Here's a recap of the main points from the Essendon media conference:
- Essendon has confirmed Mark Thompson will coach the AFL club next season. Thompson will fill in for the year for James Hird, who is serving a 12-month suspension over last year’s supplements saga.
- While Hird's suspension ends in late August, the Bombers were adamant that Thompson will be in charge for the entire season.
- They have also appointed former Adelaide coach Neil Craig as their head of coaching development and strategy and upgraded Simon Goodwin to senior assistant. Craig has most recently been employed at the Melbourne Football Club.
- Bombers chairman Paul Little guaranteed Hird would return to the top job at Essendon in 2015.
Mark Thompson was quick to point out that the club would not be breaking any rules by speaking with suspended coach James Hird in the next 12 months.
"We're going to play by the rules and James is OK with that, it's not that we're not going to talk to him, we're allowed to be friends, but he's not going to have any active involvement in how the team's going," Thompson said.
Fascinatingly, Thompson - who has waxed and waned with his enthusiasm for being the interim coach, said he wanted to take on the role for after not being satisfied with his performance over the past three years.
"I think I've been a little bit disappointing in my role over the last three years, I haven't achieved what I've wanted to achieve, If I walked away right now, I probably haven't achieved what I set out to achieve, and that was to make Essendon a better football club," he said.
Essendon coach James Hird takes advice from Mark Thompson. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo
A former Cat, Cam Mooney, speaks in admiration about his former coach at that club down the highway:
Paul Little reveals that James Hird told him it would be 'unwise' for him to return and take the reins near the end of 2014. That's why Mark Thompson steps up as interim coach for the whole season.
Neil Craig has been named in the newly established position of Head of Coaching Development and Strategy for the next two years. #godons — Essendon FC (@Essendon_FC) October 10, 2013
Mark Thompson is quizzed about potential recruits to the club during the trade period. The name of Paul Chapman is quickly mentioned. 'Bomber' immediately admits they would consider getting the former Cat to the club.
Essendon's Paul Little unveils Mark Thompson as interim senior coach and Neil Craig director of coaching & strategy. pic.twitter.com/qwGe0R43kq — Jesse Hogan (@Jesse_Hogan) October 10, 2013
Neil Craig has got a two-year deal to join the Bombers, taking on the new role of director of coaching and strategy.
Paul Little has just confirmed that Mark Thompson will be interim senior coach for the ENTIRE 2014 season, meaning that when James Hird's suspension expires (close to the end of the home-and-away season) Hird won't return immediately as the main man for the finals (should they make it).
"He won't have any active involvement," Little said about Hird and the club in 2014.
And Thompson reiterated that he can maintain contact with Hird next year, but he won't have any official involvement in the club. "We won't break any rules," Thompson said.
Mark Thompson says he spoke to a lot of people about the decision to take on the interim role.
"Clearly they wanted a coach that wasn't going to sit idle," he said.
"I'm very committed and excited."
Mark Thompson and the club's new director of coaching and strategy Neil Craig. Photo: Getty Images
"The two gentlemen sitting beside me are the 'pick of the crop'," Little said, referring to Mark Thompson and Neil Craig. Naturally.
Paul Little: "James Hird was not involved in the process (of finding a new coach) .... I just want to make that clear."
Paul Little makes special mention of assistant Simon Goodwin, who was a candidate for the senior coaching role. "Simon (Goodwin) was a very strong candidate for the role ... He has been promoted to a senior assistant role ... Before much longer he will become a senior coach in the AFL."
The two men seated with Paul Little are ... surprise, surprise .... Mark Thompson and Neil Craig.
Essendon chairman Paul Little is speaking first .... He has put a 'condition' on the press conference. "We don't talk about the ASADA investigation," he tells the assembled media pack.
"On balance it has been a year of highs and lows."
"2014 has not been a 'gap year' and I mean that seriously."
There have been so many headlines surrounding Mark Thompson and the Essendon Football Club in recent months since the Bombers were dealt severe penalties for their controversial supplements program. One of the more telling moments came on the same night the punishments were confirmed when Thompson, in a compelling TV interview, 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.
Mark Thompsonarrives at AFL House this afternoon. Photo: Getty Images
Well, what a calendar year for the Essendon Football Club. Who thought that when premiership coach Mark Thompson opted to leave Geelong and become a senior assistant at the Bombers that eventually he would step in and have to fill James Hird's shoes for a season? It will be fascinating to hear what Thompson has to say this afternoon.
Matthew Lloyd had the early running ...
Essendon assistant coach Mark Thompson will be officially appointed interim senior coach of the club on Thursday afternoon, with a media conference called for 4pm at Windy Hill.
Neil Craig, whose departure from Melbourne was announced on Thursday morning, is expected to join the Bombers to assist Thompson. Leigh Tudor, who was interviewed for the interim role to replace James Hird and presented to the full Essendon board, has joined North Melbourne as assistant coach, having left the Sydney Swans.
Former Essendon forward Matthew Lloyd said on Wednesday that he thought Thompson was now ready to take on the senior coaching job while Hird serves his 12-month suspension for his part in the Essendon supplements scandal.
''What I've been told is that his current frame of mind is that he's hungry and he's ready to do it. He's got his mind around doing it,'' said Lloyd on 3AW.
Thompson had expressed doubts last month about his desire to take on the job, but had been endorsed by Hird as the ideal candidate.