Extent of 'Bomber' Thompson’s fall from grace revealed
HIS former boss saw it. His old teammates did too. Even colleagues noticed changes in Mark "Bomber" Thompson's behaviour.
But until this week, nobody really knew the full extent of the AFL legend's breakdown.
For more than an hour on Wednesday, an embarrassed Thompson gave evidence in a Melbourne courtroom that confirmed what those closest to him had suspected for some time - he is a broken man.
The 55-year-old, who is fighting drug trafficking and possession charges relating to a raid on his Port Melbourne home last year, gave more incredible testimony outlining how his downfall began and when he knew he had reached rock bottom.
"I'm a drug taker and I'm sad that I'm a drug taker … I took drugs back then to mask all the pain," he said inside Melbourne Magistrates Court.
"To be here right now it's pretty soul crushing really," he said. "I'm totally embarrassed about being here … I'm sorry."
Thompson detailed how he came to be using ice, saying he had wanted to try LSD after reading a book by Apple co-founder Steve Jobs but "didn't have the guts".
When Thomas Windsor, a man with alleged links to the Rebels motorcycle club, knocked on his door, the pair started using ice together.
Thompson said he didn't know how to get rid of the heavily tattooed Windsor after he moved in.
Windsor, who has since been jailed for drug trafficking, began snooping around Thompson's home, the 55-year-old said. But he still couldn't come to ask him to leave.
The drug taking, Thompson said, was difficult to talk about. He had always had good relationships with police, the court heard.
He admitted to using scales to weigh the product he had purchased but denied he was involved in trafficking.
The former Bombers premiership player and Cats premiership coach said he started to struggle after the supplements scandal that brought the once mighty Essendon Football Club to its knees in 2013.
"It was a difficult time," Thompson said in court. "I left the industry where I worked in a bad way."
That's something those around him noticed at the time.
Former Geelong president Frank Costa said Thompson's "miserable trifecta" - a marriage breakdown, a bad property deal and the supplements saga - combined to bring him down.
"I saw it (erratic behaviour) towards the finish at Geelong, in 2010, and more since," Costa told afl.com.au.
"I think that's happened because his mind has been badly scrambled. I think those three things that I mentioned that happened to him in 2010 were too much for him."
Former teammate Tim Watson told Melbourne radio station SEN that coaches were "concerned about his behaviour" when he was an assistant coach at Essendon, but that the problems originated well before that.
"People say all these problems started when he went to Essendon, that's not true. The Geelong people will tell you they were concerned about components of his behaviour," Watson said.
"They never really went into detail, it was just his lifestyle choices that he was making around that time.
"When he arrived at Essendon during that period of time, they quizzed him, they asked him direct questions about things that were going on and he denied everything at that time."
AFL 360 host Mark Robinson - who shared a panel with Thompson - said last year that the 55-year-old's behaviour was mixed.
"Some nights, smoke in hand, he would be jovial and joking, half-crazy with enthusiasm, and that was Bomber at his best," Robinson wrote in the Herald Sun.
"Other nights, and they became frequent, he would be angry and disillusioned, crazy with rage … He'd talk about his marriage troubles, how he would hound the internet at 4am for information to help try to clear his name, and of people at the AFL and at Essendon who he felt had been treacherous."
An email from Thompson to former Bombers chairman David Evans was published in the Herald Sun last year.
In it, Thompson wrote that Evans was personally responsible for the club's lack of support to the coaching staff and players caught in the supplements storm.
"I think it's time you stepped up to be the man we thought you were," Thompson said to Evans, who stepped down from the Bombers' board in 2013.
"It's time to start fighting for the truth for all our sakes, and most importantly for the players' sake. They deserve to know everything we know about this fiasco. It's time we all stood up and right the wrong."
He said former Bombers captain and coach James Hird would "die" if the truth didn't come out.
"James will die if you continue to let the world bully him," Thompson wrote.
"Your former best friend will die fighting for the cause … You need to save my life and that of James Hird, (ex-Essendon footy boss) Danny Corcoran, Dr Bruce Reid and 34 current and past players.
"You would save the game in many ways. It's been a cover-up from the start. And like Watergate, the cover-up is worse than the crime."
Thompson will return to court in two weeks to learn his fate.