By Murray Silby
NT Thunder has suffered an 80-point loss to Southport in its last home game of the NEAFL season, 7.8 (50) to 19.16 (130).
The Round 20 loss was made all the more disappointing given it was champion full-forward Darren Ewing and premiership ruckman Ryan Smith’s final home games of their Thunder careers.
Smith kicked three goals for the match, but Ewing, Thunder’s games record holder on 194, was unable to add to his 780 Thunder goals.
Preparing for a tilt at the NEAFL premiership, the Sharks mauled Thunder with a brutal nine goals to nothing second term.
The one-sided term was like others that have hampered Thunder’s season, which has been mostly competitive except for blow outs that have cost it dearly.
Southport opened the match swiftly with a goal to Wade Hancock, but some good roving by youngster Michael Mummery soon had Thunder on the board.
Mitchell Johnson with two and then Tom Wilkinson’s first pushed Southport’s lead out to 22 points at quarter-time.
Unfortunately for Thunder, its expected response didn’t come in the second and instead, the Sharks set about tearing the game open – and with a little help from their hosts too.
Cody Filewood scored after receiving the assistance of a 50-metre penalty just 20 seconds into the term before Southport captain Andrew Boston kicked from directly in front after being put in range by another 50-metre penalty, while Tom Wilkinson kicked his second thanks to a free kick.
Within seven minutes, the Sharks’ lead had blown out to 41 points.
Things turned from unattractive to nightmare material over the remainder of the quarter as Johnson, Filewood, Wilkinson and Boston would all go on to score again and Michael Manteit would join the party.
By half-time, Thunder was facing the more than daunting deficit of 81 points.
Another two goals – to Josh Hall and Manteit – in the first two minutes of the third quarter continued the onslaught, but Thunder tightened up and Southport began to find it more difficult to score.
When Smith took a contested mark at the top of the goal-square on the 13th minute of the term and duly goaled it was Thunder’s best opportunity to goal and only one taken since early in the first quarter.
Ewing had been finding it impossible to get any clear opportunities himself and so had moved further up the field to get into the game and provided Smith with the kick forward for him to mark.
Smith followed up with another a few minutes later and Thunder was finally making its presence felt.
Izaak Wyatt would kick a clever banana goal on the run late in the quarter, but Wilkinson would kick his fourth for the match and Hancock his second to ensure the Sharks increased their lead marginally to 88 points at three-quarter-time.
Thunder had been outscored again, but this time it had been by four goals to three and it was again competitive.
The Sharks and Thunder kicked two goals apiece in the final term with Matt Campbell scoring from a snap after five minutes and team-mate Chris Williams kicking another for the home side from 45 metres out.
Wilkinson scored his fifth though and Hall his second for Southport to round out a dominant performance by the premiership hopefuls, with a Smith goal on the siren a brilliant kick but not numbing any of the effects.
It was a tough night for Thunder players to shine through, but Sam Smith continually threw himself into contests in defence, while Matt Green showed some real promise around the ground, including a desperate, but skilled pick up and turn on the last line of defence.
Southport showed its class by joining Thunder players to form a guard of honour to recognise the contribution Ewing and Smith have made to the NEAFL competition.
Thunder’s season will end against another premiership hopeful in Sydney University next weekend.
Southport’s victory means it remains on top of the NEAFL ladder with the same points as three other teams – Sydney, Aspley and Sydney Uni.
Canberra and Brisbane round out the top six.
NT THUNDER: 1.0, 1.0, 4.3, 7.8 (50)
SOUTHPORT: 4.4, 13.9, 17.13, 19.16 (130)
GOALS: NT Thunder – Ryan Smith 3, Matt Campbell, Michael Mummery, Chris Williams, Izaak Wyatt.
Southport – Tom Wilkinson 5, Andrew Boston, Mitchell Johnson 3, Cody Filewood, Josh Hall, Wade Hancock, Michael Manteit 2.
BEST: NT Thunder – Sam Smith, Matt Green, Tom Davies, Tim Brook, Cameron Ilett, Jarred Erlandson.
Southport – Andrew Boston, Tom Wilkinson, Tom Ellard, Tyler Roos, Josh Clayton, Michael Manteit.