Australian Football Celebrating the history of the great Australian game


Key Facts

Full name
William D Thomas

Known as
Bill 'Sonna' Thomas


10 November 1886

8 October 1974 (aged 87)

Age at first & last AFL game
First game: 18y 261d
Last game: 32y 230d

Height and weight
Height: 178 cm
Weight: 78 kg

Senior clubs
South Melbourne; Richmond

Jumper numbers
South Melbourne: 20, 25
Richmond: 28, 4

Recruited from
South Melbourne (1914)

Family links
Len Thomas (Son)

Bill 'Sonna' Thomas

ClubLeagueCareer spanGamesGoalsAvgWin %AKIAHBAMKBV
South MelbourneV/AFL1905-191313520.0163%0
RichmondV/AFL1914-1916, 1918-19196230.0539%0
V/AFL1905-1916, 1918-191919750.0355%0
Total1905-1916, 1918-191919750.0355%0

AFL: 1,081st player to appear, 681st most games played, 6,114th most goals kickedSouth Melbourne: 166th player to appear, 89th most games played, 775th most goals kickedRichmond: 127th player to appear, 257th most games played, 604th most goals kicked

Regarded as one of the best and most consistent defenders of his era, William 'Sonna' Thomas gave sterling service to two league clubs over the course of career that lasted the better part of 15 seasons, and saw him play in excess of 200 top level games. 

He commenced in the VFL in 1905 with South Melbourne, and after taking some time to establish himself developed into a mainstay of the team which went on to win its first premiership in 19 years in 1909. During that year's final series he held down centre half back with great conviction and authority, and his contribution to the flag win was unsurpassed. In the Challenge Final against Carlton, he capped a near best afield performance with a last minute saving mark which ensured that South held on to record a memorable win by just two points. 

Thomas captain-coached the Southerners to third place in both 1910 and 1911, and his four interstate appearances for the VFL included a game as captain against South Australia in 1913. In 1914, after 135 games and two goals for South, he crossed to Richmond where he was promptly appointed captain. He spent five and a half seasons with the Tigers, adding another 62 games and three goals, and in the process helping them to emerge as a genuine VFL force for the first time. Bill Thomas might feasibly have still been around when the team broke through for its first VFL flag in 1920 but a dual leg fracture sustained a year earlier had ended his career. 

His son, Len Thomas, was a successful league footballer with three different clubs during the 1920s and '30s.

Author - John Devaney


Full Points Footy Publications


* Behinds calculated from the 1965 season on.
+ Score at the end of extra time.