By Murray Silby
NT Thunder continues its search for a second win of the NEAFL season this weekend in Round 10 against Sydney University.
Thunder remains on just the one win after missing out in Round 9 against Redland in Darwin.
The Bombers’ victory left Thunder planted on the bottom of the ladder and coach Darren Reeves renewing his side’s search for consistency over four quarters.
In a number of games through the season so far, it’s been a quarter here and there that has cost the team dearly and it was a similar case against Redland with the Bombers booting seven goals to one in the third term to set up their 21-point victory.
There are fresh sprouts of hope around the club though and they were clearly on display against Redland with debutants Ethan Liddle and Joel Jeffrey both showing a presence at the NEAFL level, and Nigel Lockyer and Malcolm Rosas, who each have a handful of NEAFL matches to their credit also showing they’re comfortable at the level.
You might say Jeffrey, who is just 17-years-old, has a head start over most young footballers in the Territory as the son of one of the NT’s finest footballers and coaches.
His father, Russell, played in the AFL with Geelong, St Kilda and Brisbane, representing Victoria in State of Origin and the Indigenous All Stars. He also played more than 200 NTFL games with St Mary’s, Wanderers and Palmerston and coached Palmerston to back-to-back premiership.
Joel Jeffrey says his Dad has been a great supporter of his as he’s developed his football.
“He’s taught me a lot with footy,” Jeffrey said of his Dad. “Not just with footy, off the field as well. He’s taught me plenty so far. It’s been good.
“He was pretty happy with my selection. He just said go out there and play your game with confidence and don’t think about it too much.”
Having grown up around Territory football watching his father and other heroes donning the Territory colours it was a thrill when he found out early in the week that he’d be getting his moment.
“Darren Reeves called me and told me and said I was playing and I was pretty happy with it,” Jeffrey said.
“Very excited, just to put on the Territory colours, especially alongside all the players that I look up to in the NTFL, it was good.”
Jeffrey’s debut was an impressive one for a player who won’t qualify for the AFL draft until 2020.
He gathered 12 disposals, including nine kicks and three handpasses, and he took four marks, including a couple of handy intercepts.
Reeves described his game as “outstanding”, and “really composed”.
Jeffrey also managed to score his first Thunder goal, despite playing most of the match in defence.
At 193 centimetres, he sees himself as a key position player and has a taste for scoring the majors if he’ll be allowed.
“I normally play centre half forward, but yeah, I’ve been playing backline in the Under 18s NAB League and it’s been pretty good and I played there on the weekend and played pretty well,” he said. “I like centre half forward. I like kicking goals.”
Jeffrey said he’s looking forward to the Sydney University game in Sydney this weekend and believes he can play a part, if selected, in Thunder stepping up for its second win.
“The game on the weekend gave me a lot of confidence,” he said. “All the support around the club that I got here, it’s been good.
“We all played well in the first half, but the third quarter we went off a bit.
“The boys are looking forward to this week and moving on from last week’s performance by being more consistent and getting the win.”
Sydney University will be desperate for the win too after losing to Canberra by 24 points last week.
The Students will be especially keen to straighten up its kicking after booting 2.5 in the final term.
They currently sit sixth with three wins and four losses, inside the top six by a game from Aspley.
NEAFL Round 10: Sydney University v NT Thunder – 12:00pm AEST Saturday 8 Jun, Blacktown International Sportspark.