By Murray Silby
“I think to a certain extent we haven’t executed our game plan as well as we should, but we’ve been in the games and we’ve had opportunities where we probably could have won the games so we’re just going to make sure that we’re not dictated to by the opposition.”
That’s NT Thunder coach Andrew Hodges speaking ahead of his side’s Round 7 NEAFL match against the Gold Coast Suns at TIO Stadium in Darwin on Saturday night.
And they’ll have to find that ruthless edge quickly as the Suns easily accounted for last year’s NEAFL premiers, the Greater Western Sydney Giants, by 51 points in Round 6.
The Suns were fast starters too, kicking the first six goals of that match and having 41 points on the scoreboard before the Giants even troubled the scorers.
Gold Coast wasn’t short on scoring options either with 12 players kicking majors and five of them kicking two or more.
Among their best were AFL-listed players Brayden Fiorini, Ryan Davis and Darcy Macpherson.
It’s not just the club’s AFL-listed players Thunder will have to watch though, with the Suns’ leading goal scorer, Kai Sheers, who is apart of the Gold Coast Academy program.
Hodges and his players are however looking forward to the challenge.
“Another great opportunity to play AFL-listed players, especially for our young group,” Hodges said. “To get that experience is invaluable for them and it’s an exciting challenge.
“Gold Coast had a great win last week. They play a possession brand of footy. They try and hold onto the footy as much as they can and they generate lots of scoring opportunities so we’ve really got to be on top of our defensive game to make sure that we don’t allow them to do it. We need to rebound nice and hard and quick against them to make sure that we create enough opportunities for us to get a winning score.”
This week could be the ideal round for Thunder to bounce back with a win against the Suns as their AFL side travels with an extended list to play Port Adelaide in China for the first time.
The match on Sunday will be the first AFL game to have been played outside Australia or New Zealand for premiership points and the Suns will be taking extra players to deal with any unexpected circumstances.
Thunder’s five-point loss to Canberra last week still disappoints, especially as they felt their mistakes, as much as the Demons’ good play, could have decided the match.
Those mistakes included a run of five successive behinds in the final quarter when goals could have put the match beyond Canberra’s reach and more wayward kicking for goal in the second.
“This week we’ve gone away and reviewed the game really carefully,” Hodges said. “We had a look at where we’ve broken down. Obviously we didn’t take our opportunities when we had them.
“I think in the second quarter we kicked three goals nine. We implemented our game plan really well in that quarter, but we just didn’t finish.
“As disappointing as it was to get the loss we know we were pretty close to getting the win and we’re just going to work a little bit harder to make sure that we tidy up those areas and make sure it doesn’t happen again this week.
“We need to play our brand of footy and in a way be a little bit unpredictable in the way that we play and play a Territory brand of footy,” Hodges said.
Gold Coast sits fourth on the NEAFL ladder while Thunder has slipped to seventh, one win outside the top six.
Saturday 13 May
Curtain raiser AFLNT State Academy Women: NT State Academy Red vs NT State Academy Blue – 4 pm TIO Stadium, Darwin
NEAFL Round 7: NT Thunder vs Gold Coast Suns – 6.30 pm TIO Stadium, Darwin