ALAN THOMPSON pauses briefly. Speaking publicly for the first time since he was anonymously accused of inappropriate behaviour, the former head coach of the Australian swimming team considers whether, in a perfect world, the past four months could disappear and he could walk back into the role he had held since 2005.
''Things happen and you've just got to keep moving with what happens,'' Thompson said. ''People said to me a number of months ago that when one door closes, another opens. I probably found that hard to believe initially when I first resigned from my position. I thought it was just people trying to keep my spirits up, but then the other door opened, and now I just hope I can live up to the faith that Todd [Greenberg, Canterbury's chief executive] and the Bulldogs have put in me.''
As revealed in the Herald yesterday, Thompson will assume the position of general manager of football operations at the Bulldogs, having been cleared of allegations of inappropriate behaviour that surfaced in the latter stages of his tenure with Swimming Australia. He subsequently stepped aside as head coach of the national team during a restructuring phase, brought on by a power struggle at the top of sport.
On Monday, Thompson will officially walk away from the sport he loves to join the rugby league club he has long adored. The prospect of working with the Bulldogs, whom he represented in the lower grades, will make a refreshing change for the veteran coach after the drawn-out investigation into his conduct.
''I had a number of people and groups contact me about opportunities but all of them hinged on the conclusion of this investigation and so it's not like I felt isolated,'' he said. ''You always worry, I suppose, where you are going to go and what you're going to do and whether you are going to be doing something you are going to be able to sink your teeth into, but certainly when the opportunity arose, talking to Todd, it really grabbed my imagination and my excitement levels rose.
''It has been a pretty tough time for me. I'm very fortunate to have a wife like I have who was a tower of strength for me and some great friends and family who stood by me and supported me all the way. And I've had a lot of the swimmers and coaches who have been in regular contact with me to lend their support, which has really helped me get through this difficult time.''
Due to a confidentiality agreement he signed upon accepting his redundancy, Thompson is not permitted to comment on matters surrounding the events of the past four months. He did say he was disappointed in how long the investigation took to be finalised, ''but that's probably about all I can say''.
Asked if he was angry with SA's handling of the matter, Thompson replied: ''Disappointment more than anger, but I can just savour the great times and the great memories I had with the swimming team.
''Hopefully I'll be able to now assist that with Kevin Moore and Jimmy Dymock with the team at the Bulldogs, by setting up the systems and procedures and processes that will enhance the Bulldogs, but I'll still watch the swimming with a keen interest and a very strong feeling towards how the kids go.
''Whilst it might be over for the moment, there's certainly been some great memories and great experiences over the last 17 years of my life with the Australian swimming team.''
Does ''for the moment'' imply a comeback might be on the cards?
''I'd never say never,'' he said. ''I think there are still things I can offer swimming. There's still things I'd like to do in swimming but I'm very, very confident in the leadership and direction [new head coach] Leigh Nugent will take our team in.''