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Swan Songs - with Ian Thomson

In Jim Main's series, 'Swan Songs', this week he talks to former Swans centre half-back Ian Thomson.

Ian Thomson
Born: September 6, 1949
Played: 1973-76
Games: 74
Goals: 61

Ian Thomson has fond memories of his time with the Swans, but has one small gripe. A swap card of the time has his name printed on the front, but with Swans’ teammate Reg Gleeson’s photo.

“I don’t know how they got us mixed up, but Reg keeps telling me they did this because he was better looking,” he said.

West Australian Thomson looked almost certain to play in Victoria with Fitzroy until a South Melbourne player heard of the Lions’ interest.

Jim Haines, who had played with Thomson at East Perth, had heard on the grapevine that his former teammate in the lead-up to the 1973 season had flown from Perth to Melbourne for discussions with Fitzroy.

Haines, who played 19 games with the Swans over the 1971-72 seasons, telephoned Thomson and told him: “If you are going to play in Victoria, it had better be with South Melbourne.”

Thomson said: “My father, a Victorian who had barracked for Fitzroy had arranged the meeting with the Lions but Jim rang me to complain that I hadn’t looked him up while I was in Melbourne.

“He then told me that South secretary Jim Kavanagh would be flying to Perth and I had better sign with the Swans or else.”

Thomson has represented Western Australia while with East Perth in 1971 but the following year he and brother Gordon bought into a roadway business halfway between Perth and Geraldton, not far from the family farm.

He asked East Perth to provide him with “petrol money” to help him get to training and matches, but the Royals bucked at this proposal and Thomson therefore played in Geraldton before friend John Bandy convinced him to play in South Australia with West Adelaide.

Thomson joined the Swans for the start of the 1973 and made an immediate impression as a quality centre half-back.

In fact, he was doing so well that the media suggested he would win a Victorian guernsey as the state centre half-back.

Swans’ coach Graeme John (also from East Perth) took Thomson aside and asked him whether he wanted to play at centre half-back or centre half-forward.

“Graeme told me I could represent Victoria at centre half-back, but felt the team needed me up forward. I went along with the coach as the team always comes first and I missed Victorian selection,” he said.

Thomson explained that he preferred the key defensive position as “it was too difficult to win a kick at centre half-forward”, but alternated between the positions in his four seasons with the Swans.

Thomson returned to East Perth in 1977 and spent two seasons with the Royals before playing with a Perth suburban club over the first few rounds of the 1979 season.

However, East Fremantle realised Thomson was too good to be playing suburban football and talked him into a return to the WAFL.

It proved to be a good move as he played in the Sharks’ 1979 premiership side and he retired after three years with the club.

Thomson spent most of his working life in the transport industry, but retired five years ago and, despite a relatively short VFL career, remains a dedicated Swans’ fan.

“I lost touch just after the club relocated to Sydney in 1982,” he admitted. “But the Melbourne-based guys got together and regenerated interest.

“I always go to Swans games in Perth, either against the Eagles or the Dockers, and I was at the MCG for the 2005 Grand Final against West Coast.

“My wife (Dot) follows the Eagles and wore her blue and gold to the big match, while I sat alongside her in red and white. People around us thought this was quite strange and although the Swans won, she had her win the following year.”

The Thomsons have three adult daughters, with Cara and Jaimee keen Swans, while Emma is the odd one out in following the Dockers.

Ian Thomson or Reg Gleeson?