Len Thompson

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Len Thompson
Personal information
Date of birth (1947-08-27)27 August 1947
Place of birth Victoria, Australia
Date of death 18 September 2007(2007-09-18) (aged 60)
Original team(s) North Reservoir
Debut Preliminary Final, 1965, Collingwood
vs. Essendon, at MCG
Height 199 cm (6 ft 6 in)
Weight 100 kg (220 lb)
Position(s) Ruck
Playing career1
Years Club Games (Goals)
1965–1978 Collingwood 268 (217)
1979 South Melbourne 020 0(39)
1980 Fitzroy 013 0(19)
Total 301 (275)
Representative team honours
Years Team Games (Goals)
Victoria 15 (12)
1 Playing statistics correct to the end of 1980.
Career highlights
Sources: AFL Tables, AustralianFootball.com

Len Thompson (27 August 1947 – 18 September 2007) was an Australian rules footballer who played for the Collingwood Football Club, South Melbourne Football Club and Fitzroy Football Club in the Victorian Football League (VFL).


He was recruited by Collingwood from North Reservoir after he had initially trained with, and had been rejected by Essendon.[1] Combining great physical size (200 cm, 95.5 kg) with tremendous athleticism, he provided Collingwood with a formidable around the ground presence.[2]

Thompson played a total of 272 VFL games and scored 217 goals for Collingwood between 1965 and 1978, winning the club's best and fairest award a record 5 times, as well as the 1972 Brownlow Medal.[3]

Players Strike[edit]

In the lead-up to the 1970 VFL season, Thompson and Collingwood captain Des Tuddenham, vice captain and club captain respectively, refused to play for Collingwood, going on strike to protest at the perceived unfair salaries being paid to lure interstate players east.[4] After a three-week stand-off, Tuddenham and Thompson returned to the club without getting what they had asked, but their actions had resulted in improved pay for other players.[5] The Collingwood committee responded by stripping Tuddenham and Thompson of their official leadership roles, with Terry Waters being appointed captain. While this protest resulted in temporary souring the relationship between Thompson and the Collingwood football club, Thompson returned to a leadership position quickly, as vice-captain 1973-7 and captain 1978.

South Melbourne and Fitzroy[edit]

Thompson later played seasons for both South Melbourne (20 games and 39 goals in 1979) and Fitzroy (13 games, 19 goals, 1980). However, in all of his sixteen season, 301-game VFL career with three senior clubs, he failed to play in a premiership team, despite appearing in four grand finals: the 1966 Grand Final (which Collingwood lost by one point), the 1970 Grand Final (which, despite being 44 points in front at half-time, Collingwood lost by 10 points), and the 1977 First Grand Final (which was a drawn match), and the 1977 Grand Final Replay (which Collingwood lost by 27 points) .

Interstate football[edit]

Thompson was a regular Victorian interstate representative, and achieved All Australian selection after the 1972 Perth Carnival. He served on the Collingwood board in 1982 and 1983. Thompson was selected as the first ruck in Collingwood's 'Team of the Century'.


On 18 September 2007, Thompson died at the home of his former partner after a heart attack. He is survived by six children – Kari-Anne, Nicolas, Sam, Lachlan, Laura and Emily – and former partners Julie, Susi and Bronwyn. That day was 42 years after Thompson's debut for Collingwood.[4]


Len Thompson's funeral took place at Melbourne's St Paul's Cathedral at 10.30am on Thursday 25 September 2007. Conducted by The Dean, The Very Reverend David Richardson, it was attended by more than 1,200 mourners, led by his six children and including notable members of the AFL fraternity, friends and fans.

Sons Nicolas, Sam and Lachlan contributed a poem and personal reflections, daughter Laura delivered a eulogy and Emily read a scripture (John 14: 1–6).

Tributes were delivered by Barry Breen (St. Kilda) & Gary Dempsey (Footscray and North Melbourne), Peter McKenna (Collingwood), John Nicholls (Carlton), Des Tuddenham (Collingwood), Mike Williamson (former professional athlete and HSV 7 television commentator) and Eddie McGuire (Collingwood FC President) all of whom had long, close friendships with 'Thommo'.

Musical contributions were made by tenor Peter Brocklehurst (Ave Maria), Kate Ceberano (Wind Beneath My Wings) and Mike Brady sang 'One Day in September' in which he varied the lyrics to sing 'Thommo, you were part of this old town; In life you were the best man on the ground'.

The service ran for two hours and was a moving and celebratory tribute to one of the humblest champions to have consistently played at the elite level of any Australian sport.


In 1999 Thompson sold his Brownlow Medal for $75,000.


  1. ^ It is a matter of record that, paradoxically, Essendon struggled in the ruck for much of Thompson's career.
  2. ^ Despite this, Thompson was able to avoid National Service, through the agency of the medical examiner declaring that he had a foot problem that rendered him unfit for military service.
  3. ^ "Profile on fullpointsfooty.net". Archived from the original on 4 February 2012. Retrieved 6 February 2007.
  4. ^ a b Pies legend Len Thompson dies | Herald Sun
  5. ^ Roberts, Michael (19 February 2020). "50 years on: The strike that changed the game". Collingwood Football Club.


  • Thompson L. & Nicholson, R., The Other Side of the Medal: Memoirs of Life and Football, Ironbark Press, (Chippendale), 1999.

External links[edit]