MARK THOMPSON TO TAKE TIME OFF, MAY WELL LEAVE GEELONG BUT NOT TO THE
GEELONG CATS COACH MARK 'BOMBER' THOMPSON has been relieved of duties on a temporary basis after 'burnout' and may well leave the job on a permanent basis, but will not go to Essendon according to CATS CEO Brian Cook. After rumours swept the AFL world earlier today (see earlier article) the Cats arranged a press conference, initially for 2pm and later pushed back to 3, where it was expected to announce he was quitting for the Bombers, however a leak from within the club an hour or so before was the first signs Thompson was simply going to quit altogether.
Cook said he met with Thompson as late as 11 this morning to discuss his concerns, by which time the airwaves and electronic media were buzzing with a story that ironically enough pushed James Hird's signing as Essendon coach down the pecking order as a side issue.
Cook said "Mark has indicated that at the end of the season he feels exhausted and wants to reassess his coaching future. He has told me that the issue isn't whether he goes to Essendon or any other club, but rather if he wishes to continue coaching at all.
"The club has advised Mark to speak to his closest associates before he makes any decision on his coaching future at Geelong. The club has indicated to Mark that we hope he fulfils his contract, but only if he is fully committed to coaching."
Along with other top brass and coaches, Football GM Neil Balme was on hand to answer questions, and said "It does come as a shock but I believe everything he said. He's not just stacking on an act. He's a bit puffed out and he needs to think about whether he wants to do it."
Cook said he needs a decision 'sooner rather than later", but that that does not mean tomorrow, but the weekend is certainly "getting closer" to later, being trade week. "We've got list management meetings, player contracts, selection of new staff. There are lots of issues, so we need an answer soon. While we have some flexibility we can't have a lot because of the sake of the club."
Cook also confirmed Thompson had been approached by the Dons and although that did come from the Essendon officials, much of the lobbying was done by past players. "In Mark's own words, he doesn't wish to go there".
FULL GELONG PRESS RELEASE
Geelong CEO Brian Cook and coach Mark Thompson met this morning.
Following that meeting, Brian Cook has the following statement.
Mark has indicated that at the end of the season he feels exhausted and wants to reassess his coaching future.
He has told me that the issue isnt whether he goes to Essendon or any other Club, but rather if he wishes to continue coaching at all.
The Club has advised Mark to speak to his closest associates before he makes any decision on his coaching future at Geelong.
The Club has indicated to mark that we hope he fulfils his contract, but only if he is fully committed to coaching.
We expect a decision from Mark sooner than rather than later. In the meantime we will inform all of our stakeholders of this recent development.
Cats' leadership including President Frank Costa and CEO Brian Cook were unavailable for comment this morning, having been in 'crisis talks' in dealing with Thompson's request. As recently as last night Costa assured Geelong fans "he (Thompson) will be back" for next season.
Thompson is contracted 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 have, in the absence of any compensation package between the Cats and the Bombers (and Hird's Gemba?) precluded 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 was ultimately behind the initial story, having confirmed to several journalists this morning Thompson would be marching in to resign today. However even they were wrong-footed by what actually occured.
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.