By Murray Silby
NT Thunder will be defending top spot on the VFL W ladder at TIO Stadium on Saturday afternoon when it hosts third-placed Hawthorn in Round 15.
With the bye in next week’s final round, Thunder will be keen to defeat the Hawks to avoid any possibility of missing out on the double chance come finals time.
Thunder claimed top spot last weekend when it assumed Collingwood’s place after knocking off the Magpies in a 10-point thriller at Victoria Park.
Buoyed by that result, the team will be approaching this week’s match full of confidence, but versatile tall Tayla Thorn said the squad isn’t cocky ahead of the big game.
“We still treat each game like it’s the hardest game we’re ever going to play,” Thorn said. “We still have to train our backsides off to get in the side so we treat every training session like it’s going to be vital.
“I’ve been training my backside off because I want to be in the squad. The mentality around the club is really, really good and we train to play.
“When we played Collingwood we didn’t have any expectations. We always play to have fun and the more fun it is the better we play together. Every game is different and every game we go out and play our hardest.”
Hawthorn is in good form too, having recorded its most comfortable win of the season, a 55-point victory over the Western Bulldogs, and Thorn’s likely to be called upon to play a variety of roles against the Hawks, as she has done all season.
Whether it be as a key defender, key forward or in the ruck, the 20-year-old said she’s happy to play anywhere, as she expands her repertoire as a player.
“At the start of my footy career I was just set on playing in the ruck, but you have to be versatile and I find if you’re a good footy player you can play anywhere so I took it upon myself to change up the role and wherever he (coach Tim Weatherald) puts me I’ll play my heart out,” she said.
Thorn also said she’s grateful for the opportunity to play for Thunder in the VFL W and hopefully put her name forward again as a possible AFLW draftee.
As a junior, Thorn represented the NT and even the first all-Australian under 18 team that toured New Zealand. She went on to play for Palmerston and St Mary’s in the NTFL, was drafted to play with Melbourne in an exhibition game against the Western Bulldogs before the AFLW existed and was then drafted by the Crows for the AFLW’s inaugural season in 2017.
At that stage she was only 18 years-of-age and the youngest player in the league.
“Because I was still really, really young, it was a lot to take on board, especially travelling every weekend and going from full-time work to full-time training so that just piled up on my plate and I guess I needed to mature a bit and this is what the VFL W has provided me with so I’m definitely looking at getting drafted again,” she explained.
With family ties on her father’s side to the Torres Strait and her mother’s to the Wurryi in West Arnhem Land, Thorn said she also owes a lot to the girl’s sports program at Rosebery Middle School that helped her stay focused on setting out her path for the futre.
“I started off just playing footy at school for a bit of fun,” she remembered. “I was enrolled with the girls academy, which was like Clontarf, but a girls’ version, so they got me on track with schooling and for a bit of fun I started playing footy and it grew from there.”
Thorn credits the program with helping to set her on the right path and now she wants to help other Indigenous girls find their way to achieve their full potential.
“I’m actually working as a girls’ academy mentor now so that’s how much I believe in that program and how much it helped me,” she said.
“I wasn’t interested in school, but they hooked me by playing sports. That’s why I’ve decided to work for the girls’ academy because it is a program I believe in and it did help me throughout my experience.
“I’m hoping to capture more Indigenous people playing in different sports. Not only sports, but educational-wise. I want more Indigenous girls being CEOs and just succeeding in life in general.”
VFL W Round 15 – NT Thunder v Hawthorn, Saturday 18th of August, 4.30 pm, TIO Stadium, Darwin.