The victorious NT Thunder VFLW team returns to Darwin this Saturday for its first home game of the season with five changes to the team who took down the reigning premiers Hawthorn in Round 1 on Sunday.
Headlining the ins to face the Southern Saints is Danielle Ponter, who last represented the NT almost a year ago in the Academy Under 18s. And what a year it has been for the 19-year-old, who was a major part of the Adelaide Crows’ AFLW premiership in March.
Joining Ponter are fellow AFLW premiership winners, Anne Hatchard and Hannah Martin, as well as Irish-recruit and Australian Rules newcomer, Aishling Sheridan who comes to us through the relationship with Adelaide FC.
Ponter, Martin and Sheridan are all debut players for the club, while the four, including Hatchard, come in for the experienced group of Angela Foley, Marijana Rajcic, Chelsea Randall and Deni Varnhagen.
The fifth change to the team sees Kylie Duggan return for her first game for 2019 with two good ankles, while Tahlia Holtze is set to miss after sitting out some of the game against the Hawks with a concussion.
For the first time, the team will be led onto the field at home by Lateesha Jeffrey, whose dad, Russell once had a strong affiliation with the Southern Saints’ AFLW affiliate, St Kilda as a player in the late 1980s/early 90s.
The weekend of ‘firsts’ continues, with Heidi Thompson also set to take up the head coaching role for the first time.
Thompson joined AFLNT/NT Thunder in January in the dual role of Women’s Academy Manager and VFLW Head Coach, which meant she was away with the Academy in Coffs Harbour last weekend when the VFLW side travelled to Melbourne.
Thompson said the team had moved on quickly from Sunday’s win to prepare for Saturday and hopefully a debut win against the Saints.
“We acknowledged it was a great team performance last week, but we know it wasn’t perfect and we have room for improvement.
“It’s been really pleasing to see the professional attitude of the players on the training track this week. They’re eager to put on a solid show in front of their family and friends.
“Last season the game against the Saints didn’t go our way, and so we’re acutely aware of what they are capable of. They had a great first up Round 1 win also and are a big, highly skilled and well-drilled side but we believe we are up to the task and will look to use our familiarity with the ground and conditions to our advantage,” she said.
On the makeup of Thunder’s team, Thompson indicataed it was a well-rounded side.
“We’ve obviously lost some good experience with the five who are missing this week, but it’s pleasing to have three more talented players debut for the club.
“Danielle, Hannah and Aishling are all very talented, skilful players. Danielle knows TIO Stadium like the back of her hand and is incredibly versatile, while Hannah proved in the AFLW season just gone that she’s a tenacious midfielder.
“Aishling is from Cavan in Ireland and was part of the AFLW’s CrossCoders program for international athletes but didn’t get picked up last year. But as we’ve seen with Ailish Considine, who kicked two goals for us last week, the Gaelic footballers have very transferrable skills and Aishling is a bigger body we need,” she said.
Speaking to the return of Hatchard and Duggan, Thompson said both players had earned their opportunity to play.
“Duggs is a great ball user who has excellent endurance and always wears the jumper with pride, and Hatchy took her game to a whole new level over the last 12 months, some of that stemming from her role with Thunder in 2018 so we welcome her back and can’t wait to see what they both do.”
VFLW Round 2
NT Thunder vs Southern Saints
3:30pm AECT, Saturday 18 May
TIO Stadium, Darwin
B: Janet Baird*, Tayla Thorn, Alicia Stanley
HB: Danielle Ponter, Lateesha Jeffrey (c), Ebony Miller
C: Lisa Roberts, Anne Hatchard, Katie Streader
HF: Kylie Duggan, Amy Chittick, Jordann Hickey
F: Sharona Bishop, Michelle Ellis, Ailish Considine
FOLL: Jasmyn Hewett, Hannah Martin, Morgan Johnston
INT: Kristy Irvine, Aishling Sheridan, Machaelia Roberts, Katelyn Rosenzweig, Samantha Hoogeveen-Hill
EMERGENCIES: Billie Byers, Charlie Deegan, Madeline Gault
IN: Kylie Duggan, Anne Hatchard, Hannah Martin, Danielle Ponter, Aishling Sheridan
OUT: Angela Foley (unavailable), Tahlia Holtze (concussion), Marijana Rajcic (unavailable), Chelsea Randall (unavailable), Deni Varnhagen (unavailable)
NEW: Hannah Martin, Danielle Ponter, Aishling Sheridan
* Indicates 23rd player
The game is part of the NT Thunder doubleheader, with the NEAFL team playing Aspley at 6:30pm. One ticket two great games!
You can live stream both games on the ThunderVision if you’re unable to make it to the game: https://www.youtube.com/TerritoryThunder