By Murray Silby
Ferocious tackling pressure has lifted NT Thunder to a huge 65-point win over the previously undefeated Geelong in Round nine of the VFL W at TIO Stadium on Saturday, 13.7 (85) to 2.8(20)
The home side was also assisted by Geelong’s loss of two players – Lara Williams (knee) and Anna Teague (shoulder) – to injury in the first half, but Thunder’s manic attack on the ball, or the player in possession of it, gave the Cats no chance to get any clear run of possession at any stage of the game.
Playing as a curtain raiser to the AFL match between Melbourne and Fremantle in Darwin, there were good vibrations sounding around TIO Stadium when Thunder forward Jessica Sedunary kicked the first three goals of the match.
By the time Jenna McCormick kicked another just after 19 minutes, the home side had leapt to a 24-point lead, which it took into the quarter-time break.
Unable to score a major in the first term, the drought would continue for the Cats in the second.
It wasn’t through a lack of trying or possession though. They had the first four scoring shots of the term for the return of three behinds and an out of bounds on the full.
Thunder’s pressure on the player in possession was relentless and gave little time for its opposition to deliver to a player in a better position.
With the ball spending more time in Geelong’s forward line, the opportunities had become more difficult for Thunder though and it wasn’t until the 13th minute that Sedunary found some space to use her pace and run into an open goal for her fourth in less than a half of football.
Sally Riley then benefited from a dubious 50 metre penalty to extend her side’s lead to 33 points at half-time and suddenly what could have been a promising quarter for the visitors had just got a lot worse.
There wasn’t any let up from Thunder at the start of the third either with Kylie Duggan goaling after just 10 seconds.
A minute later though Geelong was able to kick its first through Danielle Orr after a mark and a 50 metre penalty.
Only one more major would be scored for the term – to Thunder’s Emma Swanson thanks to a snap from a tight angle – and so the visitors had managed to limit the quarter’s damage to another two points for a 35-point lead at three-quarter-time.
It wasn’t a sign that the tables were turning though as Thunder set about slamming home its advantage in the final quarter and went searching for percentage.
McCormick kicked her second inside two minutes and her third three minutes later while Jasmyn Hewett and Angela Foley (2) made snaps count later in the quarter.
Richelle Cranston was the only Geelong player to kick a goal, meaning the Cats tumbled to their second loss of the season and down a place on the VFL W ladder to fourth.
The victory lifts Thunder two places to second with a 6-2 win-loss record and coach Tim Weatherald said he was pleased with the pressure his players were able to apply to their opposition, but also their composure when they had the ball themselves.
“The pressure was there, but I think we delivered the ball a whole lot better going forward,” he said.
“When we got beaten by Collingwood last week I thought our pressure was really good, but we just didn’t finish off our skills and I think we put it all together a little bit better today.
“We were faster today. We weren’t so stop-start. We took the game on. We switched the ball and it was really pleasing to kick 13 goals today.
“When you kick 12, 13 goals a game I don’t think you’re going to lose a game kicking that many goals,” Weatherald said.
Thunder’s potency up forward clearly returned after two successive defeats with Sedunary leading the way.
“We’ve been working on our structure up there,” Weatherald said. “The girls up there are coming together. That was probably one of the most pleasing aspects of today, how our forward line functioned.”
Weatherald was also happy with his midfield, which he described as possibly Thunder’s best for the season so far, and the defence, which absorbed plenty of pressure from Geelong, but let little through.
Thunder can now approach a series of matches away from home with the confidence that it can take down one of the top teams in the league.
“We spoke before the game, Geelong had only lost the one game and were half a game in front of us and that was probably one of the most important games of the year for us in light of where the competition is at the moment, knowing it was our last game up here for four weeks,” Weatherald said.
“We’ve now got three games away. It was just good to get a win today against a top-three side. We hadn’t beaten a top side really and that really shows that we are going to be good enough in this competition as we go further down the track and head into finals.”
NT Thunder 4.1, 6.1, 8.1, 13.7 (85)
Geelong 0.1, 0.4, 1.8, 2.8 (20)
NT Thunder – Jessica Sedunary 4, Jenna McCormick 3, Angela Foley 2, Sally Riley, Emma Swanson, Jasmyn Hewett, Kylie Duggan.
Geelong – Danielle Orr, Richelle Cranston.
NT Thunder – Jasmyn Hewett, Jessica Sedunary, Samantha Barnett, Eloise Jones, Deni Varnhagen, Emma Swanson. Geelong – Maddie Boyd, Maddy McMahon, Amy McDonald, Madeline Keryk, Richelle Cranston, Rebecca Goring.