Essendon coaching great Kevin Sheedy has given James Hird a stirring reminder of what is possible in AFL with the right attitude.
With Hird’s side slumping to their worst loss to St Kilda last week, their fifth straight defeat, and facing the rest of the season without captain Jobe Watson, Sheedy’s dip into the Bombers’ history book is timely.
Seated alongside Hird and former Bomber Adam Ramanauskas, Sheedy recalled one of the worst days of his coaching career: August 1, 1992.
“We lost by 26 goals,” Sheedy began.
“(Like on Sunday), teams just play a game they wish they hadn’t.
“We got smashed by Hawthorn and, the next week, we played Melbourne and we won.”
The 160-point loss to the Hawks was followed by a 32-point victory over the Demons, which remains the Bombers’ best form reversal to this day.
Even more significantly, into the side to play the Demons came second-gamer Hird and Mark Mercuri for his third AFL match.
“Out of a negative … we find a champion,” he said.
“There will be a lot of positives to come out of this, I believe, in the end.”
While the core of that 1992 team would form the ‘Baby Bombers’ that would storm to the 1993 premiership, Hird would probably settle with a few more wins this season.
Hird said he convened a heart-to-heart talk with his playing group on Monday in an effort to leave the 110-point loss behind.
The fourth-year coach said he challenged his players to explain the performance, leaving nothing off the table.
“We spoke very openly on Monday, if there are issues we want to know about them,” he said.
“I’m not going to go into what that feedback was because it was a very private discussion between the players and the coaches.
“But it was a great discussion and, hopefully out of that, we will perform better.
“I’ve no doubt we’ll get a much better effort than we had last week. I can’t see that happening again.”
Hird foreshadowed at least five changes to his side, with injuries forcing out Watson and Adam Cooney (hamstring).
He forecast at least 10 – and as many as 12 – players with less than 50 games to face the Demons, with Jayden Laverde set to debut.
Sheedy nodded with enthusiasm when hearing the youngster could earn his first game.
The legendary coach gave Hird a ringing endorsement, saying the club’s lowly position of 14th was to be expected.
“They just need games, they’re a very young side and everybody doesn’t realise that,” he said.
“You’ve got to be realistic.
“This side is still on the way to finding out what sort of team they’re going to be eventually.
Essendon and Melbourne will play with splashes of yellow in the ‘clash for cancer’ supported by cancer survivor Ramanauskas.