Most recent NTFL Men’s Premier League premiership coach, Shannon Rusca comes back into the Thunder fold after a successful tenure as player and coach. An inaugural player in 2009 Rusca went on to play in the 2011 premierships and was the midfield coach in 2015 when Thunder took out the NEAFL honours.
An extensive playing career that covers, AFL, SANFL and NTFL make Rusca the ideal candidate to act as this year’s senior assistant coach, with his role primarily focused on team strategy and team offence.
The South Korean born brings great experience to the coaching panel, having spent time with Academy NEAFL and AFL teams (most notably the Sydney Swans), being exposed to the best minds in the business. Heath also has local knowledge, having played and coached for St Mary’s Football Club in the NTFL since 2009. During this time he was a Premier League Assistant Coach for the 2015/16 and 2016/17 NTFL Premierships. Heath has also travelled as a coach for the U15 All Nations Squad for the Northern Territory from 2014-2017.
Heath has also travelled as a coach for the Under 15 All Nations squad for the Northern Territory from 2014-2017.
In 2018 Heath’s primary role with Thunder will be working with the midfield.
Assistant Midfield Coach (Alice Springs)
Another new addition to the coaching panel in 2018 is Alice Springs-based, Jackson Ankers. The older brother of Thunder vice-captain, Abe, Jackson is a premiership coach for Federal Football Club in the CAFL and is known for his ability to analyse and motivate. From Central Australia, Jackson will work closely with the Redtails Football Program and will act as an assistant midfield coach for Thunder.
A former AFL player, Roe played 50 games for the Brisbane Lions between 2006-2009. He got his break playing in the SANFL for North Adelaide before being drafted to Collingwood and on to the Brisbane Lions. Upon returning to Darwin, Roe was a 2011 NT Thunder premiership player and amassed 37 Club games to his name. He has been an Assistant Coach at the Nightcliff Tigers for the past two NTFL seasons, and his experience and leadership will be invaluable in his second year as a coach at NT Thunder.
Ayres was an assistant coach under Rusca for the 2017/18 Southern Districts NTFL premiership and has been involved in a coaching level with Districts, and before them, Waratah for some years. An AFL rookie selection in 2001 for Melbourne, Ayres spent a couple of seasons in the elite environment which has seen him as a valuable contributor to Territory footy. In 2016 and 2017 he was an assistant coach with the NT Thunder Under 18 Academy, and 2018 marks his first year working with the senior team and particularly, the forwards.
Opposition Analyst Coach
He coached and played professionally in Belgium for seven years, was the High Performance Manager at Hockey South Australia for four years and the Northern Territory Institute of Sport Head Coach for four years also. Lenoir is well versed in guiding young athletes, and his football experience includes a couple of seasons spent with Nightcliff in the NTFL. His role with Thunder in 2018 is to analyse the opposition teams.
Coaching Box Dynamics
The premiership runner in Thunder’s 2011 year Leonard does everything from running to coaching and working one-on-one with players in particular areas of the game. He is heavily involved with Wanderers FC in the NTFL and is a general all-around club man.
Leonard, affectionately known as ‘Scruba’ is a no-nonsense all-rounder who has been involved with the Club for all ten of its years.
Leonard was recognised for his hard work and commitment to NT Thunder by being awarded the 2016 Thunderstruck Unsung Volunteer of the Year. 2018 will be his tenth year involved with the NT Thunder program.
Never one to shy away from offering advice Leonard’s task this season is to oversee the coaching box dynamics.
Program Rehabilitation Coach
Assisting Butcher with strength and conditioning but focusing more closely on the injured or rehab players is experienced Program Rehabilitation Coach, Rob Moore. Moore most recently assisted with strength and conditioning for the NT-based Adelaide Crows women’s players, keeping them fighting fit throughout the 2018 season. He also has an impressive resume, which includes four years of industry experience with both team and individual sports and includes stints with weightlifting and rugby in Belfast, Ireland.
A friendly face around the Michael Long Learning and Leadership Gym, Moore is in his final year of completing a Bachelor of Exercise and Sport Science.
Keeping the family connection going, this year’s primary team runner Shane Hodges is the younger brother of Head Coach, Andrew. Shane was a reliable and fast delivering messenger when Andrew coached Wanderers to their NTFL premiership in the 2014/15 season and laces up for his first stint with Thunder.
