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Hird suspension still divides

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Suspended Essendon coach James Hird’s shadow still hovers over the AFL with rival coach Alistair Clarkson’s dig at the Bomber’s legend sparking a storm yesterday.

The 2013 Essendon supplements saga climaxed in August last year when Essendon accepted a $2 million fine, a ban from that year’s finals series, and a 12-month suspension for Hird.

Clarkson told Fairfax Media in an interview published on Tuesday that Hird’s case shows coaches need to face stronger accreditation procedures.

“Hirdy needs accreditation to coach under nines but not an AFL footy team,” Clarkson said.

“It really concerns me that the game doesn’t protect itself in the way, say, the teaching industry does.”

Clarkson’s plan, as presented to the AFL Commission in Sydney on Monday, would mean Hird would not have been allowed to coach the Bombers without AFL accreditation and at least two years’ coaching experience.

Clarkson said he had strong sympathy for AFL chief Andrew Demetriou who faced a difficult assignment over the Essendon issue.

Clarkson said he had been disappointed that reports of AFL Coaches’ Association bosses visiting and working with Hird had given a suggestion the association sympathised with Hird and felt he’d been harshly treated.

“That was not my view, not many of the other coaches’ view,” Clarkson said.

Essendon was stung by the criticism with club president Ian Little stepping into the fray.

Little fired back by saying Hird was receiving support from rival coaches. He said Hird would return to the club following his suspension.

“The comments made by Clarkson relating to James Hird are neither helpful nor informed,” Little said in a letter on Essendon’s website.

Little said the Bombers had learnt many lessons and had made significant changes to their governance.

“The club and James have accepted responsibility for the mistakes that were made and received significant sanctions from the AFL,” he said.

“We have no doubt James Hird is the right person to coach the Essendon Football Club and we look forward to his return to the Club later this year.

“James appreciates the ongoing support he has received from other AFL coaches and the AFL Coaches’ Association.”

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