• Owens Opinion: Lance Thompson was a champion (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
Premiership-winning former player and co-host of Over the Black Dot Owen Craigie reflects on the death of former junior teammate Lance Thompson, and urges all young Australians to think about having a Plan B, as well as a healthy support network.
By
Owen Craigie

Source:
Over the Black Dot
28 Aug 2018 - 11:19 AM  UPDATED 28 Aug 2018 - 1:50 PM

Last week my mate Lance Thompson passed away and I just want to say rest in peace, my brother.

I also want to urge everyone to remember the need to talk to people. Go and speak to people because it’s very sad when you lose a friend and when we lose good people.

It's also a great reminder for the need for a Plan B, regardless of what you're aspiring to do or be, which I'll get to more in a short while.

But from a rugby league perspective, the game has lost a real champion.

 

Loss of a True Champion

I played Australian schoolboys with Lance Thompson and we came through that system together and we both debuted at the same time while we were still at high school.

I did it with the Knights and he did it with the Dragons. He was one of the toughest blokes, one of the toughest players that you could play with and he was such a strong person.

He was also a real character and a larrikin, and he’ll be sadly missed.

Back in the day we used to think: 'who's this little red-headed guy coming from Kogarah and he ended up being a real champion. He’d be running all day, tackling all day and he was such a strong person and back in his early days he was a really good elite swimmer as well.

Thommo was also great for a yarn and had been doing quite well with his cafes and restaurants around Sydney.

It was just such a shock to hear of his passing.

It was just such a shock to hear of his passing. He was a fit bloke and doing really well with himself and the news when I found out was just so sad.

It's a difficult transition from professional sport back into regular society, just like if someone changes careers in a more normal sense, but it's all just amplified.

 

Life After Footy

A lot of guys from football don’t make that transition. They can’t make it - they don’t know how to. I had dramas and it took me a lot of years to come round to and live with the fact that I wasn’t a player anymore.

A small percentage of players get an opportunity to go to Channel Nine and Fox Sports and keep working with the game and the buzz, but the only players that usually get those opportunities are the ones with a profile from Origin or playing for Australia.

What happens to the rest of the other thousands of players is up to them. I know the game’s doing a lot now with the welfare system and trying to make that transition easier for players and there’s increasing support there.

I’m not sure of the full extent of what happened to Thommo, but it’s very, very sad and the question is whether players, including myself, from NRL to society is probably the hardest transition you’re gonna make in your life.

The most important thing or message that I could really give to young players, boys and girls today, or current players, is you’ve always got to have your Plan B set up.

Your Plan A is playing rugby league and it’s always been your life and you want to be a professional and play in the NRL and that’s everyone’s dream and goal.

Some people make it, some people don’t. But the people who do make it and don’t make it, you both need to have your Plan B in place.

The people who do make it and don’t make it, you both need to have your Plan B in place.

 

Go and get a trade, go and get a job, go and study. Because Rugby League has an expiry date.

It could be two years, it could be five years, it could be 10 years, depending on injuries and other factors, but once that expiry date’s up, then you can always say, 'well I’ve done my study or I’ve got a job or I’ve got my Plan B in place'.

A lot of players panic. They go through anxiety and stress and alcohol and drug abuse, and whatever else may be in people’s lives. They just don’t know how to make that adjustment in life, and it’s a very very hard one.

The best advice I can give to you is have your Plan B ready or in place. It sounds simple enough, but you’ve got to do it.

And consider what your support network is, big or small.

The value of that is massive, and nine times out of 10, the people that you call and ask for support or to help you, are sometimes people that you haven’t spoken to in a long time. But they’ve made an impact somewhere along your life.

Don’t be afraid to reach out to them and talk to them.

For anyone needing support on any of the topics raised in this article, reach out to NACCHO member servicesHeadspace: Yarn Safe and the Healing Foundation.

For more Owen Craigie and Rugby League hot topics, tune into Over the Black Dot, live tonight at 8.30pm on NITV (Ch. 34). Join the conversation #OverTheBlackDot