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Scott happy out of the spotlight

Harry Thring, AFL Record  July 16, 2016 2:52 PM

AFL 2014 Rd 10 - Carlton v Adelaide

Scott Thompson of the Crows (centre) celebrates a goal during the 2014 AFL Round 10 match between Carlton Blues and the Adelaide Crows at Etihad Stadium, Melbourne on May 25, 2014. (Photo: Michael Willson/AFL Media)

That's a lot of footy when you think about it

SCOTT Thompson isn't comfortable in the spotlight.

He smiles politely when asked about going down as Adelaide's greatest inside midfielder behind Mark Ricciuto and Simon Goodwin, but he squirms in his seat and gives himself away.

Statistics don't lie - on the eve of his 300th AFL game Thompson's output across 16 seasons has been staggering.

He's polled 150 Brownlow Medal votes, four more than Ricciuto (although Ricciuto managed to win the 2003 medal) and his average of almost 24 possessions a game betters that of Ricciuto, Goodwin and Andrew McLeod.

He's the only Crow to have surpassed 7000 senior possessions.

Of course Ricciuto, McLeod and Goodwin both won three club champion awards, while Thompson's back-to-back wins in 2011/12 saw him join Ben Hart as a two-time champion.

Whether it sits well with him or not, Thompson's performances at the highest level in his 299 premiership games have elevated him to club great status.

"They're not things I think about, I don't like to be the centre of attention," Thompson said.

"Although I've mellowed over the course of my career, I've always been so competitive - I've just hated losing.

"So maybe that competitive nature has at times brought the best out of me and at times tipped me over the edge as well. Having that in me has allowed me to achieve what I have."

Thompson genuinely can't believe he's reached his 300-game milestone.

"That's a lot of footy when you think about it," he admits.

Not bad considering his career started as "skinny little kid" playing junior football for North Haven in Adelaide.

But even then Thompson's trademark grittiness was apparent.

He remembered sitting down with his parents as a nine-year-old to watch a game of footy on television. He turned and told them that one day he would be playing at the highest level.

Such a declaration is hardly a rarity, particularly in a nation as sports obsessed as this, but Thompson's determination was indeed a rare and valuable thing.

He may have made his decision to play football at the highest level before his 10th birthday but it wasn't until the under-16 national carnival and the under-17 All Australian tour of Ireland that Thompson's dream really began to materialise.

He was one of five young players who managed to shadow each other through every state representative side from under-12s right through to draft day: Thompson, Alan Didak, Jordan McMahon, Hayden Skipworth and Kane Cornes.

A South Australian native, Thompson insisted he had no idea where he was destined to begin his AFL career at the 2000 national draft.

As an under-17 All Australian, he'd spoken to many clubs and so was unable to gauge how early or late in the opening round he might be snared.

He saw Didak taken by Collingwood with pick No.3, McMahon at No.10 to the Western Bulldogs and then Melbourne called his name at pick No.16.

"After that under-16 carnival and the tour to Ireland and I had a fair bit of involvement with AFL recruiting staff, it was at that point where I thought I was actually pretty close to getting drafted or being in the mix to get drafted," he reflected.

"Back then the draft was on live TV and when Melbourne called my name at 16 I was certainly quite happy – Mum had a few tears and mixed emotions … I was 17 years old, I was moving interstate straight out of school.

"Looking back I'm really glad and thankful I got that opportunity with Melbourne."

Things didn't go to plan for the gun mid during his years as a Demon.

Thompson was cut down by injuries in each of his four seasons, which came as a surprise given he'd barely been troubled by them prior to entering the AFL.

He averaged fewer than 10 games a season from 2001 to 2004 and at that point never believed he would manage to play 300.

A broken foot midway through the 2004 season spelt the end of his time at Melbourne and signalled the start of a new chapter.

"I was coming out of contract and it just became clear that a fresh start would be nice," he said.

"It was hard, especially being away from family and all my mates but in saying that the Melbourne Footy Cub were fantastic, I've still got some really great friendships from my four years there."

Adelaide's then list manager James Fantasia and Vince Del Bono (now head trainer) spearheaded the club's pursuit of Thompson, with Del Bono in particular having a link to the midfielder.

Del Bono had built a close relationship with Thompson over the years, having acted as St Michaels' First XVIII runner during Thompson's years at the Adelaide college.

The Crows got in early and chased hard, eventually giving up pick No.12 at the 2004 national draft to lock the deal down.

"I couldn't stand the Crows as a kid growing up, being a Port Magpies boy I naturally followed Port Adelaide when they came into the AFL," Thompson said.

"I followed them quite closely actually, Port Power, to the point when I was in Melbourne and they won their first flag in '04, I was really happy."

 

Read the full story in this week's AFL Record.