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Comment: I've forgiven James Hird – you should too

The Age logo The Age 5 days ago Sam Duncan

James Hird will be given the opportunity to present this year's Norm Smith Medal. © Eddie Jim James Hird will be given the opportunity to present this year's Norm Smith Medal. The AFL is a forgiving industry. After all, we all make mistakes, but few are so big that you can't be welcomed back into the fold.

Wayne Carey's name was once mud. After a string of off-field indiscretions, nobody wanted a bar of him. Now he's a leading expert commentator on Channel 7 and Triple M and a columnist for The Age. He's now one of the leading voices in the game.

It's what the AFL does. If you do the crime, do the time, and then they'll help you get back on your feet.

So, it's time to forgive James Hird. I forgave him some time ago and it's time you did too.

This year is Hird's turn to present the Norm Smith medal to the player judged best on ground in the AFL Grand Final.

You see, it's become a not so well-known tradition for former winners to present the Norm Smith medal on Grand Final Day. Last year, the 1999 winner, Shannon Grant, presented the medal. This year, it's the 2000 Norm Smith Medallist's turn to present the medal. Step forward, James Hird.

Some reckon it's too soon. For them, the fallout from the supplements saga is too raw.

James Hird shed a tear at a press conference in August as he announced he was stepping down as coach of Essendon. © Jason South James Hird shed a tear at a press conference in August as he announced he was stepping down as coach of Essendon. Talkback radio and social media polls have highlighted that not everyone wants to welcome Hird back into the AFL fold. There's a passionate few out there that would be happy if he never had anything to do with the game again. Olympic cycling gold medallist Scott McGrory went has far as saying getting Hird to hand out the Norm Smith Medal would be like getting Lance Armstrong to present the winner's yellow jersey at the Tour de France.

But these fans simply need to get over it.

The fans who have been hurt the most are those most willing to move on. As an Essendon supporter, I'm one of them. Make no mistake, we all felt acute anguish and pain. Our club was kicked out of the finals. Our players were banned for a year. I wondered if footy would ever be fun again. It hurt like hell. Only Essendon fans know how this felt.

More than a few of us have long grown sick and tired of others telling us how we should feel about Hird. It's like they've been through what we have. Thank God they haven't, but because they haven't, they don't have a clue what they're talking about.

Football is not always a rational industry and that's precisely why football fans should not be listened to on every issue. Too many footy issues are discussed with illogical emotion, viewed through a lens of irrational tribalism. They view the football world through one eye. They are the people who hate Hird, but would defend him to the hilt if he was one of theirs.

So, I suggest it's best to ignore those fans on this issue.

Then there's the unforgiving type. Oh, what it must be like to be them – never having made an error, never having lost, never having to ask for forgiveness.

Hird's mistake was a mismanagement of governance. It had devastating consequences. I'm aware of his role in it all, but I can forgive him for that.

The AFL has offered him an olive branch. He has accepted. That is a wonderful thing. It's a magnanimous, warm gesture that was generously accepted.

We often look towards sport to set the example of how we should behave. Well, here's an example – one party reaching out to another to move forward, together.

People make mistakes. Some of them have devastating consequences and some of them will never be forgotten. They are a part of history. But for all of that, the AFL is a forgiving industry. It would seem they're moving on. So is James Hird. As a footy fan, and an Essendon fan, so am I.

You should too.

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