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Mark Thompson: Essendon players were vague and nervous

Essendon coach Mark Thompson has revealed his players were “a bit vague and nervous” when they were issued with show-cause notices by the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority, but has implored them to now focus on Sunday’s twilight clash against Melbourne at the MCG.

Ahead of training on Saturday morning, Thompson was prepared to answer several questions about the club’s fight to clear its name in wake of the protracted investigation by the national anti-doping authority.

Players were handed or emailed show-cause notices on Thursday, with Thompson declaring the club, led by chairman Paul Little, had been ready to handle this significant moment.

“The last 36 hours have been well organised, well planned, well communicated, by the club. The players are a little bit vague and nervous and you could see something was wrong,” Thompson said of Thurday's developments.

“But they have been given a lot of confidence by the club, Paul, the committee and the management of the football club. They have been in close contact and we have tried to look after it, the players, as well as we can. They are fine, they are ready for a game now.”

Essendon and suspended coach James Hird have taken separate action in the Federal Court, calling for an injunction to have the joint investigation by the AFL and ASADA quashed and branded unlawful. The Bombers’ case will be heard in Melbourne on June 27.


This comes as the 34 current and former players issued with show-cause notices technically have 10 days to respond and show why they should not be placed on the Register of Findings. However, Fairfax Media has learnt the players are pushing for an extension of up to six weeks.

Thompson said it was time to “back the players”.

“If it was your brother, sister or daughter, how would you feel? Please – back the boys,” he said.

ASADA chief Ben McDevitt has asked the 34 players to work with him, insisting they have a case to answer. He has floated the possibility of 75 per cent discounts on bans if they fully co-operated, a call which Tim Watson, the father of Bombers skipper Jobe, has said was “breathtakingly naïve” and “offensive” considering the players had told the truth "from day one".

Thompson said he spoke with Hird, in France at a business school, on Friday night but there was little chat about the impending court case.

 “We didn’t talk much. He is in France. I had friends over. He just asked how the players were, basically. He asked more about the team, how I was going, what have you been doing – I am on his watch – it wasn’t a long conversation,” he said.

In a statement, Hird has said: “I have always believed that no player at the EFC has taken performance enhancing drugs or broken, ASADA, WADA or AFL laws.

“I have been advised by my lawyers for a long time that the joint ASADA and AFL investigation was unlawful and outside the powers given to ASADA by the government.

“The legal system in Australia is a fundamental foundation  that our society is built on. If the legality of the joint investigation is in question it is important to me that the players and staff of the EFC are treated fairly in accordance with the laws that govern Australia.

“It is for this reason that I am issuing proceedings against ASADA and seeking the joint ASADA , AFL investigation be declared unlawful.”

Watson has said Hird may not be able to return as coach if infraction notices are issued.

Essendon great Matthew Lloyd has declared the Bombers’ season effectively over since the show-cause notices were issued, claiming the players would struggle to concentrate on on-field matters.

Thompson, though, says it is up to everyone at the club “to do your jobs”.

“We just turn up to work and talk about footy. We don’t actually talk about this ASADA thing that much. We just need to identify the guys who maybe are playing well and work with them and do our jobs,” he said.

“I am just imploring our whole football department to do your jobs as well as you can. We have got to concentrate on football.”