NT Thunder has named eight big debutants for its huge opening game of the 2019 NEAFL season.
In addition to the new names, three more players will pull on the Thunder jumper for the first time in a while when the team takes on the Brisbane Lions at TIO Stadium on Saturday night.
Abraham Ankers is set to shoulder the captaincy duties in what is his 50th game for the club, with co-captain Shannon Rioli sidelined with a back strain.
Headlining the ins is ex-AFL experienced ruckman, Jack Hannath and his former teammate from Central Districts, Jacob Templeton. Both players were part of the big-body recruitment drive that NT Thunder Manager Andrew Hodges and Head Coach Darren Reeves went on in the off-season.
Hannath has wasted no time setting elite standards at training, voted by his peers into this season’s leadership group and is expected to be a good match for the AFL-blessed Brisbane outfit.
Templeton, the Reserves Magarey Medallist in 2018, has also attacked the program with his professionalism and is expected to feature heavily in the centre and at stoppages.
Runner-up in the NTFL’s 2018/19 Nichols Medal, Clinton Gallio is another of the fresh faces added to the team, along with electrifying Tiwi Islander, Adam Tipungwuti. Both classy users of the ball, Gallio is no stranger to success or high-level football.
Fans might recall Tipungwuti’s impressive NEAFL debut for the Sydney Swans last season when he kicked three goals, and those in the know will keep a close eye on Thunder’s talented recruit this season.
Spearheading the new forwards is NTFL Leading Goalkicker and Nightcliff premiership player, Trent Melville, while versatile swingman Kieran Delahunty is also set to play his first game as an attacking player.
A favourite son in Darwin, Kieren Parnell was told earlier this week that his hard work has paid off, with the 20-year-old in-line to play his first game in almost two years after he suffered a second ACL injury to his right knee. Watch the video of Parnell being given his good news.
Classy defender and a hard runner, Josiah Farrer completes the list of debutants, with the Katherine-based player making the trip to Darwin on Friday ahead of the game.
Farrer’s older brother, Will, returns to Thunder for the first time since 2013 and will look right at home amongst the goals, a position he dominates in the local NTFL competition.
A 2011 dual-premiership player with the club, Will Farrer’s premiership teammate from the same season and Southern Districts’ counterpart, Dean Staunton also makes his long-awaited return in the yellow, ochre, black and white. A nuggety midfielder who took out the Crocs’ best and fairest this past NTFL season, Staunton will play his first game in almost six years.
Rounding out the return players is Central Australian, Dylan Barry. After impressing SANFL club Norwood in a pre-season, Barry returned to Alice Springs and has slotted right into Thunder’s plans.
Reeves described Barry as an essential part of this week’s team.
“Dylan is a strong-bodied midfielder that will add to our strength in winning the contested ball and has the ability to win the footy on the outside of a contest also, which is crucial when playing well-drilled opposition like the Lions.
Reeves said the team was raring to go.
“It’s exciting that we have eight debutants running out this weekend and three players who have returned to the club.
“The whole squad has shown great energy and commitment, and we welcome the challenge of coming up against a strong Brisbane Lions outfit that has a full contingent of AFL-listed players.
“The Lions are going well at the moment and their pre-season NEAFL form has been solid, so we know we have to play four good, competitive quarters to give ourselves the best chance,” he said.
In other news, 2018/19 NTFL Nichols Medallist, Phillip Wills will line up in Thunder’s midfield for the first time since injuring his back in Round 16 of last year, while Daniel Weetra and Ross Tungatalum are welcome inclusions to either end of the ground.
NEAFL Round 1
NT Thunder vs Brisbane Lions
6:30pm, Saturday 6 April
TIO Stadium, Darwin
B: Ben Rioli, Sam Dyke, Braedon McLean
HB: Daniel Weetra, Joe Anderson, Josiah Farrer
C: Kieren Parnell*, Jacob Templeton, Sam Talbot
HF: Will Farrer, Kieran Delahunty, Clinton Gallio
F: Adam Tipungwuti, Trent Melville, Ross Tungatalum
FOLL: Jack Hannath, Abraham Ankers (c), Phillip Wills
INT: Dylan Barry, Jack Monigatti, Tylah Saunders, Dean Staunton, Nick Yarran
EMERGENCIES: Michael Bowden, Brodie Carroll, Kaine Riley
NEW: Kieran Delahunty, Josiah Farrer, Clinton Gallio, Jack Hannath, Trent Melville, Kieren Parnell, Jacob Templeton, Adam Tipungwuti
* Indicates 23rd player
If you can’t attend the game then thanks to Tatts, you can live stream it on ThunderVision with commentary, replays and plenty of cameras right here