Hirdy Girdy Hugs Mug

AFL: Round 3, 2004

Some have described it as the best last quarter performance by any individual in footy history. 15 possessions and a match winning effort. James Hird couldn’t have done it better, getting a centre clearance and kicking a goal in the closing minute with the scores against West Coast level at 131 points apiece. TV commentator, Gerard Healy remarked:

“James Hird got that ball out of the centre bounce – he’s moving down towards this contest. If anybody can get it, it will be James”



Sure enough, after the ball-up in Essendon’s forward line, Hirdy received a handball and snapped the winning goal in the last minute of play. Hirdy celebrated by running to the boundary fence and hugging Essendon fan Drew Wilson sparking huge celebrations and leaving the lucky supporter with a moment he will cherish for the rest of his life.

I have to say, not too much thought went into running over to him. I was just looking for a bit of love after a big week. After kicking that goal Drew just happened to be the closest person to jump up. He could have been a West Coast supporter and I still would have done it.James Hird

Check out the video clip: 


Strangely, despite getting 39 touches and 3 goals, Hird didn’t get a single Brownlow medal vote from the umpires for that game. Hmmm, was that because….

In the week prior to this match, Hird created headlines after criticising the performance of AFL umpire Scott McLaren on “The Footy Show”.

“I thought the umpiring was quite disgraceful on Saturday night, especially by one umpire. We thought there were a couple of instances where the decisions were a bit rich. You know, we’re not sure where he’s coming from. Scott McLaren hasn’t been our favourite umpire  …that’s something that the club and he have to come to terms with, because at the moment there’s a feeling at Essendon that he’s not doing the right thing by us.”

He was fined $20,000 for the ‘outburst’, but wasn’t suspended for the Eagles game. AFL Football Operations manager Adrian Anderson wrote to Hird and Essendon after Hird made his comments and advised Hird it looked like he had breached Section 16.1 of the AFL regulations, regarding comment on umpires. At a special media conference at AFL House, Mr Anderson said the possible sanctions facing Hird are serious. “The commission has the power to suspend the player” Mr Anderson said.

(Note: It’s actually Section 15.1 of the AFL regulations and there’s no mention in this section of the sanction of suspending a player)

15.1  Public Comments on Umpires
Any person subject to these Regulations or AFL Rules, shall not make any public comment about an Umpire or a decision made by an Umpire. Where a person contravenes this Regulation, the person’s Club shall be liable to a sanction:
Sanction: Up to 20 units for first offence
Up to 100 units for a second or subsequent offence

Umpire McLaren weighed in at a media conference about the impact of Hird’s comments.

“I was surprised and disappointed by the comments he made on The Footy Show last night regarding my performance as an AFL umpire. This has deeply affected my family and friends,” 

Six years later, on retirement in 2010, field umpire McLaren said:

Hird’s pointed public criticism of him in 2004 probably was the low point of his 17-year, 364-game career. Without missing a beat, he added: “As we saw last week, it wasn’t the (last) time that Hirdy’s put his foot in his mouth.
….umpires learn to live with the fierce scrutiny. We understand … we’re accountable to the football public. We don’t just come down from Mars every week and do a game and then go home. We do the best we can in difficult circumstances.


Hird v Martian McLaren


The Hug


McLaren wishing he’d stayed on Mars

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