Buzzing to return from a long-term knee injury, Gold Coast defender Rory Thompson admits he’ll relish the extra time at home after the AFL club’s wicked 2018 schedule.
Thompson missed all of last season with an ACL tear and has benefited from this campaign’s pause given he’s had ample time with his new-born daughter and will be fully fit when training resumes on Monday.
The key defender was a central figure for rookie coach Stuart Dew as the side travelled about 40,000km to play nine away games to begin the 2018 season.
Their home ground was vacated during the Commonwealth Games, but the Gold Coast will now be home to West Coast, Fremantle, Adelaide and Port Adelaide after border restrictions ended their hopes of playing matches in their home states.
Thompson sympathised with them, but only to a point.
“It’ll be very different to that (2018) season; it’ll be a great chance to focus in, play some games at home,” he said.
“We do a lot of travel, being a Queensland club, so it’ll be good to get a taste of what a lot of the Victorian clubs get every year.
“I do feel a little bit sorry for them having to move away from home, but it’s a good spot for them to come.”
Thompson said he felt “helpless” last season, sitting on the sidelines when he was meant to be marking the opposition’s most potent forward.
That job went to Sam Collins, who made the most of his second AFL life to flourish and earn a leadership position this year.
A host of new talent has arrived too, while Thompson said those younger players had learnt plenty after a 3-1 start was followed by 19 straight losses.
“To have to sit out and watch the whole season go by was really difficult and a bit helpless not being able to get out there and play my role,” he said.
“It just feels like it’s been so long for me.
“But now it’s so hard to pick our starting side and that’s what you want, everyone fit and healthy and we’re looking like that at the moment.”