Tuesday, December 7, 2010

"Bomber" Thompson's strange rhetoric

Mark Thompson is unrepentant as to the manner in which he left Geelong in October. No surprises there. In fact, in today's Age he actually came off sounding as if he was the one who was wronged in the messy marriage-breakup that was his exit from the Cattery.

His quotes in that newspaper are telling as words like "I can look myself in the mirror and just say I'm happy with everything that I've done" and "I gave anything I could possibly give. I walked away from a very lucrative contract" give an insight into his mindset: mildly hurt and surprised by the furore his decision has generated. But what he fails to realise is that by defending himself in this manner, he can only further infuriate the Cats supporters who saw his last season derailed by the constant circus surrounding Gary Ablett's possible move to the Gold Coast. Ablett eventually walked and so did Thompson. It's probable the Geelong faithful will wish the Brownlow Medallist more good favour than their former coach. It's also likely that Li'l Gary's departure will be seen as a much lesser act of disloyalty.

Because make no bones about it, Thompson tried to curry favour with both board and public in order to rid himself of his obligation to Geelong and re-join his former club Essendon. By claiming burn out, he didn't lie but withheld portions of the truth so as to reflect more sympathetically. He's re-stated his lack of desire to continue as a senior coach and thus feels justified, but by claiming ill-health - which is what burn-out equates to - only to re-surface a mere month later at another club makes him look economical with the truth.

There's little doubt that "Bomber" was burnt out. Indeed, in his interview yesterday he looked very well, rested and much healthier than he did during almost all of his stint at Kardinia Park. This can only back up his side of the story but from the outside it looks very much as if Thompson's head was turned toward Bomberland by all that he sought: less stress, re-uniting with a former club and a new challenge. When he realised the grass was greener back in Melbourne, it was down to him to engineer an excuse for leaving.

It's often said that some coaches are re-building masters and others don't have the stomach for that aspect of the job. Thompson had been the coach at Geelong for a decade and the reconstruction of that Cats side from afterthought to Premiers took the best part of those ten years by which time he was facing another remodelling. The fact that many of his best players are approaching retirement meant a bevy of personnel decisions and probable rebuilding from scratch. To be blunt, he just wasn't up for it.

Perhaps ten years of intense scrutiny in the fishbowl of Corio Bay took it's toll. Most tellingly of all, Thompson yesterday said "Being a senior coach, you just get criticised very heavily a lot of the times in your life and you almost become immune to it and that’s where I’m at" before continuing to say "I don’t have a problem with Geelong at all. If they have (with me) it's their problem. I gave anything I could possibly give. I walked away from a very lucrative contract ...".

Therein lies the problem: Thompson feels no remorse because he's been pilloried so heavily over the years that his response is one of a learned behaviour: go with his instincts and stick to any decision he makes. The criticism has given him such a thick skin that even he struggles to see through it. Thompson is happy with everything that he's done only because he's been desensitised by the scrutiny he's endured, even to the point of refusing to examine his decision-making process.

Were he to look at his departure objectively then perhaps he would think he owed Geelong hierarchy the complete truth. Of course that's unlikely.

Also irksome is his statement about "giving anything possible". Actually, it's complete rubbish. By resigning, Thompson broke his contract and as such forfeited any monies due to him. This doesn't constitute not giving up anything, only not receiving money for work which he did not complete. Giving implies he bought his way out of his contract, something which patently did not occur.

It was perhaps the most poorly kept secret in AFL football that "Bomber" would eventually take the senior assistant role at Essendon. New coach James Hird wanted him and he wanted to come. However he didn't escape the Cattery with his dignity intact. By telling half-truths to his comrades fearing the whole story would make him look bad, he has just made himself look worse. It's too bad that this ill-judgement means he will not just be remembered for two premierships and the fantastic play the Cats have delivered over the past decade. He will now, like Norm Smith, always be remembered for the way he left.

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