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ISAAC THOMAS HAS AMMASSED OVER 200 FIRST GRADE GAMES, NUMEROUS REPRESENTITAVE AND CLUB ACHIEVEMENT AWARDS ALONG THE WAY IN A CAREEER STARTING INTO ITS 18th FIRST GRADE SEASON.
Isaac “Ike" fact file
• Born: Isaac Ropata Thomas
• DOB: 24.5.1982
• Junior Club: Belmont Steelers
• First Grade appearances : 224 (Souths) Most by an individual
• Premierships: 5
• Club Captain: ’07, 13, 14, 15
• SPRL Most outstanding player award: 7 times
• Ken allan medal winner: 3 times
- Ron Hudson Grand Final Medal Winner. 2 times
• WA Reds most outstanding player: 2008
- WA Reds Champions Trophy: 2009
- WA Rugby League Hall of Fame Inductee: 2007
- 40 WA Reds appearances (08,09)
- WA state representative 6times (03,04,05,06,07,15), 20games
- CAS Australian representative 6 times (03,04,05,06,07,15) 11 games
SO WHO IS “IKE” AND IS THERE AN END IN SIGHT? OUR ROVING REPORTER CAUGHT UP WITH HIM RECENTLY TO TALK ABOUT A TRULY REMARKABLE CAREER.
YOU WERE BORN IN PERTH AND PLAYED YOUR JUNIOR FOOTBALL WITH THE BELMONT STEELERS. TELL US, WAS IT ALWAYS LEAGUE OR WAS THERE A RIVAL CODE BIDDING FOR YOUR SPORTING TALENT?
I actually started Playing Rugby League at the same time as I started doing gymnastics at 5 years old.
Through my junior years I always played Baseball as well where I had a bit of representative success. As a teenager I had to make the call to give up my baseball in order to pursue my Rugby League further.
YOU GREW UP AS ONE OF 3 (older brother and sister) CHILDREN. LIKE IN MOST AUSSIE BACKYARDS GROWING UP WAS THERE AN INTENSE SIBLING RIVALRY WITH THE FOOTY OR CRICKET BAT EITHER BEFORE OR AFTER THE TEA BREAK MOST NIGHTS? OTHER?
Not really. My brother always played league but was 8 years older so we had little to do with each other in regard to sport. Mostly my competition and rivalry arose with my footy mates every weekend.
YOU MOVED OVER TO THE SOUTH PERTH LIONS AGED 16, AND CONTINUED ON WITH WHAT WOULD BECOME A TRULY REMARKABLE CAREER.NO DOUBT YOU MADE SOME LIFE LONG FRIENDSHIPS THROUGHOUT THIS TIME?
The amount of lasting friendships I've made with players and staff has been too many to count, especially when I now look at how my life is still shaped around my footy friends. This includes lifelong friends who my wife has made through her time with me at SPRL (14 years). That's the most special thing about playing football I reckon.
YOU DEBUT IN FIRST GRADE IN 1999. FOND MEMORIES OF THAT DAY NO DOUBT?
So many memories. I was 16 and playing u16's and the Lions seniors were playing Joondalup Giants at home. They gave me a crack in reserve grade at fullback first and then halfback and was fortunate enough to score 2 tries (purely by shitting myself and trying to run away from the huge adults trying to smash me). After that game Peter Donkin (now 2016 3rd grade coach) asked me how old I was and I told him I was nearly 18 because. Donks chucked me on the field as halfback in first grade and I've never been so scared in my life. Anton Clutterbuck was captain and swearing at his charges, Chris Slacksmith was the biggest human I'd ever seen, Callum Brown was punching himself in the head, Angelo Tsakalos was reiterating the game plan with Paul Brown and a few others, while Martin Collis was staring at nothing just chilling out. I was swimming in my jersey asI was that tiny then and I was shaking like a leaf. The whole time I didn't say a word. The rest was a blur, until I had to make my first tackle. 5 mins later I scored a solo try next to the post from 20m out and after being picked up directly from the ground and being thrown around like a rag-doll by my teammates in celebration .... I knew I might survive and I never missed a first grade game aside from injury since then.
