Neil Vea Vea punching the ball in a ruck

Wounded Hornets fly in to face Thunder – Match preview: Rd 16

12.07.17 10:11

By Murray Silby

NT Thunder hosts Aspley in their Round 16 NEAFL clash at TIO Stadium on Saturday with both sides having one eye on the run into the finals.

The match between Thunder and Aspley will be a curtain raiser to the Melbourne-Adelaide AFL game and spectators will require a ticket for that match to get into the ground.

With six rounds of the regular season to be played, Thunder is looking to confirm its place in the top four while Aspley wants to secure its place in the top six.

Thunder is currently in fourth spot, two wins behind Sydney University and two ahead of the fifth-placed Gold Coast while the sixth-placed Aspley is two wins ahead of seventh-placed Southport and level on 24 points with Gold Coast, but with an inferior percentage.

Aspley is holding onto sixth place despite suffering massive losses in three of the past four rounds.

Since the Round 11 bye, the Hornets have lost to Sydney by 102 points in Round 12, lost to the Gold Cost by 127 points in Round 14, and lost to Brisbane by 121 points in Round 15 last week.

Only the 22-point victory over Redland in Round 13 has brought them any joy during that period.

Thunder’s record in recent weeks has seen it defeat Redland by 67 points last weekend, beat the Giants by four points in Round 14, lose to Southport by 53 points the week before and beat Canberra by 91 points in Round 12.

Thunder coach Andrew Hodges said that despite Aspleys woes after the past few weeks, he expects the Hornets to bring a tough game to the Top End.

“We know Aspley are a good side and we don’t look at any game as an easy one,” he said. “Obviously we want to get the win at home. We want to get the four points so we can consolidate our spot in the top four.”

A top four finish would give Thunder a home final as the first and second placed teams get a week off while third hosts sixth and fourth takes on fifth on their home ground.

“Every game is important, you do get four points, but we really want to consolidate our spot,” Hodges said. “If you look at the ladder it gives us another opportunity to put us another game clear of Aspley and really begin to cement our spot in the top four, which is really important going forward.”

Meanwhile, if hints from Hodges are anything to go by, then Thunder fans might be in for a treat over the next few weeks, if not this weekend.

The club is blessed with talented forwards on its list. The NEAFL’s leading goal-kicker with 47 goals, Darren Ewing, leads the band of hungry men. Then if you add Adam Sambono, who has 26 goals despite missing several weeks through representative duties and Francis Kinthari, who made his debut for Thunder this year and has kicked goals in each of his matches so far.

Each brings to the field a special set of skills, but are yet to play in the same side together.

“Yes, we’d love to have those boys in the same forward line together,” Hodges said.

“Obviously there’s a chance this week that Darren (Ewing), Adam Sambono and Francis Kinthari will all play in the same forward line. It’d be great to see those three in the same forward line.”

Meanwhile, club great Cameron Ilett has continued his sparkling season with a five-vote performance in last weekend’s game against Redland keeping him in second place overall in the league’s MVP award, behind Southport’s Jordan Keras.

This weekend the voting will be withheld from the public for the rest of the season to ensure an exciting finish.

Saturday 15 July

NEAFL Round 16: NT Thunder vs Aspley Hornets – Saturday 3pm, TIO Stadium, Darwin