NT Thunder will resume its charge for a berth in the NEAFL finals with the addition of 415 senior games experience to this weekend’s side to face Southport at home in Darwin.
After Thunder’s young brigade suffered a heavy loss at the hands of a well polished, professional Swans outfit last week, there are eight changes to this Saturday’s line-up.
Among the inclusions are four of the team’s leadership group including formidable captain Shannon Rioli, his skilful brother Ben, and the experienced head of Richard Tambling and master in defence, Justin Beugelaar.
Handy big man Hugo Drogemuller will be one tall inclusion, with Thunder stayer Ryan Smith also back in the ruck.
Central Australian ball magnet Abraham Ankers has also been recalled, along with handy midfielder and hard-ball collector, Jarred Erlandson.
Between them, the eight changes have more than 400 games of NT Thunder experience and will be eager to make amends for last week’s result as well as when Thunder last met Southport in Round 13 and suffered an unexpected defeat.
Jonathan Peris has been ruled out with a hamstring injury, while Francis Kinthari is unavailable for selection this weekend but will be aptly covered by Adam Sambono, who is fresh off his call-up to the NAB AFL Draft Combine and will be looking to find the goal-kicking form he established before being called up for representative duties.
The three Army representatives in the side and some of the young bridge have also made way, but Scott McLeod and Kyle Emery will be on-hand as the emergencies.
Thunder Head Coach Andrew Hodges said despite last round’s result his team had been showing lots of positivity at training.
“The boys have been focused this week and are raring to go and prove that there’s still more to give and get out of this season.
“We’ve changed things up a little this week, allowing players to show their versatility in different positions,” he said alluding to Ben Rioli and Neil Vea Vea being named up forward, while Drogemuller and Nick Yarran will move into defence.
“It’s never ideal to make so many changes but when we don’t have full-time athletes at our disposal we have to work within our means and the Thunder program is every bit about finding the right balance between winning games and developing young players,” Hodges said.
He also said his team would be more wary of their opponents after the Sharks made a fast start in their last encounter.
“Southport’s list is more impressive than its position on the ladder indicates, and we saw the best of them when we played in Round 13, so we know we have our work cut out and are willing to fight to reverse our fortunes.”
NEAFL Round 18
NT Thunder vs Southport Sharks
3:00pm ACST Saturday 29 July
TIO Stadium, Darwin
B: Sam Smith, Tom Davies, Nick Yarran
HB: Daniel Weetra, Hugo Drogemuller, Justin Beugelaar
C: Braedon McLean, Matthew Rosier, Jack Shannahan
HF: Cameron Ilett, Neil Vea Vea, Ben Rioli
F: Adam Sambono, Darren Ewing, Beau Schwarze*
FOLL: Ryan Smith, Shannon Rioli, Abraham Ankers
INT: Sam Talbot, Michael Coombes, Tony Olango, Richard Tambling, Jarred Erlandson
EMERGENCIES: Scott McLeod, Michael Hagan, Kyle Emery
IN: Abraham Ankers, Justin Beugelaar, Hugo Drogemuller, Jarred Erlandson, Ben Rioli, Shannon Rioli, Sam Smith, Richard Tambling
OUT: Matthew Bricknell (omitted), Josh Cheek (omitted), Kyle Emery (omitted), Coen Hutt (omitted), Francis Kinthari (unavailable), Scott McLeod (omitted), Jonathan Peris (injury – hamstring), Daniel Russell (omitted)
* Indicates 23rd player
You can live stream this game thanks to Tatts on ThunderVision