James Hird’s wife Tania has issued a short statement in the wake of his health scare, thanking the public for its support and pleading for privacy.
Essendon have also thrown their support behind their former AFL coach, who is understood to be recovering from an overdose.
The 43-year-old Hird, a father of four, was hospitalised on Wednesday night and was reportedly continuing to receive care at a mental health facility on Friday.
“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,” Tania Hird 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.”
She added they would make no further comment.
Essendon chairman Lindsay Tanner said the club would continue to support Hird and his family.
“On behalf of the entire Essendon family our thoughts are with James Hird and his family,” Tanner said in a statement.
“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.”
Hird’s hospitalisation has revived a troubled past that Essendon had hoped to leave behind.
They have welcomed back 10 players who last season served doping suspensions stemming from the supplements scandal that unfolded during Hird’s tenure.
The Bombers trained for about two hours at their Tullamarine base on Friday, with senior players including captain Jobe Watson and his likely successor Dyson Heppell declining to comment on Hird’s situation.
Former Hawthorn president Jeff Kennett, chair of mental health group Beyond Blue, said it appeared Hird needed help.
Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley did not reference Hird directly but took to Twitter to urge the public against making personal attacks on sportspeople.
“The presumption that people who play sport well are bullet proof allows personal attacks hidden behind ‘public interest’,” Buckley tweeted.
“Keep us honest and critically analyse professional efforts but allow clubs to manage and support people in their brilliance and foibles.”
Former North Melbourne player Wayne Schwass, a mental health campaigner, slammed media coverage as insensitive, also taking aim at the news outlets stationed outside Hird’s Melbourne home.
Hird resigned as Essendon coach in August 2015 with his reputation irreparably damaged by the supplements saga.
Before the scandal he had been one of the AFL’s most respected players, with his glittering career featuring two premierships and a Brownlow Medal.
Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.
MensLine Australia 1300 78 99 78.