Neither blustery, freezing conditions nor the Carlton Blues could blow away NT Thunder’s undefeated record in Round 6 of the VFL W at Craigieburn’s RAMS Arena in Melbourne’s north on Saturday, with the visitors prevailing by 36 points, 8.3 (51) to 2.3 (15).
Although the Blues failed to kick a goal in the first term, they, and the conditions, didn’t allow Thunder its usual fast start.
In four of the five matches Thunder has played in the VFL W so far, it’s kicked five or more goals in the opening quarter and in the one game it didn’t, Round 3 when Essendon outscored Thunder by four goals to three, Thunder went on to boot five goals in the second term while holing the Bombers goalless for the remaining three quarters.
In Saturday’s match against Carlton, the Blues restricted the undefeated Thunder to just the two goals and a 10-point lead in the first quarter, but they themselves only managed two behinds and couldn’t score again until the 19th minute of the second term when Caroline Hardeman kicked a goal.
By that stage Thunder’s Jessica Sedunary had shown a great ability to adjust to the conditions and outscored the famous club by three goals to one.
After two quarters, Thunder held a 23-point lead and had kicked five goals to Carlton’s one.
The Blues opened scoring in the third term through Kristi Harvey to reduce the margin to 17 points and seemingly to give her side one of the best chances of any this season to upset the visitors, but instead, that would be the final major the Blues would kick for the match.
Thunder had made 10 changes to its Round 5 side, including bringing in six debutants – Katie Streader, Lauren Motlop, Kristy Irvine, Courtney Cramey, Jenna McCormick and Amy Chittick.
A four-time NTFL premiership player with Waratah, Chittick was selected on the bench, but got on the scoreboard early in the third term with her first goal for Thunder and Cramey, an Adelaide Crows premiership player, got in on the act late in the term with her own major.
Those goals helped Thunder extend its lead to 30 points at three-quarter-time.
Scoring almost dried up completely in the final term with only one goal scored and that went Thunder’s way.
The Motlop name has long been synonymous with elite Territory men’s footy and Lauren ensured her family would be etched in Thunder’s VFL W history books by firstly making her debut and then scoring the only major of the last quarter.
That pushed the final margin out to a healthy 36 points.
Coach Tim Weatherald was pleased with the win, particularly because of the way his charges responded to the challenging conditions.
“They (Carlton) were a very competitive side in close and tackled well and put a lot of pressure on us, but the wind was as much the issue,” he said.
“It was a really open ground, it was freezing cold and really windy. The wind had a fair impact on the game so it made it really hard to score.
“I said to the girls before the game you need good footballers to play good football in windy weather and those girls who can read the play really well and naturally get into the right positions win the ball under those conditions.”
Given the weather, Jessica Sedunary’s three goals stood out.
“She’s usually played that half-forward role for us, but we played her in more of a leading forward role today and she just takes the game on and I guess the reason she got the goals was she runs and carries the ball and I think most of those goals were from her getting the ball across half-forward and carrying it, having a bounce and kicking it on the run,” Weatherald said.
“She was very high in our best players if not our best player today up forward and obviously kicking the three goals out of the eight was a great effort.”
Weatherald was also pleased with his on-ball division with Ange Foley and Sally Riley working hard around the stoppages, of which there were plenty.
“In the last quarter we put Kristy Irvine in there, who was playing her first game, and she had a real impact in the midfield as well,” he said, “but I thought today Lauren O’Shea, who had to ruck, was great.
“She hasn’t really rucked in this competition yet. We had a few outs this week and she had to do a job rucking against bigger opponents and she competed really well in the air and on the ground and so she really stood up today in a difficult role.”
The coach was also pleased to see Motlop get her chance to make a name for herself in football.
“She’s travelled as an emergency a couple of times and been right around the mark and hadn’t got her opportunity, but she trained really hard for the past couple of weeks with the bye and earned her spot today,” Weatherald said.
“She kicked a goal, really presented and some of her forward pressure was brilliant and the girls love having her around and she’ll definitely get more opportunities and it was a good effort by her and it was good having a Motlop in there.”
Despite Thunder changing almost half its team from the previous round, Weatherald said it hadn’t disrupted the side.
“The girls understand the style of footy we’re playing so you can get away with that with the way we play footy,” he explained.
“We’re not too structured. Obviously we have fairly basic methods of play and we try to keep it like that because we do have a lot of changes.
“What those big changes do mean is that the girls have to fight for their positions and every week they know they have to play good footy because they know there’s 20 or 30 girls who aren’t getting a game who really want to play in the team.
“Ideally you’d only like to have three or four changes each week and I think later in the year we’ll try to get to that, but at the moment it’s all about opportunity and giving the girls that chance to play at this level and we’ll continue to make plenty of changes to give that opportunity to all of these players and by the end of the year we’ll know who’s really going to make our best 23.”
And, even though Thunder enjoys a record of three wins from three games in Melbourne this season, the players didn’t require any encouragement to leave at game’s end on a day when Craigieburn reached its forecast maximum of 11 degrees and Darwin reached its forecast of 32.
“We were in the change rooms pretty quickly and into the cars to get out of there,” Weatherald suggested with a smile. “It was icy cold. We were a little worried we were going to get wet, but only windy and cold today. It was a pretty open ground and we had rugs on the boundary line.
“All the girls were happy to get on the bus after the game and get on their way home.”
NT Thunder 2.0, 5.1, 7.3, 8.3 (51)
GOALS: NT Thunder – Jessica Sedunary 3, Amy Chittick, Courtney Cramey, Renee Forth, Lauren Motlop, Sue Nalder.
Carlton – Caroline Hardeman, Kristi Harvey.
BEST: NT Thunder – Jessica Sedunary, Lauren O’Shea, Sally Riley, Ange Foley, Kristy Irvine, Courtney Cramey.