Sport AFL Why Bomber’s the best option for Essendon
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Why Bomber’s the best option for Essendon

Mark Thompson
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Former Richmond and Western Bulldogs coach Terry Wallace declared Mark ‘Bomber’ Thompson should keep hold of the reins at Essendon next season.

Wallace believes the club should appoint Thompson permanently, instead of reinstating suspended coach James Hird.

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HBO struggles to produce drama as good as a Mark Thompson press conference. Photo: Getty

The decision, Wallace said, was a “no-brainer”.

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“If I’m sitting there as the president of the footy club, I’m picking Bomber Thompson,” Wallace said on SEN.

“Just have a look at the record of the two people.

Forget Breaking Bad or Orange is the New Black – the most compelling vision seen on our television screens in 2014 is the 6-10 minutes Bomber Thompson spends with reporters after an Essendon game.

“I think the question’s very, very easy.”

It’s a philosophy beautiful in its simplicity – don’t mess with a winning formula. Wallace is onto something.

It’s an approach the boffins down at Collingwood couldn’t quite grasp, when they opted to inject some younger blood at the expense of a man who’d taken them to the grand final in each of the final two years of his contract.

Watching Thompson twitch his way through a press conference like he’s trying to shed his skin, he looks like a burnout – ravaged by the pressures of day-to-day coaching and the toll of the club’s supplement dramas.

Unlike Hird, the slickest of media operators, Thompson is resolutely himself. The media manager out at The Hangar no doubt has a few grey hairs on account of Bomber.

Forget Breaking Bad or Orange is the New Black – the most compelling vision seen on our television screens in 2014 is the 6-10 minutes Bomber Thompson spends with reporters after an Essendon game. Reflective, funny, informative and utterly engrossing – Thompson transcends management.

His appearance on Footy Classified last year on the day his club was sanctioned by the AFL for their ‘pharmacologically experimental’ supplements program was unmissable.

However unsure of the future the Bombers may be feeling, Thompson hasn’t let the wheels come off in the same way Hird did.

It could, of course, be the fact that a young list has had another year to mature. Big, strong bodies are needed to grind out results in the dead of winter.

Hird is clearly no mug – he had the Bombers sitting at 13-3 last season and challenging for top spot.

But Essendon’s capitulation towards the end of 2013 under the weight of the investigation was steep.

In Round 13 this season, when the Bombers were woeful in a two-point loss to Melbourne – three days after ASADA issued 34 current and former players with show-cause notices – it looked as though things would head exactly the same way.

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Jake Carlisle turned in a 19-mark performance against Collingwood. Photo: Getty

But Thompson, after the match, would not hear anything of the distraction.

Talk’s pretty cheap isn’t it? If you don’t get out there on the weekend and just do it.

“It’s not an excuse in my eyes … we’ve been smashed for, like, two years,” he said.

Instead, he pointed to the players’ inability to stick to the game plan as the reason for the loss.

“Whether it’s a good plan or a bad plan, whether it’s working or not, if you don’t stick to it, then you’ve got no chance because you get a whole group of blokes just doing what they want,” Thompson said.

“Talk’s pretty cheap isn’t it? If you don’t get out there on the weekend and just do it.”

Talk is pretty cheap, unless it’s Bomber who’s doing the talking.

Over the past four weeks the Bombers have just done it. They’ve gone out and beaten the Crows, Port (in Adelaide) and Collingwood, and ran the Cats damned close as well.

Thompson has resolutely persisted with Jake Carlisle in attack, and he hit pay dirt on the weekend with a Carey-esque performance.

And it’s all been done without their best player, skipper Jobe Watson.

No Hird? No worries.

To get rid of Hird would be a massive financial and cultural outlay for the Bombers – his name is part of the fabric, and the fanatics are still counting down the days until the prodigal son returns.

But why mess with a winning combination?

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