From the moment Adrian Fletcher met a young Tarryn Thomas through the NAB AFL Under-18 Allies squad, he knew his star would shine brightly at North Melbourne.
The 231-game onballer, who coached Thomas in the 2017 and 2018 series, likened the crafty half-forward to a Rolls Royce – smooth and classy.
“Tarryn is so clean under pressure and that’s what is going to make him a great player,” Fletcher told AFLPlayers.com.au after Thomas’ Round 12 Rising Star nomination.
It’s an attribute that Fletcher said would make Thomas a great player as he progressed through his AFL career.
“In the modern game players that can make the right decisions at the right time are golden for your game plan,” he said.
“With ball in hand, he finds a way. Some people have it, others don’t but Tarryn has it in spades.”
After growing up in New South Wales and playing rugby league for much of his childhood, Thomas shifted his focus to football when his family moved south to Tasmania.
It would be a decision that would set him on a path to football stardom.
Thomas made the transition from the Penrith Panthers’ Academy to the North Launceston Bombers with ease, being awarded the Hunter Harrison Medal for the most outstanding player in the Under-18 Academy series.
After being taken with pick No. 8 in last year’s draft, the private and quietly-spoken Tasmanian shifted his life from the peaceful town of Launceston to the hustle and bustle of Melbourne’s inner-city.
For those that know him, it’s come as no surprise to see the North Melbourne Academy member settle in comfortably to life at the elite level.
“When you leave from a quiet town like Launceston you have to mature very quickly and Tarryn has. You have to be able to handle that environment,” Fletcher said.
When thinking about his time coaching Thomas, a memory from a practice game between Tasmania and GWS springs to mind.
Lightly-framed and standing at 189cm, Thomas was playing at full-forward when the ball was launched inside 50.
Thomas, in Fletcher’s words, ‘turned the defender inside-out’.
“He made the defender commit and then he turned around, ran onto the ball and into an open goal,” Fletcher said.
“He knew exactly what he wanted to do and not many players can do that while the ball is in the air.”
It was moments like that when Fletcher knew Thomas would be a special talent and why he is held in such high esteem by his teammates.
“Tarryn loves tackling but also has the class to do the offensive work. You gain respect straight away from your teammates when that’s how you play.”
In his first season of AFL, Thomas has featured in all but one game with his poise in traffic coming to the fore.
“If you watched him play as a junior you always knew he was going to be that kind of player,” he said.
“The AFL can be a hostile environment and it’s all about your nerve.
“You have to have the nerve to be able to make decisions quickly and he can do that consistently.”
AFL RISING STAR NOMINEES IN 2019
Round 12 – Tarryn Thomas (North Melbourne)