AFTER seven flags with Albury, Michael Thompson has decided to call it quits on his outstanding Ovens and Murray career and head bush. Thompson signed with home club Kiewa-Sandy Creek over the summer and spoke to the Border Mail’s BRENT GODDE about the move.
BRENT GODDE: After seven flags in a decade it must have been a tough decision to leave the Albury Sportsground. What was the motivation to join Kiewa-Sandy Creek considering your are only 29?
MICHAEL THOMPSON: It was a tough decision. I could not say a bad word about Albury. When you are in that inner sanctum of the Albury Tigers, it’s a great place to be. Great culture alongside great people. My motivation to head to Kiewa-Sandy Creek was to play with a couple of my best mates in Timmy Kindellan and Jack Di Mizio and more importantly to give back to the club I grew up playing juniors with. My family lives out there too, so i will have somewhere to stay after a few shindigs.
BG: Seven flags is an unbelievable achievement. Is there one grand final that stands out above the rest and if so, why?
MT: All seven flags were amazing playing with amazing blokes that you become mates for life with. My first flag in 2009 was pretty special though, as I had came from playing at Wodonga Raiders where I had been in the seniors since I was 16 and never previously won a game. So to come over the Border at 19 and go through the season undefeated and experience winning a premiership – it really was an amazing feeling.
BG: You have played under some high-profile coaches including four-time premiership coach Paul Spargo, Daniel Maher, Danny Stevens, Chris Hyde, Joel Mackie and most recently Shaun Daly. Who do you feel had the most influence on your playing career and why?
MT: I have been lucky enough to be coached by all these not only great coaches but also great blokes. All who I’m happy to call good mates. I guess everyone is going to expect me to say the answer is Paul Spargo. And you are right, I can’t go past the great man. Paul really influenced me the most as I was still only a younger fella coming through the ranks and you really try to take in everything a bloke of his calibre throws at you. Sure he gets the veins coming out of his head a few times but he demands the utmost respect on an off the field at the club an that’s what he got. Hence why players like myself all raise the bar. He really set a standard and none of those coaches after him ever dropped that. There is a mantra at Tigerland that success breeds success – and it’s true.
BG: Have you ever copped any memorable sprays from any of them?
MT: I have been fortunate enough not to really cop any super sprays from the coaches. I rate myself as pretty casual fella so I don’t think I rubbed any of them up the wrong way.
BG: You have played on all the big forwards during your time at Albury Sportsground including Brendan Fevola, Michael Newton and Adam Prior. What was it like playing on Fev?
MT: Well obviously as we all know, Fev is a freak. I will admit though, not much gets the sphincter tightening more than when you’re playing in a grand final with not long to go and it’s just you and Fev one out in the goal square.
BG: How many times would you have played on Fevola and what would be the score in head to head battles?
MT: I think Fev and I probably played on each other around 10 times I guess. He got the better of me on one occasion - that I can remember. No, just joking, of course he got the better of me on most occasions as I never held him goalless. I think my best result against him was actually the first time I played on him and I think I held him to two goals or something like that.
BG: Did he have much to say to you out on the ground?
MT: Fev is a good bloke and fairly casual out on the ground. He would always spin a yarn out on the ground and was a bit of an entertainer really.
BG: I'm guessing Fevola was the best player you have played against. Who else did you rate highly?
MT: I would say Fev would be the best, but obviously big bustling Bazza Hall was pretty handy, no good in a fight but a handy footballer. Most of the big forwards in the competition over the years have had their days.
BG: You were often undersized when playing on the big forwards. What tactics did you use to overcome that?
MT: I guess I was a tad undersized against a few of the big boys, but I was lucky enough to have a bit of toe about me so that really helps as a defender. I’m actually a bloody strong bastard as well. No I’m joking but I’d always try to get a jump at the footy and try not to sit there wrestling.
BG: You have obviously played alongside some outstanding players at Albury. Who do you rate as the best player you have seen at Tigerland?
MT: You probably can’t go past Daniel Cross. Just the ultimate professional he was. He was amazing to watch in full flight and you’d swear he had the ball on a string. Obviously he played at the highest level but I’ve never seen anyone from Albury dominate the competition as much as him.
BG: Who would you rate as the best opposition player?
MT: He was in the twilight of his career when I started playing, but I’d say John McCormick from Wangaratta was the best I’ve seen. I was amazed how the bloke would absolutely cop a hiding but would just keep getting up and dominate games.
BG: Setanta and Aisake O'hAilpin were intriguing players to watch at Albury. What was it like to play alongside them?
MT: The O’hAilpin boys are some of the most passionate blokes I have ever met. They would give nothing less than 100 per cent with everything, great blokes off the field too. I still keep in contact and hear from the big roosters’ every now and then.
BG: Who would you consider Albury's biggest rival over the last decade?
MT: I dare say our biggest rival has to be Yarra as we have played so many close games and grand finals against each other. I have nothing but massive respect for them as opponents. I think all the Albury boys used to love testing themselves against Yarrawonga and it really used to get the competitive juices flowing.
BG: The grand final was played at Wangaratta this year for the first time. Where do you consider the best venue for the grand final?
MT: Wangarratta wasn’t too bad a venue, I suppose we did win another flag there. But the atmosphere at Lavington when the hill is full is still the best in my opinion.
BG: Obviously Ovens and Murray is a big commitment with all the training and recovery. Are you looking forward to playing at the lower level this season?
MT: It is a big commitment, but Albury were very very lenient with my training which helped get me through the year. But I can’t wait to get into it with Kiewa this year.
BG: A freak accident in 2017 where you received a knock to the testicle nearly resulted in your premature retirement. Have you fully recovered now?
MT: It was a bit of a shame but I have made a full recovery. I have frozen sperm just in case but you can tell all the ladies I’m still fertile and everything is in working order.
BG: You were a Kiewa-Sandy Creek junior, did you play seniors before joining Albury?
MT: I never played seniors at Kiewa as I joined Wodonga Raiders at 15 for pre-season then played seniors at 16.
BG: You could cross paths with one of your premiership teammates in Matt Fowler when you play Thurgoona this year. Are you confident you have got his measure?
MT: I dare say I will come across old Fowler boy, he’s a good mate of mine. I suppose we will have to see who takes the chocolates – but I know he loves them. I’d like to think I’ve got him covered because he is at least 10-years older than me. I might have to consider retiring if he kicks a bag on me.
BG: Have you got any coaching ambitions?
MT: I haven’t really thought about coaching too much.