James Hird

The Essendon drugs saga has enveloped the AFL season like a vampire squid. So much so that The Age and Herald Sun appear to have given up talking about the game itself. While the actions of embattled Essendon coach James Hird and his team of acolytes were no doubt dubious, the AFL's handling of the matter has been a textbook case of clueless management and public relations naivety.

In April, the AFL's highly paid chief executive, Andrew Demetriou, stood beside Justice Minister Jason Clare and Kate Lundy when the pair declared the 12-month Australian Crime Commission findings to be the "darkest day in Australian sport" (poignantly, both Clare and Lundy were later demoted from their roles after former prime minister Julia Gillard was dumped).