Lance Thompson gone, but never forgotten

Legend: Lance Thompson celebrates with Dragons fans after St George's preliminary final win over North Sydney in 1996. Picture: Simon Alekna
Legend: Lance Thompson celebrates with Dragons fans after St George's preliminary final win over North Sydney in 1996. Picture: Simon Alekna

St George Illawarra and Cronulla paid tribute to Lance Thompson on Sunday after the death of the former Dragons and Sharks hero.

Thompson was found dead at his Cronulla unit on Thursday night after police and paramedics were called to his home.

A report was being prepared for the coroner but police said there were no suspicious circumstances or evidence of self harm.

Thompson was 40-years-old.

The St George and shire rugby league communities have been in mourning, with family, friends, former teammates and fans remembering a hero of the red V and the black, white and blue.

The Dragons and Sharks hosted Canterbury and Newcastle respectively at Jubilee Oval and Shark Park on Sunday, with the teams wearing black armbands.

The Sharks also retired their number 12 jersey for their win over the Knights, with Wade Graham wearing 23.

Dragons forward Tariq Sims presented his own number 12 jersey and his playing boots to Thompson’s daughter, Shalisse, after their loss to the Bulldogs.

Respect: Cronulla Sharks players line up for a minute's silence before their game with Newcastle at Shark Park. Picture: John Veage

Respect: Cronulla Sharks players line up for a minute's silence before their game with Newcastle at Shark Park. Picture: John Veage

A two-time Australian Schoolboys representative and Hurstville United junior, Thompson made his first grade debut for St George as a 17-year-old while still a student at Kingsgrove High School in 1995.

He went on to play 239 games for St George and St George Illawarra including two grand finals – the Dragons’ 1996 loss to Manly and St George Illawarra’s defeat to Melbourne three years later.

He enjoyed a 14-season first grade career, his final three with Cronulla after he joined the Sharks for the start of the 2006 campaign.

Thompson played 38 games in the black, white and blue before announcing his retirement due to an ongoing knee injury as well as being diagnosed with type one diabetes.

Thompson was a fan favourite at Jubilee Oval and Shark Park and also represented City Origin five times.

Dragons coach Paul McGregor, a former teammate of Thompson’s, said it had been a tough week.

Gesture: Dragons forward Tariq Sims presents Lance Thompson's daughter, Shalisse, with his number 12 jersey and boots on Sunday. Picture: AAP Image

Gesture: Dragons forward Tariq Sims presents Lance Thompson's daughter, Shalisse, with his number 12 jersey and boots on Sunday. Picture: AAP Image

“We only shared texts on Sunday actually so, tragic circumstances. Big T is a good man,” he said. 

“One of the most committed footballers I’ve seen take to the football field. Strong character, played with passion and purpose. It’s been a tough 36 hours to be honest with you.”

Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan, who was also a friend of Thompson’s, said his death put many things in perspective.

”It’s still pretty raw at the moment. [I’m] still in a bit of shock about it. He’s a wonderful person,” he said.

“It’s been [tough] obviously with Lance. Gal in particular was probably the only one who played with him. All our players we went to Lance’s a lot and had lunch there. He’s been around our club for a long period of time so it’s been a tough week.

“My condolences go out to the Thompson family. Everyone is going to gather around them and support them. We thank the NRL for allowing us to do what we did today.

“He also worked here when he finished playing, he lived locally, and I’ve had a lot to do with him over the last couple of years. “

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