by Murray SIlby
NT Thunder has overcome a spirited Western Bulldogs in Round 5 of the VFL W at TIO Stadium in Darwin to maintain its unbeaten start to the season, winning by 36 points, 13.5 (83) to 7.5 (47).
Thunder set up its win with a six-goals-to-two opening quarter, built on the back of three-goals by Anne Hatchard, enabling the home side to take a 24-point lead into quarter-time.
The Bulldogs clawed the first two goals of the match through Kirsten McLeod and Tina Morgan before Hatchard went to work and the Thunder breeze turned into a gale.
Also chipping in with goals were Jasmine Anderson, skipper Angela Foley and NT basketballer star-come-gun football star Kylie Duggan, who was joined by her son Jovi when the team ran onto the field.
Those goals sent Thunder to a 24-point lead at the first change.
The Bulldogs hit back in the second, again opening the quarter with the first major, this time to Sarah Jolly, and went on to split the quarter with three goals apiece.
Jasmyn Hewett, Foley again and Ruth Wallace kicked Thunder’s goals, while Jessica Francke and McLeod added to Jolly’s efforts.
The effort had only reduced the deficit by one point for the Bulldogs, but they’d drawn themselves back into the contest.
That game closed up in the third term as congestion took over, although Thunder managed to push its lead out to 37 points thanks to Duggan and Georgia Bevan hitting the scoreboard.
The greatest highlight of the quarter had to be Jasmyn Hewett’s high-flying effort, rising above the Bulldogs’ McLeod, including a knee in the jaw, to take a contender for mark-of-the-year.
The Bulldogs’ Naomi Ferris did her best to lift her side in the final term, kicking two goals, but Marijana Racjic with her first and Hatchard with her fourth ensured Thunder’s supremacy would be maintained.
Assistant coach Trudie Hopgood said the Bulldogs had put up a tough fight and made it difficult for Thunder.
“It was one of our toughest ones,” she said. “They were very physical and tried to shut the game down a little, but we found our straps in the forward line and got a lot of transition into the forward line and actually looked kind of pretty and got us on the board and got us rolling.”
Hopgood admitted the screamer taken by Hewett had got the coaches to their feet.
“I don’t think there’d be any argument that Jasmyn Hewett had an absolutely fantastic game, very athletic and a spectacular mark that really excited us all,” Hopgood said.
“And young Maddie (Madeline Gault), in her first game, absolutely brilliant. Clean hands, quick, breaking away from the pack, you wouldn’t know it was her first game. Just fantastic.”
Having secured their fourth win from four starts in the first five rounds, Thunder will now enjoy a bye next week before a long stretch of matches that will go a long way towards making or breaking its season.
“Obviously there’s recovery, they’ll have a solid week, then the rest next week, but then we’ve got something like an eight-week run so the rest will be well earned,” Hopgood added.
NT Thunder 6.1, 9.2, 11.5, 13.5 (83)
Western Bulldogs 2.1, 5.3, 5.4, 7.5 (47)
GOALS: NT Thunder – Anne Hatchard 4, Kylie Duggan, Angela Foley 2, Jasmine Anderson, Georgia Bevan, Jasmyn Hewett, Marijana Racjic, Ruth Wallace.
Western Bulldogs – Naomi Ferres, Kirsten McLeod 2, Jessica Francke, Sarah Jolly, Tina Morgan.
NT Thunder – Jasmyn Hewett, Madeline Gault, Deni Varnhagen, Kylie Duggan, Angela Foley, Sue Nalder.
Western Bulldogs – Brooke Lochland, Jessica Francke, Sarah Jolly, Tara Morgan, Kirsten McLeod.