Rugby League

‘Absolutely no reason’ why not: McLachlan backs Hird to return as a senior coach

AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan says there is no reason why James Hird cannot return to senior coaching ranks – should the Essendon great decide to interview for the vacant Greater Western Sydney job.

The Giants are in the market for a new coach, and will part ways with Leon Cameron after his final match in charge, against Carlton on Sunday.

James Hird has been working at GWS in a part-time leadership role this season.Credit:GWS

Hird, who has been in London on business, returned to coaching this season in a part-time leadership advisory role with the Giants.

Sources close to the Giants say Hird, 49, is keen to help former teammate Mark McVeigh, who will be the Giants’ caretaker coach from Monday, while McLachlan said there is nothing to disqualify the Essendon playing great from seeking the top role for season 2023.

AFL boss Gillon McLachlan with commission chairman Richard Goyder after he announced he is vacating the CEO’s role.Credit:Getty Images

“No, absolutely not. He is doing work with the club … and, I don’t know if James wants to coach again, he has wanted to come back to football to an extent, but there is absolutely no reason [why not],” McLachlan said on 3AW on Friday.

Hird had been at the helm of Essendon through the club’s dark days during the supplements scandal. This led to his AFL-imposed, 12-month suspension in 2014, in which McLachlan was a key deal maker. Hird returned in 2015 but stepped aside late in the season. He subsequently battled mental health issues, including overdosing on sleeping pills in his Toorak mansion and spending five weeks in a psychiatric ward in 2017.

Four-time Hawthorn premiership coach Alastair Clarkson, enjoying a year off, is the early front-runner for the Giants’ role, having declared on Thursday night his desire to coach burned as bright as ever. 

McLachlan said the AFL would not provide greater financial assistance for the Giants to lure Clarkson. It has been suggested that Clarkson would receive ambassadorial money should the Gold Coast Suns’ job become available and he opt to join the underachieving franchise.

“The same soft cap applies to all clubs – that’s not in consideration [that] there would be any additional monies in the cap for that (for the Giants),” McLachlan said.

“I think what the club needs, what the league needs, they want the right coach to take them forward. Whether that be a brand coach like, say, Leigh Matthews or Al Clarkson, the club will work through what the playing group needs in the right type of coach.”

More to come

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