James Hird: ‘I couldn’t dig myself out of this hole’
FOOTBALL clubs are made up of people, not buildings or facilities, most of whom are passionate about their roles.
Players, administrators, volunteers — the passers-through — are, in my experience, some of the most passionate people I have met.
Then there are the supporters who, unlike the before-mentioned, are lifers. Most are supporters from birth and hold the club in their hearts. They carry the flame from one generation to the next, mostly regardless of success or failure.
Occasionally, a son or daughter chooses their own club, much to their parents’ angst. For the passers-through and the lifers, what has happened at Essendon and to Essendon will never be forgotten. But the dawn of a new era is upon the club.
This season, Essendon, led by John Worsfold and Dyson Heppell, will bring its supporters a new start and incredible joy.
We all hope for a premiership, but just to see the red and black play with its best players and unencumbered will be something I, for one, am looking forward to.
This year, I have been given a wonderful opportunity to write for the Herald Sun about sport and life. Four years as a senior coach and two in the wilderness have changed my perspective on life and the game.
I was not a student of the football in 2016, and have some catching up to do, but I look forward to engaging with footy people again and immersing myself in the great game of AFL.
This is my first article of the year and I have been asked to touch on the events that lead to me spending five weeks in the Albert Road Clinic — a Melbourne psychiatric facility.
The words “psychiatric facility” conjure up images of crazy people strapped to tables or walking around in drug-induced comas.
The reality is that the clinic, and others like it, are very different to this and are essential to our community.
It was life-changing for me.
Certainly, it was no holiday camp but provided a supportive, welcoming, safe and caring environment and allowed me to receive the treatment I needed. I am eternally grateful for the outstanding professional support I received from the nurses and doctors.
Everyone has a breaking point and I reached mine after years of continual stress. I am not ashamed to say that I needed the care I received and without it I do not know where I would be. Depression is more than just sadness.
It is an all-encompassing, debilitating, real sickness that strikes many people.
In 2002, I fractured my skull and required multiple metal plates in my head. I, for one, would prefer multiple skull fractures to the feeling of deep clinical depression. My first call to beyondblue in 2015 was an admission I needed help but it took until January 4, 2017, when I took too many sleeping tablets, to truly accept that I could not dig myself out of this hole.
Life has taught me a lot about strength, weakness and how people deal with situations. Strength comes in many forms and I have seen many incredible athletes who possess a strength of character that is abnormal.
I have never seen or witnessed a person as strong as Tania. Her unconditional, all-encompassing love, positivity, strength and ability to keep rising to the challenges that have been put in front of our family has been extraordinary.
Over the past four years, I have been short-tempered, distant, hard to live with, rude at times, and ill.
Tania, my children, my extended family and friends have loved, supported and cared for me when I didn’t deserve their support.
It is the unconditional love and care alongside the professional attention that has given me a second chance at life. I am an extremely lucky man to get a second chance and I am embracing it with everything I have. The Essendon theme for this year is about their comeback story. I can’t wait to watch the comeback for many reasons.
But mostly to see the smile on the Essendon supporters’ faces. To see the lifers, who have followed Essendon and will continue to follow Essendon come what may, enjoy the footy. For them I hope 2017 is a great year on the field.
Bring on 2017 and the year of the comeback.