Hird the one about the exiled coach?

ESSENDON is playing its cards close to its chest about whether the suspended James Hird will be back in the coaching box next month.

Hird, who was banned for 12 months for his role in the Bombers' supplements scandal, is able to return to the club on August 25.

Reports have suggested the Essendon hierarchy have talked internally about Hird's return, but assistant coach Simon Goodwin said yesterday he had not been part of any such discussions.

"I think when James gets back … he'll sit down with the footy club and discuss the best role for the footy club," Goodwin said while standing in for head coach Mark Thompson at a press conference yesterday.

"Whether that's coming straight back into the fold or whether that's holding out 'til the end of the year, we'll just have to wait and see."

Hird (pictured) has been studying in France and is expected to return to Melbourne later this month.

Goodwin said the talk surrounding Hird would not affect the Bombers, who stormed back into the top eight last week, and they would be well-prepared for the next few games starting with tomorrow afternoon's clash with the Western Bulldogs at Etihad Stadium.

The Bulldogs have won three of its past five matches, including a stirring effort in Cairns last week to defeat the Gold Coast Suns.

Goodwin said half-back Michael Hibberd would return after missing two matches with an ankle injury, while Brendon Goddard, who has served a one-match suspension, would also play.

Queenslander Courtenay Dempsey will play his 100th game for the Bombers.