The AFL world has reacted with shock to former AFL champion and premiership-winning coach Mark ‘Bomber’ Thompson being charged with drug trafficking and possession.
The 54-year-old was arrested and charged on Tuesday almost five months after police executed a warrant at his Port Melbourne home.
The Melbourne Magistrates’ Court heard that a range of drugs, including 134.6 grams of ecstasy, 33.1 grams of methyl amphetamine, an LSD tab, 5.6 grams of ephedrine and multiple Xanax tablets were found in a locked bedroom and loft study area inside the house.
Former Essendon champion Tim Watson, who played with Thompson at the Bombers and whose son Jobe was coached by Thompson at Essendon, said he was “in a state of disbelief” about the news.
“I can’t comprehend that the person that I played football with … could find himself in a situation that he’s found himself in now,” Watson said on SEN radio.
Watson said he had not spoken to Thompson much in recent years, but contacted him about a month ago to suggest they catch up for a coffee.
“There’s been a lot of us that have been concerned about him and I thought ‘OK, well it’s time to reach out and hopefully catch up’.
“I didn’t ever hear back from him but that is consistent with a lot of other people too.”
Watson said Thompson felt aggrieved about the Essendon supplements saga.
In 2013, the AFL charged Thompson along with Essendon senior coach James Hird, football manager Danny Corcoran and club doctor Bruce Reid with bringing the game into disrepute.
Thompson was fined $30,000 for his role in the affair.
“He was never able to put that behind him,” Watson said on Wednesday.
Jimmy Bartel, who played in the Geelong teams that Thompson coached to win the 2007 and 2009 AFL premierships, said he was saddened and upset by the news of the charges.
“He coached me for the first nine years of my career and completely shaped the way I played football,” Bartel said on Macquarie Sports Radio.
“The success I shared with him and the other coaches and players at Geelong is a massive part of my life.
“I’m sad and upset, and I feel sorry for his family because they’re the ones who have to go through it more than us,” he said.
Cameron Mooney, who was also a member of the premiership-winning Geelong sides, said Thompson had been a father figure to players.
“A lot of us got to the footy club at 18 or 20 years of age, and he was our father for ten years, helped us grow to men, taught us to play football, and we got the ultimate two premierships underneath him,” Mooney told Macquarie Sports Radio.
Prosecution argues Thompson ‘a flight risk’
Thompson has been charged with two counts of trafficking ecstasy and trafficking methyl amphetamine.
He has also been charged with possessing amphetamine, ecstasy and LSD, and possessing prescription drugs without a prescription.
Three other people were charged in January following the police search of Thompson’s property.
Thompson appeared in the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday and was granted bail on a $20,000 surety.
He was asked to surrender his passport and cannot leave Australia.
He must also report to South Melbourne police station three times a week, and not consume any drugs of dependence or communicate with his alleged co-accused.
During the bail application hearing, police prosecutors argued against granting him bail.
Detective Senior Constable Naomi Bourke told the court Thompson was a flight risk because he had access to large amounts of money and a yacht.
Thompson’s lawyer, David Hallowes SC, argued that bail should be granted, emphasising Thompson’s family ties to Melbourne.
Mr Hallowes said the charges would be vigorously denied.
As he left the court, Thompson would not comment on the charges.
“It was a big day and hopefully we get our chance to fight them,” he said.
Before winning two flags as a coach at Geelong, Thompson played 202 games for the Bombers, captaining the club and winning three premierships.
He returned to Essendon as an assistant under James Hird during the club’s disastrous supplements program, which saw 34 players suspended by anti-doping authorities.
Thompson took over the senior role for one season in 2014 while Hird served an AFL-imposed ban for bringing the game into disrepute, and left the club at the end of that year.
He will return to court on May 25.