By Kyle Champion
After three-quarters of domination by Carlton, Thunder managed to blitz through the Blues at the eleventh hour and win the game. Final score saw NT Thunder 7.5(47) defeat the Blues 6.8(45) in a grand escape.
The game began with Thunder under enormous pressure. The Blues were out of the blocks early and Thunder was playing very scrappy football.
Repeated entries by Carlton set up Jess Hosking to kick the first goal of the day. Another soon followed with Sidney Cubasch getting out the back for an easy major.
Panic kicks by Thunder were getting cut off by the Blues and Thunder’s backline was under the pump.
Luckily Lateesha Jeffrey was playing well down back and Anne Hatchard’s return stemmed the flow to end the first term.
Unfortunately, Hannah Martin was ruled out of the game after a right knee injury late in the quarter.
In the second term, Thunder looked a little more composed. They were maintaining possession but the Blues were still bringing the heat.
Stevie-Lee Thompson finally broke the ice for Thunder. Her kick from 50 metres tumbled through the big sticks on the back of the wind advantage to give NT some breathing room.
But Carlton responded immediately through Mia-Rae Clifford and regained control. The Blues was dominating play, but a ruck infringement by the Blues in Thunder’s attacking half let Gemma Cusack kick back the margin.
However, the Blues managed to punch through the cracks of Thunder’s defence yet again to find Gemma Wright. Wright slotted Carlton’s fourth goal with ease.
Thunder had a late chance on the siren to extend their score through Danielle Ponter. But her spray off the boot left Carlton in complete control heading into halftime.
In the third quarter, Thunder came out with a bang. Machaelia Roberts had pushed into the midfield and clearances were finally heading Thunder’s way. Caitlin Couch popped up forward and kicked truly for NT but the Blues were not going away.
Nicola Stevens had been busy for Carlton all day and with quick snap around goal, she kicked her first major.
Things got worse for NT as an unchecked mark saw Sarah Hosking run into her attacking half and set up Sina Mason to kick another goal and end the quarter.
The final act saw the game turn on its head. Thunder needed the perfect start from the opening bounce and that’s what they got.
A few quick forward entries by Thunder eventually found Ponter who kicked her first to start the term. She soon followed up her good work with another major out the back, and Thunder was rolling.
Carlton was starting to look tired. The heat factor of Darwin had kicked in and Thunder took full advantage.
Janet Baird was inspirational in this term. She bobbed and weaved through heavy traffic taking the game on at every turn. Her tag team with Machaelia Roberts proved to be a real difference in the midfield.
More clearances soon Cusack kicked her second goal of the day even though she was surrounded by a sea of blue.
As the final minutes counted down it was Kylie Duggan who stood up. As all the Blues seemed to fall around her, she found Ponter outside the back again who kicked her third as NT hit the front. Ponter’s outstanding three-goal haul for the quarter nearly had the game done and dusted.
Carlton almost broke the heart of Thunder through Nicola Stevens. She marked 40 metres out from goal with a minute to go but failed to convert.
It was Thunder’s day as NT snatched victory from the Blues for the second time in 2019.
Danielle Ponter was extremely impressed with her team’s performance. When Thunder was in crisis the team pulled together.
“Obviously, it was a good team effort,” she said. “The girls played very passionately today to get the four points against the flow and that’s why we got the win.”
Ponter’s three goals in the last term were vital to Thunder’s victory. But Ponter likes to think of her teammates that are delivering the ball.
“It was a massive honour to get on the end of those goals in the last quarter,” Ponter said. “Huge credit to the girls who busted their guts to get me the ball. Fortunately, I was lucky enough to get out the back of a few and deliver.”
There were a few changes made in the last quarter as coach Heidi Thompson threw Lisa Roberts and Jordan Hickey into the backline. This change proved to be effective as Essendon was held goalless in the final term.
“There were a few magnets chucked around the board,” Ponter said. “Most of the team are happy to play anywhere, wherever we’re needed. There was also a lot of young girls in different positions that really stood up when it counted.”
Last year Ponter was playing for Essendon’s inaugural VFLW team. Although she is grateful for what she has learned down south, she is happy to be back home.
“Coming up through the youth girl’s competitions I took the opportunity to play down at Essendon,” she said. “I learned a lot from my time at the Bombers, but now I’m playing with people I grew up with, people I’ve played against, and it feels good to be home.”
Thunder have now pushed back into fourth place on the ladder as the race towards finals begins to look more positive for the NT.
NT Thunder: 0.1 I 2.3 I 3.4 I 7.5 (47)
Carlton: 2.4 I 4.4 I 6.7 I 6.8 (45)
NT Thunder: Danielle Ponter 3, Gemma Cusack 2, Caitlin Couch, Stevie-Lee Thompson
Carlton: Jessica Hosking, Mia-Rae Clifford, Nicola Stevens, Sarah Wright, Sidney Cubasch, Sina Mason
NT Thunder: Anne Hatchard, Lisa Roberts, Jordan Hickey, Machaelia Roberts, Danielle Ponter, Gemma Cusack
Carlton: Nicola Stevens, Charlotte Wilson, Natalie Plane, Gemma Wright, Sarah Hosking, Jessica Hosking