There has been a lot of media over the last week regarding my idol, James Hird. There seems to be a public debate raging over whether he should or shouldn’t present this year’s Norm Smith medal at the AFL grand final. There has then been speculation over whether he would or wouldn’t get booed for fulfilling this honourable duty.
The AFL have asked Hird to present the award as he won the award in 2000 and continuing the lines of tradition, it is now his turn to present the award to the player adjudged best afield on that last day in the footy calendar. Contrary to popular belief, Hirdy deserves this honour – not only for his on-field exploits, but for his service to the game and I believe it would serve as a sort of closure to the whole ASADA saga.
Hirdy was one of the most courageous and skilful players to ever “Don the sash” there is no denying that. He epitomised the attributes required to win a Brownlow, numerous best and fairest awards, a premiership and a Norm Smith. He is a man of principle and values, one that will always stand by his family. He played the game with poise and grace, it was like watching art. As a kid – I always wore my long-sleeved Dons jumper that proudly had the big number 5 on the back. I idolised the great man. After his career ended in 2007, I applauded as he was chaired from the ground – in my eyes he was the greatest ever.
I enjoyed listening to his commentary in the media following his retirement, a footy player that could string a sentence together was a rare breed indeed. In 2010 he announced he was going to release us from the “Knightmare”. It was a fantastic homecoming. He built a team that played exciting footy over the first few years of his coaching career before our world was turned upside down with the drugs saga.
Hirdy was victimised by the media, opposition supporters and seemingly served as a scapegoat for a club that had been to hell and back. 18 months on from his resignation as coach, we learned that he had apparently made an attempt on his own life. The relentless media attention and public commentary had finally taken its toll. Australia’s penchant for cutting down tall poppies had never been more visible. We had truly witnessed a brilliantly strong and resilient man be broken down and spat out by a system that offered little, if any support when he needed it most.
Hirdy, if you choose to accept this prestigious honour of presenting the Norm Smith Medal, know that you are loved by all fans of the red and black. Irrespective if you get booed, we will always love you. You truly deserve this, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.