AFL welcomes back Mark Thompson in grand final role

AFL boss Gillon McLachlan has described as "significant" the appointment of troubled former great Mark Thompson to present the Jock McHale Medal to this year's premiership coach.

Thompson, a three-time premiership player with Essendon and dual flag-winning coach of Geelong, was convicted for drug possession in 2019.

He was fined $3000 and ordered to undergo rehabilitation, while drug trafficking charges against him were dismissed.

Separately, Thompson was fined $30,000 by the AFL for his part in Essendon's infamous 2012 supplements program.

The 59-year-old, who left the AFL after coaching the Bombers through the 2014 season, has said previously the fallout from the supplements saga played a part in his drug abuse.

Thompson has worked to rebuild his life away from the spotlight but will make a rare public appearance to present the McHale Medal to the premiership coach after the grand final at the MCG on September 30.

"In our game, I think people make mistakes and I think we have an ability to actually welcome people back and continue to celebrate their place and their role in the game," outgoing AFL chief executive McLachlan said.

"That is certainly where Mark is. He was a great player and a significant coach, and I'm really pleased that he's going to be presenting the (medal) to the premiership coach.

"I hope it's significant for Mark and I think it's significant for the game."

Thompson was confirmed as this year's McHale Medal presenter at the official AFL finals launch on Monday but was not present for the announcement.

"Mark has a long list of accolades in his career as a player and then as a coach ... we are really thrilled that Mark has accepted our offer," McLachlan said.

"I think he's pleased. I think Mark needs to speak to that for himself but I do think it's significant."

Former Carlton and West Coast champion Chris Judd will present the Norm Smith Medal on grand final day, while former Sydney Swans captain Josh Kennedy is this year's premiership cup ambassador.

The AFL also confirmed American rock band KISS will headline the grand final pre-game entertainment show.

McLachlan said the evenness of this year's competition throughout the home-and-away season meant teams from the bottom half of the top eight can dream of winning the premiership.

It has only happened once under the current finals system, which was introduced in 2000, when the Western Bulldogs claimed their drought-breaking flag from seventh in 2016.

"Whether that's possible, I think, is the story of the finals," McLachlan said.

"We've got a great final eight that came down to the wire and I'm very confident that the footy will deliver on the home-and-away promise.

"The best team generally wins and the great players come to the fore ... and I reckon we've got eight teams whose supporters are going to feel confident they can go deep into September."

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