SET TO LEAVE GEELONG TO JOIN JAMES HIRD AT ESSENDON?
GEELONG COACH MARK 'BOMBER' THOMPSON is set to break his contract and join Essendon as mentor to their new coach James Hird, if you believe the rumours sweeping across Melbourne and Geelong this morning. A press conference has been hastily scheduled for 3PM (pushed back from 2PM) this afternoon. The worst kept secret in football since Gary Ablett met with the Gold Coast was confirmed today when Essendon formally announced Hird as their new coach, who last night on Fox Sports' On the Couch admitted he had thrown his 'hat into the ring'. Hird also said he had not spoken to Thompson 'yet' and then muttered something about Bomber being under contract, something which would not preclude him from joining the Bombers in reality. UPDATE GEELONG COACH MARK THOMPSON TO TAKE TIME OFF, MAY WELL LEAVE GEELONG BUT NOT TO THE BOMBERS
Cats' leadership including President Frank Costa and CEO Brian Cook have been unavailable for comment this morning and are reported to be in 'crisis talks' in an attempt to warn off the Bombers and convince 'Bomber' to stay. As recently as last night Costa assured Geelong fans "he (Thompson) will be back" for next season.
Thompson is contract to the end of the 2011 season and has made no bones about wanting to leave coaching at this time to concentrate on his considerable business interests. However he also has an 'out' clause in his contract, although this does come with a decent notice period (up to 3 months) which would preclude him from taking any official role at Essendon this side of trade week and both drafts.
The Essendon board leaks like the proverbial sieve and is ultimately behind this story, having confirmed to several journalists this morning Thompson would be marching in to resign today.
The Cats are also set to lose star Gary Ablett this week in one of the most drawn-out and orchestrated AFL affairs in recent memory, Ablett wanting to 'enjoy' this Thursday night's best and fairest before presumably announcing Friday morning he's packing the surf board for the Gold Coast Suns.
In other support staff news, Geelong announced they would not be renewing the contract of fitness manager Paul Haines, who took over in the aftermath of the messy sacking of Loris Bertolacci and the ordinary 2006 season.
EDITED BOMBERS PRESS RELEASE
James Hird said: I am very proud and feel privileged to coach the club I have barracked for, played for, and loved for the whole of my life.
The Essendon Football Club is the most successful football club in the AFL but while it is right to be respectful of the past, it is fatal to be haunted by history.
My desire is to bring the best coaching team available to this club to develop, teach and improve our list so sooner rather than later our great club can again have success.
We need to unite the club so that we stand as one proud, united and excited by the future.
Just as I will be asking every one of our players to be giving a bit more and working harder, I will also be asking all of our members to step up and support the club. We also have 1 million supporters and I am asking them take the next step join up, be a member and help our great club build to success.