by Murray Silby
NT Thunder has followed up its win over the reigning premier Brisbane at home last week by recording a controlled 28-point victory on the road over Aspley this week, 16.12 (108) to 11.4 (80).
Thunder started slowly under immense pressure from the Hornets, taking until the 17th minute of the opening quarter to get its first score on the board, a goal to Dion Munkara.
The Tiwi goal sneak followed up his four from last week with another two on Saturday to ensure his run of kicking a major in each of the 10 Thunder matches he’s played continues.
By the time he’d put the visitors’ first major through the big sticks though, the Hornets had already kicked three of their own.
Thunder’s prime movers, however, were starting to change gear with Abraham Ankers, Cameron Ilett and Ben Rioli starting to get their hands on the ball.
Another two goals to Chris Williams – after a great build up and transition from defence into attack – and Hugo Drogemuller – who managed to turn his opponent inside out to score on the run – meant Thunder went to the first change just three points down.
When Munkara kicked his second goal two minutes into the second term Thunder had taken the lead, kicked four in a row and snatched all momentum from the Hornets.
Thunder continued to build its lead to 16 points with three of the next four goals. Among them was a clever kick along the ground by Jack Munkara, his first for Thunder in his debut game.
Adam Sambono also kicked two of his four for the day in the second term, but majors to former Brisbane Lions forward Jono Freeman and Harrison Pearce held Thunder to an eight-point lead at half-time.
Thunder’s superiority was consolidated in the third term by adding five goals to the Hornets’ two with Hugo Drogemuller (2), Jarrod Stokes, Ankers and Sambono scoring to extend the lead to 28 points at three-quarter-time.
Despite Thunder’s control on the scoreboard, Aspley was dominating most of the statistical measures.
By half-time multiple NEAFL MVP winner Matt Payne had notched up an enormous 23 disposals and former North Melbourne captain Andrew Swallow 19. Their influence eased a little in the second half though with them finishing with 36 and 31 disposals respectively.
Still much more than Thunder’s most prolific player in Cameron Ilett with 23, but not as big as it was on track to be.
That possession wasn’t necessarily translating into scoring for the home side though, even with the Hornets adding four goals in the final term, Thunder was also able to record four, including one to debutant Sam Dyke.
Thunder coach Andrew Hodges said after the game that he was relieved to be able to win away and with Aspley bringing such a high-pressure style to the game.
“Any game you can win away from home is worth its weight in gold,” Hodges said. “We knew it was going to be a massive challenge coming here and to try and get a result and to the boys’ credit they really fought it out and played really well.
“Aspley jumped out of the blocks and really applied pressure to us and to our boys’ credit they stayed calm and we knew the game would open up for us and that happened.
“It was good to be challenged like that early and see the boys bounce back and find a way, firstly to get back into the game by quarter time and then to go on with it during the game so it was pretty pleasing.”
Although losing the hit-outs 33 to 44, Hodges was particularly pleased with the way Jack Monigatti and back ups Hugo Drogemuller and Sam Smith managed to restrict the impact of Aspley’s giant former Melbourne ruckman Jake Spencer.
Drogemuller, who contributed three goals to his pinch-hitting in the ruck said he thought Thunder’s strategy for nullifying Spencer’s impact had worked.
“Through the week we’ve done a lot of work with our ruck coach and former Hawthorn premiership ruckman, Brent Renouf and he’s really helped us out. We are lacking a bit in the talls department, but we’ve done a bit of work during the week knowing we’re coming up against a dominant ruckman and just planned our midfield structure around nullifying his impact on the game and bringing our own midfielders into it so I thought we executed that really well today and it probably showed up with the result at the end of the day,” he said.
“I’ve had a word to Hodgey about playing more of a forwards role, but I’m more than happy to pinch hit around the ground.
“It was just really pleasing to get the win as a team and obviously kicking three behinds, I could have added a bit more to the tally sheet, but it’s really pleasing to get on the scoreboard and contribute to the win.”
Aspley 3.4, 5.8, 7.11, 11.4 (80)
NT Thunder 3.1, 7.4, 12.9, 16.12 (108)
GOALS: Aspley – Billy Beardsell, Jono Freeman, Gavin Grose 2, Jackson Allen, Brandon Batchelor, Zac Buechner, James Nelis, Harrison Pearce.
NT Thunder – Adam Sambono 4, Hugo Drogemuller 3, Dion Munkara 2, Abraham Ankers, Sam Dyke, Darren Ewing, Patrick Heenan, Jack Munkara, Jarrod Stokes, Chris Williams.
BEST: Aspley – Matt Payne, Andrew Swallow, Reece Toye, James Ives, Ben Warren, Callum Carseldine.
NT Thunder – Kaine Riley, Jack Monigatti, Adam Sambono, Cameron Ilett, Abraham Ankers, Ben Rioli, Hugo Drogemuller.