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'Biggest regret': Caroline Wilson opens up on 'horrible' James Hird blunder

Chris Young
·Sports Reporter
·3-min read
AFL journalist Caroline Wilson says a 2014 report incorrectly stated James Hird had been sacked as coach of the Essendon Bombers as one of the biggest regrets in her career. Pictures: Channel 9/Getty Images
AFL journalist Caroline Wilson says a 2014 report incorrectly stated James Hird had been sacked as coach of the Essendon Bombers as one of the biggest regrets in her career. Pictures: Channel 9/Getty Images

Veteran AFL reporter Caroline Wilson has opened up about her ‘biggest regret’ as a journalist in a revealing segment in Channel Nine program Footy Classified.

Wilson was a key figure in the reporting surrounding the Essendon Bombers’ supplements scandal throughout 2013, but it was a 2014 report about the future of then coach James Hird that she cited as her lowest moment in the business.

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The Age published a story written by Wilson in October of 2014 under the headline ‘James Hird removed as Essendon coach’ - the problem was that he hadn’t.

In fact, Hird would continue to coach the embattled club up until August the following year - leaving Wilson and the newspaper searching for answers.

Wilson stood by her story, arguing that she had been told by sources on the Essendon board before publishing that Hird was indeed on the way out.

The following day a story was published under the headline ‘Day of execution becomes stay of execution’, as well as other coverage downplaying the potential for Hird to leave the club, but the damage had been done.

The day after the initial story Wilson published a follow-up article in which she admitted and pologised for the scoop about Hird being incorrect, but maintained her information was right at the time.

“This columnist regrettably reported wrongly that Hird had already been removed. It was an error of timing but still an error,” Wilson wrote.

Caroline Wilson opens up on ‘big regret’

The Australian Press Council ultimately found the story breached its standards following a series of complaints, and discussing the saga on Footy Classified, Wilson admitted it continued to weigh heavily on her.

“It was disappointing because it was wrong,” she said, saying it was an ‘easy’ choice as the worst moment of her career.

“At the time I wrote it there were key people on the board who told me it had happened. I suspect that maybe it had happened and then they changed their mind, I don’t know what happened,” she said.

James Hird is pictured announcing he will no longer coach the Essendon Bombers during a 2015 press conference.
James Hird announced he would no longer coach the Bombers in 2015, nearly a year after a report suggesting he had been sacked was published. (Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images)

“My bad, I got it wrong. It never appeared in the paper, it did appear online for an hour or two.

“I came on Footy Classified that night and (AFL reporter) Damian Barrett absolutely smashed me, like went ballistic at me. It was horrible and I felt bad.

“I felt I’d done such a good job on the Essendon drug scandal story with The Age and all the journos I worked with on it, so that was a big regret.”

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