by Kyle Champion
Thunder is off to a positive start for the season after defeating the reigning premiers Hawthorn, but now it must face a new outfit in the Southern Saints.
Coach Heidi Thompson was absent from the first round due to responsibilities with the NT youth girls. The youth for NT looks promising, but Thompson believes there is still some assembly required.
“I’m really excited about the prospects of the youth girls,” Thompson said. “We haven’t had the results that we wanted on the scoreboard, but the future looks promising. We have had our camp which gives the girls a bonding experience which is great for our program. We have talent coming from Darwin, Central Australia, and even Adelaide which is exciting.”
This week Thompson will make her debut as VFLW head coach. Although she missed last week’s action, she wasn’t surprised with Thunder’s victory over Hawthorn.
“I wasn’t surprised with the result,” she said. “Over the past few months, the NT and Adelaide girls have gelled well together, and I know what they are capable of. They are a really decisive unit of talent, and I knew Ricky Nolan would have no problem taking over the reins for me.”
Now Thompson will focus her attention to the Southern Saints who recently crushed last year’s minor premiers, Collingwood.
The Southern Saints affiliate St Kilda has acquired an AFLW license for next year and are stocking up on talent as it heads into its debut season.
Peta Searle will coach St Kilda in its inaugural year but is also currently coaching the Southern Saints in her second year. Searle’s influence has managed to lure back four of the seven Southern Saints who were drafted/signed to AFLW teams in 2018. Rhiannon Watt, Allison Drennan, Courtney Munn, and Selena Karlson have all signed with St Kilda and the Southern Saints.
“They have done a great job in recruiting,” Thompson said. “They’ve been building together for the last two years, and they have some talented players on their list. They’re a tall unit with a lot of size to throw around in the contest and are also a very fit team. Allison Drennan is definitely one to watch out for this Saturday; she’s a very talented player and one of their AFLW girls”.
Aside from Drennan, former Sandringham Dragons star Olivia Vessley, and Georgia Ricardo may cause some headaches for Thunder. Vessley is a tall midfielder that knows how to use her size in the contest and Ricardo is proving to be a very slick halfback flanker. Both were pivotal in Collingwood’s defeat as was new recruit Cat Phillips who has crossed over from Melbourne.
And there’s also ThunderW’s leading goalkicker from 2018, Jessica Sedunary, who is signed to play for St Kilda in the AFLW in 2020 but was not included in the VFLW Saints’ list lodgement leading into Round 1.
Luckily enough, Thunder has the advantage of playing on their home turf. Up north most teams can’t handle the heat, but the NT women have been playing there all summer long.
“It’s a big advantage,” Thompson said. “Not just the heat factor but we train here at TIO Stadium. We’ve had a lot of practice matches here, and it’s our home. The heat may knock them (Southern Saints) around a bit, but they’re a tough team, so we have to keep that in mind.”
VFLW Round 2: NT Thunder vs Southern Saints – 4:00pm Saturday 18 May, TIO Stadium, Darwin
The game is part of the NT Thunder doubleheader, with the NEAFL team playing the Aspley Hornets at 6:30pm. One ticket two great games!