Josh Thomas knows all about long waits. Really long waits. But right now it’s a thing of the past for the 25-year-old Collingwood midfielder. He is just loving every minute of life.
Thomas waited 1,221 days from when he was drafted by the Pies in November 2009 until his first game in March 2013. And another 1,038 days between his 32nd game in August 2014 and his 33rd game last month following a two-year drug ban.
It’s been a tough time, but he’s back.
Growing in confidence with every outing, Thomas played his sixth comeback game on Saturday night when Collingwood belted North Melbourne at Etihad Stadium, and continued to repay the faith of the Magpies.
He had 18 possessions, five marks, three clearances, seven inside 50s, three tackles, two goals and a goal assist against North.
He’s averaged 16.3 possessions,3.5 marks, 2.0 clearances,3.5 inside 50’s, 2.2 tackles, one goal and one goal assist.
And after starting his comeback with back-to-back losses he’s had three wins and a draw in his last four games.
It’s been everything he could have hoped for, and probably more, after a long two-year lay-off the key points of which have been nicely captured in a documentary aptly titled ‘1,038 Days’ posted last week on the Collingwood website.
Certainly Thomas, plagued by injury before his debut, has done more than enough to earn a contract for what will be a ninth year in the AFL system.
Having turned his back on the Gold Coast Suns for their entry to the AFL, for the former Redland junior was drafted by Collingwood at #75 in the 2009 AFL National Draft.
It was a draft in which there was a real mix of hit and miss. First round picks in order, with their career AFL games to date, were:-
- Tom Scully (Melb/GWS – 145)
- Jack Trengove (Melb – 86)
- Dustin Martin (Rich – 172)
- Anthony Morabito (Frem – 26)
- Ben Cunnington (NM – 162)
- Gary Rohan (Syd – 90)
- Brad Sheppard (WC – 126)
- John Butcher (Port – 31)
- Andrew Moore (Port/Rich – 60)
- Jake Melksham (Ess/Melb – 130)
- Jordan Gysberts (Melb – 19)
- Kane Lucas (Carl – 42)
- Daniel Talia (Adel – 141)
- Lewis Jetta (Syd/WC – 149)
- Christian Howard (WB – 30)
- Jasper Pittard (Port – 112)
- Dan Menzel (Geel – 55)
Six of the top 17 picks are out of the system – Morabito, Buitcher, Moore, Gysberts, Lucas and Howard – but in a triumph for his persistence and resilience Thomas, taken at the opposite end of the draft, survives.
The 38-gamer was the Queensland feel good story in Round 20 of the Toyota AFL premiership, earning 89 Champion Data ranking points for his strong effort against North.
For the second week in a row Geelong ruckman Zac Smith topped the Queensland ranking points list.
One of few standouts in a Geelong side well beaten by Sydney in Geelong, he had 16 disposals (nine contested), 32 hit-outs, seven clearances, three tackles and a goal for 119 ranking points.
It was Smith’s sixth Champion Data century of the season and the third time he has been the best-performed Queenslander.
Brisbane captain Dayne Beams earned 94 Champion Data ranking points for 22 possessions (8 contested), four clearances, three tackles and a goal assist in his side’s hard-fought Gabba lost to Western Bulldogs.
Dayne Zorko picked up 86 ranking points for 21 possessions (8 contested), four clearances, four tackles, two goals and two goal assists.
Eric Hipwood ran himself to a standstill in posting a career-hjgh 17 possessions, five marks and nine one-percenters, while Jacob Allison looked right at home in his second AFL game with 17 possessions, seven marks and a goal assist.
Harris Andrews had 14 disposals, five marks and nine one-percenters.
Charlie Dixon was among Port Adelaide’s few good players in a showdown demolition at the hands of Adelaide at Adelaide Oval with 10 disposals (8 contested), three marks, four hit-outs, six tackles, five inside 50s and two goals.
He was Port’s only multiple goal-kicker in the atrocious conditions, and second only to skipper Travis Beak in tackles.
Retiring St.Kilda champion Nick Riewoldt had 13 disposals, six marks and a goal in his side’s superb win over West Coast, helping to inspire his side with a fearless attack on the ball late in the game which saw him finish the game on the bench.
Alex Sexton had 19 disposals, a team-high nine marks, two goals and a goal assist to be among the Gold Coast’s best in their loss to Fremantle in Perth.
Max Spencer had 17 disposals and six marks in his second AFL game, while Jarrod Harbrow had 15 disposals and Jesse Joyce 14 disposals. Lachie Weller had 20 disposals, nine marks and four tackles for Fremantle.
Sydney’s Kurt Tippett had eight disposals, 16 hit-outs and four tackles in his return against Geelong, while Wylie Buzza had seven disposals and seven hit-outs for the Cats.
Josh Williams was a late inclusion for North against Collingwood and had 12 disposals, while Braydon Preuss had five disposals, 11 hit-outs and four tackles.
Brendan Whitecross had nine disposals for Hawthorn against Richmond.
In the VFL, Tom Hickey continued to push for a recall to the St.Kilda side with a strong showing for Sandringham against Casey. He had 21 disposals, three marks, four tackles and 55 hit-outs.
Josh Wagner did not play for Casey. He was the Demons’ travelling emergency in Canberra.
Josh Smith also played well for Collingwood against Werribee with a team-high 29 disposals. Lachy Keeffe kicked two goals.
And in the NEAFL Archie Smith continued his excellent vein of form when best afield for the Brisbane Lions in a pressure match against the Sydney Swans. He had 15 disposals, 35 hit-outs and two goals.
Matthew Hammelmann kicked five goals, Claye Beams had 22 disposals, Jono Freeman two goals and Ben Keays 16 disposals and a goal.
By Peter Blucher