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AFL should have intervened: Mark Thompson

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Bomber Thompson says lessons must be learnt

Essendon's senior assistant coach Mark 'Bomber' Thompson treaded lightly when asked if he'd step up as coach but was adamant the club's future looked bright.

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Mark Thompson has confirmed that James Hird was warned by the AFL about the club's supplements program in 2011 but maintains that the league could have intervened in a stronger fashion to prevent the saga unfolding as it has.

We obviously went down a path. The alarm bells should have gone off in somebody's eyes. 

The charges against Essendon and four individuals released by the AFL last week claimed that Hird, among other allegations, was warned two years ago by the league's integrity manager Brett Clothier that peptides posed "a serious risk" to the competition.

Mark Thompson is escorted by security as he leaves AFL House on Tuesday.

Mark Thompson is escorted by security as he leaves AFL House on Tuesday. Photo: Getty Images

In the aftermath of the AFL Commission hearing where Hird came to an agreement with the league that he had contributed to Essendon's failure to ensure the welfare of its players, a forthright and candid Thompson said "alarm bells should have gone off in somebody's eyes" after Essendon's decision to follow the path of a controversial supplements program.

"James Hird went and inquired about peptides," Thompson told Channel Nine's Footy Classified on Tuesday night.

"They've sat down, talked to Hirdy, and said 'don't go down that path'. He's gone. We've gone down that path.

"He had the meeting. He's not saying he wasn't warned.

"We obviously went down a path. The alarm bells should have gone off in somebody's eyes."

But the Geelong premiership and senior assistant Essendon coach was firm in his belief that the AFL could have done more to help prevent problems earlier.

"The AFL knew about this problem ... and what I would really like is that if they did know about the problem, come and talk to the club. Come and look inside our club. Ask the questions. It might have been prevented."

Thompson said he had a lot of sympathy for Hird and he knew the club was in for a fight after the coach's solicitor reportedly told Hird to stand down in April.

"How did it get to that? From that point on when he said I thought 'wooo, we're in for a fight here'," Thompson said.

"The way he has been treated ... if people had just been really honest and come up and said 'this is the problem' ... it could have been dealt with better.

"If ever this happens again – any crisis, whether it's Essendon, supplements or another club with another issue, if we don't learn from this situation, then the game's going to be worse for it.

"If the AFL don't talk to us about how to handle it better ... because we were on the other end of it and getting a hammering all year, they'd be silly because we'd have a lot of answers for them."

Several Essendon figures have already called on Thompson to become the club's fill-in coach during Hird's suspension in 2014.

But Thompson said he hadn't given that much thought. "We haven't spoken about it once. I'm not sure what their intentions are. It's hard.

"After the two days I've had, it's hard to think what I really want to do. It has been a pretty intense two days."

The experienced coach also shed some light on his thoughts about Essendon when he returned to Windy Hill before the 2011 season.

"Everyone looks at Essendon as this great club," Thompson said.

"I walked into Essendon (and thought), we’re not a very good club, there’s a lot of areas we need to fix up, let’s get on with this job.

"Not just blaming the board, but … the football department, every part of how we were doing thing wasn’t up to a level that was going to get us back up to the top eight, top four, preliminary finals, grand finals."

Thompson defended the appointment of strength and conditioning coach Dean Robinson, saying no-one had wanted 'The Weapon' to leave when he worked under Thompson at Geelong.

"(Robinson) had the same role at Essendon that he had at Geelong, but Essendon wasn't a good enough club to manage him. That's our whole problem."

Despite the massive damage the supplements scandal had inflicted on the club, Thompson predicted the Bombers would bounce back quickly.

"This is a pretty bad day and it's been a bad year for the club in so many ways .... but on-field we feel like we've done a lot right.

"This is not the end of our season next year, or the year after. If anything it's going to make us stronger."

131 comments

  • Pretty simple really- Essendon thought they could get away with it, and didn't, now it's everyone else's fault. Just wear the consequences.

    Commenter
    Steveo
    Date and time
    August 28, 2013, 4:19PM
    • Stevo, its pretty obvious that Essendon are wearing the consequences when you look at the penalties that have been handed down. Gillon McLaughlin the deputy CEO of the AFL today agreed with Thompson and said the AFL must take some responsibility and he is happy to do that. So its not "everyone else's fault" as you state, but the fault of ALL stakeholders who knew of the issue. This includes EFC, the 4 individuals from the club, and the AFL...........

      Commenter
      Michael of Eynesbury
      Location
      Eynesbury
      Date and time
      August 28, 2013, 4:36PM
    • I agree - bit rich to go blaming the afl now!

      Commenter
      GuyR
      Date and time
      August 28, 2013, 4:36PM
    • Just like blaming Boieng for 911!

      Commenter
      Unimog61
      Date and time
      August 28, 2013, 4:45PM
    • Classic stuff Bombers.

      Governance is seen as one of their massive failings here.

      So what does the administration do? Give one guilty party a 2 year contract extension and appoint the other one as the new coach.

      The players must be really stupid if they stick by and let their health be risked by these muppets. Rats leave a sinking ship, so let's see the first ones go...

      Commenter
      Blues Man
      Date and time
      August 28, 2013, 4:50PM
    • Shift the blame! I haven’t heard the players were in the AFL offices getting regular unknown injections from Demetriou

      Commenter
      kendo
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      August 28, 2013, 5:05PM
    • And if the AFL had intervened then the club would have been up in arms about oversight and bulling by the AFL and infringing on their privacy, and intruding into club business and possible leaks of private information etc etc

      Give me strength.

      You knew it was wrong but you kept on doing it and got caught. Take it like a man and not a whiny child.

      Commenter
      Laffin
      Location
      SW Vic
      Date and time
      August 28, 2013, 5:11PM
    • My take on it, Hird, despite being warned against pushing the boundaries was hell bent on winning at all costs. This was a program designed to send Hird's massive ego into the stratosphere. He could almost smell it, an untried coach who was never an assistant coach, strolls in like the messiah and takes his club to a premiership in just his second year. As Robinson stated, Hird wanted to match Collingwood, but not through hard work, he wanted fame instantly. This is a guy who has happily soaked up the plaudits from the media and his worshipping fans for years. He has become a victim of his own ego, an ego allowed to grow to monolithic proportions because of the supporters misguided reverence for a man they do not know.

      Commenter
      Blues Man
      Date and time
      August 28, 2013, 5:20PM
    • Sounds like you all have selective hearing. Firstly he did not blame the AFL, Essendon have taken responsibility, hence the punishment handed down, or did you all forget about that bit. He was raising the question that the AFL new about this back in 2011, and did nothing else about it, but the AFL state that the health and well being of the players is first and foremost (as it should be). If the AFL truly believe this, then absolutely they should have done more. The AFL cannot say they did everything they could to prevent this. Gillon Mac has even admitted to this that there were failings by the AFL. Its a good idea to get some of your facts straight before banging on about Essendon deflecting the blame. Ridiculous.

      Commenter
      Boyd78
      Date and time
      August 28, 2013, 5:30PM
    • @Boyd78. The AFL told Hird not to go down that path and why. He went there anyway. They thought they were dealing with an adult not a petulant child. That was the only mistake made by the AFL.

      Commenter
      Ageist
      Date and time
      August 28, 2013, 5:45PM

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