By Myles Stedman (NEAFL Media)
Mitch Thompson may be one of Sydney University’s most recognizable faces from their time in the NEAFL, having been a large part of their success of the past few seasons, but he’s the first to admit he’s no Superman.
In fact, this very tribute has been delayed for seven weeks when the midfielder came down rather ill before the Students’ game against the Brisbane Lions in Round 15, and hasn’t come back in to the side until now.
“I had a bad cold, and then an infected eye, it was nasty,” Thompson laughed, recalling the fun of his long wait.
However, it only takes a glance at the 100 games list for Sydney Uni, and around the NEAFL itself, to realize what an important player Thompson is in the scheme of the competition.
In fact, Thompson started his league life as one of the Sydney Swans’ first ever top-up players in 2011, the system which has produced so many NEAFL and AFL stars of late.
“At the time I was playing alright for Uni, I had a good strong support network around the school, I was really enjoying my footy, so I got the chance around the mid-to-back end of the year,” the midfielder said, recalling his introducing to the Swans.
“I just tried to grab it with both hands. I just tried to play my role, do whatever the coaches told me to do and make the most of the opportunity.”
Make it he did, as the former North Shore Bomber was offered a chance to play for the South Fremantle Bulldogs in the WAFL.
“It took me back, the sheer love for the game over there was massive,” Thompson said of his time in Western Australia.
“It was one of the best things I’ve ever done… my football wasn’t the best, but I really enjoyed it there. They were a cut above, bigger bodies, well trained, great skills, really good game plans, and the history of the game over there was great.”
However, at the heart of it, Thompson is not unlike his fellow “alumni” at Sydney University, who thrive in, and help cultivate, the successful, winning brand the Students are known for.
“It’s the people,” Thompson answered, when prompted to what brought him home to NSW.
“When I first left school, I really had no intention of going to university or playing football.
“Obviously playing good footy and being part of a winning team is enjoyable, but for me it’s all about the people, all the way down to division 5… the enthusiasm everyone has the club.”
With challenges around them entering the back end of the year, Thompson, 28, has not lost the desire and focus to achieve the one goal he hopes to before he retires: win a flag with a group he has been playing with since junior football.
“It’s getting those little things to come back together; our intensity around the ball, our ball movements, our skills, they were great at the start of the year,” Thompson said.
“I think we’ve lost that basic skill occasionally, and the real desire to win the one-on-one contests, to help your teammate out and be that extra number, I think we’re definitely there, just unfortunately we’ve been slightly off.
“If it does come back together, we’re a fast team, we’re an aggressive team, and we can definitely cut up the opposition at times.”
Presuming Thompson is fit, firing, and free of any ailments, he will be a large part of that flag, the same way he has been a large part of the success his club has built from the ground up.
Sydney University will host NT Thunder in Round 21 action from 2pm on Saturday.