Essendon coach Mark Thompson has slammed as ''outrageous'' suggestions that he put a divide between the coaching staff and the players with his comments that cast doubt on the standard of the team’s recovery after the Fremantle loss.
Thompson spoke with the players on Tuesday to clarify his public comments that he felt had been misinterpreted by the media, and told reporters he "hoped" the playing group had no issue with the point he was trying to make.
Speaking after the Bombers' surprise loss to St Kilda, Thompson said he did not know whether his players had completed the extra recovery efforts needed to be ready for the Saints game, just six days after chasing the Dockers around in the Perth heat.
''I just spoke to them [the players]. I think they’re OK with what I said - hopefully,'' Thompson said. ''If they’re not, it’s not up to me really to be their father. They’ve just got to look after their own careers.''
Former Bombers great Matthew Lloyd was one of many media commentators who thought Thompson had given the senior players and fitness staff ''a whack'' when the former Geelong premiership coach referred to ''the good players'' he had worked with in the past doing ''twice as much'' recovery.
''I found it outrageous, because that’s not what I said,'' Thompson said.
"For people to say I should know [what recovery the players did] is just utter rubbish. It’s their own preparation time, it’s what they do over and above what’s in the program.
''Let’s make things clear. I said from my experience, from knowing good players - they get ready and do extra recovery sessions in their own time.
''I know Gary Ablett used to turn up to the club at midnight or go down to the beach at midnight after a day game. That’s what they’re expected to do.''
Determined to bounce back from two worrying performances against Fremantle and St Kilda, the Bombers face tough selection decisions on injured star Brendon Goddard, ruckman Tom Bellchambers and forward Jason Winderlich ahead of Friday’s Anzac Day blockbuster against Collingwood at the MCG.
Another tough call could be made on Jake Carlisle, who Thompson admitted was ''in danger'' of being dropped after a poor start to the season playing as a key forward.
Thompson has no plans to send Carlisle back to defence, but said the 198-centimetre athlete had not been working hard enough in games and was on notice.
"I don't think it would matter where 'Jakey' played at the moment, [forward or back]," he said.
"He's not out of the side at the moment, he's still in - so if he really wants to play, he'll show that he wants to play."
Goddard, the club's reigning best and fairest, was badly missed against St Kilda after suffering a groin injury in the warm-up and playing only minimal game time the week before against the Dockers.
Bellchambers played his first game in the Reserves last weekend following ankle surgery in January.
Thompson said he was confident Winderlich would return, but that Goddard and Bellchambers would be tougher decisions.
Bombers doctor Bruce Reid forecast on Tuesday that the club would take a no-risk policy with both players.
Whether the Bombers go with Bellchambers alongside fellow ruck-forward Paddy Ryder could be a significant factor in the decision on Carlisle, who has kicked just three goals in the first five games.
Midfielder Heath Hocking and utility Kyle Hardingham sustained minor injuries against the Saints but are unlikely to miss, while Reid said he was hopeful forward Patrick Ambrose would be ready to resume from a quadriceps injury.
While he is unlikely to come into calculations for Anzac Day, Thompson said that banished defender Courtenay Dempsey returned to the senior squad on Tuesday, having spent a month training with the VFL squad for disciplinary reasons.
''He spoke to the playing group and he told them how different his outlook is on the game now, and how much he appreciates it," Thompson said.
"He got a real dose of the real world in a short four-week period, and hopefully he appreciates footy and hopefully there are good results that follow."