Four fresh faces will make their NT Thunder VFLW senior debut this Saturday as injury and player unavailability forces 10 changes for the clash against Carlton.
Tishara Davern, Alysha Healy, Shantel Miskin-Ripia and Katrina Simmons will all pull on the famed yellow, ochre, black and white for the first time at senior level.
Also coming into the side is great experience, with AFLW dual premiership player Chelsea Randall joined by speedy goal sneak Machaelia Roberts, the ever-reliable Kristy Irvine, tall target Sam Hoogeveen-Hill and rebounding defender Tayla Thorn who has healed from stitches near her eye.
In a shock to the group at training last night, Alicia Stanley went down with what was a suspected knee injury before falling on her elbow and later having it confirmed that the head of her radius had snapped off and will require surgery. Her knee is still to be assessed thoroughly.
Joining Stanley on the sidelines is Jasmyn Hewett, whose ankle flared up again last weekend in her best-on-ground performance for Thunder. The club is consulting Territory Sportsmedicine doctors to confirm Hewett’s next course of action, though it’s suspected she will be placed on the long-term injury list.
Alice Springs leadership group member, Ebony Miller, also went down with an MCL and left the field in the first five minutes of the last game, meaning, along with Hewett, Thunder’s first and second ruck options are unavailable.
However, with challenges comes opportunity, and so the club welcomes the hard-working Gemma Cusack in for her first game of the year.
Cusack is likely to share the majority of the ruck duties with Simmons, who helped fulfil the role for Nightcliff in the most recent NTFL season. Simmons is also the oldest of the four debutants at 24-years-of-age and has been training at professional level standards since late 2018 as part of the NT’s AFLW development squad.
Her Nightcliff teammate, Miskin-Ripia, is the youngest of the four new players and comes into the side fresh off Under 18 NT Thunder duties, where she was named in the NT’s best players for both games against South Australia and put in a good case for Central Allies selection.
Also part of the recent Under 18s campaign was Healy, who honed her craft as part of the Waratah Women’s Premier League premiership side in the 2018/19 NTFL season.
Davern, who also has familiarity with the NT Thunder Academy programs as a recent graduate, is a gifted small forward who knows how to impact the scoreboard and played with Wanderers in the Women’s Premier League and Under 18s most recently.
VFLW Head Coach Heidi Thompson said she was excited to see the new players in action, though the circumstances leading to their arrival hadn’t all been pleasant.
“We were going alright on the injury front, and then it just came at us like a freight train yesterday. We really feel for Alicia though, to know what she’s gone through in previous seasons and considering how hard she works on and off the track and the form she was finding at VFLW level we’re all just feeling it and feeling for her. She wouldn’t like us moping about though, so our attention is firmly fixed on Carlton.
“We also know if anyone has the resilience to pull through it’s her and she will be just as big a support for us and to the new players, who will be a little scared about the prospect of facing a gifted Carlton outfit but keen to get out there and also show they’re ready.”
Thompson said her dual role as NT Thunder Academy Coach meant she knew the quality of the young talent coming through the ranks.
“Something that has excited me about the Under 18s has been how mature and well-adjusted they are. I do not doubt that Alysha and Shantel can continue from their strong performances against South Australia last weekend and that Kat and Tishara will play their role.
“Carlton has had a bit of a slow start to the season so no doubt they are hungry for a win. Last week they used good tackling pressure and were also able to rebound well from defence, which was also our strong points in the loss to Collingwood so that it will be an interesting battle.
“We believe the key is certainly being cleaner with the ball and reading the play better, so we know when to go slow and when to go fast. If we can execute those better then we’ll give ourselves a real chance at taking home a win,” Thompson said.
VFLW Round 5
Carlton vs NT Thunder
11:00am AEST, Saturday 8 June
La Trobe University, Melbourne
B: Billie Byers, Tayla Thorn, Charles Deegan*
HB: Marijana Rajcic, Lateesha Jeffrey (c), Kristy Irvine
C: Lisa Roberts, Angela Foley, Katie Streader
HF: Tahlia Holtze, Jordann Hickey, Samantha Hoogeveen-Hill
F: Amy Chittick, Sally Riley, Machaelia Roberts
FOLL: Gemma Cusack, Chelsea Randall, Nikki Gore
INT: Morgan Johnston, Katrina Simmons, Tishara Davern, Shantel Miskin-Ripia, Alysha Healy
IN: Gemma Cusack, Tishara Davern, Alysha Healy, Samantha Hoogeveen-Hill, Kristy Irvine, Shantel Miskin-Ripa, Chelsea Randall, Machaelia Roberts, Katrian Simmons, Tayla Thorn
OUT: Janet Baird (unavailable), Sharona Bishop (unavailable), Jade de Melo (unavailable), Michelle Ellis (unavailable), Jasmyn Hewett (ankle), Hannah Martin (unavailable), Ebony Miller (MCL), Aishling Sheridan (unavailable), Alicia Stanley (elbow), Deni Varnhagen (unavailable)
NEW: Tishara Davern, Alysha Healy, Shantel Miskin-Ripia, Katrina Simmons
*Indicated 23rd player