Disgraced AFL legend Mark Thompson has broken his silence about his fall from grace and battle with drug addiction and mental health after turning his back on the sport.
The five-time premiership player and coach admits he lost his way after he retired from coaching, a year after being caught up in the drugs supplement scandal at the Essendon Bombers.
His marriage broke down as his life continued to unravel until his lowest point in 2018 when he was charged with drug possession following a police raid on his Port Melbourne warehouse apartment.
Thompson later revealed he became hooked on the drug ice through his housemate – a heavily-tattooed bikie associate – and told a court in 2019 how he was in a ‘bad place’ and used ice to ‘mask the pain’.
A year after he was convicted for drug possession and placed on a 12 month community corrections order, Thompson, 56, has opened up for the the first time about the dark place he was in and how a psychologist changed his life.
AFL legend Mark Thompson has turned his life around since being charged and convicted of drug possession. He’s pictured leaving Melbourne Magistrates Court in June 2019
Former Essendon coach and teammate James Hird organised for his good mate to see a psychologist following the police raid on Thompson’s home.
Within five minutes of meeting the psychologist, Thompson was bawling his eyes out after she immediately diagnosed him with post-traumatic stress disorder.
‘I can’t believe I got to that place. I can’t believe it. I lost my way. In the end I just didn’t care. I didn’t care about the hurt. I didn’t care. I had no, yeah, I just had no feelings, you know,’ Thompson told the Herald Sun.
He hasn’t seen the psychologist since the community corrections order ended but hopes to continue seeing her to remain on track.
Thompson says he now feels ‘pretty good’ about himself and has put his depression behind him.
‘I was pretty messed up. I didn’t really know why I felt the way I did,’ he said.
‘I just felt helpless. Like I just couldn’t do anything. Just things kept going over in my head that I shouldn’t have even been thinking about, like the supplements stuff. Even then, yeah. I just had post-traumatic stress.’
Mark Thompson’s marriage to wife Jana (pictured together in 2014) crumbled as his life unravelled following his coaching retirement and the fallout from the drug supplement saga
He has reconnected with his family, including his brother, his ex-wife and his three children, who supported him during his court appearances.
The former electrician has also found a passion for woodwork and making tables, which keeps him busy.
Thompson temporarily took over as Bombers coach in 2014 after Hird was banned over his involvement in the infamous drug supplements scandal.
Thompson was also caught up in the scandal and fined $30,000 over his involvement.
While he said a combination of factors contributed to his downfall in the wake of the sage, Thompson said the drugs saga did take its toll on him.
Mark Thompson pictured leaving court in 2018 after he was charged with drug possession
Geelong Cats coach Mark Thompson (left) and team captain Tom Harley (right) brought the premiership back to the city in 2007
Thompson also opened up about former Richmond Tigers player Shane Tuck, who recently shocked the AFL world by taking his own life and the impact the loss had on him.
He described football as ‘a fake world.’
‘Because six men kill themselves every day in Australia. When we have deaths during COVID it makes sensational news, as it should. But it happens every day for Australians struggling with mental health. Every day. So it’s not just in football where there’s not enough support for people,’ Thompson said.
Thompson admitted while he contemplated suicide while he was in a bad place, he never went close to going ahead with it.
The drugs supplements saga at the Essendon Bombers in 2013 took a heavy toll on Mark Thompson during his time at the club
Thompson was one the biggest stars in the AFL in the 1980s and early 1990s, where he won three premierships with the Bombers in 1984, 1985 and 1993.
He played 203 games and booted 50 goals for the Bombers until he retired in 1996.
He took up the reins as coach of Geelong in 2000 and eventually led them to Grand Final success in 2007, before a second premiership in 2009.
Thompson quit his job with the Cats in 2010, but only months later returned to the AFL to be a mentor to James Hird at Essendon.
Thompson took up a commentary role with Fox Footy following his retirement from coaching at the end of the 2014 season.
Mark Thomson and Essendon Bombers coach Kevin Sheedy (right) hold the AFL premiership trophy aloft after their 1993 grand final victory against Carlton