How James Hird turned his life around after stint in psychiatric ward


James Hird has bravely spoken before about the devastating depths of his fall from one of Essendon’s favourite sons to a football pariah.

His desperate calls to Beyond Blue, the five weeks he spent in a psychiatric ward and the night he took “too many sleeping tablets”.

But now, several years on from those dark days, the champion Bomber can speak confidently about how he escaped the sad spiral that saw him hit rock bottom.

Hird, 48, delivered several important messages during a lengthy conversation with Corey McKernan this week as part of the former North Melbourne player’s Walk With Me project.

He appeared at peace with himself and spoke with honest reflection on the Essendon supplements scandal which ruined several careers during his time as coach of the Bombers.

Hird was hit as hard as anyone by the years-long saga but appears to have well and truly moved past it.

“Where I am now in my life, when I look back I think ‘how’d you get through that?’,” Hird told McKernan.

“When you make mistakes like I made, and we made at the Essendon Football Club, and big mistakes, and public mistakes, and the pressure comes on and rightly so, you’ve got to find a way of coping.

“You cope with the support of your family and your wife and friends, but in the end you can only cope for so long. I did melt down. Ended up in a psychiatric ward for five weeks and really didn’t handle that pressure well.

“But fortunately with the help of people around me I was able to get through that and be where I am today.”

‘There were mistakes I could have prevented’

Few have scaled the heights the two-time premiership winner and Brownlow medallists did on the field and then plummeted to the depths he did after becoming coach.

“One of the greatest things that gets you to doubt yourself is when you make mistakes that maybe you could have prevented,” he said. “There’s a lot of blame on yourself. That’s when things are tough — when you hurt other people or the footy club gets hurt by things you could have done better.”

Hird said accepting his failures was difficult because he was so used to success. He also admitted not only losing the respect of others, but also respect for himself, and it took time to regain that.

“You lose a lot of respect for yourself along a journey like that,” he said. “But then you gain a lot of respect for yourself as you build out of it as well. Because you know you’ve gone to a very low spot and (you could have made the choice) not to come back. So I get a lot of self-confidence out of what I’ve done the last three or four years, business-wise and personally. It gives you a different confidence than football gave you … a deeper, more sincere confidence.”

The three pillars behind his current happiness

Key to his current mindset is a return to some of the rigidity in his schedule that was lost when he stepped outside the AFL industry.

He exercises at 4am or 5am every morning for an hour “just to get my head straight”.

“If I don’t do that I know the day won’t be as successful as it normally is,” he said.

“Having that commitment to do that on a day-to-day basis is something that I don’t let go of, ever.”

He also makes sure his day is structured with a series of tasks to complete, so it’s “not just a wandering day” and sticks to a healthy diet on week nights, with no alcohol.

“You get to a point where you’re drinking every night and I just said ‘no, this is just not going to happen’.”

Hird said those pillars formed the base of his approach to life and then to keep growing he made sure he was filling his hours with interesting tasks and people.

His current happiness stems from emerging from a critical period a few years ago where he made a conscious decision to stop hiding from the world.

“(I had to decide) am I going to get back into life or am I going to hide from it?” Hird said. “There was a period of two or three months in the middle of 2017, somewhere around there, when I was hiding from life and not really contributing.

“Was I going to have a crack and try and live my life again or just hide away? I’m glad I chose the decision to get back into life because it’s bloody good. It’s not always great but when you get it right there’s a lot of good things to look forward to.”

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Sheffield Shield final 2021, live cricket scores, Queensland vs NSW: How to watch, weather updates, Marnus Labuschagne


Sheffield Shield final, Queensland vs New South Wales, day three at Allan Border Field

New South Wales have but one option against Queensland on day three of the Sheffield Shield final: attack.

Already heavily trailing, the Blues have a mountain to climb if they want to get back in the match against the Bulls, who are 4-317 after 129 overs.

The visitors had no answer to Marnus Labuschagne on Friday, as the Test first-drop moved from 23 to finish the day unbeaten on 160. Along the way he peeled off the sixth highest Shield final score.

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Collingwood star in hot water for Irish ambush on Eagles forward


Collingwood defender Mark Keane is facing a response from AFL match review officer Michael Christian for a bizarre tripping attack on West Coast’s Josh Kennedy.

