Scott Thompson had a simple mantra when it came to playing footy: Never give up.

A key pillar of North Melbourne's defence for over a decade, 'Scooter' – as he was nicknamed – played 241 games as a Kangaroo, having made his debut in Round 1, 2008.

Outside of Arden Street, some opponents branded him a nuisance, but far more admired his tremendous ability to halve contests and, more often than not, win them, while keeping some of the greatest key forwards of the 2010s quiet.

NMFC Media caught up with him five years after the end of his decorated playing career.


Scott Thompson personified the club value of 'Never Beaten' – a principle that was always front and centre when thinking about how he wanted to commit to the game.

"Definitely," Thompson told NMFC Media if it was his goal to play with that attitude.

"I grew up in a strong family with some good values and that was probably one of the things my dad instilled in me - never giving up, no matter what.

"It doesn't matter if you're up by 60 points or down by 60 points, in every contest I wanted to never give in and never give anyone an easy out.

"I thought I held my end up of that for my whole career, always giving 100 per cent no matter what it was in."


"I didn't think I was ever going to get drafted"

Thompson's AFL playing career began in 2008 after the Kangaroos selected him with pick No.37 of the 2007 National Draft.

Already 21, Thompson was coming off a local stint with South Barwon and a VFL premiership with Geelong, but he had started to doubt whether his AFL chance was going to come.

"I didn't think I was ever going to get drafted," he said.

"That first year for me was pretty tough. I think I played six games and got dropped five times.

"So yeah, it was tough coming in and I got told that I was a mature-aged recruit, so the indication was that I wasn't there to sit in the VFL side.

"There was a bit of pressure to get a game but then obviously in my second year I cemented my spot and played in the seniors every week."

A transformative season, minus one game

Fast-forward five years to 2013, and a 26-year-old Thompson delivered the most prolific campaign of his career, finishing the season with an All-Australian blazer and a Syd Barker Medal alongside Daniel Wells.

While the plaudits had finally arrived, 'Scooter' credits the previous season as the one that helped him make the jump into the 'League's best key defender' conversation.

That season featured a notable low point, when he travelled with the Roos to Launceston. He played on a rampaging Lance ‘Buddy’ Franklin, who enjoyed the most famous day of his career, kicking 13 goals.

"Individually, I had a pretty good season, minus probably one game when Buddy Franklin kicked a few on me," Thompson said.

"The way I was playing changed for the first time since 2010 and I really started backing myself in and playing my way of footy. 

"Trying to not just beat my man but intercept the ball and come off my opponent too. I really came into my own."

Scott battled the likes of Taylor Walker several times throughout his 241-game career. Picture: AFL Media

Two special finals campaigns

After finishing 10th on the ladder in 2013, the Roos made significant strides in the subsequent years.

Season 2014 saw the club win its first final since Thompson's draft year of 2007, defeating Essendon and Geelong en route to a preliminary final.

They reached the prelim again the following year, but despite pushing the Eagles to the final siren on their home deck, a Grand Final appearance remained just out of reach.

For Thompson, 2015 represented the club’s best chance to make its return to that last Saturday in September, but he said the club’s taxing run-in to the finals took its toll.

"Those games were really special," he said.

"We did well to make two prelims, but it would have been really great to have a few more wins during those seasons so we could have prepared better heading into those finals series.

"Reviewing it over the last few years, we had to win most games leading up to the finals, which pushed us and made us work extra hard, but we didn't really get that recovery before going into those elimination matches.

"The 2015 West Coast game, I thought at quarter-time that we had a really good chance of making it to the Grand Final. It was a disappointing finish to that one, but it was a great experience for the team to make consecutive prelims, nonetheless.

"I think we were just too tired on that occasion in Perth. The lead-up into the finals had been pretty taxing for us."

Partners in Grime

Across his time at the club, Thompson formed two notable partnerships with his fellow key backs.

By his side in the early stages was Nathan Grima, a fierce competitor from Tasmania who the Roos selected in the 2007 Rookie Draft.

(l-r): Nathan Grima, Ben Cunnington and Scott Thompson

When Grima retired in 2015 (before a later stint at Essendon as a top-up player), Thompson made a formidable partnership with Robbie Tarrant, who was growing to become the next main man in North Melbourne's defensive structure.

"'Narni' (Nathan Grima) was great, obviously a very talented footy player," Thompson said.

