came across this by chance. Interesting reading!
<strong><span style="font-size:18px;">Getting to know the real James Hird</span></strong><br><span style="font-size:10px;"><strong>By <span> MEGAN DOHERTY</span>. </strong>March 3, 1998</span>
It's mid-February but it feels like footy weather.
Melbourne has copped almost as much rain in the past 24 hours as it usually gets in the whole month.
The temperature has dipped to 17 deg.
Windy Hill is living up to its name.
The Essendon training ground feels cold and looks lonely and desolate.
A limp piece of red tinsel hangs tied around a pole.
Yellowed newspapers folded to the sports pages are stuffed between the seats.
Out on the field one of the biggest names in the AFL is alone, quietly kicking the ball to himself, his sneakers squelching on the sodden ground.
It's a rare quiet moment in the increasingly public life of James Hird.
He's even got to be careful about what he drinks these days.
During a break in training, Hird sits down with a soft drink for the interview and some photographs.
But not before a club minder carefully checks the soft drink can for its manufacturer.
It's not a sponsor so the can gets the boot from the picture.
James Hird - Essendon captain at 24, Brownlow medallist, the star of the Hird footballing dynasty - sells.
We're meeting at the Essendon Football Club where many fans have paid $125 for a tangible part of the legend.
The money buys them a paver with their name on it, which lines the footpath in Napier St.
Inside the administration block a squadron of miniature silver bombers hangs in the foyer.
The impression is slick, in-charge, professional.
Just like James Hird.
Up close, Hird, who turned 25 in February, looks chunkier and stronger than the TV pictures reveal.
With his clear blue eyes, pale complexion and mop of blonde hair, Hird has the fresh, uncomplicated good looks of an Enid Blyton character.
He is friendly but still reserved, keen to talk but also not to reveal too much.
The 1996 season was a brilliant one for Hird - he won a Brownlow, secured his third consecutive Crichton medal for the club best and fairest and topped the Bombers' goal-kicking list.
Did it worry him having to share the Brownlow with Brisbane's Michael Voss?
"Oh no! I could share it with four blokes, I don't really care, as long as I get a go,â€ he laughs.
In 1996, Hird also, in the words of the Essendon Football Club magazine Bomber, scored â€œmore exposure than Kate Fischer's cleavageâ€.
The media loved this polite, talented, no-nonsense young man.
The 1997 season was a little different.
Hird played just seven games last year after he sustained a stress fracture to his foot.
â€œIt was pretty frustrating,â€ he says.
â€œI probably found last year was one of my hardest years to get through just because there was no footy. I did a lot of weights, took on a lot of extra things and lived a bit more of a normal life which you don't get to do when you're playing footy.â€
The normal things Hird talks about sound pretty mundane and they show just how much of a hold football has on a player's life.
While recovering from his injury, Hird could go to dinner on a Friday night, have a few quiet drinks, go to the beach on the weekend.
â€œI could also see my wife occasionally which was a good thing, he says.
When Hird talks about his wife Tania, he can't keep a smile from creeping across his face.
The couple married last October and spent their honeymoon in Europe.
Hird says the honeymoon was the happiest two weeks of his life.
Tania is a solicitor working for a firm in Bourke St, Melbourne.
They met when she was working in a pub in Essendon to help pay for her studies.
â€œWe met and she played hard to get for quite a long time. I had to keep going back and drinking water,â€ Hird says with a laugh.
The couple plan to have children - but not yet.
â€œOne day,â€ Hird says.
â€œWe're both pretty busy at the moment. I'd say Tania would like to continue her career for quite a while anyway. I love kids and I want to have two or three kids and when that comes along, that comes along.â€
So what's the silliest thing he's done for love?.
â€œI think I flew Tania and I up to Sydney for one Valentine's Day and did the whole roses and chocolates bit, whether that's silly or not I don't know,â€ he says.
â€œI've probably driven around Melbourne a lot of times thinking about her and not getting anything done, that's probably as silly as it comes.â€
The attention has died down a little since he married but Hird says the adulation of fans can sometimes be a little overwhelming.
He says he can walk down the street and be mobbed.
At other times - â€œthe good timesâ€ - he becomes almost anonymous.
At least once the hero worship went too far.
â€œWhen I was a bit younger in about '92 or '93 this girl found out where I lived and she'd come and knock on my window every morning at four o'clock and try to climb in the window,â€ Hird says.
â€œOne time the window was open because it was a hot night and she was half-way through the window before I realised she was coming in.
So I had to try to close it up and get rid of herâ€.
He fixed the problem by moving.
â€œNo one knows where I live,â€ he says with a certain amount of satisfaction.
When asked to describe himself, Hird says he has a â€œfairly complex, quiet yet colourful personalityâ€.
There is a sense of fun underneath the seriousness.
What would be three things he'd need on a desert island?.
â€œI'd take my wife, a bottle of good red wine and I don't think I'd need anything else. Two bottles of red wine, how's that?â€ he laughs.
