By Murray Silby
Redland has avenged its Round 4 NEAFL loss to NT Thunder with a confident 21-point victory in Darwin, 20.12 (132) to 16.15 (111).
Playing as the curtain raiser to the Melbourne-Adelaide AFL game on Saturday afternoon, the two clubs were playing for the prize of avoiding being assigned the bottom place on the NEAFL ladder.
Each team started the match with just the one victory from seven games, Thunder’s victory being that one against the Bombers in Round 4.
The first quarter could only be described as an even affair with the scores level at the first break.
The quarter signalled it might be a day for the forwards though with Thunder’s Kieran Delahunty up and about and looking more threatening than his single goal (he’d finish with four) and the league’s leading goal-kicker, Bomber Matt Hammelmann, booting two.
In a pleasing sign for Thunder coach Darren Reeves, many of the youngsters, such as Ethan Liddle and Joel Jeffery, both on debut, and others, including Nigel Lockyer and Malcolm Rosas, all looking comfortable at the level after being brought in to help fill gaps opened up by a long injury list.
The second quarter was one of multiple momentum swings with the advantage first swinging in Thunder’s favour before swinging back to Redland and finally Thunder taking the lead into half-time.
When Nathaniel Paredes marked and goaled in the eighth minute, Thunder had kicked four of the five goals scored to that point of the second term and held a 19-point lead.
Redland wasn’t to be denied though and booted the next three to snatch the lead back, albeit by just three points.
The momentum then swing again with Delahunty’s second of the term and third of the game followed by majors to Ben Rioli, Joel Jeffrey and Abraham Ankers
That meant Thunder not only stole the lead but pushed it out to 21 points.
The ever-dangerous Hammelmann bobbed up in the dying seconds of the quarter though to boot his third of the term and fifth of the half, reducing the margin back to 16 points at the long change.
Thunder had kicked eight of the 13 goals for the quarter and was looking the favourite to avoid the ladder cellar.
And then came the third quarter and a match-winning swing to the Bombers.
Kicking with the wind, Redland piled on seven goals to one for a 35-point turnaround, transforming a 16-point deficit into a 19-point lead at three-quarter-time.
That was, in large part, due to Hammelmann’s dominance in the forward half of the ground.
The former Brisbane Lion isn’t the type of forward to sit inside the 50-metre arc and wait for the ball to come to him, although he’s very capable of playing the traditional leading full forward’s role.
For a player who kicked nine goals, he got a lot of ball between the wing and half forward and also played a role in setting up team-mate’s goals.
Hammelmann added another three goals in the third quarter to take his tally to eight.
Another contributing factor to Redland’s rising dominance was its increasing intensity and Thunder’s skills falling away.
Adam Tipungwuti was the sole goal kicker for Thunder in the term and when he kicked that major at the 21-minute mark it ended a Redland run of successive goals at six, stretching back into the second quarter.
When Redland kicked the first three goals of the final quarter its lead blew out to 36 points, and a shellacking looked on the cards, but three successive goals to Thunder through Dylan Barry, Trent Melville and Brodie Carroll closed the gap to 16 points after 20 minutes.
Some gettable misses and a 50-metre penalty that set up the Bombers’ Jack Wratten for a certain goal relieved the pressure, however, and used up valuable time consigning Thunder to another defeat and the unwanted prize of the bottom of the table.
All-in-all, another frustrating day for coach Darren Reeves in which he saw what his team is capable of, both the good and the not so good.
“The first half was really positive,” he said. “We still had some moments that weren’t great, but we played positive footy, really strong around the contest, which has obviously been an Achilles heel for us and blokes played their role, and then our third quarter, we just lacked intensity.
“We’d spoken at length at half-time about making sure the first five minutes were strong and even if we didn’t score we had to scrap it out for five minutes and try and break any energy that they had and we just didn’t do that.
“We got beaten around the footy and gave them clean footy inside forward 50, and then they were able to just put it on the scoreboard, and that put us under immense pressure, so that was really frustrating.”
Reeves said it was also disappointing how much space Hammelmann was able to find himself in and so frequently in the game.
It’s the second time in two seasons he’s kicked nine in a match against Thunder after booting the same number in their Round four clash in Alice Springs last year.
“It doesn’t matter what level you play if you don’t bring the right intensity and get beaten around the ball and are prepared to give up space and allow them to do as they please you’re going to get hurt, and we definitely did that,” he said.
One of the bright lights was Jeffrey’s continued good form in defence with the 17-year-old also sneaking forward for a goal.
“Joel Jeffrey was outstanding in his first game. He was really composed and really clean with his hands and his decision-making. Really impressive,” Reeves acknowledged.
“Mally Rosas had some excellent moments. Ethan Liddle had some good moments, especially in the first half. He probably just fell away a bit as the game went on, so that’s a positive.
“There have always been positives for us in every game, it’s just able to put it together for four quarters and until we’re able to play four quarters and total team-orientated football that’s what we’re going to get.
“You get what you deserve in footy, and unfortunately in the second half of the game we got what we deserved with our effort in the third quarter.”
NT Thunder 4.3, 12.5, 13.9, 16.15 (111)
Redland 4.3, 9.7, 16.10, 20.12 (132)
NT Thunder – Kieran Delahunty 4, Adam Tipungwuti 2, Abraham Ankers, Dylan Barry, Brodie Carroll, Jack Hannath, Joel Jeffrey, Trent Melville, Nathaniel Paredes, Ben Rioli, Jacob Templeton, Daniel Weetra.
Redland – Matt Hammelmann 9, Clay Cameron 4, Jack Wratten 2, Boyd Bailey, Caleb Franks, Jarrod Huddy, Scott Miller, Kyle Walsh.
BEST: NT Thunder – Ben Rioli, Daniel Weetra, Jacob Templeton, Kieran Delahunty, Joel Jeffrey, Dylan Barry.
Redland – Clay Cameron, Hayden Bertoli-Simmonds, Boyd Bailey, Adrian Williams, Craig Malone, Peter Yagmoor.