By Murray Silby
A 12-point win over Redland last weekend has kept NT Thunder’s hopes of making the NEAFL finals alive, but in Round 15 on Saturday it faces a team sometimes known as The Bloods, which is seeking out its ninth victim in a row.
Playing in Darwin at TIO Stadium will be an advantage for Thunder, but its opponent, second-placed Sydney, brings with it plenty of challenges.
The Swans ensured their winning streak continued last weekend by stopping the Giants’ own run of victories at five games with a 46-point win.
The Swans, who sometimes go by their historical nickname of The Bloods, dominated the second half of that game to restrict the Giants to just the single goal after half time.
Sydney’s Irish defender Colin O’Riordan scored a perfect 10 MVP votes for his performance in the match, which included 30 kicks, nine handballs, 12 marks, three tackles and two goals.
O’Riordan has been one of the Swans’ best performers this season, having gathered 21 or more disposals in all 11 matches he’s played and he averages five rebound 50s per game.
Nic Newman and Harry Marsh in defence and around the ground and ruckman Darcy Cameron have also been in good form for the Swans.
The Swans had plenty of opportunities to score too, with them recording 70 inside 50s and Marsh was responsible for 12 of those.
They’ll come up against a Thunder on-ball division that’s starting to find some form though.
Abraham Ankers has been in stellar form all season and continued that against the Bombers on Saturday, polling nine MVP votes and notching up 32 disposals, 14 clearances and two goals.
Jarrod Stokes was also invaluable around the stoppages, of which there were plenty on a wet day, and he also kicked three goals and ruckman Jack Monigatti threw himself into the contest with his second and third efforts around the ground.
The return of Nicholas Yarran to Thunder in recent weeks has also added some class with his ability to break through lines and to add offensive pressure.
Yarran played last season, but transferred to Claremont in the WAFL at the start of the 2018 season.
“The reason behind that was because it was a good opportunity to play some footy close to my Dad’s side of the family. I hadn’t seen them for about 10 years so it was great to play footy and be with family who I hadn’t seen in a while,” he said.
“It was a pretty good experience, but things didn’t work out financially, job-wise and all that, so that was pretty hard. When I decided to come back Hodgey (coach Andrew Hodges), being the great bloke that he is, welcomed me back in.
“To be honest, it feels like I never left.”
Although Thunder is second last on the ladder and facing a difficult challenge to reach the finals, Yarran said he can see it happening.
“I think it’s possible. We’ve got five home games and all the boys are pretty confident,” he suggested.
“There’s a pretty good vibe at the club. Even though we’re still struggling win-wise, all the boys are very positive. Hodgey’s positive and going forward, as a club, for the rest of this season and next season as well, everything’s looking really good.”
Yarran said going away to Perth and then returning home has given him a new appreciation for Darwin and his family and the family spirit around the club, which he says gives Thunder a great chance to beat Sydney this weekend and win its way into the finals.
“Coming home, it’s hard to describe. It’s just a really good feeling. I can’t describe it really,” he said.
“Just being home, being around people I’ve grown up with all my life. All my mates are here, all the footy boys. It’s just a surreal feeling and Thunder, Thunder’s home really.
“I didn’t think too much about it when I left, but once I came back I realised Thunder’s home and I’ll definitely play on for a long time for Thunder.”
NEAFL Round 15: NT Thunder v Sydney Swans – 6:30pm Saturday 14 July, TIO Stadium, Darwin