Kevin Sheedy saved James Hird's senior career before it began, urging Essendon to take a chance on the Canberra youngster against the counsel of others at the club.
Essendon's long-time list and recruiting chief Adrian Dodoro has recounted a story from the early 1990s in which a young Hird, plucked from Ainslie at pick 79 in the 1990 draft, was almost cast aside amid doubts from some at the Bombers as to whether he would be able to make it.
The farewell: Kevin Sheedy and James Hird in 2007.Credit:Sebastian Costanzo
But master coach Sheedy wasn't going to let Hird slip through the cracks. According to Dodoro, Sheedy – at the time a dual premiership coach – reminded the other members of the Essendon brains trust that Hird's grandfather Allan Hird snr had been a premiership player at the Dons before later becoming president of the club. The Allan T. Hird Stand at Windy Hill is named in his honour.
"We're in a room, making the decision about the under-19 players going onto the senior list when I clearly remember a lot of people in the room thinking Hirdy wasn't going to be good enough to be an AFL player," Dodoro said in an interview played on the Working Through It podcast on Wednesday.
"And Sheeds was clearly the last person to give his opinion, and he said 'you never sack the grandson of the man whose name is on the social club,' and he went on to be a phenomenal player."
The rest is history. Hird soon became a mainstay of the Essendon line-up, making his senior debut in 1992, playing in the 1993 premiership side, winning a Brownlow Medal in 1996 and then captaining the club to the 2000 flag in a 253-game career that ended in 2007 and earned Hird a place in the Australian Football Hall of Fame.
He famously later had an ill-fated stint as Essendon coach, a period marred by the fallout of the Bombers' supplements program in 2012. Having parted ways with the club in 2015, Hird has returned to host the weekly podcast with former Bombers skipper Jobe Watson and the club’s chief Xavier Campbell.
Hird’s son Thomas was signed by the Dons earlier this year as a Category B rookie, the fourth generation of the family to be on Essendon's list.
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