Is it possible to let loose, have a few drinks, be himself among friends on a night on the town?.
â€œIt's happening less and less. I like to go out and have a good dance. It's something I haven't done for quite a while,â€ he says.
Growing up in Canberra and with both parents in the public service, Hird says he was aware of politics but doesn't class himself as a political person.
He likes to keep up on issues.
He leans more to the monarchist than republican cause (watch out Eddie McGuire).
Hird seems a mix of the ordinary and the elite.
He drives a BMW 328i, his favourite food is lamb roast (â€œI think my grandmother and mother probably make the two best lamb roasts in Australiaâ€).
He loves to play soccer.
He likes to travel and says his favourite places are Paris and New York.
â€œI think that we are very lucky here but we haven't got the history and culture that a place in Europe does and there's a lot to learn over there. If anyone could, I'd tell them to travel as much as they could,â€ he says.
So has the game made him rich? â€œNo, I wouldn't say that, I wouldn't say that at all.â€
Is he a millionaire?.
â€œNo definitely not. The game has paid me quite well but certainly not to that extent.â€
Hird is a qualified civil engineer but apart from some work experience, he's never really had a job in the field.
While football takes first priority, Hird is building a kind of sideline media career.
He has a radio show with Jason Dunstall and Wayne Carey on Triple M.
He was part of the regular panel on Channel Nine's The Footy Show until he was poached by Channel Seven.
â€œChannel Nine was a fantastic experience. And the people there, Eddie McGuire, Sam Newman, perfect people, great to learn off and it is sad in some ways that I have left Nine because I really enjoyed it,â€ Hird says.
â€œI made the choice to go to Seven which is another great institution, a great network and I've got some really good friends there and I'm really looking forward to taking Seven to number one this year.â€
Hird says his football career can last until he's 30, 32.
He's not sure what he will do after football.
â€œI go through stages where I want to get as far away from football as I can and stages where I just can't think of ever being away from the game,â€ Hird says.
â€œIt's a bit hard to say yet. People are always asking me that and I'm always giving wishy-washy answers but it's because I'm not really sure myself.â€
The only thing that is certain is that Hird will play out the rest of his career with Essendon.
â€œIt would have to be pretty drastic circumstances to want to leave,â€ he says.
Hird was seven when he played his first game of footy.
There was much more riding on his shoulders than the other kids out on the field.
Hird's grandfather Alan â€œRacehourseâ€ Hird played 102 consecutive matches for Essendon and was also a coach and club president.
The Alan T. Hird stand is a feature of Windy Hill.
Hird's father Alan Jr played four games with Essendon before moving to Canberra where he eventually became senior vice-president of the ACT Australian Football League.
Essendon recruited Hird from Ainslie in the ACT and he played his first game in 1992.
He says his talent for the game started to show early but he never felt pressured by his father or grandfather to pursue an AFL career.
â€œMy dad used to take me down to the park and we used to kick the ball a lot so it was something I did as a kid and didn't really realise what I was doing,â€ he says.
â€œI suppose when I started to make a few representative sides my talent started to show a bit and I had a thought that maybe I might make it to the top.
â€œComing from Canberra it's pretty hard to expect you're going to play AFL footy because not many people from there make it. So it wasn't expected but luckily it happened. It was always something I wanted to do.â€
Hird is now 25, captain of Essendon and already being called a legend and arguably the game's most valuable player.
He seems to handle all the pressure with a real sense of grace.
It's not surprising he nominates former Essendon player Tim Watson as a role model because he â€œhas lived his life very graciously and succeeded without hurting anyoneâ€.
â€œI suppose, I mean, I don't feel like I'm a legend. I just feel like I'm a normal footballer trying to go about and earn a living and just living in a life that is great fun,â€ Hird says.
â€œPlaying with 40 other guys brings you down to earth pretty quickly because amongst them you're just one of many."
Does footy's Mr Perfect have a dark side?.
â€œThere are a few things but I think they'd better be kept quiet,â€ Hird jokes.
â€œI get very agitated when things don't go my way. I like to succeed and when that doesn't happen, I get a bit edgy."
Hird says being captain is an honor and he's hungry for a premiership as captain.
The 1993 grand final win remains his happiest sporting moment but it's a memory that is starting to fade.
He wants to relive the moment.
When we talk, Essendon has just played a practice game in Adelaide.
Hird was on for half the game and says he felt great.
He believes Essendon is a good chance for the grand final.
â€œI really think we've got the talent to get into a top four position and maybe into a grand final,â€ Hird says.
Over the years, Hird's grandfather has given him plenty of advice about football.
The advice he takes most to heart is that he alone can succeed or fail. It's all up to him.
Hird has his own advice for young players and it's something he sometimes forgets - enjoy yourself.
â€œI think a lot of people take their football and life, and probably I do too, a bit too seriously. I think you lose the reason you do it and that's to enjoy it,â€ Hird says.
â€œSo the two things are work hard and enjoy it. It's kind of a cliche but it's what I live by."