The Irishman’s reflexive response to stick out his right boot to take the legs out from under Kennedy was spotted by Fox Footy Cameras during West Coast’s win over the Magpies on Friday night.

The vision from behind the goals shows Keane — given one of the hardest jobs in footy to defend that key forward — and Kennedy jostling for position inside the Eagles’ forward fifty.

Sticking to Kennedy like a second-hand suit, Keane made sure Kennedy wasn’t getting away as he turned to double back towards the goals.

Keane’s leg sweep left Kennedy flat on the grass and far from impressed.

Kennedy has suffered a series of ankle injuries in recent years, but he had no issues playing out the game on Friday.

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The kick was assessed by the Fox Footy panel at half time.

Footy great Garry Lyon said Keane needs to learn to get the trip reflex out of his game after picking up the naughty habit in Gaelic football.

“It’s a little Irish thing. You know, you’ve been there,” Lyon told Jonathan Brown.

“It’s a little ankle tap every now and again. He’ll get this out of his game. It doesn’t look great.”

Herald Sun reporter Jon Ralph speculated Keane is likely to be fined over the incident, but will avoid a one-game suspension, assuming the contact is assessed to be low impact.

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Blistering Eagles put wounded Collingwood to the sword


After a strong start, West Coast proved too big and too strong for Collingwood at Optus Stadium in front of the biggest crowd in the Southern Hemisphere since the start of COVID – 54,159.

The Magpies led at the first break after a five-goal first term, coach Nathan Buckley’s decision to throw Darcy Moore forward and the aggressiveness of Brodie Grundy pushing into attack was working a treat.

Things fell apart from there, with the Eagles midfield getting on top and injuries to Jeremy Howe and Jordan De Goey crippling the Pies structurally.

West Coast kept their foot on the throat in the second half, leading by six goals at three quarter time before the sting went out of the game in the final term.

Here’s everything you need to know!

The Medical Room: Pies lose star duo

Collingwood’s strong start and momentum was completely undone by the losses of Jordan De Goey and Jeremy Howe.

De Goey suffered what appears to be a broken nose early in the game and was ruled out by the doctors.

Howe meanwhile tore his hamstring in the second quarter in a marking contest.

Collingwood played out the game one player down on the bench, given the medical sub, but the impact of who they lost was more important.

Key forward Brody Mihocek finished the game on the bench with ice on his shoulder as well after a heavy collision.

The Talking Point: Darcy Moore thrown forward

Despite Collingwood assistant coach Robert Harvey telling AFL Nation pre-game that the move wouldn’t happen, Darcy Moore was thrown forward for this must-win game.

The roll of the dice appeared to be working early, with Moore keeping West Coast’s intercept markers accountable.

He kicked a goal after taking a contested mark and gave the Magpies some early momentum.

Unfortunately for Collingwood, Moore’s absence in defence was felt.

Oscar Allen, Jack Darling and Josh Kennedy all looked dangerous and marked everything. The makeshift black and white backline had no answers without him.

Channel Seven’s Wayne Carey continuously called for Nathan Buckley to swing Moore back, but the coach held his nerve.

The 25-year-old looked good inside 50 when the Magpies’ ball movement actually gave him an opportunity, kicking three, but the question will simply be whether they can afford to have him there.

With Howe injured, it will be interesting to see if Collingwood holds firm with this change moving forward.

What’s next?

Collingwood prepares for the traditional Anzac Day clash with Essendon next Sunday on the MCG.

West Coast meanwhile makes the long road trip from Perth to Geelong to take on the Cats.

FULL SCORE

West Coast: 3.1, 9.5, 14.6, 16. 7. (103)

Collingwood: 5.4, 7.5, 7.7, 11. 10. (76)

GOALS

West Coast: Darling 5, Allen 5, Sheed 3, Kelly, Kennedy, Brander

Collingwood: Moore 3, Mihocek 2, Grundy 2, McCreery 2, Brown, Cameron

BEST

West Coast: Oscar Allen, Jack Darling, Jack Redden, Dom Sheed, Liam Duggan, Andrew Gaff

Collingwood: Brodie Grundy, Brayden Maynard, Steele Sidebottom, Chris Mayne, Scott Pendlebury

INJURIES

West Coast: Tom Cole (concussion), Josh Rotham (head clash)

Collingwood: Howe (hamstring), De Goey (face), Mihocek (shoulder)

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AFL live: Eagles and Magpies meet for another edition of a fierce modern rivalry




West Coast and Collingwood have played some of the most memorable games of the past few seasons, and are both desperate to bounce back after disappointing losses. Follow our live AFL ScoreCentre for all the scores, stats and results.

