The speculation over who coaches Essendon beyond this AFL season will not go away.
Commentator Tom Harley put interim Essendon coach Mark Thompson in an uncomfortable spotlight after Sunday night’s walloping of Carlton.
Harley, who was Geelong captain under Thompson for the 2007 and ’09 premierships, says Essendon are better coached now than when James Hird was in charge.
Thompson has taken over this season while Hird serves his 12-month AFL suspension over the club’s supplements scandal.
Essendon have re-confirmed Hird will definitely return as coach later this year, following last month’s controversy where his wife Tania strongly criticised the AFL in a television interview.
Thompson has repeatedly said he will happily hand the team back to Hird later this year.
But Harley also said after the game on the Seven Network that Essendon looked more drilled under Thompson.
His comments were brought up at Thompson’s post-game media conference and the Bombers coach laughed nervously.
“He didn’t say that, did he? Here we go,” Thompson said.
“I can’t respond to that, apart from saying ‘Tommy, you silly bugger, what did you do that for?’
“It doesn’t matter how I coach – I’m coach for this year, I’m enjoying it.”
Under Thompson, the Bombers have scored impressive wins over Carlton and North Melbourne and narrowly lost to reigning premiers Hawthorn.
Thompson is relishing the return to senior coaching, cracking jokes in his media conferences and ignoring the high pressure that comes with the role.
“I’m doing things that probably a coach who wants to have a career for a long time can’t do because I’m just having a go,” he said.
“I’m doing exactly what I want.
He admitted to surprise that Essendon dominated Sunday night’s match so comprehensively.
Thompson was also rapt for Essendon fans, given the club’s struggles over the last year with the supplements crisis.
“It’s a tough 15 months,” he said.
“We haven’t beaten a good side since 2005 … so it’s been a long time for Essendon supporters.
“We’ve had a lot of problems, but they’ve stuck fat with us and our players want to give back, I certainly do.”
A major factor for Essendon so far this season is former Geelong star Paul Chapman, who kicked three goals against Carlton.
Chapman, like Harley, played under Thompson in the ’07 and ’09 Geelong flags.
“Everybody loves Chappy – our players love him, our supporters love him and all our coaches love him,” Thompson said.
“It’s a real bonus.”
Essendon had a makeshift ruck setup against Carlton, with Jake Carlisle and Joe Daniher working hard against Robbie Warnock.
Thompson said Patrick Ryder should return next weekend against Fremantle and Tom Bellchambers was also not far off coming back from his pre-season ankle surgery.