He regularly got under the skin of opposition fans and ruffled plenty of feathers in his time on the big stage, but Lindsay Thomas was adored by the North Melbourne faithful.

Lethal on the left, crafty around the big sticks, and capable of climbing up onto an opponent's shoulders to rein in a massive grab, 'Boof' was a pivotal player throughout his 11 seasons at Arden Street.

He notched 325 goals from his 205 games in the royal blue and white, and despite finishing his career at Port Adelaide, he'll forever be a Shinboner through and through.


A Wirangu and Kokatha man, he made time for NMFC Media to chat about his move from his hometown of Port Lincoln to Melbourne, the special moments he shared with his teammates, overcoming the yips, and what the Kangas fans meant to him.


Selected with the 53rd pick of the 2006 AFL draft, Thomas had to pack his bags and head interstate to begin his AFL career, which was an early challenge for him.

"If I'm being completely honest, it was terrifying," Thomas said of the transition from South Australia to Victoria.

"I had no real inkling that I was going to North Melbourne. I probably only spoke to them once throughout the whole year.

Coming from a small country town in Port Lincoln, then making a move to Adelaide, then all of a sudden you have to get on a plane to Melbourne, yeah - it was terrifying.

Luckily for the Eyre Peninsula local, a then two-time Syd Barker medallist was a welcoming presence, while a strong Indigenous representation at the club helped the young draftee settle in.

"I got to live with Brady Rawlings and his wife, and they really looked after me in that first 4-5 weeks and made me feel comfortable," he said.

"There were some really amazing people and champions of the club in the playing group as well that were there at the time that made the transition really easy.

"I was pretty lucky because I knew (Kangaroos midfielder) Eddie Sansbury through connections in South Australia, and Daniel Wells.

Lindsay and Daniel embrace after the Roos knocked off Fremantle in Round 9, 2009. Picture: Andrew White/AFL Photos

"Daniel and I are family, he comes from Port Lincoln as well … Matt Campbell came across with me in the same year and we gravitated towards each other.

"Eddie and Daniel were the two main guys that helped me come out of my shell quickly."

'How lucky was I?'

An exhilarating figure inside forward 50, Thomas produced countless special moments and played in several important finals over his career.  

His seven-goal haul in a Friday night bout with the Blues back in 2010 is among the stand-outs. Others include his perfect sit on Adam Saad's shoulders up in Queensland, and his stunning start to the 2014 semi final against the Cats.

Lindsay celebrates a goal during the 2014 semi final against Geelong. Picture: Michael Willson/AFL Photos

But Thomas says playing alongside some of the club’s elite is what he’ll remember most.

"I've been retired now for 5-6 years and you kind of reflect on a lot of things and look back on your career. I think, how lucky was I?" Thomas said.

"I got to play with some absolute champions of our footy club. Adam Simpson, Glenn Archer, Drew Petrie, 'Boomer' (Harvey), Brady Rawlings, 'Wellsy' and those kinds of guys.

"Apart from the finals that I played in, to be able to say that I played with Brent Harvey in his record-breaking game is definitely up there (in terms of my favourite moments).

Lindsay and Brent share a moment during Boomer's record-breaking AFL game. Picture: Michael Willson/AFL Photos

"To play in games like Drew Petrie's milestones, Glenn Archer's milestones, Adam Simpson's milestones, they're the moments I cherish. Then you look at guys you get drafted with. I'm still really close with Lachie Hansen and I got to play in his 100-game milestone.

"Being at the Roos for nearly 12 years, you build strong relationships and to be able to play in those special games with your close mates is something I've really started to appreciate."

Staring down the yips

While there was no shortage of ups across Thomas' career, one particular down proved disruptive and made headlines across the footy world.

2011 was a tough period for the small forward. Picture: Michael Willson/AFL Photos

In the 2011 season he developed a case of the yips which worsened throughout the season as he went 21.36 in front of goal.

It completely plagued Thomas' campaign, and he conceded that it was an issue that needed to be rectified.

"You try to play around it, but until I actually acknowledged what was going on there, I knew I had to put in some work," he said.

"AFL footy isn’t easy at the best of times, after the 2011 season I had a hard look at where I wanted to be, and I knew I had to fix a few things up.

"I went away and worked extremely hard before the 2012 season. In the off-season, I probably had between 200-500 shots at goal a week, and it would be literally from 10-15 metres out directly in front.

