Mark Thompson is a football person, without football

Mark Thompson headed to Mexico as his career in football came to an end in November 2014.

Essendon were not able to find a suitable role for him alongside the returning James Hird.

It had not been a pleasant exit for the Bombers legend who had stood in for Hird and tried to make football fun as the storm clouds of the supplement scandal gathered.

But at least the decision and the poolside break overseas brought some finality to a startling 284-game coaching career that ended with 173 wins and two premierships at Geelong for a man who had seemed to struggle more with the demands of the job the longer he spent in the coach’s box.

However, the problem since appears to have been finding something outside the structure football both provided and demanded to fulfil the premiership player and coach and keep him focused.

That’s worried Bomber but it’s also concerned the multitudes who shared time, history and arenas with the football lifer who knows the game better than almost everyone else.

For a man who started the business Bomber Thompson Electrical in his early 20s, led the Baby Bombers to the flag in 1993, took the Cats from the bottom to a drought-breaking premiership and then took on much of the strain of Essendon’s troubles, he appeared less certain when it came to taking the next step after football.

Upon returning to Melbourne in 2015, Thompson began work with 3AW and Foxtel, but the media performing suit never appeared a snug fit.

He wrote an insightful book, which included gems such as his direction to the Cats’ team ahead of the 2009 grand final to be “Brave, ballsy, risky, no cheap crap”, and promoted the 2016 publication with professionalism.

Still those who did encounter him regularly post-Essendon sensed a sublimated anger that stalled his attempts to find peace with what he had achieved.

Thompson admitted to ongoing bitterness during a talk to the Law Institute of Victoria last year when he revealed he used to trawl over what was being written about him on the internet from 2013-2015, and blamed the failure of his second marriage to Jana Clack on the distraction the saga caused.

Thompson has previously conceded his relationship with the three children, Lauren, Michael and Daniel, he had with his first wife Annette has been distant at times but he is full of praise for the way they have turned out.

He continued appearing on AFL 360 throughout 2017 on The Bomber Diaries, a weekly segment that always gave the viewer the feeling a driver gets when their car goes from bitumen to travelling on a dirt track.

When Thompson tried to answer a question from co-host Mark Robinson his shirt would bulge as the footballer within tried to burst free but he would then restrain himself, frustrated, appearing uncertain or unaware of the value his insight provided.

By that time the sale of property at Armstrong Creek, which caused some stress, had provided Thompson with a financial windfall but that was never going to be enough to satisfy his competitive nature.

In December, 2017 he told the Daily Telegraph some of that instinct had been sated with his investment in bitcoin and an interest in cryptocurrency.

“For the first time in a while I’ve found something that fulfils me. I enjoy doing it. It’s competitive – you win or lose money and sometimes it’s chaotic and your mind is just going crazy, and I like that,” Thompson said. 

He continued on the speaking circuit too, an eloquent and engaging character on stage, though there were occasions where events were cancelled when he couldn’t be contacted to confirm arrangements.

Those who have known him a long time say Thompson continues to enjoy interacting with footy people rather than corporates and in recent months he spent more time than usual in Perth for quite a few memorable speaking engagements.

Being late was a trait many became used to; Thompson was doing his thing.

People like his company but many long-time acquaintances from his football days admit they now see him irregularly, mostly by chance.

Those who have seen him recently echoed what former Cats premiership player, Jimmy Bartel, told 3AW on Tuesday night: that they sensed Bomber was really positive then they worried about him later.

After last Friday’s police raid on his Port Melbourne house they still worry, uncertain of what he has been up to recently, certain he will not enjoy being the man of the moment once again.

To guess what is next for Bomber is too tough, as he’s become football’s riddle.

His friends hope for the best.

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