Mark Thompson will coach Essendon in 2014, while James Hird serves his 12-month suspension for his role in the Bombers’ supplements scandal.
Thompson, , will coach the club on an interim basis for only one year before Hird returns to the position.
Hird’s suspension expires prior to next year’s final series, but Thompson will remain in charge for the entire Bombers’ 2014 campaign.
Thompson served as an assistant to Hird, having returned to Windy Hill in 2011 after 11 years at Geelong where he coached the club to two premierships.
The Bombers announced further changes to their coaching structure, with former Adelaide coach Neil Craig appointed head of coaching development and strategy.
Thompson, who was the Bombers’ premiership captain in 1993, admits he was reluctant to return to head coaching but he feels he had a duty to help the club for next season.
“I openly stated in the past that I didn’t want to coach,” he said.
“I think I really wanted to do it for nine months and that’s what I’m going to do.”
Thompson says he was not in a position to take over as Bombers coach when first approached following Hird’s suspension.
“At that stage I wasn’t in the frame of mind to make that decision,” Thompson said.
“A couple of weeks later I thought about the job and the how the club was looking, and I was happy to be part of it.”
Thompson says he will not be calling upon Hird while he serves his suspension, which ends in August.
“I’m the coach for the year, we are not going to break the rules,” he said.
“He (Hird) won’t have any active involvement in how the team is going.”
Thompson says if the Bombers make the finals next year he will welcome Hird at the club once his suspension ends.
“But not as senior coach,” he said.
Thompson clearly does not want too many distractions as he shoots for a premiership.
“We’re going to try and do things better and we’ll see where that takes us and that’s the important thing,” he said.
“We are going to try to aim to win a premiership. We just aim to do things well.”
Hird agrees he will keep his distance next season
Bombers chairman Paul Little says Hird agreed he would not resume his role as head coach once he returns from suspension.
“James thought that it would be unwise to take up coaching late in the year,” he said.
The veteran of 11 years as Geelong senior coach, Thompson feels he has something to prove as a coach at Essendon.
“I think I have been a little bit disappointing in my role (as assistant coach) over the past three years,” he said.
“I hadn’t achieved what I set out to achieve. We hadn’t reached the results we were hoping for.
“I’m a pretty proud man and and the way people view what I have achieved at Essendon is not how I want to be seen.”
Little says Thompson was clearly the best candidate for the job.
“It was an exhausting process, we had excellent candidates internal and external,” he said.
Craig looking forward to new role at Bombers
Craig served as Melbourne caretaker coach for much of the year after Mark Neeld was sacked mid-season.
He was relieved of his official role at the Demons, director of sports performance, earlier on Thursday.
Craig is excited by his new role at the Bombers and wants to make the most of the opportunity.
“I see this role as part of the Essendon way, creating a different, ground-breaking role for the club’s structure,” he said.
Craig says he spoke to Hird before accepting to the position to inquire about his well being and to understand his general coaching philosophy.
“It would be stupid for staff at this club to be poles apart but we’re not,” he said.
Little says 2013 assistant coach Simon Goodwin was a leading candidate for the senior role and will remain part of the coaching staff.