Essendon coach James Hird is at odds with the AFL again, angry that six Bombers were stopped from taking part in a special training session.
The match simulation on Friday afternoon at Essendon’s Tullarmarine headquarters featured players from VFL team Williamstown.
It was organised to give extra training for the 21 Essendon players who are sitting out the pre-season until the AFL anti-doping tribunal hands down its verdicts.
On Saturday, Essendon will play their opening NAB Challenge match against St Kilda in Morwell.
Essendon also wanted six players who were not at the club in 2012 – Brendon Goddard, Adam Cooney, James Gwilt, Joe Daniher, Zach Merrett and Patrick Ambrose – to be part of Friday’s session.
But the AFL, mindful of St Kilda and the fans at Morwell, said if those six players were not playing on Saturday then they also should not be part of the special hitout.
“We would have thought if Brendon Goddard was to play any competitive football, then that would be in Morwell,” AFL operations manager Mark Evans told the league’s website.
Hird said it should have been Essendon’s call.
“We’re disappointed those (five) players aren’t part of that session, but it is what it is and the AFL run the competition,” Hird said.
“Every club should be allowed to pick their team for round one of the NAB Challenge and prepare for round one of the regular season the way they choose.”
Collingwood president Eddie McGuire also bought into the issue, saying the Saints would be “filthy” if Essendon players took part in the Friday training session rather than play on Saturday.
“I don’t really care what Eddie McGuire thinks,” was Hird’s response.
Essendon’s pre-season squad features 13 top-up players brought in while the club waits for the anti-doping tribunal verdict.
The tribunal is considering charges against 34 current and former Essendon player relating to the club’s 2012 supplements scandal.
“We have our reasons why the team is playing tomorrow as they are,” Hird said.
“We have six guys who won’t be getting any competitive practice, I suppose, but we will train them in the right way today and get them ready to round one.
“We’ve had a lot of obstacles to jump over in the last two years and we’ve jumped over most of them.
“We’ll do it again.”
He added there were various reasons why the six players were kept out of the NAB Challenge squad.
Hird was asked if his makeshift team can beat the Saints.
“I don’t see why not,” he said.
“I don’t think anyone goes into a NAB Challenge game too concerned about winning or losing, it’s how we play.”