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‘Heartbreak’: Sharks horror week continues with late Knights blow


Rugby league can be a brutal game — just ask the Cronulla Sharks.

In a week they’ve been the talk of the rugby league world for all the wrong reasons, the side has suffered a heartbreaking loss in Newcastle.

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After coach John Morris was sacked this week, the Sharks have been defeated by a try with just two minutes remaining to Knights star Kalyn Ponga.

The question of whether the Sharks would put in the effort or would just write off the season appears to have been answered however with Cronulla with the side taking it right down to the wire.

At halftime, the Sharks were down 14-6 with the first half try coming after a controversial collision.

It wasn’t looking great for the Sharks with the Knights scoring three tries in the first half.

But as can happen, the halftime break changed the momentum of the game as the Sharks came screaming back.

The Sharks’ Briton Nikora and Connor Tracey scored tries early in the half, broken up by a try from Knights rookie Brodie Jones.

But it was Cronulla winger Mawene Hiroti’s try that looked to have stolen the result.

He scored in the 66th minute diving for the corner and somehow keeping his legs in the air as the defender Brayden Musgrove tried to drag him into touch.

A sideline conversion from halfback and goalkicker Chad Townsend nailed a kick from the sideline.

It gave the Sharks their first lead of the game at 22-20.

It was always going to go down to the wire.

With three minutes to go and on the last, the Knights’ Blake Green ducked one tackle and kicked across field, but it went backwards, before Jones took the catch, offloading to Tyson Frizell, who found Ponga, with the Knights’ fullback getting over the line.

“Incredible, the Knights retake the lead,” Dan Ginnane screamed on Fox League.

“What a finish. Heartbreak again for the Sharks.

“My goodness, can this week get any worse?”

Greg Alexander added: “They couldn’t have done any more Cronulla, three times tonight they’ve been trailing by eight and they’ve been able to force their way back into the game. They hit the lead with 10 to go and that man (Ponga) looks like he may have stolen it from them.”

The Sharks then kicked short and won the ball but a mistake on the line was enough for the Knights to hang on.

On Fox League, Yvonne Sampson said it was “cruel after the week they’ve had”.

Interim Sharks coach Josh Hannay said the side was “gutted” by the result.

“It’s little comfort when you lose a game like that at the back end,” he said.

“Coming into this game, we would have taken that type performance considering the week we’ve had. But ultimately, we were a lazy kick chase away from winning that game.”

Social media went nuts for Ponga, having come down with a virus and been throwing up throughout the match.

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Jonathon Patton retirement, Hawthorn news, lewd text scandal


AFL former No. 1 draft pick Jonathon Patton has retired immediately.

The star forward’s decision to hang up his boots was announced by Hawthorn on Friday afternoon, ending one of the saddest careers footy has seen in recent years.

In announcing his retirement, Patton also issued a public apology for “inappropriate” behaviour towards women on social media, declaring he was “truly sorry”.

Patton was in February admitted to hospital to seek treatment on mental health issues.

His hospitalisation came as Hawthorn continued to investigate allegations he sent lewd, unsolicited messages to women on social media.

Patton was stood down from Hawthorn while the club investigated claims from four women that the 27-year-old sent them unsolicited images and videos.

The AFL is still yet to announce the outcome of its integrity unit investigation into the claims against Patton.

His retirement comes after years of serious injuries, which ruined a career that was predicted to see him become one of the biggest stars in football.

He was the first player drafted by GWS before they entered the AFL and he was expected to be the face of the franchise.

Instead he was traded to Hawthorn at the end of the 2019 season in exchange for a future fourth-round pick.

His retirement message was centred around an apology for “inappropriate” behaviour towards women.

