by Kyle Champion
It was a game where the scoreboard didn’t reflect the efforts of a weakened Thunder team. The end result saw the Casey Demons 11.9 (79) defeat NT Thunder 3.0 (18).
Before the game even started, Thunder was at a disadvantage. Shantel Miskin-Ripia was replaced on Friday by Eliza Morrison, but with Kylie Duggan having to withdraw from the match late and Bella Clarke suffering from an ankle injury, Thunder was forced to play two women down.
From the opening bounce, Casey was on top early. Kate Hore kicked the first for the Demons and was looking dangerous early.
But Thunder responded quickly through Morgan Johnston who set up Danielle Ponter to kick a ripping goal from the pocket.
Sally Riley was fighting hard in the midfield and was well supported from returning skipper Lateesha Jeffrey.
Jeffrey was enjoying her new role in the centre of the ground as she laid two bone-crunching tackles early to set the pace.
Casey was still gaining the advantage despite the fight from Thunder. Mattea Breed took a great contested mark on the wing, but it was quickly won back by the Demons.
Casey managed to get the ball into the hands of Shelley Scott, who took the lead with her first major. It was soon followed by Lily Mithen who slotted another for the Demons.
Hore hit a long bomb late from outside 50 that managed to get out the back of Thunder’s defence to give Casey a handy 22-point lead at the first break.
The second quarter had Thunder come out with more fight. Riley caught her opponent cold with the ball but couldn’t capitalise on her effort.
The Demons were still fighting hard, but Thunder’s defence was starting to play an offensive brand of footy.
Jordann Hickey was the inspiration as her intercept marking and run and carry finally got Thunder inside their attacking half.
A great chase down by Breed set up Ponter who lined up directly in front of goal. Ponter made no mistake as Thunder were beginning to peg back the margin.
Gemma Cusack was a rock in the backline as she managed to lay two perfect smothers that could have easily been opposition goals. Thunder managed to keep Casey goalless for the term as the Demons regrouped in the second half.
The third act was all downhill for Thunder as shades of their last Alice Springs game came back to haunt them.
The Demons took complete control of the match as they dominated the clearances and kicked another goal through Casey Sherriff.
Hore soon popped out the back for her third and then Melanie Hogg was awarded a 50-metre penalty for an easy goal.
Charlie Deegan and Kristy Irvine were starting to get busy clearing the ball out of danger, but the ball came back to Sherriff who slotted her second major.
Janet Baird had come off with a nasty hit in the contest but managed to shake off the cobwebs and play out the game.
Mithen struck again just before the third term ended to extend Casey’s buffer to 49 points.
The final term had the Demons kick another goal through Meg Downie, and the game was out of reach. All Thunder could do was fight for some pride, and nobody fought harder than Jeffrey.
The captain was in every contest trying to lift her team and inspire them to play out the match. Cusack and Irvine were also showing some grit down back as Cusack tossed a few Demons around like ragdolls.
Thunder finally managed to push the ball forward as Hickey found Madeline Gault who set up Rachael Killian to unleash a barrel that bounced through the big sticks.
Unfortunately, Casey responded through Downie down who kicked her second goal of the day. In the end, it was Casey who walked away 57-point winners against an undermanned Thunder.
Thunder forward Gault believes they were in the game early and regardless of the score, Thunder gave their all.
“From the beginning, our game plan was to go out with grit,” She said. “We were told to give it everything we had, and I believe we did that. The score really didn’t reflect our efforts out there today, and I think it was a solid effort from us.”
In the second half, fatigue had set into Thunder. With only three women on the interchange bench and down to two when Breed left the field at the start of the fourth term, things got very difficult.
“Fatigue definitely set in,” Gault said. “The game goes on and you get tired. It wasn’t easy on us at all on the interchange bench. It made us work harder and I’m proud of our efforts today.”
Gault was a late callup for the Casey game, and although she hasn’t had too much game time at Thunder, she’s grateful for each opportunity.
“I was absolutely stoked to get the call-up,” she said. “I was a late callup, we had a few outs and I had the call-up Friday, and I was on the flight Saturday morning.”
Next week is the final game of the VFLW home and away season. Thunder face a tough opponent in Melbourne University, but Gault is hoping Thunder can finish off strong.
“We need to bring the same intensity for next week,” she said. “We need to finish off the season strong and make the NT proud.”
NT Thunder: 1.0 I 2.0 I 2.0 I 3.0 (18)
Casey Demons: 4.4 I 4.5 I 9.7 I 11.9 (75)
NT Thunder: Danielle Ponter 2, Rachael Killian
Casey Demons: Kate Hore 3, Lily Mithen 2, Meg Downie 2, Casey Sherriff 2, Melanie Hogg, Shelley Scott
NT Thunder: Jordann Hickey, Sally Riley, Michelle Ellis, Eliza Morrison, Gemma Cusack, Morgan Johnston
Casey Demons: Kate Hore, Lily Mithen, Casey Sheriff, Bridie Winbanks, Nicole Garner, Maddy Guiren