By Murray Silby
There have been many memorable games of footy played at Victoria Park, not least of them the day St Kilda took on Collingwood on the 17th of April 1993.
That game has been marked in the history books, for it was the day Saints star Nicky Winmar, in response to a torrent of racial abuse, raised his jumper and pointed to his black skin and yelled to the crowd, “I’m black, and I’m proud to be black”.
It was a simple act of defiance that played a major part in redirecting the path Australian Rules football was on and made clubs and their supporters more accountable for their actions and the behaviour they tolerated or didn’t.
One of the Territory’s most famous football names and another Saints player to feature on that day was Gilbert McAdam.
In the face of abuse, before the game had even started, he and Winmar pledged to be the best two players on the ground in a match that saw St Kilda upset Collingwood. And they were.
The occasion might be of a different magnitude, but NT Thunder has the chance to write its own significant chapter for the footballing history books at Victoria Park on Saturday.
A win against Collingwood and Thunder will almost certainly secure itself a top two finish and a double chance for the finals in its first season in the VFL W.
It will be a big challenge though, given the Magpies defeated Thunder by 16 points at TIO Stadium in Darwin in Round 8.
The victory wasn’t any fluke either with the Magpies sitting on top of the ladder with 10 wins and a draw, but no losses from their 11 matches. Thunder has 10 wins as well, but also two losses from its 12 games.
Collingwood’s defeat of Thunder was built on pressure and last weekend’s 26-point win over Essendon showed the Magpies had lost none of that commitment.
They out-tackled the Bombers 91-73, with captain Jess Edwards (15) and Iilish Ross (12) leading the way.
That defensive pressure will collide with Thunder’s often free-flowing scoring, something that was on display in its 45-point defeat of Williamstown last weekend.
For the seventh time this season Thunder kicked the highest score of the round with Anne Hatchard kicking four as a forward and part-time ruck.
Another to contribute was Jessica Sedunary, who is third on the VFL W goal-kicking table with 15 goals, just one behind joint leaders Hannah Mouncey, of Darebin, and Darcy Vescio, of Carlton.
Sedunary is just one of Thunder’s many avenues to goal though with Jordann Hickey (11) and Emma Swanson (10) not far behind.
An AFLW player with the Adelaide Crows for the past two seasons, Sedunary credits the Thunder coaching panel for her excellent form in front of goals.
“I haven’t scored a whole lot of goals in my career up until this point,” she said. “I’ve been more of a forward that likes to create space and help set up goals.
“I’ve been a bit surprised by that (good goal-kicking form) to be honest, but we’ve had a lot of good coaches at training, and through (Thunder coach) Tim (Weatherald) and others I’ve had a lot of guidance and been able to try out a couple of different things in the VFL.
“I think I’m just really enjoying my football. I’m loving the trips, I’m loving the weekends away, and I guess when you’re having a good time with your team-mates it all just kind of flows,” she said.
The Crows’ AFLW team includes players based in Adelaide and Darwin, much like Thunder, but whereas the Crows’ main base is in Adelaide, Thunder’s is in Darwin.
Sedunary says the concept works remarkably well, despite there being a large turnover of players each week, and she’s impressed by the depth of talent that’s been uncovered in the Territory.
“There’s always been someone who has surprised me every week,” she explains. “I may not know their name, but I know them from what they did on the weekend,” she laughs.
“I think Micky (Machaelia Roberts) on the weekend, she was just in fine form scoring snaps and ducking and weaving through everyone,” Sedunary said.
“She’s a character as well. I love her. They’ve really held their own. Obviously, we’ve got AFLW players in the team, but you can’t really tell the difference between the two (AFLW and non-AFLW) I think.
“They’re all very confident in their ability and I think that’s awesome and that’s what I love to see as well.”
Sedunary said she’s not too concerned about the stakes the game against Collingwood present, preferring to literally take it one game at a time.
“I haven’t really looked into that. I normally just go out to win regardless,” she said.
“I didn’t play against them (Collingwood) the last time we played.
“I do know in terms of scoring we didn’t score as many goals as we had in some of the other rounds, so I presume they’ll be a bit more structured and a bit more tight through their backline, but we’ve been working on a lot of things ourselves in the forward line and creating space and that kind of stuff, so we’re starting to really gel well together.”
VFL W Round 14 – Collingwood v NT Thunder, 12pm AEST Saturday 11 of August, Victoria Park, Abbotsford.