by Murray Silby
NT Thunder will be aiming to get back on the winners’ list and to keep Redland off it when the two sides clash for at Tidbold Park in Round 4 of NEAFL on Saturday afternoon.
Thunder and Redland has played an ANZAC game every year since 2011 and Thunder has never been beaten in the fixture. For the past six years, NT Thunder players have also won the ANZAC Day Medal for best on ground; Cameron Ilett (2011), Jake Dignan (2012), Nathan Brown (2013), Ross Tungatalum (2014), Cameron Ilett (2015) and last year, Ben Rioli.
A big win over Aspley in Round 1 rocketed Thunder to the top of the ladder, but a loss to Brisbane in Round 2 and a bye last weekend has seen it steadily slide down to sixth place.
Redland, however, will still be searching for its first win after losses to the Canberra Demons, Gold Coast Suns and Sydney University in the first three rounds.
It’s safe to say the Bombers aren’t the form team of the competition, sitting second last on the ladder, losing to the Demons by 20 points, to the Suns by 92 and Uni by 57.
Thunder on the other hand has played just the two games so far and is yet to set a solid line of form, but last weekend’s bye has given the squad useful time to rest bodies tired from the NTFL season played over summer and the coaching staff days to emphasize their tactical message.
“We haven’t got any serious injury concerns at the moment,” Thunder coach Andrew Hodges said.
“We’ve got a few off the back of the NTFL season, but the first two rounds we haven’t had any injuries so we’re managing it really well.”
Although coming early in the season, Hodges said the bye had been timely from the point-of-view of managing players who’d played deep into the NTFL finals, including the grand final, which was only played on March 18.
“The guys are fairly fresh and ready to take on the rest of the NEAFL season, but it takes constant management,” he said.
“They’ve got their own individualised gym programs based around injury prevention to make sure those things don’t happen and to make them strong in the right areas. So far so good in that regard.”
So good that Hodges said his major headache this week will be deciding who to leave out of the squad travelling to Brisbane.
“We’re pretty much back to full squad,” he said.
“We’ll have Ben Rioli, Richard Tambling, Matt Rosier, those guys will put their hand up, Jake Roe-Duggan, so pretty much a full list to pick from for round four, which is really positive.
“After coming off a loss to Brisbane it’ll be great to have a full list to travel.”
Coached by the former North Melbourne player Leigh Harding, Redland has some talent to trouble Thunder should the visitors be slow to start after their week off.
Among them are former Collingwood player Peter Yagmoor and former Brisbane Lion Jackson Paine, who each kicked three goals last week.
Another of the Bombers’ keys is 190 centimetre on-baller Clay Cameron, who played senior football with the Gold Coast Suns and 200 centimetre Sam Michael, a top-up player for Essendon last season and a Brisbane Lion before that.
Hodges recognises his side must be ready to play.
“I know they’re a good side. They’re always strong so it’ll be a tough challenge,” he said.
“Whenever you travel, no matter who you play, it’s always tough.”
Saturday 22 April
NEAFL Round 4: Redland vs NT Thunder 1:30pm AEST Tidbold Park, Brisbane