Suspended Essendon coach James Hird has apologised for not doing more to stop the club's 2012 supplements program just hours after the Bombers were kicked out of the AFL finals series.
It came on another dramatic day in the Essendon drugs scandal, with the AFL Players Association promising to ensure Essendon players had regular medical checks beyond retirement to make sure they did not suffer any side effects from the drugs they received last year.
Hird emerged from his house yesterday morning to discuss the biggest scandal in AFL history. He conceded he had to take some responsibility and apologised to fans.
"There are things at our football club last year that shouldn't have happened last year and as senior coach I have to take some responsibility for what happened and not doing more to stop it," he said.
Hird endorsed assistant coach Mark Thompson to fill in for him next season but promised to return once he had served his 12-month suspension.
AFLPA chief executive Matt Finnis applied more heat to the Dons, saying he would work with player managers to look at how contracts had been affected by the supplements program. Mr Finnis said it was vital the players were closely checked by doctors for many years and said they would be offered regular tests regardless of where they lived after their playing careers.
Former Bombers Kyle Reimers and Brendan Lee returned home to Perth at the end of last season, while fellow West Australians Paddy Ryder, Leroy Jetta, Ben Howlett, Scott Gumbleton, Travis Colyer, Cory Dell'Olio, Tayte Pears, Kyle Hardingham, Cale Hooker and David Myers remained on the club's list this year.
Mr Finnis said player health was vital. "We are now going to work with the AFL and the club to put in place a long-term and robust protocol for the monitoring of the health and safety of these players in the long term," he said.
He said the prospect of Essendon players taking legal action against the AFL club could not be ruled out. The Bombers' actions had compromised the careers, health and reputations of their players and appeared to have breached their contractual obligations towards them.
Mr Finnis would not reveal whether he knew of any players who were contemplating legal action but said players were aware that it was an option and the association was willing to offer support. "It's not our focus right now," he said. "You certainly couldn't rule it out."
AFL deputy chief executive Gillon McLachlan conceded the dramas could have been averted if the league had followed up a discussion they had with Hird in 2011.
The AFL warned Hird not to become involved in a peptide program, but did not look into the matter further. "I'm happy to take that on the chin in the sense that if we had gone out there every month and monitored it, then maybe we wouldn't be in this situation," Mr McLachlan told SEN radio."What's happened here is incredibly regrettable for the players and for the competition. People need to take various forms of accountability and I'll take that."