by Murray Silby
Still smarting from its 56-point loss at home to GWS Giants last weekend, NT Thunder faces one of the toughest road trips in the NEAFL this Saturday when it travels to the capital for its Round 16 clash against Canberra on Manuka Oval.
Out of the top six by percentage alone, Canberra will be desperate to follow up its 35-point victory over Redland last weekend with another over the Thunder.
With sixth-placed Sydney University having the bye, the visit by Thunder provides the Demons with the perfect opportunity to sneak into sixth place.
Thunder will have other ideas however, and can take confidence from its matches in Rounds 13 and 14 when it pushed top three sides Southport and Sydney to the line.
Even against GWS, although the final margin was an uncomfortably large one, Thunder trailed the fourth-placed Giants by 46 points at half-time, meaning the home side was only outscored by 10 points in the second half.
One of Thunder’s best was 21-year-old Brodie Carroll with a three-goal haul and 12 disposal game.
The sleeky midfielder has been a regular in the Thunder lineup, playing 12 games, since making his debut in Round 2 against Sydney University.
Carroll grew up in Katherine, just over 300 kilometres south of Darwin, playing his junior football with the Katherine Camels.
He then graduated to captaining the Big River Hawks under 18s team, based in Katherine, but playing in the NTFL. It demanded a level of commitment that would test the passion of any footballer.
“When I was playing in the under 18s for the Big River Hawks we had to leave Katherine every morning at about five or six a.m., play footy around 12 and get back at six at night. Long days, but it was good,” Carroll said.
“It’s hard getting up in the morning and takes up your whole weekend pretty much, but it’s good eh?”
He might only be 21, but Carroll could be called a “journeyman”, as they say in football terms. He’s travelled far and wide to pursue the sport he loves and to rise through the ranks as far as he can.
“I moved onto Waratah in the NTFL because my Dad (Shane) used to play for them and my uncle, Paul, he coaches the Div one so I had a family connection there and then I went down south and played for the Hampden League for a club called Terang and did that for a couple of years,” Carroll recalled.
The Hampden League is in western Victoria and is known for cold, windy weather, conditioning that might help him acclimatize in Canberra this weekend.
“It was freezing, some games were called off because of hail and stuff, but it was definitely a good experience. I loved it,” he said convincingly.
“It’s a really good standard and plenty of good players down there. It was definitely a good challenge.”
Although well-travelled already, Carroll recalls his football roots with fondness and maintains there’s a lot to be learnt in the regions of the NT.
“The talent out there in the rural areas is unreal,” he said. “Some of the players out there, and the skills, it was just unreal.
“I’ve definitely taken that into other footy, just watching how they move and not over committing to players (when tackling). They’re unreal. There’s definitely some talent out there.”
How far his talent and dedication will take him is yet to be seen, but like most young players, Carroll’s hopeful for a higher call.
“At the moment I’m just doing all I can, I just want to see where I end up, give my all and do all I can,” he explained. “I’ve got the opportunities around me with Thunder and obviously a higher level would be good.”
He says though, that a few good games in the NEAFL won’t satisfy him and admits he’s still proving himself with Thunder.
“Obviously the standard was a big increase (on the NTFL), but I’m loving it at the moment,” Carroll said.
“The facilities, but most importantly the boys, the coaching and support staff. It’s a really good club and I’m really enjoying it.
“When I first started it was a different game to learn, a lot of skilful players, but now I’m getting a feel for it and getting more familiar with the standard I guess.”
He said the step up from NTFL to NEAFL has been made easier by the assistance he’s received from the Thunder players themselves, especially fellow Waratah player Abraham Ankers.
“When I play for Waratah I play with Abe Ankers and I learn a lot from him,” Carroll said.
And there are few better examples he could learn from than Ankers.
The co-captain led from the front against GWS last weekend, notching up 32 disposals and six inside 50s.
“He’s an unreal player and love watching him and I’m learning a lot from him and there’s a couple of others. Clint Gallio. I’ve learnt a lot from him. The way he trains and goes about it. I really love his work. The Rioli boys. Pretty much all of them, each player, I learn some more.”
Last Saturday’s loss to GWS might have brought back memories of some heavy defeats earlier in the season, but Carroll maintains the club is on the right track.
“The last two weeks before last weekend, we were good and keeping up with the top sides and on the weekend we weren’t switched on,” he said.
“I definitely feel the club’s going in the right direction and I think we’ll have a hard crack for the remaining games this year and hopefully win a few more games to get off the bottom of the ladder, that would be unreal.”
NEAFL Round 16: Canberra vs NT Thunder – Manuka Oval, 12pm AEST Saturday 20 July