Thompson: Ban disastrous for Hird

Written By komlim puldel on Senin, 26 Agustus 2013 | 20.02

Essendon assistant coach Mark Thompson joins AFL 360 immediately after his hearing with the AFL.

THE AFL Commission has halted marathon talks with Essendon and its senior officials after about 14 hours of deliberations at headquarters.

The parties will reconvene at 11am.

Bombers chairman Paul Little and chief executive Ray Gunston were among the last to leave following coach James Hird, club doctor Bruce Reid, senior assistant Mark Thompson and football manager Danny Corcoran earlier this evening.

Thompson earlier said it would be "disastrous" for James Hird to be suspended for 12 months.

"He's a young coach who is learning his way and he didn't deliberately set out to do anything wrong," Thompson said on AFL 360 following prolonged negotiations at AFL headquarters today.

"I would think that if the AFL knocked him out for 12 months he would struggle to want to get back.

"I call it the perfect storm because everybody has had some responsibility to it... not too many have more (responsibility) than others.

"It was a lot of people who probably made the wrong choices based on the current rules that are in place."
Thompson refused to rule out walking away from the game.

"Anything's open... right here, right now is that I've been charged for being a drug cheat - and I'm not.

"I'm fighting for my reputation, my integrity and I want to clear my name."

But Thompson conceded he was ready to plead guilty as long as the AFL withdraw aspects of the charges laid against him.

"There was 80 per cent of it (charge sheet) that I want to unless it really gets serious and reflective of what I'm responsible for them we're going (legal action).

"We're trying to scrub as many off as we can, to be responsible and to be charged for what we think we are responsible for - what is fair in our eyes.

Negotiations involving Thompson, Essendon, coach James Hird, club doctor Bruce Reid and football manager Danny Corcoran would continue on Tuesday.

Senior Essendon officials, chairman Paul Little and chief executive Ray Gunston remain at AFL House locked in tense negotiations over potential punishment for Essendon.

Hird and his legal team, including human rights campaigner Julian Burnside SC, were expected to tell the commission that his Supreme Court action challenging the Commission's right to hear charges against the Bombers star has not been withdrawn.


Commissioners arrived about 8am and key Essendon officials were all at AFL House by 1pm.

The Commission is expected to detail proposed penalties against Hird, most likely a 12-month suspension from any AFL activity, and precise details of the formal charges.

It would be open to Hird then to back away from his court action and to accept the sanction, as part of a wider Essendon penalties package, or to declare he will fight on in court.

Hird has claimed he has been denied natural justice by the AFL and said the AFL Commission, including CEO Andrew Demetriou, should be barred from considering charges against him.


Essendon is clinging to the hope it could retain prized draft picks as part of a deal that will see it stood down from the finals today.

A decision regarding what penalties and sanctions will be handed down to Essendon is expected today.

The supplements drama will come to a dramatic resolution when Essendon bows out of finals consideration, with Hird almost certain to have coached his last game of the year.

The AFL Commission is currently meeting at AFL House where it is expected to hand down the punishment for Hird and the Bombers.

Essendon chairman Paul Little and the club's acting chief executive, Ray Gunston, arrived at AFL House at about 1pm.

Commission members were seen arriving at league headquarters this morning.

Hird has been considering abandoning Supreme Court action and submitting to a 12-month ban demanded by the AFL ahead of a return in 2015.

Hird and wife Tania leave talks at AFL House. Picture: Andrew Tauber

The Bombers coach today went to Windy Hill for a few hours before returning home, but did not offer any comment to the waiting media pack.

It is expected senior assistant coach Mark Thompson will escape with a fine of $20,000.

Veteran club doctor Bruce Reid is understood to be preparing to stand down as early as today. He was adamant he would not be part of a compromise deal.

Essendon will be forced to accept a fine of up to $2 million. The fourth individual charged, football manager Danny Corcoran, will be stood down for three months.

The AFL's lawyers, Minter Ellison, and Essendon's QC, Jack Rush, were locked in discussions on Sunday. Hird's legal team was not directly involved.

