Mark Thompson Mark Thompson
Then Cats coach Mark Thompson, chief executive Brian Cook and Neil Balme in the aftermath of Geelong’s loss to Hawthorn in the 2008 grand final. Photo: Paul Rovere
Geelong chief executive Brian Cook strongly doubts the AFL would want Mark Thompson coaching Essendon next season.
And the long-time Cats boss says if it was his club, he’d want a senior coach who wasn’t involved in last year’s supplements saga.
A day after Port Adelaide president David Koch harangued the Bombers for their move to re-contract Hird – believing it was symptomatic of an ingrained lack of accountability at AFL clubs – Cook said he did not consider Thompson an appropriate candidate, because he too was punished by the AFL Commission for his association with the rogue supplements program.
Cook predicted the AFL would, for the same reason, be unhappy if two-time Cats premiership coach Thompson was elevated to acting senior coach of the Bombers for 2014.
“I’m not sure they [AFL executives and commissioners] would be overly happy . . . I shouldn’t be talking for them but that’s the impression I get,” Cook told The Sunday Footy Show.
“I don’t think it sends a great message.”
The AFL, in response, said the appointment of a senior coach for 2014 would solely be “a decision for Essendon”.
Cook said he had been surprised to discover how extensive Essendon’s supplements program had been, and backed the resulting penalties for Hird, Thompson, general manager of football Danny Corcoran and the club as a whole.
“I was surprised at the level of organisation of the supplements program, there’s no doubt about that. It’s not a once-off needle, it seems as though it was a well organised and planned system,” Cook said.
Cook, who has played the key role in reviving the once-stricken Cats and dramatically improving their Simonds Stadium headquarters, said he would have taken a very different tack in responding to such a penalty.
“If I was in the same position at Geelong I’m not so sure I’d prefer one of the people who’d been through it to be the senior coach, because our reputation would have been damaged to some degree. I think we’d need to claw that back,” he said. “I would have brought some fresh people in.”
Koch was unequivocal on Saturday in declaring his belief Essendon should not have sought to extend Hird’s contract from when his ban ends late next season.
“I know of no other business where, for want of a better description, a divisional chief executive is charged with that sort of behaviour and suspended for a year, and is part of that [receives a
commitment] ‘Oh, we’ll keep the job open for when you come back after the suspension – and we’ll extend your contract for another two years’,” Koch told ABC radio. “It wouldn’t happen at Port Adelaide. If we were in that position I would have stood down at the very beginning and the coach would never coach at Port Adelaide again.”
Koch said he had been “shocked” at what was uncovered not just by the AFL and its investigators but by Essendon’s internal review by former Telstra chief executive Ziggy Switkowski.
“You read that and think ‘Goodness, here’s a club that got a bit out of control, didn’t have the right processes in place’,” he said.
The president said he asked the Power’s highly regarded sports-science chief Darren Burgess, who joined them from English Premier League giant Liverpool, whether he had encountered a comparable supplements regime anywhere in the world as was told “not even close”.
“This gives us all a bad name. It affects our brand. That’s why the commission . . . had to deal with it quite harshly,” he said. “There are things bigger than footy. It is not a case of win at all costs . . . I don’t think that’s what the culture of a footy club should be. There are boundaries, and you’ve got to set a standard.”
First-year president Koch argued football clubs needed look at themselves and their staff more dispassionately, and act in more in line with general corporate standards.
“There’s a governance issue, there’s an integrity issue. Everyone knows each other in footy, that’s one of the things that’s surprised me. Everyone is . . . mates with each other, but a footy organisation has a real responsibility to the wider community and to set a standard in leadership and integrity,” he said.
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.