AFL Ambassador and Essendon legend Michael Long has been a big believer in the push towards providing opportunities for regional and remote players from the Northern Territory. The recent draft results are a true testament of where football in the Northern Territory is heading.

“We are providing opportunities to regional and remote Territorians, that in some cases would not have been made available to them before, and Relton Roberts is a key example of this.”

“We are only really beginning to scratch the surface of the potential of the Central Australian regions of Katherine, Tennant Creek and Alice Springs, further efforts and resources need to be put into these areas to ensure we can continue to unearth this raw talent we continually see in Territorians,” said Long.

The Northern Territory again has proved its worth with producing seven draftees through this years AFL draft system.

Draftees Troy Taylor (Alice Springs to Richmond), Relton Roberts (Barunga to Richmond), Roland Ah Chee (Alice Springs to Gold Coast), Shane Thorne (Wanderers to Western Bulldogs), Anthony Long (St Marys to Essendon) and recent Gold Coast signing Michael Gugliotta (Nightcliff) and Liam Patrick (Lajamannu) have all played in the NT Thunder U\18 or the newly formed Northern Territory Football Club that competes in the Queensland AFL competition.

Roberts, a mature age rookie at 23 years was picked up by Richmond after playing with the Arnhem Crows in the Katherine and District Football League, Wanderers in the NTFL and more recently with the inaugural NT Thunder squad in the QAFL.

“Relton’s pure natural talent could have been lost if it had not been for the focus we now have on remote NT,” explained Long.

“Further efforts and resources need to be channeled into the Northern Territory, as who knows when the next Relton Roberts or Liam Patrick for that matter, is going to pop up and surprise us,”

“We want to identify these young men early and provide them with the best opportunity possible to make it in the AFL,”

“With the current structure of football in the Northern Territory this is possible, and the introduction of the NT Thunder provides that safety net for those who may slip through the system,” said Long.

The Northern Territory Football Club played a part in the drafting of Shane Thorne and Relton Roberts and also promoted U\18 Thunder players such as Taylor and Ah Chee.

“The NT Thunder is the crucial final piece of the puzzle to the NT and its talent pathway,” Long explained. “With the creation of the Thunder we have more than doubled our three draftees from 2008.”

“When AFLNT embarked on their mission to produce a state team such as the NT Thunder and have a development and talent program focused in regional Northern Territory we did not expect that this would be the outcome this early.”