Nate Paredes in action

Thunder planning to pluck Swans

03.07.19 12:19

by Murray Silby

NT Thunder’s fighting 15-point loss to second-placed Southport on the road last weekend looked a lot like a club “turning a corner”, as they say in the footy game.

Although Thunder is still searching for its second win of the season, the fact it won the final quarter and produced a sustained effort over the four quarters against the reigning NEAFL premier suggested the squad is developing into a side that can trouble any opposition.

Thunder gets the perfect opportunity to back that performance up at home on TIO Stadium in Darwin against third-placed Sydney in Round 14 on Saturday night.

The Swans were beaten by fellow AFL club Gold Coast by 26 points last weekend and will be determined to hold off the challenges coming from below being offered by GWS, Aspley and Sydney University.

After working for weeks to overcome inconsistency, Thunder coach Darren Reeves was wrapped with his players’ efforts against Southport though.

“We’ve been training in this mindset for a little while and it’s not going to happen overnight, but we’ve been training with that type of intensity and we see it at training in contest work and match simulation where they’re cracking into each other,” Reeves said.

“You’re concerned someone’s going to get hurt, but it’s only going to get us better the more we do it and the longer we’re able to do it.”

Reeves said the club has to keep improving, however, and can’t be satisfied with an honourable loss to a top side.

“We’ve got to capitalise on our opportunities because we had some scoring opportunities, we just didn’t take them when we had them,” he said.

The Thunder coach said through the loss of senior players because of injury, the squad has benefited from the youthful enthusiasm of its younger brigade.

“Our young group are coming to training and driving our older guys to do it and get better as well and that’s really pleasing and then again, these kids may not have got an opportunity if it wasn’t for the injuries we’ve had, but we’ve found some players in them which is really positive,” Reeves explained.

In last weekend’s game, he singled out Joel Stevens for his job limiting the impact on dangerous Sharks forward Mitch Johnson as well as Beau O’Connell and Brandon Rusca for their efforts around the ground.

Although only in his first season with Thunder, one of the more experienced heads in the side is Nate Paredes, a St Mary’s premiership player, a triple best and fairest winner with the Saints and a former Casey Demons player in the VFL.

He had to overcome a fractured fibula to play this season and is another of the Thunder squad to be enthused by the injection of youth, but also the mighty efforts of the team’s backline in recent weeks.

“That’s been a common theme,” he said. “Guys like Daniel Weetra, Ben Rioli and Kieren Parnell as well, they’ve really been standing up and defending really well and attacking from defence.

“I really think the young boys stood up as well. They’ve got that energy. We played a fair few young players and hopefully they’ll be getting confident with more games.”

Paredes said Thunder’s group is growing tighter as the season progresses.

“As we’re together more and bonding, especially on our away trips. On our away trips we bond really well. I think we’re getting closer as a group and I guess when that happens the younger players get more confident,” he said.

Since moving up to Darwin from Melbourne, the tough inside midfielder has been getting some wins off the field as well as on it, with his teaching studies taking him to the Tiwi Islands.

“I did a five-week placement for my Uni,” he explained. “I’m studying to be a teacher so I chose to do my placement up on the Tiwi Islands and that was a really good experience.

“It’s great. It’s a different experience, but I loved it. Hopefully, in the future, I’ll look at teaching there some day.

“We’ve got Adam Tipungwuti and Ross Tungatalum up there so I’ve trained with them on the islands a few times and built up some good relationships with them so that was awesome as well.”

He’ll be back in Darwin for this weekend’s clash with Sydney’s NEAFL side though and is relishing the opportunity to test his skills against AFL-listed players who are likely to include Kieren Jack, a former Swans captain, a veteran of more than 250 AFL games, a former All-Australian, best and fairest winner and 2012 premiership player.

“This is the first time we’ve played Sydney this year and it’s always exciting playing against AFL-listed players so it’s a great challenge for us and for our young boys,” Paredes said.

“We’re really looking forward to it and yes, they have guys like Kieren Jack, Daniel Menzel and Jackson Thurlow going through their NEAFL team and so it’ll be a great test to possibly come up against players like that.”

Saturday’s game will be preceded by the NT Thunder women playing Carlton in the VFL W from 3.30 p.m. and Paredes is hoping the doubleheader will attract plenty of supporters.

“This is our last doubleheader in Darwin for the year so it’s exciting to be in Darwin and play on the same day as the women so it’ll be awesome to get a good crowd there for both the women and the men,” he said.

NEAFL Round 14: NT Thunder vs Sydney – TIO Stadium, 6.30pm, Saturday 6 July