"The reasons were just for confidence – knowing that you can kick a goal. Then gradually you move back further and further.

2013 was 'Boof's best season in front of goals, kicking 53 from 20 appearances. Picture: Andrew White/AFL Photos

"Brett Allison was amazing (with helping me) at the time, Brad Scott was good, but I worked closely with 'Fruity' (Allison).

"A lot of work went into changing (my form) around. A lot of hours at the parks by myself, a lot of hours at training by myself. It didn’t happen overnight, AFL footy doesn’t work like that.

"Lucky enough for me (the work) paid off. That’s probably one of the proudest moments of my career, overcoming that."

Unstoppable brilliance, with or without boots

Flowing on from the most important off-season of his career, Thomas went onto kick 38.19 in 2012, 53.23 in 2013, and 45.23 in 2014 – his three most fruitful seasons in terms of total majors… and it's no surprise that some of them - in and either side of this period - were absolute gems.

"I kicked one against Carlton on the boundary line. They're the ones you look back on and think 'How did that happen?'," he said.

Despite Drew Petrie kicking seven against the Blues in Round 16, 2012, Lindsay amazed the crowd with a stunning boundary-line effort. Picture: Lachlan Cunningham/AFL Photos

"But the one that usually gets brought up to this day from a lot of people I know and kids that I work with is the one against Brisbane with no boot.

"Kicking some crucial goals in some big finals sticks with you as well, but my favourite would have to be that one against the Lions."

These bits of brilliance have helped Thomas forge a special legacy at North Melbourne, not only as one of the greatest Indigenous players to have walked through the Arden Street facilities, but one of the club's best small forwards ever.

It's a sentiment echoed by Roos fans around the country but not one that Thomas himself can accept easily.

"In all honesty it doesn’t really sit well with me," he laughed.

"But, in saying that, it's great to hear as well.

I absolutely loved our fans; I wore my heart on my sleeve and played with a passion.

"Once I knew what the North Melbourne guernsey represented and what it meant to our fans, it aligned really well (with my values), and it's one of the reasons why I stayed for so long.

"To hear those kinds of comments and when I see North Melbourne people still to this day that have these nice words, it does warm the heart, and does make me proud knowing that I played my role.

"I'm very thankful for our fans … to bring some sort of joy to them was an honour."

'I thought: Wow, this kid's going to be a star'

As the silky left-footer's time as a Kangaroo began to wind down, it was only the dawn for another Indigenous talent at the club who was brimming with potential.

Brought to Arden St with the 12th selection of the 2016 National Draft, Jy Simpkin immediately formed a bond with Thomas and was soon entrusted with inheriting the famous No.12.

"I watched him being drafted and I just thought 'Wow, this kid's going to be a star'," Thomas said.

"Since day one I took him under my wing because I knew how tough AFL footy was.

"He was a young Indigenous man and I wanted to try help guide him. The relationship was really strong, and we built it on the field and off the field.

A young Jy Simpkin in his first year at the club. Picture: Adam Trafford/AFL Photos

"I couldn’t be prouder of Jy and what he's been able to accomplish already.

"When the decision was made that I was going to leave North Melbourne, I couldn’t have thought of anyone better than Jy to wear and represent the No.12 guernsey.

"I remember talking to him and asking (if he wanted to wear it). It was a really proud moment for us both, we were both emotional and luckily, he said yes.  

I remember talking to him and asking (if he wanted to wear it). It was a really proud moment for us both, we were both emotional and luckily, he said yes.

"I've watched him from afar and to see his journey so far – I'm super proud of him. To be a captain of a footy club as a young Indigenous man (is significant), and he's paved a road for hopefully a lot of other young Indigenous players that represent our club."

The next chapter

Nowadays, Thomas remains in his home state of South Australia with a key goal: "trying to be the best dad and husband" he can be for his wife Hannah, and children Hollie (13), Indie (11), and Cohen (six).

"The body is definitely feeling it, but I'm really enjoying being retired from the game and spending time with the family, which has been a priority," he said.

He currently works for the Royal Automobile Association, where he focuses on Reconciliation Action Plans, community engagement and liaising, while also having the opportunity to remain connected to football.

"Through a partnership I work with another organisation called the Tjindu Foundation, where I coach our Academy boys and girls who were also lucky enough to come down to Arden Street last year to meet the guys," he said.

"I've always been a passionate Aboriginal man, and this (foundation) aligns with my values." 


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