At 172 centimetres and 71 kilograms, Abraham Ankers isn’t the biggest player getting around the NEAFL, but he still makes his presence felt and rarely more so than when he helped propel NT Thunder to its first victory of the season over Redland in Round 4 on Saturday.
Playing the Bombers on their home ground, Ankers amassed 27 disposals, including 18 contested, nine clearances, five inside 50s and three goals in Thunder’s 25-point win.
The outstanding performance in the middle of the ground saw him awarded the ANZAC Medal for best-on-ground. It’s the second medal Ankers has won in less than 12 months, following on from his Ilett Medal for Thunder’s best and fairest in season 2018, in which he was runner-up the year before that.
Ankers said Saturday was a special day for the club, but also for him personally.
“We’re pretty lucky to be able to play an annual game for the ANZAC Day round with Redland and to be able to win the medal was a little bit more special, but more importantly, the first win of the season was good and the way we went about it was also really pleasing so a good day all in all,” he said.
Ankers’ size has never reduced his ferocious attack on the ball, but he’s welcomed some sizeable additions to the centre square this season, such as big-bodied midfielder Jacob Templeton (193 cm/96 kg) and ruck recruit Jack Hannath (201 cm/102 kg).
“We’ve got a bit of muscle, a bit of size,” he said. “We’ve got height and we’ve still got a lot of outside speed around the midfield so it’s unreal.
“I think we’ve got a really good balance, and to be honest, we’re still finding out about our balance, we’re still finding out what works and what doesn’t.”
Ankers said the Redland win, after starting the season with losses to Brisbane and Sydney University, not only lifted Thunder off the bottom of the ladder, but instilled plenty of confidence in the playing group.
“It felt like we outmuscled them, which is a really big thing for us and a really big thing that helps set up the year for us,” he said.
“The belief in ourselves, that we know we have the talent to win like that. To be able to really work hard and grind away and battle for four quarters of hard footy, know that we have the legs in the last quarter and to really grind away and chip away is really pleasing.”
Thunder has the opportunity to consolidate its form this Saturday night at home in NEAFL’s Round 5 against a struggling Gold Coast.
The Suns now prop up the NEAFL ladder from last place and are still searching for their first victory of the year.
Gold Coast suffered a 97-point thrashing at the hands of Brisbane in Round 4 and is conceding the most points in the competition from turnovers.
Still, the Suns fielded 14 AFL-listed players in the game, including Aaron Young, who gathered an enormous 40 disposals, and 202 centimetre Ben King, who booted three goals and shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Ankers said Thunder must continue to improve and maintain pressure for longer periods of time if it’s to double its wins for the season so far.
“We’re still very new. I think we probably had 11 people who got their first win for the club on the weekend,” he said.
“So it’s massive in terms of the fact that we’re starting to gel together, we’re starting to get a lot of chemistry and everyone’s starting to put their own personal touch on what we do out there as a side, which is probably more pleasing.”
Elevated from vice-captain to the position of co-captain alongside Shannon Rioli, Ankers is relishing the honour and added responsibility.
“I said to Reeva (coach Darren Reeves) at the start of the year that I was really excited about this year and then I was fortunate enough to be named co-captain next to a great leader that we’ve had for a few years in Shannon Rioli,”
Ankers explained. “I like to think I don’t do anything differently. I just go out there and try and play my role every week for the side, but it is a massive honour.”
Reeves and all Thunder supporters will be hoping Ankers does just that and goes about his business as usual against the Gold Coast Suns and for the rest of the year.
NEAFL Round 5: NT Thunder vs Gold Coast Suns – 6.30pm Saturday 4 May, TIO Stadium, Darwin
Photo: Highflyer Images