By Murray Silby
In what must be one of the most unusual footy games played, NT Thunder has secured a 12-point victory over the Casey Demons despite being unable to kick a goal in the entire second half of its Round 12 VFL W match.
“An ugly win in some respects, only kicking three points in that second half,” Thunder coach Tim Weatherald said. “I was a bit upset at three-quarter-time. In that third quarter I think we had 12 inside 50s and we kicked one point in a quarter.”
Playing the first ever VFL game in Alice Springs on TIO Traeger Park, both Thunder and Casey burst into action without any delay.
The Demons may have been playing the Thunder, but it was the visitors who brought the lightning.
Just 40 seconds into the game, Shell Scott kicked truly to announce Casey’s arrival in the Red Centre, but far from being shocked into submission, it took Thunder just one minute longer to respond with Rovers star and reigning leading goal-kicker in the local CAFL Jordann Hickey putting the home side’s first goal on the board.
Renee Forth kicked Thunder’s second after five minutes and it was game on.
The point was emphasized little more than a minute later by a Tayla Thorn goal, but Katherine Smith hit back with another major for the Demons, meaning local fans had seen five goals scored in the first 11 minutes of the match.
Thunder wasn’t finished though with 18-year-old first gamer Katelyn Rozenweig kicking her first in Thunder colours to give her side a 14-point lead at quarter-time.
The Demons’ challenge fell away in the second term however, as Thunder banged on 4.4 to nothing.
Hickey kicked the first of the quarter and her second for the match after a couple of minutes, but then it took Thunder another nine minutes before Rozenweig’s second ended a run of three behinds.
Small forward Jasmine Anderson and key forward Abbey Holmes then got in on the act to give Thunder what seemed like a match-winning 42-point lead at half-time.
Not to the Demons though, and they set about hauling the deficit in.
It took Aliesha Newman until the nine-minute-mark to kick Casey’s first of the term, but Madelaine Shevlin followed with another after 15 minutes and Eden Zanker pitched in with the Demons’ third of the quarter after 18 minutes.
By three-quarter-time Casey had booted 3.1 while restricting Thunder to a single behind and closing the margin to 24-points.
The Demons’ challenge continued into the final quarter when Scott, who’d scored the first goal of the game inside 40 seconds, followed up with her second after 13 minutes of the final quarter.
In a tense last term her goal reduced Thunder’s lead to 17 points and Zanker’s second closed the gap to two straight kicks, but the fightback had come too late and the Thunder defence been too resolute.
“Our defenders were really knackered,” Weatherald said. “They held on really well.
“We couldn’t get the ball out of their forward line and they got a feel that they could win it. They were definitely all over us and we were quite lucky they missed a few of their goals, but saying that, it’s still pleasing to hold on and get the win. It was one of those games we had to win.”
Weatherald said it was a game of two contrasting halves from Thunder’s perspective.
“After playing really well in the first half it was very disappointing not to finish the game off,” he said.
“We didn’t take our chances in the second half at all. We probably should have been 12 or 13 goals at three-quarter-time. They went in I think four times and got three goals.
“They just had more composure with the ball and we didn’t use it very well.”
Weatherald also said the squad, particularly those members from Central Australia, had enjoyed playing the one-and-only match in Alice Springs this season.
“Jordann Hickey, in front of her home crowd, had the ball on the end of a string and had a brilliant first quarter and Tahlia Holtze, another local girl, those girls played out of their skin,” Weatherald said.
“Alice is a big part of our footy club and hopefully we’ll get another game down here. It’s a great place to play. I’m not sure how it’ll all work in the future, but we’d love to play some more games down here.”
The Alice Springs game also gave the squad the chance to stay together after a match for the first time this season, given they’re usually getting on planes to either Darwin, Alice Springs or Adelaide immediately after a game.
“It’s the first time all year we’ll have stayed the night together,” Weatherald explained. “It’s really good for everyone to spend some quality time together instead of just flying in and flying out and we’ll enjoy the sites of Alice.”
NT Thunder: 4.2, 8.6, 8.7, 8.9 (57)
Casey Demons: 2.0, 2.0, 5.1, 7.3 (45)
GOALS: NT Thunder – Jordann Hickey, Katelyn Rozenweig 2, Jasmine Anderson, Renee Forth, Abbey Holmes, Tayla Thorn.
Casey – Shell Scott, Eden Zanker 2, Aliesha Newman, Madelaine Shevlin, Katherine Smith.
BEST: NT Thunder – Jenna McCormick, Eloise Jones, Jordann Hickey, Emma Swanson, Sarah Allan, Madeline Keeble.