Lawrence Thomas has played his fair share of big games for Melbourne Victory since signing for the club in 2011.
The 27-year-old goalkeeper is a two-time Hyundai A-League Championship winner, a Premiers Plate winner and a Joe Marston Medallist – following his courageous performance in the 2018 Grand Final.
In Round 24 of the 2014-2015 Hyundai A-League season, Thomas was called upon to fill the gloves of the injured Nathan Coe.
Subsequently, he became Victory’s first-choice goalkeeper for the remainder of the season.
“It was a big moment for me as I was 23-years-old at the time,” said Thomas.
“I had broke into the team on a few occasions before that and had some ordinary performances. I was young and a bit nervous, but that was the first time I felt like I belonged at that level.”
Six games later Thomas played in one of the biggest matches of his career so far, a 3-0 Grand Final triumph over arch rivals Sydney FC at AAMI Park.
Before replacing Coe in 2015, Thomas had only made nine A-League appearances for Victory. The stand-in goalkeeper was anxious, but determined to earn his place and ruffle a few feathers.
“On this occasion I thought 'screw it',” reflected Thomas.
“This time I was going to be a bit more arrogant in myself and a bit more confident. The biggest difference this time around was my mindset. I really backed myself.”
The change of attitude fuelled Thomas to keep four clean sheets in seven appearances, including the Grand Final itself.
“There is a lot of history there and being from Western Sydney, I had a few mates who were going for Sydney. There was a lot of banter with the people I grew up with."
The roaring crowd of 29,843 was an AAMI Park record at the time and Thomas declared it as the best atmosphere he has ever played in front of.
“The main thing I remember about that Grand Final is the atmosphere. I remember trying to scream to the back line and I couldn’t get any information to anyone. It was incredible.
“Warming up I had goosebumps. I had chills coming out of the tunnel. The whole night was perfect in terms of the way we played and there wasn’t a moment where Sydney silenced the crowd.”
Besart Berisha opened the scoring in the 33rd minute of the 2015 Grand Final, before second half goals from Kosta Barbarouses and Leigh Broxham sealed Victory’s third A-League Championship.
“Looking back I think the quality of Berisha’s goal is sensational,” Thomas said.
“Once Broxham scored, everyone knew it was done and dusted. It is quite rare in a Grand Final to be able to look around and take in your surroundings. I was looking around and the whole stadium was dancing – it was a surreal feeling.”
The famous Grand Final triumph concluded the double-winning season and gave the young goalkeeper an early taste of success.
“When you walk into the changing room afterwards anything goes, because you have done what was expected of you,” he said.
“If you want to pop bottles or bring in a surfboard – you can do whatever you want.”
“Looking back, most of my memories are of sharing that high with people that work hard all year. Just to create a special moment with the people that you see every day. That’s what stands out most.”