James Hird was one of four candidates to interview for the Essendon coaching job on Wednesday, as debate rages over whether a potential return would take the club forward.
AFL360 co-host Gerard Whateley said Hird had taken a “seismic step” to put himself in the running to coach the club he was banned from, for his role in the Essendon supplements scandal.
But Jordan Lewis, who is part of the six-member Bombers coaching panel to find the person to replace Ben Rutten, revealed he was left “really enlightened” and “impressed” by all four applicants.
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“It was a good day,” he said on AFL360
“Having never been involved in that type of presentation or setting, for me it was one, intriguing and two, really enlightening.
“It was encouraging for not only Essendon but for the competition.”
Lewis said Hird’s past wouldn’t be used against him in the selection process, pledging he and his fellow selection panel would be impartial.
“I think you have to with every candidate,” he said.
“There were candidates today that I’ve had personal relationships with and been involved with at certain clubs so there is certain elements of whether it be emotional, interactive, whatever it may be – you have to come with it from that (impartial) lens.
“I think all the panel members today were really impressed by presentations.”
According to reports, other contenders for the Essendon coaching role include Melbourne assistant Adem Yze, former North Melbourne coach Brad Scott and ex-Adelaide coach turned Sydney assistant Don Pyke.
Fox Footy’s Mark Robinson, who broke the news of Hird’s interview, said it was clear Essendon were “open” to having their former mentor return.
“Hird was asked to apply, that’s a significant one. He didn’t ring up the club and say: ‘Hey, I want to coach!’ I think the club approached Hird like they approached Ross Lyon, Leon Cameron,” he said.
“The past is already there. The past lives and exists. It cannot be changed.
“Maybe Hird has to come back and unite the clans – someone has to unite that club.
“People think that Hird wants to coach for Hird – Hird actually wants to coach from what I’ve been told partly to say sorry to the club and to bring the club back. Everyone’s got a reason … if he wants to make good, I’d rather have him making good than making bad.”
Lewis said he had spoken to “20 people” in a bid to gauge exactly what kind of coach Essendon were searching for.
“It’d be derelict for me to go into a position like I’ve been asked to do without getting a feel from the club,” he said on AFL360.
“From parents, players, ex-players, staff members – I’ve called 20 people. I’m not there day-to-day and a lot of people involved in this aren’t there day-to-day so it’s not only what we think is the best candidate or the best coach for the Essendon Football Club.
“You’ve certainly got to have a finger on the pulse on what’s inside the club and what they think they potentially need.”
Robinson praised Hird’s decision to stay out of the GWS coaching race to give close friend Mark McVeigh the best possible chance – before Adam Kingsley was ultimately given the role last month.
“I actually thought (Hird) was going to coach the GWS Giants. And he didn’t go for the Giants job. Mark McVeigh, his great mate, he was going for the job so he said, ‘I will support you because I know you really want the job’.
“I thought Hird would be perfect for GWS.”
Whateley said should Hird prove successful with his application, that the club would look “mad” to people on the outside.
But he conceded it was clear Hird had a “deep and abiding love” for the Essendon Football Club.
Earlier this year AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan said the league would not stand in Hird’s way if he did decide to return to senior coaching again.
Hird has been working in an assistant coach at GWS under caretaker coach, and friend, McVeigh before the season’s end.