AN OUTSPOKEN advocate of James Hird says the former Essendon coach was devastated after being publicly savaged at a Christmas drinks function a few weeks ago.
According to The Herald Sun, Hird was berated by an Essendon supporter and the wife of a prominent judge in front of stunned guests at a private party last month.
Former cricketer and outspoken Hird advocate Bruce Francis tweeted that one woman "gave James both barrels over what she thought happened at Essendon".
"She made startling accusations, all baseless. She had no idea what she was talking about. Her comments had a devastating effect on James."
There have reportedly been several other incidents involving members of the public approaching Hird and his young family.
Hird's former lawyer Steven Amendola said on Friday, that the football world had forgiven former AFL stars who glassed their partners or slept with their best mate's wife, but seemingly not Hird.
Hird was reportedly feeling pressure to clear his name ahead of his hospitalisation on Wednesday from a suspected drug overdose.
Melbourne media have been camped outside the mansion the couple shares with their four children in the affluent suburb of Toorak, since news broke of Hird's hospitalisation on Thursday afternoon.
Seven News reported Ambulance Victoria was called to the Hirds home at 10.07pm on Wednesday to attend a "poisoning overdose".
The Brownlow medallist and Essendon premiership player was rushed to Cabrini Hospital in Malvern, before being transferred to a mental health facility for further treatment on Thursday morning.
Mrs Hird broke her silence with a brief statement released on her behalf on Friday afternoon, requesting that the family's privacy be respected as the family come to terms with Hird's hospitalisation.
"We wish to express our appreciation for the public support that has been given to James and our family since news of his hospitalisation became known," she said.
"At this time, James and the Hird family are in need of privacy.
"We ask that this privacy be respected.
"We particularly ask this of the media contingent currently gathered at our house.
"James' health is our primary focus and concern.
"We will be making no further comment."
Mrs Hird had earlier declined to make any comment to media camped outside the couple's home.
The cause of her husband's hospitalisation is still yet to be officially confirmed but has been reported as of a "serious and disturbing" nature.
Her statement came after Essendon Football Club chairman Lindsay Tanner released one on behalf of the club earlier in the day, also urging Hird's privacy be respected.
"On behalf of the entire Essendon family our thoughts are with James Hird and his family," Mr Tanner said.
"This is a personal and private matter and we ask the media to respect the privacy of James and his family."
"The club will continue to offer its support to James and the Hird family."
A former Essendon official expressed concerns about Hird's welfare late last year and was reportedly keeping in touch with him, worried about his mental health.
Beyondblue chairman Jeff Kennett described the incident as a "cry for help". "Assuming these stories have a basis of fact, this is a cry for help by an individual and I hope that he will get that help," Kennett told SEN.
"Quite clearly we don't know the circumstances, but when a young person - male or female - attempts to take their life, particularly with drugs, it is a cry for help.
"Without knowing the circumstances, this individual is a young man, (with a) family, obviously he has got circumstances he wishes to deal with, but you've heard me say so many times before, the greatest gift we have is the gift of life. Regardless of the circumstances with which we are facing ... life is by far the better option."
TOLL OF SUPPLEMENTS SAGA TESTED 'USUALLY UNSHAKABLE BONDS'
Hird was appointed Essendon coach at the end of 2010 but controversially oversaw the infamous 2012 supplements program at the club.
He served a 12-month ban from the game, charged by the AFL in 2013 with prejudicing the game for his role in the program. He resigned as coach in August 2015 but is still haunted by the fallout.
"Hird has lost many of the close relationships he formed with Essendon people," reports The Age's veteran AFL reporter Rohan Connolly.
"The most public of those was his falling out with former close mate and Bomber chairman David Evans. But there has also been a toll taken on the usually unshakable bonds between premiership teammates.
"Hird has been conspicuous by his absence at many of the reunions held by the 2000 premiership side he led to the single most successful season by a team in AFL history.
"He was a no-show again at the most recent, telling associates that he couldn't face some people who would be there.
"He has maintained ties with only a handful of teammates from that team. Many have attempted to contact him to offer their support in vain. Increasingly frustrated at not being allowed to help, some have switched off."
FALLOUT LEFT HIRD 'DEEPLY, DEEPLY SORRY'
Hird was a much-loved premiership player and Brownlow medallist at the club before his appointment as coach.
In 2012, Hird opened up about his time at Essendon, which included a controversy over supplement use within the club which was described by former Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority chief Richard Ings as "the blackest day in Australian sport".
"As both a former coach and player, I have many conflicting and deep emotions," Hird wrote.
"I feel deeply, deeply sorry for the players. I believe the players are innocent. I feel guilt, shame, anger and regret all at once.
"I also have some pride at what the players achieved in the most difficult of circumstances and admiration for the resilience and strength they have shown through these years.
"I trusted that the protocol was followed, that when I and others issued further instructions, they were followed.
"That's why if I were to do things differently, it would be to trust less, to ask more questions, and demand more answers."
Thoughts with James Hird & family. There's a human behind all high profile stories. Prolonged saga, scapegoats & all on his shoulders. Sad!— Will Davison (@will_davison) January 5, 2017
From personal experience I can assure you that speculation surrounding James Hird's health helps no one.— Glenn Mitchell (@MitchellGlenn) January 5, 2017
If media are door stopping Hird family members at this heart breaking time then that is exceedingly uncaring.— Richard Ings (@ringsau) January 5, 2017
James Hird is a father of four. So four kids came close to not having a dad and people still want to have a go. What world are we living in?— Lachie Young (@lachie_young) January 5, 2017
It shouldn't be hard to seperate your views on the Essendon saga and have empathy for James Hird and his family.— Herbert Hodgson (@herberthodgson) January 5, 2017
Thoughts with James Hird and family at this time. Couldn't give a stuff who thinks what about these past years - a legend of the game.— Jock Reynolds (@jock_reynolds) January 5, 2017
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