"He was always great to have around in the locker room as well, he kept the boys up and about.

"Robbie was one of the best players to have around you because you always knew what you were going to get from him. 

"Like 'Narni', he was very talented and skilful but could hold his own and would help you out every time, so those two were awesome."

A champion Kangaroo

Thompson's 241 games places him in the top 20 for games played by an individual at North Melbourne - a list packed with fellow club champions.

While he’s proud of the achievement, he is also characteristically quick to credit the people around him for getting him to the total.

"It's amazing. I didn't ever think I was going to play AFL and then to be in the top 20 for games is pretty special," he said.

"It's a team effort as well with who you have around you at the club.

"I'm forever grateful for all the physios and docs that helped me get on the park every week."

Scott sports a busted nose against the Pies in 2018. Picture: Michael Willson/AFL Media

The day he poked the bear

Before the defender began to truly build his reputation for being one of the competition's best key backs, he made headlines for a different reason.

In what he's described in the past as a brain fade, in 2010 Thompson made the decision to provoke one of that decade’s most intimidating forwards: Barry Hall.

As the Bulldog spearhead went down to tie his laces, Thompson – who hadn't been giving Hall an inch of space - knocked Hall over.

It ran counter to the advice Thompson had received from his assistant coach Brett Allison.

"'Fruity' (Allison) told me not to poke the bear," Thompson said.

Seeing red, Hall leaped to his feet and sprang on Thompson, putting him in an unbreakable headlock.

"I think the incident happened halfway through the second quarter, so I was just playing on him and not really poking him, but I decided to push him over and it flicked a switch,” Thompson said.

Hall, who would pursue boxing after a football career littered with suspensions, drove Thompson into the ground while continuing to apply crushing pressure to the defender’s head and neck.

It took three Kangaroos, and one of Hall’s Bulldog teammates, to eventually drag the pair apart.


"You look back at that game and think, what was I doing? I was obviously known as an antagonising defender, and I saw my role as doing whatever I could to annoy the forward,” Thompson said.

"I had a great chat with (coach) Brad Scott after that and he sat me down and said, 'you probably don't need to do that stuff as much, just play your natural game'."

"It was a little terrifying. I always laugh at it now, but it got serious in the actual moment.

"I was on a media ban for the rest of the year nearly because everyone just wanted to talk about it, so that wasn't the worst thing.

"Moving forward in my career from that incident, my game went to the next level and that’s when I went into my natural game of intercepting the ball. Looking back, I see it as a positive now because it led to me towards playing how I wanted to play."

Three years on, Hall and Thompson found themselves matched up again, but instead of being opponents, a retired Hall conducted a post-game interview with Thompson after North Melbourne's 10-point win over the Power in Hobart.


"It was interesting because I hadn't talked to him since then (2010),” Thompson said. 

“I think he said he was nervous, but I was a little bit more nervous than him.

"He's a big guy. Pretty intimidating, but it was good in the end to have a chat to him. We ended up having a laugh about it."

Life after football

After 'poking the bear', Thompson earned a new tag: ‘Mr Annoying’ – a backhanded tribute to his ability to get under the skins of his direct opponents.

Thompson paid little attention, preferring to concentrate on doing his job for his coach and teammates.

Scott Thompson went head-to-head with Cam Mooney in the early days of his career. Picture: David Callow

"If I was annoyed with what was being said then I would have stopped it," he said.

"But if I was doing my role and my teammates were happy to play with me, that's all I cared about in the moment.

"That's what some people will remember about me and they forget what else I did, but as long as I had the respect of my teammates, that's all that I was after."

Nowadays, Thompson live back in Geelong with his wife Lauren and three children. After his football retirement he completed a building apprenticeship and has remained in the industry, moving into a project management role at Built by Wilson.

 “It was nice to move back to Geelong after footy,” he said. “It's where all my family is from so we're really enjoying it.

"We go on plenty of little trips to Lorne with our caravan.”

Thompson is only a few months removed from a trip to the Mount Everest base camp, where he trekked with three close friends – one of whom was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease.

"I wouldn't say it was on my bucket list, but one of my best mates got diagnosed with Parkinson's disease at 36," he said.

"He wanted to do the trek so three of us got him there. It was something he wanted to do while he was still able to.

"That was a great 15 days. It was awesome to spend it with three close mates."

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