“I have made the difficult decision to retire from football to focus on my health, wellbeing, and future outside of the game,” he said.

“The constant battle to overcome injuries since I entered the AFL 10 years ago has been relentless and, on many occasions, overwhelming. Whilst I have loved every minute of playing on the AFL stage, my enjoyment of the game has ultimately diminished. As such, I will not play football at any level this year.

“I also want to take this opportunity to apologise for my inappropriate behaviour towards women. Over the past few months, I have taken time to reflect on my mistakes. My actions were completely unacceptable, and I am truly sorry for any distress I have caused. I am committed to continuing to learn from my mistakes and actively make the necessary changes.

“I have very much appreciated the opportunities I have been given by both Hawthorn and the Giants and for the continued support I have received from countless teammates, staff and fans from both clubs.”

The AFL released a statement following Patton’s announcement.

“The AFL has acknowledged the retirement of Jonathon Patton and his decision to withdraw from all levels of football in 2021 and his apology for the distress caused by his inappropriate behaviour towards women,” the statement read.

“The AFL is committed to the respectful treatment of women and acknowledges Patton’s admission that his actions were unacceptable and accepts his commitment to learning from his mistakes.

“The AFL Integrity Unit, which was investigating the behaviour under the League’s Respect and Responsibility policy, has informed the complainants of Patton’s decision to retire as an AFL footballer.”

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Australian basketball star Shyla Heal taken inside top-10 of WNBA Draft


A second member of the Heal family is hoping to make it big in the US.

Shyla Heal, the teenage daughter of Australian basketball legend Shane Heal, is heading to the WNBA after Chicago Sky selected her with pick No. 8 in Friday’s (AEST) draft.

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Shane played in the NBA with Minnesota and San Antonio and was by Shyla’s side at The Star in Sydney on Friday morning when the announcement came through she was off to the Windy City.

She joins Opals icons Liz Cambage and Lauren Jackson as the only Aussies to go top-10 in the WNBA draft and will ply her trade Stateside in the most competitive league in the world.

Shyla enjoyed a stellar 2020 season Down Under playing for the Townsville Fire, winning the Youth Player of the Year award to cement her status as one of Australia’s brightest up-and-coming basketball talents.

Her hot streak put the 19-year-old on the radar for national selection ahead of this year’s Tokyo Olympics and the 2022 World Cup, and earned her a spot in the All-WNBL Second Team.

Townsville coach Sandy Brondello said late last year: “She is going to be an Opal; it is just a matter of when.

“She has got really good skills and I think she has improved in her playmaking ability.

“Not just being a scorer, but it is also about being a creator and distributor.

“She is on the up and she is only going to get better and better.”

Heal has long been touted for big things after debuting in the WNBL at just 14 and finished last season among the league’s top five scorers, averaging 25.3 points and 7.3 assists per game.

Heal was documenting her day on social media as the WNBA Draft took place, and looked excited as she waited with her family for her name to be called out.

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How Tim English nearly landed at Collingwood


Former Collingwood recruiter Matt Rendell says Bulldogs ruckman Tim English would have been a Magpie, were it not for a misunderstanding.

A towering talent from the West Australian wheat belt, English was drafted to Whitten Oval with a first round selection five years ago.

He could have pulled on the black and white 12 months earlier, however.

“If you’re a Collingwood supporter, you’ll want to turn off for about two minutes,” Rendell told SEN’s Dwayne’s World on Thursday afternoon.

“Tim English went to a Catholic school in Perth, and one of our part-time recruiters was a teacher there.

“He said, ‘Can you come and have a look at this bloke? He’s got some talent, he’s a big skinny kid, (but) I don’t know if he’s competitive enough. Come and have a look, and see what you think’.

“I go over and watch him and I thought, ‘He’s got some serious talent, (and) you’re right, he’s not quite competitive enough.’”

Rendell was nevertheless sold on the 18-year-old, but a hurdle loomed with the season coming to a close.

English was yet to play a state league game, ruling him ineligible for draft selection under present rules.

“I said, ‘Okay, here’s what we’re going to do. There’s one game to go in the WAFL, what’s his home team?’” Rendell recalled.

“He lived in Claremont. Claremont weren’t in the finals, they had one game to go.