Chairman of Selectors
Overseeing the NT Thunder NEAFL coaching team and Chairman of Selectors is AFLNT Talent and Pathways Manager, Wally Gallio. Gallio has established himself as one of the leading local experts and nationwide has become a name synonymous with Territory footy. With experience playing and coaching right across the Territory, the NT Thunder Football Club and Academy report through to Gallio.
Peter Caven has been named as one of the two Adelaide-based ThunderW assistant coaches for 2018. The ex-Adelaide Crows premiership player has a total of 139 games to his name, 39 with Fitzroy, 18 with Sydney and 82 with Adelaide. Caven kicked a career high four goals in his first game for Adelaide. Caven played in the back-to-back 1997 and 1998 premiership matches for Adelaide and was named in the Adelaide Team of the Decade (1991-2000). In 2017, Caven was chosen to coach alongside fellow two-time Adelaide Premiership player Andrew McLeod, as assistant to Bec Goddard in her AFLW premiership winning role as the Adelaide Crows Head Coach. Caven has plenty of senior coaching experience from Sacred Heart Old Collegians, Glenelg Football Club as an Assistant Coach and the Under 18s South Australian team also as an Assistant Coach.
Rob Clarke brings years of experience to the ThunderW coaching panel for 2018. Clarke got his first taste of coaching in 2004 when he headed Northside Power, a local Alice Springs Under 13s side. However, he is more famously known for initiating the creation of the Central Australian Redtails in 2012 and continues his involvement as club president. His aim was creating a positive attitude within the community. He educated the young players on how to have respect for themselves and others as well as discipline. Clarke was a role model for making a positive change within the community. While coaching Northside Power Under 15s side Clarke got the opportunity to coach Jake Neade who was drafted to Port Adelaide in the later yearsClarke’s three sons played at the local CAFL Rovers Football Club where he soon became involved. He became the Under 17s Coach, Assistant Coach for A and B grades, and now Clarke has stepped up to the challenge of being the Alice Springs-based Assistant Coach.
Adelaide-based Assistant Coach, Brooke Copeland is a welcome addition to the 2018 coaching panel. Copeland’s first coaching opportunity was in 2015 for the SA state team as a player/Assistant Coach. The most recent highlight of Copeland’s coaching career was in 2017 when she had the opportunity to be involved in the Adelaide Crows Women’s Premiership as an Opposition Analyst in the inaugural AFLW season. This year Copeland’s role with the Crows expanded to Opposition and Game Analyst. Prior to her AFLW experience Copeland was appointed Head Coach of the Division 1 Open Women’s team for the West Adelaide Women’s Football Club in 2016 and lead her team into the finals. From 2010-2016 Copeland was a player for Greenacres Women’s Football Club. Copeland played a total of 100 amateur league games, two of them for West Adelaide. After her 100th game against her previous team Greenacres, Copeland retired and has since taken up coaching.
The ex-AFL player will add invaluable experience to the 2018 ThunderW coaching list, as our sole Melbourne-based assistant coach. Duigan was drafted in the 2010 NAB AFL Draft and made his debut in Round 1 of the 2011 season, immediately earning a spot in the backline. Duigan played a total of 48 games for the Carlton Football Club and was awarded Best First-Year Player in 2011. At the age of 26 he was playing as a defender in the SANFL for Norwood Football Club while also completing his Masters Degree in Psychology, which he completed later that year. Duigan’s Injuries proved to be a problem throughout his career, forcing him to retire from AFL in the 2014 preseason with an ongoing knee injury. He is set to be Assistant Coach alongside four others for the 2018 season.
Trudie Hopgood is an ex-professional basketball player who jumped codes to join the inaugural ThunderW coaching panel. Hopgood played 10 seasons of professional basketball in the Women’s National Basketball League, and after her playing career became a Project Officer for the Malta Basketball Association off the southern coast of Italy. From there she went on to become the Assistant Coach for the British Basketball Under 20 Women’s team. In 2009 Hopgood became the Head Coach for the Scotland Women’s National Basketball team and was appointed Head Coach for the City of Edinburgh Basketball Academy. Hopgood then made the move back to Australia to be Head Coach for the West Adelaide Women’s team in the Australian Basketball League. In January 2013 Hopgood became a Basketball Skills Coach and Sport Management Consultant, she is also a Development Officer at Netball NT. Hopgood has recently assisted the Darwin Buffaloes women’s team with coaching and skill development. Hopgood has now joined the NT ThunderW team as the Darwin-based Assistant Coach.