AFLNT is excited to unveil plans that will now see juniors as young as seven represent their clubs and families as part of newly formed divisions in the NTFL competition.
Harnessing the great work that has been achieved through the Kennards Hire Thunder Juniors program, AFLNT has identified and acted on a strong community desire to have an Under 10 Mixed and Under 13 Girls division as part of the Top End’s main football league.
Previously, the youngest age-group for juniors participating in the NTFL was in the Under 12 Mixed division, with boys then transitioning to Under 14s and girls having to wait until they qualified for their standalone Under 15 division.
As a result, it means this week’s final week of Thunder Juniors in Darwin and Palmerston will be the last official week for the program in its current format.
In the future, youngsters will be encouraged to play under their preferred NTFL club during Darwin’s wet season.
As part of an 18-month staged approach to transitioning from Thunder Juniors to NTFL, youngsters will first be encouraged to participate in an eight-week mini-season that is scheduled on Wednesday evenings during October to December this year, to coincide with season 2018/19 NTFL action across the other divisions.
The mini-season will run exactly like Thunder Juniors and players will remain with their current Thunder Juniors teams.
Following the mini-season this year, the Under 10s Mixed and Under 13 Girls divisions will be up and running and in full swing for a 2019/20 NTFL Junior season.
AFLNT Manager of Game Development Emily Wastle said there was a number of good reasons to create younger divisions in the NTFL.
“It became evident that when we harnessed feedback from Thunder Junior participants and parents over the past couple of years that there was a clear appetite for this age group to be represented in the NTFL competition.
“As it stands the majority of juniors who participate in Auskick in Darwin and Palmerston are doing so through an NTFL club, and then when they play Thunder Juniors that link to the club is lost before they go back to NTFL for Under 12s. So, one of the benefits of this initiative should see a clearer pathway for participants and parents.
“This move now establishes a clear link from the true and tried NAB AFL Auskick program straight into the NTFL clubs,” Wastle said.
The move has also been made to harness the emotional connection the community has with the NTFL brand.
“There is a deep attachment to the NTFL clubs and the NTFL brand, and we wanted to provide the opportunity for juniors to represent their clubs just like their local heroes.
“The Thunder Juniors program is a fantastic introduction to junior footy, and we are keen to work with the clubs to retain the best elements of this program to assist with the future development of Territory footy’s next generation.
Wastle acknowledged that space would now become available in the dry season which AFLNT intended to use for engagement programs and activities.
“We’re still working through what activates we can offer in the dry season. However, we will ensure that kids still get their footy fix, and now they get it during the wet season as well.”
In all other regions across NT, outside of Darwin and Palmerston, the Kennards Hire Thunder Juniors program will continue as is.
AFLNT will continue to work with commercial and community partners to ensure exciting opportunities exist for all stakeholders.
Youngsters interested in playing in this year’s mini-season can register from Friday 27 July at www.thunderjuniors.aflnt.com.au
Under 10s Mixed (participants must be born between 1 January 2009 and 30 April 2011)
Under 13 Girls (participants must be born between 1 January 2006 and 31 December 2009)
Start date Wednesday 24 October
End date Wednesday 12 December
Season length 8 weeks
Venues TIO Stadium (Darwin teams) and Palmertson venue TBC
Cost $50 for a player who participated in the 2018 Kennards Hire Thunder Juniors season (won’t receive another pack) and $75 for new participants (which will include some essential items).
For more information, you can contact email@example.com or call AFLNT reception on 08 8980 4801.