This seat not so hot for relaxed Bomber
MARK Thompson looked unusually relaxed for a senior coach on Friday night.
At one stage, I could have sworn he even had his feet up on the desk in the Essendon coaches' box at Etihad Stadium, having a laugh while knocking back a beer.
Unlike any other senior coach in the game - barring Paul Roos, who has put an expiration date on his head at Melbourne - results won't determine Thompson's future at the helm of his club.
He's just there keeping the hot seat warm while his 1993 Bombers premiership teammate James Hird sees out his 12-month ban for his involvement in the club's supplements scandal.
Despite the events of last week when Tania Hird re-opened old wounds with claims of tip-offs and cover-ups by the AFL hierarchy, just as her husband was about to jet out for France on a six-month study trip, it won't be a case of c'est la vie for James Hird.
Essendon chairman Mark Little was strong in his response on Friday night, telling Channel 7: "There are certain expectations on any senior coach ... and from the people that surround them. If we're not getting what we expect then clearly that's something that needs to be dealt with". Little will head another Bombers board meeting, as early as today, to discuss this latest flare-up.
But, after having only recently re-signed Hird - James, that is - until 2016, the Bombers know they would face a payout of almost $2 million even if they wanted to sack him, and that would follow the $2 million fine they copped from the AFL last year.
So, while Thompson, whose decade coaching Geelong yielded flags in 2007 and 2009, had been reluctant to return to senior coaching, he looks like he might really enjoy himself in this one-off stint at the club where he played 202 games.
As Fremantle, Geelong, and Hawthorn again asserted their authority on the competition, it was "his side" that put up its hand in round one as the challenger most likely with a crushing win over North Melbourne.
In fact, it was almost like watching the Cats of old with Thompson running the show and veteran Paul Chapman running rampant, kicking four goals in his first game as a Bomber.
The final score did not do justice to Essendon's dominance against a side that is - or was - expected to push for a top-four finish, with the Bombers winning the all-important possession (449-291), mark (159-73), and clearance (52-30) counts by considerable margins.
After exciting young talls Joe Daniher and Jake Carlisle helped Chapman do a number on the Roos, the Bombers could have a real edge in attack too when they face Hawthorn at the MCG this Friday night, with Josh Gibson facing the prospect of joining fellow Hawk defenders Brian Lake, Ben Stratton and Ryan Schoenmakers on the sidelines after he collected Brisbane forward Michael Close high during the win in Launceston on Saturday.
It's only early - and Essendon does have a history of peaking too early - but finals do beckon, and if a successful year can rekindle his desire, Thompson may be just be on the lookout for senior role in 2015 … maybe even at North Melbourne. James Hird, meanwhile, could do worse than appoint his wife as his senior assistant.