THE LIONS HAVE BEEN ABLE TO SET A STANDARD OVER THE YEARS FOR ONFIELD SUCCESS, NO DOUBT YOU WOULD ATRIBUTE SUCH A GOLDEN RUN THROUGHOUT YOUR TIME IN THE RED AND WHITE TO A SELECT FEW INDIVIDUALS?
I've played with SO MANY incredible players and been supported by so many coaches and staff I again run a risk of forgetting many. Huge apologies to those I do forget. In regard to players I've been mentored and influenced personally in my days by a heap of guys. Angelo taught me how to actually kick a ball and run a team around the park, Browny taught me how to talk, Stubbsy taught me how to make an impact but not have to have my hand on the ball every time, Scotty has taught me about work rate in attack and defence, Phippsy has shown me how to jump on top of momentum in a game, Dorro taught me about presence in a game, Marty Edmonds taught me about staying power regardless of age, Clint taught me about courage regardless of height, Reno has taught me about teamwork above self, PK has taught me about courage, Grub has taught me about changing momentum and smart ways of being a pest, and Greeny has taught me about consistency and being humble always. The list goes on and on and I can name another dozen guys minimum plus the guys from the Rep teams.
As for coaches each have made their mark. Donks backed me and gave a new little shy kid a shot, Dean Soutter started tailoring how to not just have my own impact but how to lead others to do the same, Bushy gave me countless opportunities to have input into game plan and challenged me in other positions, Angelo allowed me to lead a team and trusted me 100% to make decisions in a game and Barney has re taught me about the need for professionalism to be successful whilst also re providing me with pressure to improve my game. Undoubtedly though the biggest coaching influence I ever had was with Korny who over many many years took me from a boy who played footy to a young man who could play footy properly, always seeking to teach me to improve my game and to not rest ever in my training.
Hands down though as a senior player the biggest influence I've had on my ongoing footy career has been from the support given by Cas my wife.
YOU WERE A MEMBER OF THE WA REDS BUNDABERG CUP (?) CAMPAIGNS IN 2008 AND 2009. A GREAT EXPERIENCE NO DOUBT?
Yeah it was a great an valuable experience which I'm glad I was part of but also bitter sweet. The football playing experience was easily the best in regard to competition level and challenge, but no good in regard to the lack of family/friendship feeling I'd grown accustomed to playing at SPRL. With the Reds team being made up of players from all perth teams along with players from all over Australia the unity was always disjointed and their remained an underlying us and them feeling with separate cliques throughout the time in the Reds.
YOUR MOST MEMORABLE VICTORY?
Very hard to pinpoint 1 in particular sorry. All grand final wins have been amazing, being carried off the field after my 200th game having beaten Freo, a hard fought win in Kalgoorlie in 2011 after getting our arses handed to us in the first half after the long trip, opening 7secs v Willagee in 2013, ..... I could go on.
YOU LOST ONE OF YOUR GREATEST SUPPORTERS BACK IN 2012.? DO YOU MIND ME ASKING THE INFLUENCE YOUR DAD HAD ON YOU AS A FOOTBALLER AND MORE IMPORTANTLY A PERSON?
Dad was my Biggest supporter and greatest critic (especially as a kid). Dad really taught me the importance of working hard always, being overly prepared always and of being confident but humble. In my early senior career dad lived overseas so had little impact on my time however threw himself back into it once he returned from Malaysia. Funny thing is that dad always "hated" South Perth when I was a kid being a Steelers Black and White die hard (Charlie Burkhardt will attest to this)
YOU'RE A TRULY DEVOTED FAMILY MAN, DEDICATED TEACHER AND COACH AT ROCKINGHAM SENIOR HIGH SCHOOL. OFFIELD LIFE IS GOOD?
Life is amazing. I have a beautiful family that I spend every spare moment outside of footy with and I'm blessed with the way they are growing up and I love that they are now connected with the club the way so many other kids are.
I am also lucky to have the opportunity to wake up every day and go teach awesome young men how to play footy. It's better than Lego.