Having easily dispatched NEAFL rival Aspley last week, top-of-the-table NT Thunder is likely to face tougher opposition this weekend when it hosts the Brisbane Lions Reserves on Saturday night.
Thunder’s dominant 57-point victory over the Hornets at TIO Stadium in Darwin last Saturday night catapulted it to the top of the NEAFL ladder, but the Lions enjoyed their own satisfying victory, a 26-point win over 2016 grand finalist Sydney Swans.
Brisbane, which is coached by the former Western Bulldogs player Mitch Hahn, boasts a squad boosted by AFL-listed players, which are sure to test Thunder’s young squad.
Thunder Head Coach Andrew Hodges said he was pleased with his side’s performance against Aspley, but the Lions offer different challenges.
“We’re going to have a really good review of the game and reassess what injuries we have and then we’ll make some decisions on that based around trying to match up with them the best we can,” Hodges said.
“They’re a very good side. They had a good win against the Sydney Swans on the weekend. It’s going to be a tough challenge and we’re really looking forward to that challenge so like I said, we’ll go back, we’ll review our performance on Saturday night, make sure everyone’s available, but make the right changes to make sure that we’re competitive against them.”
If he doesn’t get promoted to the Lions’ senior side, former number two draftee Josh Schache will provide Thunder with one of its biggest headaches after he kicked four goals last week.
While fellow AFL-listed Lions, onballer Claye Beams and ruckman Archie Smith, were also among Brisbane’s best.
The form of 201 centimetre Smith, the son of former Brisbane Bullets NBL basketball star Andre Moore, sets up an exciting clash against Thunder’s dual ruck combination of Neil Vea Vea and Ryan Smith.
Vea Vea and teammate Smith were in outstanding form against Aspley, not only at stoppages, but also as key players when Thunder transitioned from defence into attack.
The most exciting partnership for the NT during the season’s opening round though was debutant Adam Sambono and veteran Darren Ewing up forward.
Each has vastly different styles, but worked together beautifully and contributed a combined 11 goals – Sambono with six, rewarded with a NEAFL Rising Star nomination for Round 1, and Ewing five. Thunder fans will be hoping the pair can maintain similar output at TIO Stadium this weekend.
Sambono, Ryan Smith and Archie Smith, along with Canberra midfielder Jordan Harper share the lead in the NEAFL Most Valuable Player Award with nine votes apiece.
Sambono is also the league’s leading goal kicker with his six goals.
Hodges was pleased with the spread of contributors across the whole 23 players last week and especially the performances of his young players.
They’ll need to maintain at least the same level if the Thunder is to get over the Lions and start the season with two and zip on Saturday night.
Saturday 8 April
Curtain raiser: AFLNT State Academy Thunder U18 vs Brisbane Lions Academy 3:20pm TIO Stadium, Darwin
NEAFL Round 2: NT Thunder vs Brisbane Lions Reserves 6:30pm TIO Stadium, Darwin
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