Talk of James Hird making a return to coaching at Essendon has caused friction between two of the game’s most acclaimed journalists, The Age’s Caroline Wilson and the Herald Sun’s Mark Robinson.
A faction from within the club has reportedly encouraged the board to re-hire Hird after its brash attempt to lure super coach Alastair Clarkson at the expense of current coach Ben Rutten.
Club sources say there is an expectation that Hird will apply for the position, if it is vacant, and the exiled former coach who was the figurehead of the club’s doping scandal in 2013 has the support of legendary coach-turned-board member Kevin Sheedy.
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However, tensions between Wilson and Robinson erupted over Hird’s link to Essendon, with the pair exchanging fiery remarks over their respective programs.
Speaking on Nine’s Footy Classified on Wednesday, Wilson said Robinson was a Hird “spokesperson” who wants to see the controversial former coach return to Essendon.
“You’ve also got Mark Robinson – let’s face it he’s a James Hird spokesperson in the media, he’s opted for Alastair (Clarkson) to go to North Melbourne and he’s an Essendon man,” she said.
“Now, I just can’t help but feel that there’s a James Hird specter haunting this entire conversation.
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“Mark Robinson, he’s unashamed that he wants James Hird to come back and coach Essendon – me, I think that would be a retrograde step, I don’t think that can happen.
In reply, Robinson told 3AW Football that Wilson’s comments were an example of her hatred toward both him and Hird, before claiming he dislikes her.
“[Wilson’s] hatred of Hird is well known. Her hatred of me is coming to the surface,” he said on Friday.
“I don’t like her at all. I don’t. And I don’t listen to her. I don’t read her. I don’t watch her.
“Caroline Wilson is irrelevant in my life and she continues to take potshots at me, and people send them to me because I don’t watch Footy Classified. I used to watch it all the time. Don’t watch it. I’ve watched it once this year. So, she just takes potshots. I’m just writing the facts.
“The story tonight of James Hird being a contender for the Essendon job is not something I made up. That is a fact.
“If you’re going to start talking facts, Caroline said 24 hours ago that Alastair Clarkson is going to Essendon, okay, so she’s making it personal.”
In response to Robinson’s extraordinary spray, Wilson told 3AW Football she thought the two were “acquaintances” who “got on OK”, but his comments proved otherwise.
“I’m stunned by that,” she said on Saturday.
“It’s awful when journalists start having a crack at each other. I just argue I was taking a potshot at Mark. I said, ‘Mark wants James Hird to coach Essendon’, and I know he does. I mean, that’s not saying he’s a bad person. I don’t agree with him, but I don’t hate Mark Robinson.
“I mean, he’s an acquaintance of mine. I don’t know him particularly well. I’ve always thought we got on reasonably OK. We vehemently disagree on some footy matters, but hatred?
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“I don’t hate James Hird, I hated what happened at that football club, and to those young men under his guidance, and I didn’t like the way he responded.
“I did say on Footy Classified on Wednesday night, ‘I don’t know anything but I reckon he’ll (Clarkson) pick Essendon’. I did say that and I was wrong. But I made the point that it was based on no information I’d received. I just thought Alastair (Clarkson) would be swayed by the Dreamtime (at the ‘G), the Anzac Day match, the big club. A list he felt he could have a big say in and I think North has as many off-field issues as Essendon really, I mean, we don’t know who’s gonna be the CEO, the footy boss. But hatred and potshot? That’s just crazy.
“Mark wants James to coach Essendon.
“I don’t agree with the decision. I think that would be a really retrograde step and the messiah complex that has paralyzed that club as I wrote today for decades, would come to the surface again.
“I thought there was an extraordinary attack on me and I don’t know why it’s so personal.”
3AW Football host Tim Lane found himself awkwardly sitting alongside both colleagues on Friday and Saturday. He conceded he found Robinson’s comments to be “full-on”.
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