The appointment of troubled former great Mark Thompson to present the Jock McHale Medal to this year’s premiership coach has been described by AFL boss Gillon McLachlan as “significant”.
- Mark Thompson left Australian rules football after he was convicted for drug possession in 2019
- The former Essendon captain and Geelong coach has been confirmed as the presenter of the Jock McHale Medal to the winning coach at this year’s grand final
- Outgoing AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan says he hopes Thompson’s return will be significant for him and for the game
Thompson, a three-time premiership player with Essendon and dual flag-winning coach of Geelong, was convicted of drug possession in 2019.
He was fined $3,000 and ordered to undergo rehabilitation, while a drug trafficking charge against him was dismissed.
Separately, Thompson was fined $30,000 for his part in the Bombers’ infamous 2012 supplements program.
The 59-year-old, who left the AFL after coaching Essendon through the 2014 season, has worked to rebuild his life in recent years away from football.
He will present the McHale Medal to the premiership coach on stage after the grand final at the MCG on September 30.
“In our game, I think people make mistakes and I think we have an ability to actually welcome people back and continue to celebrate their place and their role in the game,” outgoing AFL chief executive McLachlan said.
“That is certainly where Mark is. He was a great player and a significant coach, and I’m really pleased that he’s going to be presenting the [medal] to the premiership coach.
“I hope it’s significant for Mark and I think it’s significant for the game.”
Thompson was announced as this year’s McHale Medal presenter at the official AFL finals launch on Monday.
“Mark has a long list of accolades in his career as a player and then as a coach … we are really thrilled that Mark has accepted our offer,” McLachlan said.
Former Carlton and West Coast champion Chris Judd will present the Norm Smith Medal on grand final day, while former Sydney Swans captain Josh Kennedy is this year’s premiership cup ambassador.
The AFL also confirmed American rock band KISS will headline the grand final pre-game entertainment show.
McLachlan said the evenness of this year’s competition throughout the home-and-away season meant teams from the bottom half of the top eight could dream of winning the premiership.
It has only happened once under the current finals system, which was introduced in 2000, when the Western Bulldogs claimed their drought-breaking flag from seventh in 2016.
“Whether that’s possible, I think, is the story of the finals,” McLachlan said.
“We’ve got a great final eight that came down to the wire and I’m very confident that the footy will deliver on the home-and-away promise.
“The best team generally wins and the great players come to the fore … and I reckon we’ve got eight teams whose supporters are going to feel confident they can go deep into September.”