Essendon's president says he's confident the club can reach an agreement over punishment for the drugs saga.


The AFL Commission began meeting at 8am today and while many facts are agreed between the two parties, it might take all day to reach a resolution.

AFL commissioner and Wesfarmers chairman Richard Goyder arrived at AFL house around 8am.

Expecting a long day he told his driver it was unlikely he would be picked up at 4pm.

Commissioner Sam Mostyn arrived shortly before 8am. Commissioner Bill Kelty at around 8.30am.The former ACTU secretary had said he would excuse himself from AFL Commission meetings due to his friendship with Hird.

Essendon assistant coach Mark Thompson reacts to photographers as he arrives at the AFL Commission hearing. Picture Wayne Ludbey

The Bombers were lobbying the AFL to keep their draft picks or lose just the first two picks at this year's national draft in November.

They argue it would penalise the players and hurt the club for a decade, but the league has pushed for a two-year exclusion from the first two rounds of the draft.

Hird's lawyer Julian Burnside SC labelled the AFL's actions "scandalous" and accused them of bullying Hird.

But the Bombers have effectively conceded defeat. Now the club is trying to limit the damage to its reputation and future success.

An insight into what the AFL might deem acceptable was contained in a draft "accepted facts" document provided to Essendon.

Essendon CEO Ray Gunston and chairman Paul Little arrive at AFL House. Picture: Wayne Ludbey

It stated:

THE club failed to adequately protect the health, welfare and safety of the players.

THERE was an unacceptable risk that players may have been administered substances that were prohibited by the AFL Anti-Doping Code and the World Anti-Doping Code.

THE club is unable to determine whether players were administered substances prohibited by the AFL Anti-Doping Code and the World Anti-Doping Code.

Essendon has refused to sign an agreement that says officials deliberately set out to breach anti-doping rules.

James Hird leaves his Toorak home this morning. Picture: Hamish Blair

Hird will either accept a 12-month ban or Essendon will stand him down for next season while he continues to fight his legal battle.

But that second option looks less likely, with legal figures saying many points in his Supreme Court writ would be undermined by Essendon's guilty plea.

On Saturday night Hird issued two contradictory statements - that he wanted his punishment wrapped up in the club's sanctions, but that he wanted to clear his name first.

"First of all I want to prove I'm innocent of a lot or 99 per cent of those charges," he said.

"I look at those charges and they make me sick that they're out there and that people would believe that is the truth about me.

Bombers club doctor Bruce Reid arrives with is legal team at AFL House. Picture: Michael Klein

"I'm determined to clear that up. Then we'll go from there about suspension or not suspension."

Bombers captain Jobe Watson on Sunday continued to express support for Hird but said the fate of his coach was beyond the club's control.

"I mean, it's not whether or not we want him to coach - it's the decision of the Commission and that's the reason there is a Commission," Watson said.

Reid is determined to protect his reputation as a medical practitioner. He has told confidantes he will continue his fight separate to Essendon.

 Essendon chairman Paul Little spoke on Saturday night of a middle ground, which meant that the AFL was prepared to drop the focus on drug cheating and instead hit the Dons with governance charges.

Essendon football manager Danny Corcoran and his legal team arrive at AFL House Picture: Michael Klein

While the sanctions are unprecedented, attention will quickly turn to who fills the coaching void.


Thompson would be available given he will only be fined but has made it known he is not interested in a senior coaching position.

Former Bombers stars Mark Harvey and Neale Daniher have been linked to the club but a one-year secondment would not appeal if Hird was definitely returning.

Hird's barrister Burnside said "the AFL's bullying tactics seem to be the standard in Australia now".

Essendon QC Jack Rush outside AFL House. Picture: Wayne Ludbey

"The AFL seems to think it's OK to bully a bunch of individuals and a club without letting them have a fair hearing. I think the AFL's conduct has been scandalous."

- with James Dowling, Andy Burns 

James Hird and assistant coach Mark Thompson are expected to learn their fate today. Picture: Michael Klein

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