After playing his junior football at Hamilton Imperials and then moving on, BRAD THOMAS has returned to Hamilton to share his skills with the Hamilton Kangaroos, writes TIM AULD.
Brad, you’ve been a bit of a footy nomad over the past few years. Are you enjoying your first season with the Hamilton Kangaroos?
Yes. It’s been really good. The club is heading in the right direction. We’ve got some top young kids coming through the ranks which augurs for the future. We’ve got our fingers crossed that we may make the finals this year. We must keep on winning games and hope a few other results go our way over the next few weeks.
Hamilton Kangaroos are in their second season in the Hampden Football Netball League after the merger between Hamilton and Hamilton Imperials. Is it true that you applied for the coaching job of the new side in 2013?
It’s true I put in for the coaching job of the newly-merged club. I had coached Hamilton in 2012 and thought I had plenty to offer as playing coach of Hamilton Kangaroos in 2013, but they picked Jake Myles to do the job. I was disappointed after I found out. I decided to leave the club for a season. I just thought it was best if I got out of the place for the season. I went and played for Tyntynder in the Central Murray league.
When you were playing coach at Hamilton in 2012 was there much discussion about the merger between the two Hamilton-based clubs?
There was a bit of off-field talk about the merger early in the season but the talks went into overdrive halfway through 2012. It was hard to keep the players focused on what they had to do on the field as they were all wondering what was going to happen off the field.
Were you still living in Hamilton when you played for Tyntynder in 2013?
Yes. There was a lot of travel involved. My wife Tanika and I would take the kids up to Swan Hill on some Friday nights. There were other times we would go up on the Saturday mornings. There were a lot of weekends last year when the weather was better up at Swan Hill than at Hamilton so that made all the travelling good.
What did you think of the competition in the Central Murray league?
I thought it was pretty strong. Tyntynder finished in third place. The rivalry between Tyntynder and Swan Hill was pretty fierce, it was a bit like it used to be between Hamilton and Hamilton Imperials.
Was it an easy decision to come back and play for Hamilton Kangaroos this season?
Yes. I’ve got a joinery business in Hamilton so from that side of things it’s been great to be playing footy back in the town. I’ve been really impressed with how the club is going. The supporter base at Hamilton Kangaroos is excellent. There’s no doubt Hamilton and Hamilton Imperials had to merge. The two clubs were putting a terrible strain on sponsorship and player numbers. I don’t think the younger lads have the same passion to play footy as when I was growing up. There’s just so many other things for young lads to do today instead of playing footy. I really believe Hamilton Kangaroos are only going to get stronger in future years, as I said before we’ve got plenty of exciting young players coming through the ranks. The biggest trick is to hold on to those younger players.
Brad, what’s your role this season at the club?
I’ve been in a leadership role at the club trying to help out the young kids. I’ve really enjoyed it. Jarrod Holt is doing a top job as coach. It’s a shame that he’s been out injured with a crook back for a few weeks but when he comes back our side will be strengthened.
You had three seasons with Port Fairy from 2009. Did you enjoy your time with the Seagulls?
Yes. Shane Threlfall was the coach at the club at the time. We had a very young list in my time at the club. I’ve been very lucky because a lot of the blokes that I played footy with in Port Fairy are still mates today.
Having had a taste of Hampden footy back in 2009 for three years and now playing in the league in 2014, what do you think about the state of the competition?
I would have to say it’s not as strong today as it was back when I played in 2009, 2010 and 2011. I just think there was a better blend of players playing back in the previous era than there is today. I think the main reason why it may have dropped off is, as we discussed previously, people are not as passionate to play the game now. Another reason may be players can get more money playing in the minor leagues.
Brad, you’ve already spoken about your time as playing coach with Hamilton in 2012 but it must have been a big decision for you to switch clubs as your family was strongly connected to Hamilton Imperials. Is that a fair statement?
Yes. It was a really tough decision. I had a long career with Hamilton Imperials but I wanted to put my foot in the water as a coach and when the Hamilton job came up in 2012 I decided to coach them, but in saying that I also had a chance to coach Port Fairy in 2012.
Was it a hard decision for you to decide between Hamilton and Port Fairy to coach in 2012?
It was a tough decision. I had played at Port Fairy for three years when we had a chat about whether I might want to coach them but I decided Hamilton and I’m glad with my decision.
When did you make your senior debut with Hamilton Imperials?
It would have been in 2000. I was nearly 15 years old when I made my senior debut. I had played under 18s at Imperials before I got my break in the senior side. I played the early part of the 2000 season in the seniors but could not get a game in its grand final side, which got beat. I was very lucky in my early seasons in the seniors as my older brothers, Simon, Clinton and Jason, were still playing so they were always looking out for me on the ground. I played the entire 2001 season in the seniors. We lost the grand final to South Gambier. I continued to play at Imperials before I was asked to go and do a pre-season with Melbourne.
Brad, who was coaching Melbourne when you did the pre-season?
Neale Daniher was the coach. I never got involved in playing in the TAC competition where you would train at Ballarat a couple of times a week and then go all over the countryside with your footy on weekends. I decided to play local footy in the seniors in a bid to harden myself up for footy. I spent four months living in Melbourne when I was doing the pre-season training with the Demons. I really loved my time doing the pre-season training with Melbourne. It was a wonderful experience but I came home to finish my apprenticeship, as back in that era there were no programs put in place for young kids by the AFL to get jobs.
Brad, you’ve seen a lot of local footy from all angles. Who would be some of the best players that you have seen play?
I rate Shane and Grant Ewing really high. They were both talented footballers who could swing a game of footy within a few minutes. I must admit I rate Hamilton Kangaroos’ Tim Meulendyks very highly. I think he will be a top player in the future.
Have you got any ambitions to coach footy at a senior level again?
Yes. I would like to have another crack at coaching but I’m not sure when that will be. I’ve got heavy work and family commitments but I would like to have another crack at coaching.