Mr Versatile … Lewis Roberts-Thomson has been a mainstay for the Swans.A CHUCKLE swiftly makes its way from Lewis Roberts-Thomson’s throat. Having spent his most recent football time kicking goals, was he enjoying his time – as coach John Longmire put it – as a rock star?
Of all the labels you could put on Roberts-Thomson, ”rock star” would probably be the wooden-spooner on the list.
What he has proven over the past two seasons is to be one of the most versatile Swans in the pond. Key defender – tick. Key forward – tick. Ruckman – tick again. In Roberts-Thomson, Longmire has had his very own Mr Fix-It, sending him wherever he needs to plug a hole.
The hole which needing filling today, in Sydney’s qualifying final against Adelaide, was the one left through the suspension of Heath Grundy. Not a problem for the coach, LRT is the man, and says Longmire, the ”bit of a rock star” from the forward line, ”has got to get the overalls back on” and return to where it all started, at the other end of the ground.
”It’s been a while since I’ve played down there but no doubt the other boys who are down there in the back six will be looking after me this weekend,” said Roberts-Thomson, who celebrates his 29th birthday today. ”I just have to go down there and play the role the team requires me to.
”It is a little bit like that now,” he said of the quip about pulling the overalls back on. ”Although some of the defenders at the Swans are wearing some pretty lairy boots now, so I don’t know what’s been going on.”
Roberts-Thomson says he enjoys the everywhere role. It’s the nature of the beast in the ever-changing game and with the changes to the inter-change rules last year. He’s just about ”playing the role that best fits the team structure, and whatever the coach wants me to”.
”You need to have players who can play different roles, and he’s able to do that,” says Longmire.
”What we knew about him is he’s a real competitor and that helps, and I think he’s been able to contribute up forward and at times in the ruck for us, really strongly, over the last 12 months.”
The versatility is impressive, the more so when you remember he was a former schoolboy rugby player who naturally took a bit of time to learn the game.
You would not think it now as he is about to complete his 10th season in the senior team – a career which ironically began with his kicking two goals in his debut against Geelong in 2003, the only time outside the past two seasons when he has kicked multiple goals in a game – but Roberts-Thomson did battle learning the game, and the Swans even enlisted the AFL’s Team of the Century fullback, Stephen Silvagni, to help him.
”That seems a while ago now … I wish I had SOS [Silvagni] to come and help me again this time around,” he joked. ”Sometimes you do have to pinch yourself about how this journey has gone. Not really in my wildest dreams did I see a career spanning over 10 years and playing as many games as I have (167) and playing alongside some of the players I have.
”Of course you are a bit apprehensive when the coach comes to you and says, ‘this is the role we want you to play’ and it’s a bit foreign, but I think you just have to learn to take it in your stride and think to yourself, ‘here we go, we’ve got another challenge’.”
Roberts-Thomson says he has naturally enjoyed playing alongside the likes of Sam Reid and Adam Goodes in the forward line, and admits it has given him a different perspective of the game.
”Every time you get the footy you want to make sure you put it through the big sticks, because you know what work has gone on to get it to you,” he said.
”Of course it’s fun kicking goals. Obviously when you kick a goal it’s a wonderful feeling, but you look at all that work that goes on up the field. You’re just finishing it off.
”Having played a number of positions has given me a newfound respect for the different roles each player plays. And you understand things like, if a forward doesn’t put pressure on up the field then down in the defensive 50 metres, it puts a defender under more pressure.”
So where does he prefer? If the coach said he can play wherever he wants, where would it be?
”Well, I haven’t spent too much time on the wing so maybe the wing would be something new to me.”
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