“I said, ‘Take him down on Thursday once all the paperwork’s in, we’ll qualify him and he can play the game’.

“‘I’ll come over and watch. Hopefully he doesn’t go too good, and we’ll take him as a rookie in the draft’.”

The twist came too late, with Rendell’s scout in Perth informing him on the Thursday that the paperwork had been knocked back.

Before boarding at Christ Church Grammar School in Perth, English lived on a farm with his family in the South Fremantle catchment, and had not lived in Claremont for the three years required to switch his allegiance.

“So Claremont can’t play him. South Freo weren’t in the finals but they’ve finished training, (and) it’s a Thursday, so he doesn’t play on the weekend,” Rendell added.

“(So) I can’t pick him. The next year he plays at South Fremantle, kills it and gets picked what, (19) in the draft. I go, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me’.

“Poor Collingwood supporters, they missed out on Tim English because of that.”

English has kicked eight goals in four games for the Bulldogs this season, his game rejuvenated with veteran recruit Stefan Martin shouldering the majority of the ruck contests.


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Kevin Walters unloads on Broncos prematch, almost sparks all-time upset


Brisbane Broncos coach Kevin Walters has unloaded on his side before the game even started and it was almost a masterstroke as the reigning wooden spooners led the Penrith Panthers at halftime.

While the Broncos couldn’t hang on for the win as the Panther claimed a 20-12 victory, the 12-10 lead at the break shocked the NRL with the Broncos starting the game at the longest odds in the club’s history.

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The TAB had the side at $14 odds, while the unbeaten Panthers were unbackable at $1.01.

The Broncos even had a 27.5 point headstart in line betting and were pretty much given no chance at upsetting the Panthers.

And yet, at halftime, the Broncos were ahead with Walters’ pre-match words seemingly ringing in his charges’ ears.

Before the game, Fox League’s Warren Smith said it was as “animated a coach as you will see before kick-off”.

“Kevvie Walters was blowing up deluxe, very upset about something that maybe that happened in the warm-up, he is a coach looking for a response from his team tonight,” Smith added.

Walters’ secret weapon as a coach has long been believed to be his passion as he often showed as Queensland coach.

And as a five-time premiership winner with Brisbane, he was the man given the task of resurrecting the club after its nightmare 2020 wooden spoon season.

Post-match, Walters said the pre-match scenes were an outpouring of his passion.

“I just want these guys to do well and the club to do well,” he said. “I guess that’s the passion from me for this place. It was a good response from them.”

Asked what he said, Walters said “I can’t remember”.

When pushed, he said it was to show fighting spirit “to themselves and to each other more than anything, and to all our supporters here tonight”.

While the Broncos have hardly fired a shot in anger in 2021 with only a win over the Bulldogs to show after five rounds, Brisbane have finally sent a major warning.

After kicking an early penalty goal that had social media and the commentators wondering why they wouldn’t look to score against a Panthers side who seem to score tries for fun.

The Panthers hit the board with Kurt Capewell sliding over the line with ease.

But the Broncos were far from done.

With a tactic of bombing winger Brian To’o’s wing and running Tevita Pangai Jr at him, it paid off with the big man crossing in the corner off a dropped bomb.

The Broncos kept peppering the wing but the Panthers were next to score when Matt Burton scored, before a response to “arrogance” claims during the week with a classy handshake.

The Broncos then hit the lead with a try through Ethan Bullemor catching a ball on the inside and stepping Panthers fullback Stephen Crichton to take the lead at the break.

The second half, the Broncos weren’t able to score but stayed in the game with resolute defence.

The Panthers could only kick a 52nd minute penalty goal before Nathan Cleary won the game off his boot with a 40m two-point field goal and a 77th minute try to steal a 20-12 result.

Walters said the players “had a crack” but that he was “disappointed” when the side couldn’t get over the line.

“There’s a lot to take out of it that’s good but this club is about winning and that’s our third or fourth loss in a row,” he said. “Certainly some better moments from us, particularly in the first half, I thought it was really good with everything we were doing but in the second half, just lost our way a little bit and they were a bit too good to come home at the end on top of us.”

But social media clearly believed the Broncos had turned a corner by taking the Panthers down to the wire.

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