I can still vividly recall the first time I saw Scott Thompson on a football field.
Geelong was playing Coburg in the 2007 VFL Grand Final at Princes Park and as I sat in the stands watching the Cats en route to a VFL Premiership, I couldn’t help but notice a faultless Matthew Scarlett clone named Scott Thompson at Full-Back, socks down and a full mop of hair, running rings around his opponent and knocking up getting the footy in a dominant display that even ‘Scarlo’ would have been proud of.
Thompson was a cut above the rest even back then, and it came as no surprise when he was drafted by North Melbourne shortly thereafter at pick 37 in the 2007 National draft, making his AFL debut in Round one the following season.
While the reference to my former champion teammate Matthew Scarlett was a just a casual observation from one game of Scott Thompson’s footy career, it has stuck with me ever since, and although I barely know ‘Thommo’ as a bloke, I have followed his career with interest as a result of that one performance back in 2007.
Matthew Scarlett was an absolute champion of the game – a Rolls Royce in every sense of the word. A brilliant defender who was never beaten, his importance to Geelong during their dynasty from 2007-2011 is undisputed, and if anything slightly underrated.
Not only would he quell the influence of the game’s best forwards week-in, week-out, ‘Scarlo’ could also read the game better than anyone I’ve ever played with, and in the process accumulate big numbers statistically in his own right.
He would outmanoeuvre bigger and more powerful opposition players with outstanding body positioning in one-one-one contests, and then blanket even the quickest of small forwards with lightning closing speed and superior judgement.
He was a brilliant leader and selfless team man, and along with Gary Ablett Senior and Gary Ablett Junior, categorically rounds out the top three Geelong players of the last 30 years – at least as far as I’m concerned.
A decade later, Scott Thompson has forged his own name and career of brilliance at Full-Back throughout his ultra-reliable and super versatile 198-game career with North Melbourne.
Dubbed ‘Mr. Annoying” for his cheeky but legal tactics when standing the best forwards in the competition on a weekly basis, Thompson has been a rock of Gibraltar for ten years with the Kangaroos in a defense that has been hammered with opposition entries and traffic in recent times in particular.
Himself an honest, selfless team man, what Thompson lacks in height and size for a key defender he makes up for with tenacity and versatility.
He is a man’s man – one of the boys – but also well researched on the opposition and meticulous in his preparation.
At 31, Thompson is an outstanding example of perseverance and self-belief, and as he approaches the 200 AFL game milestone, the significance of which should not go unnoticed, you can’t help feeling that it couldn’t happen to a better bloke.
Away from football, Scott Thompson is now one of eight North Melbourne players firmly entrenched in a Certificate III in Carpentry course at the Trade Institute of Victoria (TIV).
Thompson is joined by Jarrad Waite, Shaun Atley, Lachie Hansen, Brayden Preuss, Kayne Turner, Corey Wagner and Sam Durdin who collectively have hit the ground running and been particularly impressive over the first 8 weeks of the program.
Despite only recently commencing the highly regarded Carpentry course in Williamstown and West Footscray, Thompson is already a strong presence and clear leader of a highly professional yet unobtrusive North Melbourne group who just enjoy getting in and getting it done on a week-to-week basis.
“I’ve always had a strong interest in Carpentry and the Building industry,” Thompson says.
“My Grandfather was a Carpenter and my old man dabbled in it also,” he adds.
Thompson is quick to point out the challenges he and his teammates have faced in finding a program to supplement their immediate playing careers with the Kangaroos.
“We’ve been looking around for a while for a Carpentry program that can accommodate AFL players one day a week,” Thompson says.
“The boys from TIV came out and spoke to the group about the course and it was exactly what we’d been searching for,” he adds.
“Some of the boys are more advanced than others when it comes to woodwork and building our tables, but when it comes to being on-site and building frames and ultimately houses we are all on the same level so we’re really looking forward to getting stuck into the next phase of the course.”
Entering the twilight of his AFL career you get the sense that Scott Thompson knows exactly what he wants out of life after football and perhaps more importantly, how he plans to get there.
“I’ve already done a Certificate IV in Building and Construction and I’m currently working on a project in Geelong, so ultimately I’d love to get my Builder’s license after completing the Cert III and eventually run my own development down the track,” Thompson says.
Now though, there is a more pressing focus – finishing a disappointing 2017 season on a positive at North Melbourne and while he will play down its relevance and importance, becoming a member of the illustrious 200 AFL game club.
And who better to reflect on the career of Scott Thompson than the man he looked up to and was compared with on that one day in September a decade ago – none other than Matthew Scarlett himself.
“It’s been great to follow Scott’s career and I really admire what he has achieved,” Scarlett says.
“I know Scott’s family well so have always kept a close eye on his game,” he adds.
“He is a quality person, and over time has become one of those opposition players that I wished played alongside me – tough, reliable and just bloody hard to play against.”
Somehow Scarlo, I think the feeling is mutual.