Scott Thompson isn’t worried about turning 30. And why should he be?
In a footballer’s career, 30 is an age often associated with the beginning of the end. An age where a player becomes a ‘veteran’, and when the body starts to show the wear and tear of years at the elite level.
In contrast, Thompson will celebrate his 30th birthday on Thursday on the back of an All-Australian season, a second-consecutive Club Champion award and posting personal-best fitness results.
“I actually haven’t thought about turning 30 too much … I’m still young at heart,” Thompson says.
“We’ve got a very young list, so I enjoy my time around here and don’t think about my age at all.”
This doesn’t mean Thompson is naïve about the need to manage his workload ahead of his 13th AFL season. Thompson and experienced teammate Ben Rutten, who turns 30 in May, were placed on modified training programs at the start of the pre-season. Despite limiting his volume of running, Thompson still posted a personal-best result in the Club’s five-minute run in January.
“Up until Christmas for the last couple of years, I’ve had a slightly modified program,” he said.
“I’ve done a bit of cross training, swimming, elliptical and boxing. It’s designed to reduce the workload on my legs and then I really crank it up after Christmas.
“We use a test, where you run as far as you can in five minutes, to measure our endurance. My result this year was better than what I did last pre-season. It just goes to show that the work off your legs can generate a good fitness base.”
Thompson has only started receiving external recognition in the past two years, but the star Crow has been a model of consistency since 2007. The strong-bodied midfielder has finished top-three in Adelaide’s Club Champion award in five of the last six seasons. Touch wood, he’s also been remarkably durable having missed only three games since making his Crows debut in Round Two, 2005.
Coach Brenton Sanderson said Thompson’s durability was a credit to his preparation.
“It’s not just good luck. Thommo is very professional and does everything right in preparing himself,” Sanderson said.
“He’s definitely a role model for our younger players, who naturally follow him. Brad Crouch is only a locker or two away from Thommo and is constantly asking him questions. Thommo loves that relationship and always gives Crouchy the answers.”
Thompson’s impressive run, which includes a current streak of 61 consecutive games, is in stark contrast to his time at former club, Melbourne. Originally selected with pick No.16 in the 2000 AFL National Draft, the Port Magpies junior was limited to 39 games in four years with the Demons.
Thompson said injuries had played a significant role in his decision to seek a trade home to South Australia.
“I wasn’t always going to come home,” he said.
“I enjoyed my time at Melbourne, but in the end injuries probably did affect my decision to leave. In my fourth year, I broke my foot and missed the second half of the season. I had a lot of down time to think. I thought it might be good to get a fresh start and the rest is history.
“I’ve enjoyed every minute coming into my ninth season at the Crows now.”
Thompson has since developed a better understanding of his body; its needs and its limits.
“For a number of years now, my weekly preparation has been similar,” he said.
“There are always going to be unlucky injuries that occur, but there are a lot of things you can control mainly in regards to soft-tissue injuries and I make sure I’m on top of those areas.”
A strict and rigorous weights regime is part of Thompson’s preparation. He takes pride in his gym work, as evidenced by his impressive physique.
“I do enjoy the gym,” he says with a laugh.
“There are definitely a few boys at the Club who are bigger and stronger than me, but if I cover off certain areas in the gym I feel great confidence out on the field. I know my body will be right to go and that I’ll have the strength to hold my opponents off.”
Sanderson said Thompson could often be spotted in the gym on his day off.
“Typically, on their day off the players only come into the Club if they need treatment … but it’s Thommo’s big gym day,” he said.
“He comes in and works the arms only – deltoids, triceps and biceps. He doesn’t even do any leg weights.
“I think he sneaks a few in before the bounce on game day too. It’s technically called ‘priming’. A lot of Olympic athletes do it before they compete … about 45 minutes before game time, Thommo’s in there doing a bit of priming in the gym.”
Thompson’s strength around the contest was reflected on the stats sheet in 2012. The star onballer amassed 651 possessions (ranked 4th in the AFL) across 22 minor-round games. Of those possessions, 319 were contested (ranked 3rd). He also won 158 clearances to be the second-best clearance player in the competition, and polled 25 Brownlow Medal votes to finish fourth overall.
A veteran of 223 games, Thompson became one of the most-experienced players in AFL/VFL history to earn All-Australian for the first time last year. He was most-capped first-timer in the 2012 team ahead of Fremantle defender Luke McPharlin (209 matches). He claimed his second Club Champion award, edging out fellow All Australian Patrick Dangerfield.
“It was nice recognition to receive those awards, but I see it as a reflection of what we were able to do as a team,” Thompson said.
“Yes, there were two of us who made the All-Australian team, but looking at our performances last year there were a number of blokes that could’ve made the All-Australian side and were probably unlucky not to be selected in the end.
“Without the team playing well and having that support around me, I wouldn’t have played the type of footy I did. There’s no doubt that when the team is performing well, your performances are viewed – externally anyway – as being better.
“As far as consistency goes, I think I’ve had that in my game for a number of years now because I understand what I need to do to get myself up each week.”
Club Champion night started disastrously for Thompson, who tore his suit jacket prior to the event. Fortunately, he didn’t have to wait long for a replacement (gold) jacket.
“I still don’t know how it happened,” he said.
“I walked into the bathroom as soon as I got there and must’ve snagged my jacket on a latch on the way out. It was a brand new suit and I ripped the back of the jacket right out.
“It wasn’t a great start to the night that’s for sure.”
Never satisfied with “any part” of his game, the Adelaide vice-captain has put a focus on improving his leadership skills.
“We’ve got a young group and a young midfield. I want to try to fast-track the development of those younger players,” he said.
“Patrick Dangerfield and Rory Sloane had breakout years in 2012 and I still think we’ve got a lot of quality coming through. Jarryd Lyons and Aidan Riley have had a taste. There’s been a lot spoken about Brad Crouch, but he’s definitely one to look out for. He’s hard and tough and can find the footy. Matt Wright is a beauty. I love watching him play. He’s so balanced over the footy.
“I enjoy watching those guys get better and if I can have some sort of influence on their careers, I’ll be proud of that.”
Out of contract at the end of the season, Thompson hasn’t ruled out a coaching or development role after he hangs up the boots. But he hopes that won’t be for a few years yet.
“Yes, I’m nearly 30, but my body is feeling good … another four years would be nice,” he grins.
“I’m excited about the season ahead. Internally, we’ve got great belief and know what we’re capable of doing. We’ve got the same list minus Kurt Tippett, and I don’t think he’ll be a loss like some people think he will be because we’ve got guys like Josh Jenkins and Shaun McKernan who can cover his role.
“I’ve played in three losing prelims now and it’s not a nice feeling. It’s a long road back to where we were last year, but I think we’re capable of getting back there and going one better.”