THEO Thompson stood in the Sandringham Dragons' rooms, watching his teammates warm up. It was round three of the TAC Cup season and Thompson – a hard running half-back and midfielder – had started the year well, was fit and in form.
He expected the question to be posed, and it didn't take long to come. "Why aren't you playing today?" a Dragons player asked. The answer wasn't as straightforward as a hamstring niggle.
Thompson has been going to church every Sunday morning for as long as he can remember. At first he used to head along because his parents took him. But as time has gone on, and his Christianity has grown to mean more to him, Thompson has found himself becoming closer to his religion.
It's why, when the Dragons were scheduled to play their round three game against the Northern Knights on Good Friday, it didn't sit well with Thompson to play.
The draft prospect, who was recently named captain for Vic Metro for the NAB AFL Under-18 Championships, called Dragons region manager Ryan O'Connor and explained his situation. O'Connor was understanding, told Thompson to have more of a think overnight, to talk again to his parents, and then decide if he wanted to sit out the game.
"He went away and came back to training the next night and said 'That's what I want to do, I don't want to play'," O'Connor said.
"He was still there at the game, and with the boys in the rooms. It was just at that stage, for him and his beliefs, he chose it was not a day he wanted to play. I probably respect him more for that.
"I think anyone strong in their convictions is going to do quite well in life because they'll know how to position themselves and what to work towards. That comes across in a lot of things Theo does."
This was the first year the TAC Cup staged games on Good Friday, with four contests spread across the state in the afternoon and night. Thompson didn't want to make a big deal of his decision, but was quietly proud he stood up for what he believed in.
As debate continues about whether the AFL should hold a game on Good Friday – it has so far resisted the temptation to fixture one on the Easter holiday – Thompson's position tells of the complexities involved.
"I place great importance in my Christian faith, and I'm not perfect at it, there's a long way to go in the journey. But playing was just something I didn't feel comfortable in doing. I wasn't making a stand, but just pointing out there is some sanctity about the day," Thompson said.
"There's a lot of talk about playing AFL games on Good Friday and that's obviously the changing nature of society. We want it every day, and that's the way it goes I guess. But personally, I had a chat to mum and dad about it, and they said it has to be my decision.
"Everyone was really supportive. I got a lot of questions here and there from teammates. They found it a bit foreign, but that was fine. I was happy explaining it through."
Thompson is a developing player who, like many boys his age, is trying to show enough for a club to call his name at the end of this season. He can lock down an opponent in defence while adding some zip from the half-back line. Last week he gathered 16 disposals and five rebound 50s for Metro in its loss to South Australia, and he's being encouraged to take things on more.
Being a leader is also an important attribute, and one that has passed through his family. Thompson's grandfather was Lindsay Thompson, who was the Victorian premier from 1981-82.
Theo's father, and Lindsay's son, Murray Thompson, is a state member of parliament for Sandringham. Murray played 14 games for Richmond in the 1970s before being hit by knee injuries.
There is also great lineage in the family's history at Caulfield Grammar, one of the state's leading private schools. When Theo was announced as the Caulfield campus school captain this year, he followed his father and grandfather in holding the position in their respective graduating years (Lindsay in 1945 and Murray in 1972).
The school's indoor sporting facility is named the Lindsay Thompson Centre, and the 17-year-old will be present at many assemblies in the adjoining hall this year. He says taking on the school captain's role (as well as skippering Caulfield's football team and Vic Metro) has taught him plenty.
"You get a different perspective being that intermediate between the teachers and the students. That's something I've really enjoyed. I wasn't really that fond of public speaking at the start but I've grown into it," Thompson said.
"At the start I was pretty nervous, and dad just told me to take a deep breath. Now I've become accustomed to it and, although it's not coming more naturally, I'm more confident in myself."
Thompson made his debut in the school's first XVIII in 2012, becoming the first year nine student to do so since the school's most famous football export, Chris Judd.
He remembers coming up against Carey's team that year, which included Jack Viney, Nathan Hrovat, Kristian Jaksch and Jack Macrae.
"Viney was a bull, just unstoppable. He'd run through people and it was incredible to watch," Thompson said.
A few years on and Thompson is into his draft year, keen to impress. He is busy, with his studies, his sport and his faith occupying many hours, but he likes it that way.
"I enjoy everything, I'm very lucky to have the opportunities that I do have and I'm hoping to get the most out of myself," he said.