2019 NEAFL coaches

Thunder assembles experienced group to coach and support the men in 2019

03.04.19 09:20

NT Thunder is pleased to announce that Head Coach Darren Reeves will lead a group of familiar Territory coaching faces with a high-quality and well-respected panel assembled to lead the team in the 2019 NEAFL season.

Shannon Rusca will remain as the senior assistant for the second year in a row, coming off the back of another successful campaign with Southern Districts in the NTFL. A former NT representative and an inaugural NT Thunder player and member of the Team of the Decade, Rusca has a wealth of experience and knowledge of the program.

Reeves said he was bound to call on Rusca as his righthand man.

“Shannon’s success as a coach over the last few seasons and his understanding of the game will be a great asset for me, and I will look to lean on him extensively over the season,” he said.

After stepping into a senior coaching position in the most recent NTFL season heading up Waratah, Ryan Ayres is also back for his second season with the senior NT Thunder squad. Ayres has familiarity with an elite AFL environment, and after being Thunder’s forwards’ coach in 2018 he is set to oversee the defenders this season.

On Ayres, Reeves said;

“Ayresy also has a great understanding of the Thunder program and players within. I look forward to seeing the improvement in those players working under him over the season.”

A close friend of Rusca and Ayres and after playing 14 games in NT Thunder’s first season, Matt Cannard steps into a coaching position with the senior team. Over recent years Cannard also dedicated his time to the Under 18 NT Thunder Academy. This season he will oversee the engine room, the midfielders.

“Matt is already having solid impact on the group and I’m excited by what he has to offer the program and the talent he has at his disposal,” Reeves said.

Remote-based assistant coaches, Jackson Ankers (Alice Springs) and Simon Munkara (Tiwi Islands) will share responsibility for the forward line players with both well adept in the role.

Ankers, who was part of the coaching group in 2018 and is the older brother of Thunder co-captain Abraham, will also oversee the contingent of NT Thunder players based in Alice Springs and will continue to work closely with the Redtails program. A former premiership-winning coach of Federal in the CAFL, he is recognised for his ability to analyse and motivate.

Munkara has a name synonymous with NT footy, and in January the newly-appointed NT Thunder assistant coach celebrated 200 Premier League games in the NTFL, playing for the Tiwi Bombers. An expert goal kicker himself, Munkara has the added responsibility of driving training standards and sessions with the club’s two Tiwi-Islands based players, Adam Tipungwuti and Ross Tungatalum.

Reeves said both Ankers and Munkara had plenty of knowledge to offer the 2019 squad.

“Jackson will play a dual role looking after our Alice Springs players as well as taking the forward line group as their line coach. Having had some success coaching both at club level and within the Redtails program Jackson has plenty to offer, and we are looking forward to him developing along with our forward line players over the season.

“It’s exciting to have Simon come on board for 2019. He will play a large part in looking after our group on the Tiwi Islands as well as helping Jackson with the forward line group on game days.

“He is a standout player himself, so we look forward to having him with us as much as possible and helping him develop his coaching credentials along the way,” he said.

Rounding out the coaching panel for 2019 is former TEAFA/NTFL player and most-recently St Mary’s Division 1 coach, Darren Gilbert. Gilbert is no stranger to NT Thunder though, having been involved at the Academy level as a bench coach before assisting in the backend of the senior men’s 2018 campaign. Gilbert will take up the role of bench coach from the getgo this season.

“After taking on a coaching role in his own right over the NTFL season, Darren will come on board as our bench coach.

“I have been really impressed with his enthusiasm and willingness to learn over the first part of our program and look forward to working with him in 2019,” Reeves said.

Also returning to NT Thunder for 2019 and expected to play a big part in the team is AFLNT High Performance Manager, Eliza Morrison. Morrison will oversee the strength and conditioning program for the group, as well as work closely with the sports doctors and physiotherapists from Territory Sportsmedicine. She will also help Reeves, and the other coaches interpret the GPS and hydration data to get the best out of the players.

Assisting Morrison is Robert Moore, who is also back for his second season, this time in charge of delivering the strength and conditioning program for the men’s team. Moore’s primary duty is to assist the players in preventing injury and fatigue and is tasked with having them raring to go from the first bounce to the final siren on game day, as well as through training sessions.

AFLNT Wellbeing Coach Belinda Creer will also take up her post as the person capable of ensuring the good health of the players and coaches both on and off the field. After many years in the industry, working with elite teams as well as individuals, Creer has become one of the most trusted and reliable members of the team.

Reeves said these extra components, as well as a well-organised operation, were crucial to the overall success of the team.

“One of the things that I’m most impressed about with the NT Thunder program is how holistic and balanced it is.

“Everything the players and us coaches need to be successful is here at our disposal. From Stu Davis, who oversees the team’s functions and operations, to Mick McCarthy the team manager, and on to Eliza, Moorey and Belinda, we are one tight unit all striving for the same success and supporting one another.

“I am thrilled to be working with and alongside such talented, passionate people and can’t wait to see what we achieve this season,” Reeves said.

NT Thunder Manager Andrew Hodges said he had great faith in the coaching and support team that would lead the Thunder men in 2019.

“As a program we always endeavour to attract great people to our club, and with who we have appointed to steer the squad in 2019 I believe we have achieved that,” he said.