NT Thunder stalwart Shannon Rioli will lead the Club’s NEAFL side for the third consecutive season after being reinstated captain on Thursday night.
He will be joined at the helm by his brother Ben and Katherine-based player Richard Tambling, who are both existing leadership group members and vocal members of the team both on and off the field.
Promoted to the group for the first time and to act as vice-captain to Shannon is Alice Springs-based youngster, Abe Ankers.
Twenty-two-year-old (soon-to-be 23) Ankers enjoyed an outstanding 2017 Thunder campaign, and his inclusion and endorsement as vice-captain come as a greater contingent of Thunder players are now based in Central Australia and training with the Redtails program.
With Thunder veteran Cam Ilett deciding to step down from official duties for 2018 and Justin Beugelaar now a past player, it left an opportunity for the wider playing group to select their other leaders.
The process started with peer nominations and players stating their reason for recommending their teammate.
The nominated player then had to agree that he was willing to be on the leadership group before all 36 players present at Thursday night’s pre-season camp submitted their votes from the list of nominees in the order of 3-2-1.
At the end of it, very little separated the players but four stood out as the top contenders, and so Joe Anderson, Hugo Drogemuller, Braedon McLean and Jarrod Stokes have all been added to the leadership group for 2018.
Both Drogemuller and McLean had consistent seasons in 2017 and lead by example with their commitment to training and preparation for the season ahead.
While new kids on the block, Anderson and Stokes have footy credentials that speak for themselves and have impressed the group with their buy-in and the respect they commanded as opponents during the NTFL season.
Head Coach Andrew Hodges said it was a terrific outcome and he was delighted with the eight guys who would lead the Club this year.
“Shannon, Ben and Richie are all quality guys and players, and I’m glad to have them involved once again and supporting the other coaches and me this season.
“It’s a fantastic result to have Abe come on as vice-captain, he’s going to drive the standards for us in Alice Springs at training and with getting the other players involved,” he said.
Hodges said any number of guys could’ve been voted in for an official position and he expected them and many more to lead regardless of the title.
“There were plenty of guys that the spots could’ve gone to and deservedly so, but in the end, the playing group spoke.
“Joe has a wealth of experience that will be invaluable around our young group, while Hugo has shown a lot of leadership throughout the preseason both on and off the field and it’s great to have him involved.
“Braedon has come right through our talent programs, and it’s terrific to have another young player put his hand up to lead and take on the extra responsibility. And Jarrod, well he had an outstanding year captaining the Buffaloes in the NTFL, and he’s come back into the Club with respect and admiration,” Hodges said.
Captain Shannon Rioli said this year’s leadership group had plenty of diversity to represent the Northern Territory truly.
“I’m excited by the guys we’ve added to our leadership group. It’s a pretty good mix, and it covers a lot of Territory ground.
“The Andersons and Richard are from Katherine-way, Abe Ankers is in Alice Springs, the Rioli family from Tiwi and the McLean and Stokes family as well as Hugo Drogemuller are in town, so it covers all regions. There are some really good family names there that have done a lot for Territory footy, so I’m sure the boys are the same as me, we want to add to that legacy,” Rioli said.
The eight members of the leadership group will hold regular meetings and assist with the direction and decisions required.
NT Thunder takes on reigning NEAFL premiers, Brisbane Lions in Round 1 next Saturday 7 April from 6:30pm at TIO Stadium, Darwin.