Thompson charges stun Bomber's colleagues

Ben McKay
Former AFL players have expressed their dismay over Mark Thompson's drug charges

Mark 'Bomber' Thompson's AFL colleagues have painted the fallen premiership hero as a changed man in the wake of drug trafficking charges being levelled at the Essendon and Geelong great.

Thompson was granted bail after appearing in the Melbourne Magistrates Court on Tuesday.

He was being charged with seven drug-related offences - including trafficking and possession - and will return to court later this month.

The news has rocked the sport, given Thompson's status as one of the most revered figures in the game.

Under his stewardship, the Cats ended a 44-year wait for a premiership in 2007, adding another flag in 2009.

As a player, he won three premierships with the Bombers in 1984, 1985 and 1993 - the latest as captain.

He returned to Essendon in 2011 as an assistant coach, where he was embroiled in the club's doping scandal.

Thompson was charged with bringing the game into disrepute and fined $30,000 by the league - but Essendon elevated him to senior coach in 2014 due to James Hird's season-long suspension.

He departed the club, and the sport, completely on Hird's return.

Tim Watson, who shared those Essendon successes with Thompson, suggested the 54-year-old had changed markedly due to the saga.

"He was never able to put that behind him," Watson told Melbourne radio station SEN.

"I can't comprehend that the person that I played football with ... could find himself in a situation that he's found himself in now.

"There's been a lot of us that have been concerned about him and I thought 'OK, well it's time to reach out and hopefully catch up'.

"I didn't ever hear back from him. That is consistent with a lot of other people too."

Current player David Zaharakis admitted he was "shocked" to learn of the charges levelled at the master coach.

"You don't expect to hear anything like that," he said.

"He was so analytical with his footy ... purely from footy, a reading (the) game point of view, he was unbelievable. One of the best, as a lot of players reiterate."

"He's obviously a legend of the footy club."

Retired Geelong great Jimmy Bartel said his generation of Cats players were hurt by the news.

"I'm sad and upset, and I feel sorry for his family because they're the ones who have to go through it more than us," he told Macquarie Sports Radio.