‘Every person knew’ of Bomber’s ‘secret’
FORMER AFL coach Grant Thomas has sensationally claimed senior AFL figures turned a blind eye when Mark Thompson "was on some gear" during his coaching career.
The former St Kilda mentor called on Geelong to take responsibility for failing to take action when he says it was well known in the industry that Thompson was allegedly using drugs.
Thompson was granted bail after appearing in the Melbourne Magistrates Court on Tuesday after quantities of methamphetamine, ecstasy, LSD and MDMA were allegedly found in plastic bags within his bedroom during a January police raid on his Port Melbourne home.
He has been charged with seven drug-related offences - including trafficking and possession - and will return to court later this month.
Thomas said on Thursday he first heard rumours of Thompson "using gear" during his own coaching career between 2001 and 2006.
Thompson began his senior coaching career with Geelong in 2000 and guided the club to premierships in 2007 and 2009.
Thomas claimed on Thursday tough questions must be asked of Geelong for failing to address Thompson's demons before his departure from the club in 2010 where he signed on as rookie Bombers coach James Hird's senior assistant.
Former Cats president Frank Costa earlier admitted he noticed Thompson's life began to unravel towards the end of his Cats coaching tenure, as early as 2009.
A marriage breakdown, an anxiety-riddled property deal and a cloak-and-dagger approach from his former club Essendon combined to produce some worryingly erratic behaviour in Thompson towards the end of his decade-long reign at the Cats.
"I saw it (erratic behaviour) towards the finish at Geelong, in 2010, and more since," Costa told afl.com.au.
"I think that's happened because his mind has been badly scrambled. I think those three things that I mentioned that happened to him in 2010 were too much for him."
Thomas' claim on Thursday purported the Cats had known about Thompson's problems much earlier.
He said he was flabbergasted the AFL allowed Essendon to recruit "Bomber" as Hird's mentor when rumours of a drugs connection were so widely known.
The Essendon supplements scandal - that tore apart the Bombers and saw Thompson fined $30,000 for his involvement - also took a heavy human toll.
Careers were lost. Relationships were fractured. Coach James Hird was suspended for 12 months and a few years later would end up in hospital after a drug overdose.
Thompson coached his heart out to guide the Bombers to a finals appearance in Hird's absence in 2014, but behind the scenes he continued to fray.
The Australian reported the Bombers were so concerned about his increasingly erratic behaviour in his final year at the club that they kept a record of a number of bizarre incidents, including a time he was missing an hour before a game he coached and the day he was found sleeping in his car.
"I know that in the time he was at Essendon as one of the assistant coaches when he first arrived, they were concerned about his behaviour," Essendon legend and former Thompson teammate Tim Watson told SEN.
"People say all these problems started when he went to Essendon, that's not true. The Geelong people will tell you they were concerned about components of his behaviour.
"They never really went into detail, it was just his lifestyle choices that he was making around that time.
"When he arrived at Essendon during that period of time, they quizzed him, they asked him direct questions about things that were going on and he denied everything at that time."
Both The Australian and Herald Sun have reported Essendon made the extraordinary step of asking Thompson if he was using drugs - which he denied.
Thompson left Essendon at the end of 2014 but his transition to life after football was problematic as he began a media career that never felt comfortable.
He appeared regularly on AFL 360 but host Mark Robinson said those visits were punctuated by more troubling behaviour.
"Some nights, smoke in hand, he would be jovial and joking, half crazy with enthusiasm, and that was Bomber at his best," Robinson wrote in the Herald Sun.
"Other nights, and they became frequent, he would be angry and disillusioned, crazy with rage ...
"Smoke in hand, he'd talk about his marriage troubles, how he would hound the internet at 4am for information to help try to clear his name, and of people at the AFL and at Essendon who he felt had been treacherous."
Bombers legend Kevin Sheedy, who coached Essendon when Thompson captained the Bombers to the 1993 flag, on Thursday night said Geelong changed Thompson.
"I think the supplement saga at Essendon hasn't helped him," Sheedy told The Footy Show.
"Definitely it didn't help James Hird. I think that's all going to play out within the next five to six years.
"The club (Essendon) have been tremendous for Mark. Geelong was a wonderful club for him. When he left Essendon he never come back to Essendon the same person."