199 + 1: A tribute to Lindsay Thomas

On Good Friday, Lindsay Thomas will become the 27th man to play 200 games in a North Melbourne jumper. Of those on the 2017 playing list, Thomas has played the most games in the blue and white stripes, and will be the only member of the 200 club currently playing for the Roos.

While his efforts this week may be overlooked by some, once it’s broken down like that you realise how impressive it actually is.

The main focus this week will be around the inaugural Good Friday game. With Good Friday footy on North’s agenda for 25 years, they have finally been granted their wishes in a showdown against the Western Bulldogs.

 

However, round four will also mark game 200 for Lindsay Thomas.

Despite the main event, Thomas’ milestone should not be overshadowed.

Kick starting his career in 2007, the small forward has been through his fair share of ups and downs in his 199 games. His bad case of the yips, speculation about drawing free kicks and being an all round nuisance has often brought him to the centre of rather negative attention.

 

Let’s start with the yips. 2011 was a horrid year for Thomas. While he lead North’s goal kicking in 2010 (29 goals), he couldn’t back it up the year later. Despite only booting eight less goals than the previous year, a whopping 36 behinds was the point of discussion. Missing easy shots on goal and unable to shake his atrocious kicking, the small forward was even sent for a spell in the VFL.

 

But following that season from hell, Thomas bounced back in emphatic fashion. In 2012, he turned his luck around with 38 goals 19 behinds for the season.

 

2013, however, was the year for Lindsay. He has an explosive start to the season and finished up as North’s leading goal kicker with 53 majors. His red hot form at the beginning of year sparked whispers of an All Australian nomination, however it was not meant to be, with Lindsay finding it hard to fire up after the bye. He did, however, finish 7th in the Coleman Medal, the highest of any small forward that year.

 

Since then, we have seen an (almost) complete transformation of Thomas and his desire to become more of a team player. While he was labelled a “selfish” footballer early on in his career, his new playing style suggests otherwise. Enormous tackling pressure, an impressive work rate and willingness to share the football have become major factors of his game over the past few years, and he has become a key to the North Melbourne line up. His ability to ignite and inspire the side has become his greatest asset and makes him stand out.

 

You can talk about his ‘ducking’ and how he ‘plays for free kicks’; that’s an argument we could have all day. Have the umpires stopped paying him free kicks altogether? It remains a highly debated topic.

 

You can also talk about the fights. I often laugh to myself, because whenever there’s a bust up in the forward 50, you can almost guarantee Lindsay is in the middle of it.

 

While I often agree with people that he can get on your last nerve, he is often misunderstood by the opposition, and is too quickly judged. There is too much concentration and focus on his negative behaviours, and there is prejudice from those in the stands – those things often leaving many in denial about his football ability.

 

The bottom line – he can play. He has an ability to win the ball, kick goals and has that rare ability to get the side going. During North v Collingwood last year, Cameron Ling summed him up to a tee; “say what you like about him, he’s a good footballer”.

 

And he has played some massive roles. His career highlights include those 7 goals against Carlton in 2010, his best on ground performance in Boomer’s record equalling game, and his monster influence throughout North’s 2014 finals campaign.

 

However, above all his on-field hits and his misses, his qualities and his quirks, Lindsay’s greatest asset is his emotion.

 

I believe that football can dehumanise players, and we can often forget about the man and the heart behind his on field persona. He is not a popular choice amongst outsiders, however the negativity is an unfair judgement of his character.

 

Twice in my life Lindsay Thomas has reduced me to tears. Both in 2016, and both off field.

 

The first was his post game interview in round 18, 2016. His five goals and best on ground performance against Collingwood was backed up by his honesty and emotional dialogue with the channel seven commentary team. Standing proudly in the North Melbourne jumper, a humble Thomas was in full praise of his 21 teammates, with love for the club pouring out of his heart and through the TV screens. He then went on to reveal that he lost his uncle during the week, and he was playing for family back in South Australia. The interview topped off what had been a wonderful night for Thomas and the club, and in a rare moment in front of the press, he nailed it.

 

In case that wasn’t enough to tug at the heart strings, Thomas addressed the NM faithful at the Syd Barker Medal just a few months later. Celebrating 10 years at North Melbourne, he accepted his life membership and the room filled with warmth and love as you could see how much it meant to him. I have watched those six minutes countless times, and it doesn’t get any easier. He was outstanding.

 

“To the North Melbourne Football Club, I don’t think you understand how much of an honour this is – not just for me, but for my family… I fell in love with this footy club and it’s been the best part of my life,” Thomas said.

 

It was his praise of former teammate, mentor and ‘brother’ Brent Harvey that reduced everyone, including himself, to tears.

 

“To my little mate… you’ve taught me so much over the 10 years I’ve been here. You took me under your wing. I don’t call you my mate, I call you my brother because when footy’s done, we’re going to be brothers for life.”

*cue the waterworks*

 

Amongst the on field character, there’s a genuine heart and altogether that makes up the remarkable Lindsay Thomas. To reach 200 games in the blue and white stripes is an outstanding achievement, and he should be celebrated amongst all those who have done so before him.

 

Maybe this has helped you rethink your opinions of Lindsay, maybe not – but at the very least it has given enough insight into the on field persona, and the man behind it.

 

If there’s one lesson you can take from the life of Lindsay, is to never give up. Because hard work and a good attitude will help you succeed, and help you reach 199 + 1.

 

Comments

  1. This is a great piece, Marnie. Thomas has been a champion of the club and always tries his best. The goal kicking yips were trying times for everyone at North Melbourne, but thankfully he turned that around. I hope (and expect) the Bulldogs fans will help celebrate an awesome effort by Thomas. Maybe he can even kick 3 or 4 goals to top off our first win of the season.

  2. Peter Crossing says:

    Thanks for this Marnie. A great tribute to a player who is always interesting to watch, particularly for those “what is going to happen next” moments. Good to hear of his passion for his team-mates, his club and the game. Well done.

  3. Well played, LT. Huge effort to play 200 AFL matches. And that can never be taken away from him.
    And well played, Marnie. This is a really heart-felt piece.

    Alas, Lindsay has sometimes driven me to distraction over the years – particularly his knack of giving away silly 50-metre penalties.

  4. LT is a great player, passionate and committed, brave too. His interview on Marngrook Footy Show this week was dignified and articulate.

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