‘People make mistakes’: Honour for flag coach

Former premiership-winning player and coach Mark “Bomber” Thompson will return to the AFL fold with a special role on grand final day.

Thompson, who coached Geelong to two premierships after winning three flags with Essendon, has accepted the league’s invitation to present the Jock McHale Medal to the winning coach at the post-game presentation.

It will be Thompson’s most notable public return to the game since his conviction for drug possession in 2019 that had been the culmination of a period of drug abuse he linked to a downwards spiral following his stint as an assistant coach at the Bombers during the supplements saga.

Thompson was not present at the event on Monday when AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan announced his role and those of premiership cup presenter Josh P. Kennedy and Norm Smith Medal presenter Chris Judd.

Thompson reconnected with former Essendon teammates earlier this year for the 30-year reunion of the 1993 premiership side at the MCG.

McLachlan said he was “thrilled” that Thompson had agreed to be involved in the season decider, calling it a deserving celebration of his career as a player and coach.

“I won’t speak for Mark, but I think in our game, people make mistakes. I think we have an ability to actually welcome people back and continue to celebrate their place and their role in the game, and that is certainly where Mark is,” McLachlan said.

“He was a great player and a significant coach, and I’m really pleased he’s going to be presenting the trophy to the premiership coach.

“I hope it’s significant for Mark, and I think it’s significant for the game.”

Weeks away from departing as the AFL’s chief executive, McLachlan said he was “optimistic” a new AFLW CBA could be struck with the AFL Players’ Association this month.

“For those who think time is a pressure point, it’s not – I’m optimistic we’ll get it done, we’re pretty close,” he said.

“I think it will get done, but if it doesn’t, (incoming chief executive Andrew Dillon) and the team will pick it up.”

McLachlan said he was pleased by the achievements in his final year that included awarding Tasmania the 19th AFL licence and finding what he said was a solution to the Hawthorn racism investigation saga, which had led to him extending his tenure for 12 months.

“I’m thrilled to be leaving with record crowds, community football was pumping on the weekend, the AFLW was unbelievable with crowds on the weekend,” he said.

“I’m thrilled to be leaving with Tassie done, hopefully the CBA, feels good … and it would be remiss if I didn’t mention the Hawthorn piece, I’m very pleased to have solved that, and that was a big part of me staying around, to finish that … it felt uncomfortable at this time last year, leaving with that unresolved.”

Originally published as AFL finals 2023: Mark Thompson’s public return at grand final

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