Lewis Roberts Thomson – Retired AFL Football Player
At the conclusion of the 2014 season, Lewis Roberts-Thomson of the Sydney Swans somewhat abruptly called a halt to his AFL career.
That came as something of a surprise, but given that Roberts-Thomson had reached the age of 30, it would have to be considered that retirement was always someplace in his mind, back, middle or front, for some time.
He enjoyed a fairly decent degree of longevity, being credited with having participated in 179 matches, a number that currently places him at 697th all-time in the AFL.
In a sport where leaping as high as possible into the air, and then crashing to the ground, something Lewis-Thomson is credited with having done almost 700 times, with the body in a compromising, vulnerable posture, it is only a matter of time before the percentages come into play. Couple that with medical treatment that basically deals with all injuries, minor and severe, with the suggestion, “Rub some dirt on it,” and it becomes something of a wonder that the supply of births is able to satisfy the demand for fresh footy players.
Lewis Roberts-Thomson, affectionately referred to as Lewie, LRT and The Hypenator, was often labelled, quite respectfully, as a ‘big game player,’ mainly for how well he stood during the grand finals in 2005 and 2012, where his contributions were pivotal to the outcomes. To have one good outing in the finals is one thing, two quite another, but two over the course of seven grueling seasons goes far to show the mental toughness and physical durability that enabled LRT to play comfortably in numerous positions with the Swans.
Now that Lewie has decided to call it a day, it is time to have a glimpse at his career and measure his contributions.
Born 8 September 1983 in Sydney, he would have been just 18 or 19 years of age when he was drafted 29th out of 83 picks in the national draft that is generally known as the superdraft due to the depth of talent that produced so many star players. He established his potential playing for the Rams at the TAC Cup level. Remarkably, he had spent most of his early formative years as a rugger, playing in only 40 rules matches up to the time he was drafted.
As is certainly not unheard of when young players move up a level, playing against veterans who have had additional years of training and experience with elite competition, Roberts-Thomson was injured for most of his inaugural season in 2002. He healed, and showed enough prowess in the 2003 season to be declared an AFL Rising Star in his 10th game following a Round 8 debut.
That award, however, did not protect him from sitting out the bulk of the 2004 season with injuries to his Achilles tendon and one of his thumbs.
As might be imagined, this lack of consistency made him a target for the legions of critics that thought of his play as lacking in quality, but he was to serve up a healthy portion of crow to those critics in 2005, when he emerged as a key defender and turned in the exceptional performance against Perth’s side in the Grand Final on the Melbourne Cricket Ground that earned him a permanent position on the players list of the Swans. His contribution led to him being one of six Swans declared Best. It was the first premiership for Sydney in over 70 years.
He showed well in 2006, when he played in 24 games. Positioned as he was, he was not what anyone could characterise as a prolific scorer, but he did have his second best-ever season in terms of kicks. His statistics for handballs, disposals, and marks were more indicative of his value to the Swans.
LRT was limited to two games in 2007, but the following year, he did a highly respectable job and re-secured his role on the Swan’s defence at centre half back where he routinely improved and did a creditable job against some of the more highly regarded forwards in the league.
He set his high water mark for disposals in the next season, tallying 331 in the 21 matches in which he was to participate that year, along with career-highs for kicks, handballs, and marks.
Roberts-Thomson maintained his fine form the next season, stepping in to perform the defensive work when his teammate Craig Bolton suffered a season-ending Achilles injury early in the year. He was to experience his own misfortune midway through the year with a season-ending hamstring injury that limited him to 14 games. Interestingly, his statistics for that season were more than a little respectable, and one could make the case that if he had remained healthy, he was on pace to set career highs.
The next season for LRT was one of ups and downs. His duty was limited to 15 games and his results were down quite a bit from his past performances for a player of his stature and past production.
He had a decent resurrection the next year, when the Swans again took the Grand Final on 29 September when the Swans defeated the Hawks, something of an avian anomaly, in a close match attended by nearly 100,000.
The final score was 14.7 (91)-11.15 (81). Roberts-Thomson contributed a goal in the winning effort where his versatility saw him playing forward. That year was his best in terms of goals and behinds, with 25 and 10, respectively. You might say that his effort that year could be dubbed as his swan song.
The final two seasons of his AFL career found Lewis Roberts-Thomson limited to a total of nine games. He concluded as number 35 in number of games played for the Swans. Many of his other marks would conceivably been much higher had he had the luxury of playing fewer positions, but his versatility and ability to play almost anywhere on the oval required him to sacrifice personal achievements for the benefit of the team.
His coach, John Longmire, was effusive in his praise of LRT and many Swans fans are going to speculate who will step in to fill the void left by a player who always seemed to elevate his level of play when the situation required.