NT Thunder heads into Round 16 of the NEAFL season against the Canberra Demons with six changes from the side that played last weekend.
Thunder’s youngest player to pull on the guernsey this season, Joel Jeffrey, makes his return to the side after a positive campaign with the Allies at the NAB AFL Under 18 Championships.
Alice Springs youngster Ethan Liddle has been recalled to the side, along with Tiwi Islander Adam Tipungwuti who has missed three games over the past month due to family/community commitments.
The experienced heads of David Johnston and Chris Williams also come back into the side after the duo were on the sidelines the previous two games.
Rounding out the six changes is forward target, Trent Melville, who has been in and out of the team the past few weeks with an ankle injury.
Missing from this Saturday’s line-up is Nathaniel Paredes and Josiah Farrer who both have family commitments.
Meanwhile, in-form defender Daniel Weetra injured his ankle in last week’s loss and is likely to spend the next month watching on, while bustling midfielder Cohen Thiele has not been able to train fully this week due to a niggly neck injury.
Dylan Barry has been omitted but is likely to play for the Redtails in the AFL game curtain-raiser on Sunday, while youngster Joel Budarick will also be rested after two big first games at senior level.
Head Coach Darren Reeves said though the side may look depleted on paper, there was still a strong belief amongst the group.
“This week we’re probably a little light on in the midfield due to some of our outs, but Abe Ankers has been firing in the middle lately, and as captain, we know he can inspire the youngsters around him.
“We’ve also been unlucky on the injury front. To add Weeties and Thiele to that list is far from ideal but the one thing that has really pleased us in the past month has been our willingness to dig in and try and get the job done no matter who we have in or out.
“The boys coming into the side know what their role is and how they can contribute to the benefit of the team, and apart from last weekend where we fell away in large patches, we thought the few weeks before that we were doing well, so we want to get back to that same level of intent.”
Reeves went on to say that the last game against Canberra in Round 8 proved the side could cause an upset if they stayed switched on.
“Last time we played the Demons it was a brutal 10 goal to three first-quarter before we went on to win the second and third and only narrowly lost the fourth, so we believe we have what it takes to match it with them.
“With a finals spot in reach of their grasp we know that they’ll be doing whatever they can to take the four points, but we believe our best is good enough to have still a say on how the finals look this year.”
NEAFL Round 16
Canberra Demons vs NT Thunder
12:00pm AEST, Saturday 20 July
UNSW Canberra Oval (Manuka Oval), Canberra
B: Joel Jeffrey, Kieran Delahunty, Kieren Parnell
HB: Phillip Wills, Nigel Lockyer, Kevin Maroney
C: Joel Stevens, Ben Rioli, Ethan Liddle
HF: David Johnston, Jess Budarick, Damian Williams
F: Adam Tipungwuti, Jacob Templeton, Trent Melville
FOLL: Jack Hannath, Brodie Carroll, Abraham Ankers (c)
INT: Brandon Rusca*, Jack Monigatti, Chris Williams, Dylan McLachlan, Jeffrey Simon
EMERGENCIES: Beau O’Connell, Joel Budarick
IN: Ethan Liddle, Joel Jeffrey, David Johnston, Trent Melville, Adam Tipungwuti, Chris Williams
OUT: Dylan Barry (omitted), Joel Budarick (omitted), Josiah Farrer (unavailable), Nathaniel Paredes (unavailable), Cohen Thiele (neck), Daniel Weetra (ankle)
*Indicates 23rd player