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. 2017 will be his ninth 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.
Strength and Conditioning Coach
In charge of the players’ fitness will be AFLNT’s newest Strength and Conditioning Coordinator, Robbie Butcher. Born in Darwin, he brings a wealth of knowledge with a Bachelor of Exercise and Sports Science, Master in Exercise Science (Strength and Conditioning) and Bachelor of Education.
Butcher is also a talented rugby union player whose accolades include; the Craig Leach Mosquito MVP which he won in 2017 and 2009, the Eric Johnston Medal for being NT Rugby’s Best & Fairest in 2014, and he was the Willie Ellison Medallist in 2009 for Best on Ground in the Grand Final.
In 2012, he did his internship with NT Thunder and the Academy programs and is now back to keep the players on their toes.
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.