Izaac Thompson was at home over the summer with his feet up, not thinking about footy at all.
- Rabbitohs winger Izaac Thompson did not play a single game of football between the end of 2017 and the start of 2022
- A chance call from Souths prop Hame Sele earned him a chance in the pre-season for the Rabbitohs
- Thompson has gone on to make his NRL debut at 25 and score two tries in his first two matches
Why would he be? He hadn’t played a game since 2017, when he was running around for the Dragons NSW Cup team. He hadn’t laced on a boot in anger since, not a single game. He did not really miss it either, he was too busy living his life.
That’s when he got the call that changed everything, from close friend and former Dragons teammate Hame Sele. It started a journey that has led Thompson to making his belated NRL debut and scoring tries in back-to-back weeks for the high-flying Rabbitohs.
“He called me and asked how I was going. I was fat as, I lied to all of them, I said I’d been training but I wasn’t doing anything,” Thompson said.
“But as soon as I got the call I put my head down and tried to work.
“I wasn’t playing anything. Nothing at all. The last time I played was 2017. The game’s a bit faster now, but the work I’ve put in is what’s got me here and now I’m reaping the rewards.”
Rabbitohs coach Jason Demetriou and his assistant Ben Hornby had coached Thompson as a junior at the Dragons and brought him in for pre-season.
From there, Thompson has gone from strength to strength. He scored 20 tries in 16 games for South Sydney’s NSW Cup side before getting the call for his first-grade debut with last week’s win over the Warriors.
Thompson dotted down on debut, crossed again in Friday night’s big win over Parramatta and generally looked like he’d been on the cusp of first grade for some time.
Given most mature-age rookies spend years slogging it out in reserve grade before they earn a shot at the big time, Thompson’s return from his sabbatical is one of the most extraordinary rises of any NRL debutant in recent times.
“I just needed time off. I just had my little one and some stuff happened, I just needed to get away from the game. Footy is a busy sport and you’re away from your family a lot,” Thompson said.
“I got to spend four years with my daughter, so it was good for me.
“I was pretty happy, I didn’t really want to come back to be honest. But my daughter, I wanted to do it for her, I was trying to make ends meet and I’m just lucky I’m good at football .
“I was doing heaps of different jobs, anything I could, and then JD [Rabbitohs coach Jason Demetriou] and Ben Hornby saved me. They gave me the lifeline and I grabbed it with both hands.”
Thompson had a lifetime to prepare for his first NRL game compared to just six days for his second, but he might be waiting a week or two for his third.
With Campbell Graham pushing to return from injury for next Thursday’s grand final rematch with the Rabbitohs, Thompson is expected to drop out of South Sydney’s 17.
But he’s shown he can cut it at the highest level — this time around there won’t be anything like a five-year wait for his return.
“The trust that JD and the rest of the boys have in me, I’m thankful for that. I don’t want to waste this opportunity,” Thompson said.
“It means the world. The boys I’m with now, it’s so different, the energy they bring every day, it sets a standard and I want to live up to it.
“I just want to play consistent footy. I had a few errors out there against Parra, so I have to sort that out. There’s a World Cup at the end of the year, I’d love to play for Tonga, so that’s a bit of a goal. But that starts with being consistent.”