Foundation SUN Rory Thompson will play his first AFL match in 1379 days when the Gold Coast SUNS take on Sydney at the SCG on Saturday afternoon.

Thompson last lined up in Round 19, 2018 before rupturing his left ACL in an incident at training which saw him miss the remainder of 2018 and the entire 2019 season.

Making his return through the reserves in 2020, Thompson was struck down again, suffering a partial tear to the ACL in his opposite knee in a scratch match in August 2020.

After two lengthy rehabilitation periods, the key defender said he was relieved to be able to once again represent the SUNS in an AFL match for the first time in four years.

“It’s been a lot of hard work and thanks to everyone who has helped out along the way, particularly the medical and high performance staff who have spent countless hours with me to help me get back to playing footy,” Thompson said.

“It’s been a bit of a tough journey but all of the players and staff have made it so enjoyable and I’ve still loved coming in every day through it all.

“I can’t wait to pull on the SUNS guernsey and run out with the boys again.”

SUNS Senior Coach Stuart Dew praised the 31-year-old’s resilience to work his way back to the elite level.

“An ACL injury is one of the most devastating in our sport, and to be able to come back from not just one, but two ACL recoveries is a tremendous achievement and a credit to the hard work Rory has put in behind the scenes,” Dew said.

“We’re rapt to have him back in the side for what will be a proud moment for Rory, his family and our football club.”

Thompson has played three matches in the VFL this season, defending against the opposition’s best key forward and averaging nine disposals, three marks and three tackles per game.

He also played half a game in the AAMI Community Series match against Geelong in the pre-season.

The Gold Coast SUNS take on Sydney in Round 8 at 1:45pm on Saturday at the SCG.