By Murray Silby
A fighting 12-point victory over Redland, 12.9 (81) to 10.9 (69), in NEAFL’s Round 14 has kept NT Thunder’s hopes of making the finals alive.
In wet, slippery conditions on Redland’s Scottsdale Park ground after a downpour in the first term, Thunder started the final term nine points down, but kicking to the scoring end of the ground, added six goals to the Bombers’ two to wrap up the victory.
Best-on-ground Abraham Ankers got just reward for his tireless effort all day with his second goal of the match inside two minutes of the final term to reduce the margin to four points.
Cameron Ilett followed with another on four minutes and Thunder had snatched the lead from its host.
Matt Hammelmann, kicked nine goals when the two teams met in Round 4 and Thunder’s bogey man was prominent again on Saturday.
He kicked his sixth goal of the match at the five minute mark to snatch the lead back again for Redland, but Thunder on-baller Jarrod Stokes kicked the next two goals (three for the game) before Chris Williams added another to take Thunder’s lead out to 12 points.
In only his second game back from illness, cancer survivor Clay Cameron marked and goaled after 22 minutes to give the Bombers’ life with the margin just five points before Chris Williams iced the game a couple of minutes later.
Earlier, the first quarter was welcomed with a downpour, which turned the game into a hard slog of the wet kind with repeated stoppages and congested plays leading to players using simple methods to try and force the ball forward.
Tap ons, kicks off the ground and plenty of tackles were the order of the day so much so that it wasn’t until the 18 minute mark of the term that the one and only goal of the quarter was scored.
That was kicked off the ground by the NEAFL’s leading goal-kicker Hammelmann – his 42nd of the season.
The home side took a six-point lead into quarter-time with Thunder unable to score a major.
Things opened up in the second though with Thunder kicking three goals in the first seven minutes to Ankers, Scott McLeod and Stokes to take the lead and push it out to 12 points.
That man Hammelmann intervened again though in the eighth minute with a dribbled goal before champion Thunder full-forward Darren Ewing kicked his 600th NEAFL goal after 19 minutes.
Redland’s Brad Howard and Thunder’s Joe Anderson kicked their own before Hammelmann kicked his third for the half just before half-time, closing the visitors’ lead to seven points at the main break.
The rain had stopped and the slippery conditions were still hampering the skills, but not the contest as a spectacle and fortune was rewarding the brave.
Thunder’s undersized ruckman Jack Monigatti kept bashing into Redland’s giant Craig Malone and his tap work directly contributed to Ankers’ goal at the start of the term.
His second and third efforts around the ground were also opening up opportunities for his runners.
The third term started well for Thunder with all the possession in Thunder’s front half for the first 10 minutes.
Ewing had kicked his second goal before three minutes had ticked over and the visitors had stretched their lead to 13 points.
That was cut to seven again though when the Bombers’ Jai Lyons marked and kicked his first for the season.
The weight of possession was falling in Thunder’s favour however, and the chances continued to come.
First, playing his first game of the season, Liam Patrick took a screamer 40 metres out from goal, directly in front, but missed to the right and then Stokes snapped a behind.
When Redland closed the quarter with goals to Aaron Christensen (one) and Hammelmann (two) it had kicked the final four majors of the term and snatched the lead back by nine points at three-quarter-time.
Thunder’s victory over the last placed Bombers stopped its losing streak at five games and improves its season record to four wins and eight losses.
Despite the win, Thunder is still second last on the ladder, but the evenness of the competition means its just two wins outside the top six.
“The positive message today was, I didn’t think we had any passengers all day and it was always going to be a bit of a slog,” Thunder coach Andrew Hodges said.
“We just had to stay in the contest longer than our opposition did and just keep creating opportunities and we took them so it’s pretty pleasing that we had a full contribution from the whole team.”
With all but one of its last six games in Darwin, the victory gives Thunder a glimmer of hope of making the finals if it can string some wins together at home.
“Obviously we’re really looking forward to getting back to TIO Stadium and playing some home games there,” Hodges said. “We just want to finish our season off strongly and take it week by week and today was a starting point of that and it was just reward for effort.
“Obviously we haven’t had the greatest season up to date, but we’ve continued to work hard and work on the things that we needed to and that gave us the opportunity to win the game.”
REDLAND: 1.5, 4.6, 8.6, 10.9 (69)
NT THUNDER: 0.5, 5.7, 6.9, 12.9 (81)
Redland – Matt Hamelmann 6, Brad Howard, Jai Lyons, Clay Cameron, Aaron Christensen.
NT Thunder – Jarrod Stokes 3, Abraham Ankers 2, Darren Ewing 2, Chris Williams 2, Joe Anderson, Cameron Ilett, Scott McLeod.
Redland –Hayden Bertoli-Simmonds, Matt Hammelmann, Brad Howard, Craig Malone, Luke O’Sullivan, Damian Steven.
NT Thunder – Abraham Ankers, Matt Campbell, Jack Monigatti, Ben Rioli, Jarrod Stokes, Nicholas Yarran.