AFL great Leigh Matthews says it’s obvious Essendon need a new start and that might mean James Hird has to go.
But acting captain Dyson Heppell is the latest key Bombers figure to give the coach his full support, adding all the players feel the same way.
The pressure on Hird increased even further on Saturday as Adelaide mauled Essendon by 112 points.
Since WADA announced its appeal against the Essendon anti-doping verdict on May 12, the Bombers have only won twice in 13 games.
Essendon are in the midst of a review of their football department.
Hird said after the Adelaide debacle that he wants to stay coach next year, but admitted not everyone would feel the same way.
He added that the only way for the players to have a fresh start would be when the WADA appeal is finalised.
Matthews speculated that Hird’s departure might be the circuit breaker that Essendon need.
“You have to be asking … what’s going on in the environment around Essendon and therefore what is James Hird contributing or not contributing?,” Matthews said on Channel Seven’s Game Day.
“I don’t think one coach is heaps better than another coach, or vice versa, but every now and again in footy clubs you need a fresh start.
“The senior coach’s role is really the only thing you can do in a footy club that gives you fresh air to have a new beginning.”
Matthews pointed out that Essendon are a much better side on paper than their calamitous 5-14 record.
“They have more talent in their team to be getting thrashed – really badly beaten, rather than just beaten by small margins,” he said.
“Something has to change, I would have thought.”
Essendon assistant coach Matthew Lloyd pointed out that the review would be a tough job, given the many factors affecting the team’s performance.
“There are so many aspects to why the team isn’t playing well – not purely … football,” he said.
Adelaide players Rory Sloane and Josh Jenkins said their opponents on Saturday were clearly at a low ebb.
“Probably the only thing I noticed was they were really quiet and I guess that’s a sign their minds are elsewhere a little bit,” Jenkins said.
But Heppell insists that Hird should stay their coach.
“In terms of Hirdy, we’re certainly backing him in and we want to play for him as much as we possibly can,” Heppell told Channel Nine’s The Footy Show.
“He has the complete support and backing of the entire playing group.
“Whether he’s there or not next year, for the moment we’re certainly backing him right in.
“Personally, I certainly want him there and I certainly think he will be.”
Asked if he thought Hird can coach, Heppell replied: “of course he can”.
Heppell also has no regrets about signing a five-year deal early this year and doubts teammates will want to leave en masse at the end of this season.
“I don’t see any reason why those guys are going to leave,” he said.