Essendon coach James Hird has denied the AFL offered him a chance to clear three of his Bombers colleagues by pleading guilty to bringing the game into disrepute.
Hird, Bombers assistant Mark Thompson, football manager Danny Corcoran and club doctor Bruce Reid all had that charge laid against them by the league on Tuesday night over last year’s supplements saga, as did the club itself.
The Bombers and their officials plan to fight the charges.
It’s been reported that the AFL had proposed a deal under which Thompson, Corcoran and Reid would not have faced any charges, had Hird been prepared to plead guilty, but Hird emphatically denied that.
“That’s not true at all,” Hird told reporters on Saturday night.
“I’m not sure why that was reported.
“I’m unable to give the specifics of what was offered.
“But all I know is that I was charged and the club was charged and three other people were charged.
“But it was never put to myself or the club that if I took a guilty plea the other three or the club wouldn’t be charged.
“That’s totally incorrect.”
Earlier on Saturday, Bombers chairman Paul Little said Essendon believed some of the allegations on which the AFL have based their charges were way off the mark.
“We are fully aware that mistakes were made, particularly in the areas of management and governance, which have now been effectively addressed,” Little told a pre-match function.
“However the nature of some of these allegations go way beyond what we believe is the truth, in particular with regard to the use of illegal substances.
“We cannot let these allegations go unchallenged.”
The Bombers and their four officials charged are scheduled to face an AFL Commission hearing on August 26, although there is speculation they will instead seek a court injunction.
Little said everyone wanted the matter over as soon as possible and the focus to return to the field, but the Bombers were also determined to receive justice.
He said Hird, Thompson, Corcoran and Reid were people of outstanding character who had always believed all supplements used by players complied with the anti-doping code and weren’t injurious to players.
“But again, let me be clear, not just to the Essendon faithful but to the Australian Football public, there were shortcomings in internal management of the club and inadequacies in supervision of key individuals in certain areas,” Little said.
“We also accept that these failings occurred at the club and there may well be repercussions.”