Suns fullback putting injured body to the test
GOLD Coast defender Rory Thompson could not have asked for a bigger challenge in his first AFL game back from his latest injury.
Having only just returned from two months on the sidelines with, firstly, a quad injury and then a hamstring strain, the towering fullback was given the task of minding St Kilda champion Nick Riewoldt.
"It's always good to test out the hammy first game back," Thompson says of the round-14 match-up.
"If I got through that I think I could get through anything."
Thompson was on top for three quarters, before the 17-season veteran cut loose in the final term to finish with three goals.
Despite being 34 years of age, Riewoldt remains a force.
"He's getting on a little bit, but he can still run," Thompson said.
"You know you've played a game of footy when you've played on him.
"He's definitely been the hardest running opponent. You can't switch off against him. You're never able to rest.
"You slacken off a little bit and he'll burn you."
Next up was the ever-improving Ben Brown, of North Melbourne, though teammate Steven May did the bulk of the work on Lance Franklin last week against Sydney while Thompson took Sam Reid.
Franklin is on a level with Riewoldt.
"The way he can score goals ... there's no one to play him," Thompson said.
Regardless of who he gets, Thompson is just happy to be back on the park.
The 26-year-old Queenslander has endured a frustrating past three seasons that have yielded just 32 senior appearances.
He was one of the original pillars the Suns built their list on, but a hip injury sidelined him for six weeks in 2015, and then an ankle injury for another seven in 2016 before the setbacks this season.
"It's one of those things," he said.
"It's not something you can really help. You do everything you can off-field to make sure you're going to perform at your best and get through all right.
"At the moment, it's just taking it session by session, game by game."
Young Jack Leslie had been holding the fort down back with the rock with co-captain May, and performing well before his omission last week.
Thompson says he hopes the three talls can play together in the future.
"Definitely. It's always going to depend on the opposition - how many talls they play, what match-ups we have.
"But we played most of the preseason together and it worked really well.'
Tonight Thompson can expect to matchup on a returning Darcy Moore when the Suns host Collingwood in a crucial match at Metricon Stadium.
The Suns are 14th at 6-9, the Magpies 15th at 5-10, with both out-of-contract coaches Rodney Eade and Nathan Buckley feeling the heat.
"It's a really big game. We need to win, especially at home," Thompson said. "Love beating a big Melbourne team like that as well."
Thompson said he felt for his embattled coach Eade.
"Rocket's been great since he came to the club," he said. "He's obviously very experienced. He can straight through the nonsense.
"It (speculation on futures) is part of footy I guess. It's a tough industry. You see it every year at a footy club, people coming and going.
"But It's obviously tough when you're going through that.
"We just need to knuckle down and make sure we get the win for him."
Veteran trio Gary Ablett, Pearce Hanley and Michael Rischitelli make their returns, the latter his first game since injuring his knee a year ago.