NT Thunder Academy: A new era of representative football

What the future of NT Thunder Academy training might look like

AFL Northern Territory (AFLNT) is revamping its Academy and talent pathway structure to give aspiring footballers the opportunity to succeed at the highest level possible.

The changes stem from the increase of local talent programs due to the successful AFLW season and the continued growth of Academy programs and fixtures in the Territory and on the national Academy front.

As part of the changes to be implemented ahead of the 2018 Academy season, the former AFLNT State Academy will now be known as the NT Thunder Academy.

Both male and female programs and pathways will be mirrored, and AFL National Academy curriculum shared with all participants. 
This means AFLNT will add an Under 16 Women’s group to the already existing Under 18 and Senior Women’s squads. 

The men’s side will remain unchanged with the Senior Men’s (NT Thunder), Under 18 Men’s and Under 16 Men’s continuing into 2018 and beyond.

The other significant change is the establishment of four regional academies that will feed talent into the NT Thunder Academy.

These regional academies will be formed after the different groups participate in the upcoming age-specific Michael Long Cup carnivals, which begins this weekend with the Outback Stores Under 14 Boys.  

The other Michael Long Cup carnivals will be:

  • Under 15 Girls – scheduled for 1st and 2nd December (Round 9 NTFL)
  • Under 16 Boys – scheduled for 8th and 9th December (Round 10 NTFL)
  • Under 18 Women’s – scheduled for 15th and 16th December (Round 11 NTFL)
  • Under 18 Men’s – scheduled for 9th and 10th February (Round 17 NTFL)

After being identified at the Michael Long Cup, players will be nominated to participate in one of four AFLNT Regional Academies, depending on their location; Top End Academy (Darwin and surrounds), Redtails/Pinktails Academy (Central Australia and Barkly region), Big Rivers Academy (Katherine region) or the Remote Academy (Tiwi Islands and East and West Arnhem). 

AFLNT High Performance staff will support the regional academies in rolling out the same standard of training and education with the aim that the best talent from each regional academy will be selected to be part of the NT Thunder Academy. 

The NT Thunder Academy will consist of the following squads; Senior Men’s ( NT Thunder who play in the NEAFL), Senior Women’s, U18 Men’s, U18 Women’s, U16 Men’s, U16 Women’s, Diversity Boys and Diversity Girls. 

These squads will go on to form teams that represent the NT in National Academy games and Tier II competitions right across Australia. It is also from the NT Thunder Academy that AFL and AFLW Draft and National Academy prospects will be identified. 

AFL Head of Talent, Education and Projects Tristan Salter said the AFL was supportive of the restructure in the NT. 

“AFLNT has worked diligently over the past few months to continue growing talent pathways and collaborating with the national AFL Talent Department to achieve the best outcomes for their players.

“The NT continues to produce exciting talent for the AFL in both men’s and women’s competitions, and the AFL fully support the new approach to the NT Thunder Academy,” he said. 

AFLNT High Performance Manager Wally Gallio said he was delighted with the new look program.

“The new talent structure will not only increase talent opportunities for players but also expand the pathways for coaches, umpires, medical and support staff across all NT Thunder Academy and AFLNT talent programs. 

“We will get exposure to aspiring football talent from every corner of the NT, something we have never had a proper process for before,” he said. 

The NT Thunder Academy will roll-out in the coming weeks, with player and support staff opportunities to come. 

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