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Where are they now? Andrew Thompson

Andrew Thompson played 221 games and booted 93 goals in his career.
Stan Alves made it really clear that effectively I was the worst player on the list.
Andrew Thompson

Andrew Thompson was a fierce and reliable midfielder for the Saints from 1997 until 2007.

Drafted from the Old Melburnians at the end of 1996 as a 23-year-old, he played 23 matches in his first season - including the Grand Final - and was awarded with his first Big V guernsey in 1998 after just 30 league games. 

Following a best and fairest year in 2000, he was named St Kilda's stand-in captain the following season after Robert Harvey injured his knee.

A permanent fixture in the Saints engine room for 221 games, Thompson was highly respected for his desperation, commitment and durability. 

Upon retirement, he joined St Kilda's board as a director and was an important part of the six-person committee that appointed Alan Richardson last November. 

RELATED: Coaching sub-committee takes shape

What does St Kilda Football Club mean to you?
I’m still here 20 years after I got drafted so the club definitely means a lot to me. I first walked in the door in 1993 as someone invited to train and I’ve pretty much been here ever since, apart from the one year when I spent with the Bulldogs.

It has been a very large part of my life.  It took me a little while to get onto the senior list when I first arrived and after retiring seven years ago from my playing career, I'm now fortunate enough to be involved from a board level.  I still enjoy walking into the place and seeing a lot of familiar faces, particularly when you’ve got people like Browney (Player welfare manager Tony Brown) and Lenny [Hayes] around the place.

It’s been a huge part of my life and I just want to see the place be as successful as possible.

WHERE ARE THEY NOW? Stewart Loewe

How did you arrive at St Kilda in the first place?
Well mine is a bit of an unusual story. After school I went overseas for a year and travelled around Europe.  I then came back and played footy at the Old Melburnians in the VAFA and spent three years down there.

I was asked to do a pre-season at the end of 1993, and obviously Stan Alves was the coach at the time. At the end of that summer he said to me ‘Thanks for coming down, but you won’t be required'. That year I ended up playing four games in the reserves as a top-up player

The following year I went to the Bulldogs for the year in 1995. After a season there, Alan Joyce, the Bulldogs coach, pretty much said what Stan Alves had said a year earlier: that they didn’t need me either.

It didn't stop me from working hard at my craft though so I went back to the Old Melburnians to play. I got a call from Johnny Beveridge a short time later who told me to come down and play some twos matches for the Saints – which I did in 1996. I was lucky enough to get drafted – pick 62 I think it was – at the end of 1996. That’s how it all started.

WHERE ARE THEY NOW? Bill Mildenhall

A young Thommo: Andrew Thompson beats Ben Cousins and teammate Shane Wakelin to the ball in 1998. 

At what point did you decide you wanted to have a crack at the AFL?
Well as a kid I had always dreamed of playing AFL. When I was in year 12 at Melbourne Grammar I played a few games in the seconds and a few in the ones, so I was certainly never going to be drafted straight from school.

So I went overseas and matured a bit and was just playing down at the OMs. The emotions for me were different to many others because I was told originally that I wasn’t good enough so I thought ‘well, maybe that’s the end of that chapter.’

But then the Bulldogs gave me a lifeline. The moment they told me I wasn't good enoguh I thought I was never going to get the opportunity to play. I was fortunate that St Kilda gave me one more chance.

So to go from thinking it was all over, to finally being drafted 12 months later at the age of 23, and then to play my first game at the age of 24 obviously felt like a pretty good achievement. It was really just the start of it.

WHERE ARE THEY NOW? Gary Colling

Did the rejection from clubs make you a better player?
Yeah I think so. But the thing that really stood out to me was when I walked into Stan Alves' office after I was drafted. I think a lot of kids when they get drafted think that they’ve made it. Stan made it really clear that effectively I was the worst player on the list, and if I wanted to remain, I needed to make sure I worked extremely hard to retain my spot.

My work ethic was probably something that got me a few games and someone like Stan made sure that I developed that sort of work ethic right from the start.

I do think it’s important that when players do get drafted, they realise it’s the start of the journey and not the end.

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What are your fondest memories of playing with the Saints?
The first year was obviously a pretty exciting year because we played in the Grand Final. Still one of my favourite games was the 1997 preliminary final against the Kangaroos. Probably at the 15-minute-mark of the final quarter we knew we were going to be playing in a Grand Final, so from there it was pretty exciting.

And then that whole build up that week ahead of the Grand Final was just a great thing to be a part of. Clearly the result wasn’t something that we would have liked and I see photos of Darren Jarman now and wonder ‘how it could be that one man could probably cost us a premiership?’

But he was an outstanding player and that was the early stages. So then we went from playing in a Grand Final to winning a wooden spoon just a few years later and then the rebuild – which was probably pretty similar to what the club is going through at the moment.

We picked up some really good players along the way in the draft like Roo (Nick Riewoldt), Leigh Montagna, Nick Dal Santo and Brendan Goddard – although the latter two aren’t here anymore.

And then we brought in players like Aaron Hamill and Fraser Gherig, and Grant Thomas of course had a big part to play as well. That was an exciting time because we could feel that things were starting to head back in the right direction.

We played in a couple of preliminary finals before Ross Lyon came in and I left at about that stage. I’d got to about the age of 35 and could hardly run anymore so it was time for me to go. Ross was clearly an outstanding person and an outstanding coach and under him we got as close as you can get without winning one.

So now we’ve started again under Richo and I think just looking at the way the guys are playing this year, it’s enjoyable going to the footy again.

WHERE ARE THEY NOW? Lindsay Fox

 

The last hurrah: Andrew Thompson was recalled to the team for a farewell match in round 22, 2007. Here he is chaired off by Robert Harvey and Aaron Fiora

What have you been up to since you retired?
I was probably a bit unusual in that I worked all through my footy career. This didn't cause too many issues until towards the end of my career when it became pretty hard to have another job because footy became so full-time.

I was doing one day per week working in the stockmarket. So as soon as I finished footy I had a full-time job lined up originally at ABN AMRO Morgans and now I work at a company called Cannacord which is a Canadian broking firm.

I’ve been there nearly six years. The hardest thing I found about retirement was sitting at a desk all day. You feel the belt buckle get a bit tighter and you think ‘well, it’s time to go for another run.’

But overall it wasn’t a difficult transition for me and it was made easier by the fact that I was and am still involved in the club. Being on the board meant that I could still have some involvement at St Kilda which is something that I’ve really enjoyed.