Tom Price honours sporting stalwart

Cara TregonningPilbara News
Clem Thompson playing for the Townsite Eagles in Tom Price.
Camera IconClem Thompson playing for the Townsite Eagles in Tom Price. Credit: Pilbara News

Tomorrow night the Tom Price sporting community will celebrate the official opening of the Clem Thompson Sports Pavilion and upgrades to the adjoining oval.

It has been more than 22 years since the man the sports precinct was named after passed away.

A passionate sportsman and clubman, Clem James Thompson left his mark on the Tom Price community.

Born in 1950 in Balmoral, Victoria, Clem was the eldest son of 15 siblings.

In 1973, he and his wife Madeline and two young children Clare and Leigh, moved to Tom Price, where Clem worked for Hamersley Iron.

Madeline said the small mining town's love of sport was evident from their first week in town.

"I went to the supermarket and the local butcher said to me 'does your husband play footy?'," she said.

"I said 'yes he does,' and he took his apron off and signed him up for Crushers (football team) right there and then.

"It was a good life - the cam- araderie and the backyard barbecues."

Leigh, who now lives in Karratha, said sport was the fabric of Pilbara communities, bringing people together to socialise.

"It's a release for people in the town to get together and meet friends," he said.

"It makes people want to stick around."

It did not take Clem long to establish junior sporting leagues, setting up junior football, junior cricket and junior indoor cricket.

Leigh said his dad constantly worked behind the scenes of sporting clubs.

"In those days, in the 70s and 80s, there weren't many resources or sporting events, so the town needed people getting behind the scenes to make things happen," he said.

"His approach to the future of his beloved sports was to dedicate his time and effort towards the kids of Tom Price.

"He would be coaching the senior or junior football and cricket teams every night of the week, marking the boundaries before both junior and senior games, organising buses, sports equipment and washing jumpers, everything the team used on game day or to travel up the road to Paraburdoo.

"He would coach the junior then head to the change room to prepare to play himself."

Clem was a talented sportsman, winning the Pilbara-wide sportsman of the year award in 1977 and 1978 as well as many other sporting accolades.

He was the first person to play 200 Fortescue National Football League games and was a life member of the FNFL as well as Townsite Eagles Football Club.

Leigh said Clem was a natural leader.

"He was courageous on and off the field and led by example," he said. "He was highly competitive but knew the difference between winning and fair play."

In 1986, the family moved to Geelong, where some of Clem's family lived. He died unexpectedly from a heart attack at cricket training in 1991, a couple of months before his 41st birthday.

Madeline said his death was a shock.

"Everyone was so shocked when he died - somebody who was so fit and didn't smoke," she said.

Leigh said Clem would always be remembered as a "true champion."

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