is an eight-part documentary series that was commissioned for the club's 150-year celebrations in 2022.