There is no doubting Thomas

By Dr Rod Gillett

Harvey Thomas always wanted to be an AFL player, but even he never expected it to be quite like this.

Not easy, just a bit extraordinary for an 18-year-old from Wagga straight out of school footy into a rampant GIANTS side running as one of the the early AFL premiership favourites.

After a debut win at home against defending premiers, Collingwood, followed by two more dominant wins, Thomas still finds it hard to comprehend the dream that started when he ran out for the Turvey Park under 8s in Wagga is actually being fulfilled.

“I didn’t imagine the start of my career was going to be like this,” he said.

“In front of a sold out crowd, for the club that’s supported me since I was 13, against the reigning premiers in a revenge match and beating them. You can’t ask for a better start than that.”

Taking the leap from schoolboy footy last year when he played for Caulfield Grammar in Melbourne, Oakleigh Chargers and the Allies under 18s to immediately playing against 300-game AFL veterans was wildly beyond his expectations.

“It was pretty surreal, going from playing with my mates at school to playing against guys like Steele Sidebottom and Josh Daicos when I was on the wing, it’s a pretty big jump,” Thomas said.

Turvey to the big time

He played at Turvey Park until the under 15s when he moved to Melbourne and boarded at Caulfield Grammar from year 10, playing with Nick Watson who was also drafted last year by Hawthorn to continue the school’s AFL production line headed by Chris Judd, Brendon Goddard and including a host of current players.

Turvey Park has also produced its share of footballers – more recently triple premiership player Cameron Mooney and his brother Jason, Swans defender Harry Cunningham and Thomas’ mate Pat Voss who is on the verge of making his debut at Fremantle.

And while all his teams played a role in his footy development, the continuity and support of the GIANTS Academy since the age of 13 has been the constant. He’s one of the rare ones who gets to play for the club he supported as a kid, but he also acknowledges the club supported him.

“The opportunities they gave me have been great,” he said.

“I came up to the GIANTS in Sydney as a 17-year-old in the pre-season, living the day to day life of an AFL footballer, going to training with them and everything else that’s involved. Once I experienced that and I loved it, I realised that that’s what I want to do.

“I always wanted to be an AFL footballer, but once I experienced that, it made me even more determined.”

He was duly drafted by the GIANTS last year and it’s been an easy transition to the big city club where so many familiar Riverina faces welcomed him.

With another half a dozen boys from southern NSW on the books – Harry Himmleberg (Mangoplah-Cookardinia United), Harry Perryman (Collingullie), Harry Rowston (Griffith), Nick Madden (Osborne), Phoenix Gothard (Albury) and Nathan Wardius (Rand-Walbundrie-Walla) – Thomas doesn’t need to look hard if he wants to talk about home.

“The GIANTS are Riverina-bred almost, there’s quite a few Riverina boys here which makes it really comfortable,” he said.

“I played with Harry Rowston as a junior and I had a connection through my brother with Harry Perryman, he was awesome to me when I first got here.”

He played a lot of junior footy with Gothard and Wardius and is sharing a house with them and fellow draftees James Leake and Joe Fonti in Sydney’s inner west.

“The house can get a bit messy but it’s going alright, we all get on really well,” he said.

“It’s been pretty tough for them, they’ve all been injured, but they’ve been getting around me and been really supportive, which has been great considering it’s been pretty frustrating for them.”

Footy in the blood

He comes from a Riverina footy family, with father Russ playing 100 games for Yarrawonga and brother Harrison, who is studying in Albury, now playing for Yarrawonga’s Ovens and Murray rivals Lavington, a move which has not impressed dad.

“He’s not real happy with Harrison,” Thomas said.

And young Harvey certainly wants to continue the Riverina thread when he’s finished with his AFL career.

“I didn’t ever get to play a senior game with Turvey, it was always something I wanted to do, so I’d like to get back there eventually and play for the Bulldogs,” he said.

Carey Bunton Medal update

Thomas has yet to attract any coaches’ votes to figure in the Carey-Bunton Medal for the best NSW player in the AFL which has been dominated so far by Swans’ Hunter Valley product Isaac Heeney.

Heeney’s four votes in the Swans’ shock loss to Richmond takes him to 32 votes and a commanding 21-point lead over defending medallist and Sydney teammate Errol Gulden on 11, with Nick Blakey and Tom Hawkins tied for third on a distant five votes.

Geelong’s Finley farmer Hawkins, however, leads the Bill Mohr medal for leading goalkicker with nine, ahead of Heeney’s six.


Coaches Votes for best NSW player in the AFL


32    Isaac Heeney (Sydney Swans/ Cardiff)                                                         

11    Errol Gulden (Sydney Swans / UNSW-Eastern Suburbs)    

5     Nick Blakey (Sydney Swans/ UNSW-Eastern Suburbs)      

5     Tom Hawkins (Geelong/ Finley) 

3      Jarrod Witts (Gold Coast Suns/ Sydney University)    

3     Jack Buckley (GWS GIANTS / UNSW-Eastern Suburbs)      

BILL MOHR MEDAL                  
NSW player Leading Goalkicker in the AFL      


9     Tom Hawkins (Geelong/ Finley)                                                                        

6     Isaac Heeney (Sydney Swans/ Cardiff)                                                         

5     Todd Marshall (Port Adelaide/ Deniliquin)                                                          

5     Jeremy Finalyson (Port Adelaide / Culcairn)                                                   

3     Lachlan Schultz (Collingwood/ Moama)      

3     Errol Gulden (Sydney Swans / UNSW-Eastern Suburbs)