AFL Northern Territory (AFLNT) and NT Thunder Football Club (NTFC) are thrilled to see three of its players; Ben Jungfer, Nigel Lockyer and Kieren Parnell invited to test at the 2019 NAB AFL State Combine ahead of the AFL Draft.
Along with Malcolm Rosas, who was announced as being invited to test at the National Combine last week (see here: https://www.aflnt.com.au/news/2019/rosas-invited-to-2019-afl-draft-combine), the NT will have four representatives being tested in front of AFL clubs this October with the hope of more Territory talent making its way to the elite level.
At 17-years-old, Jungfer is the youngest of the newest trio of players who came through the Thunder Juniors ranks before joining Waratah Football Club as a junior. With his boarding school based in Adelaide, Jungfer transitioned into senior footy with Woodville-West Torrens but continued representing the NT at the national level. Based on the back of an active 2018, Junger joined the NAB AFL Academy, along with Malcolm Rosas and Joel Jeffrey. He played all five games for the Thunder Academy in this year's NAB League where his ability to play as an inside and outside midfielder, who was able to adapt from defensive play to offensive push quickly, earned him a call-up to play for the Allies in the last two games of the 2019 AFL Under 18 Championships.
AFLNT Talent and Pathways Manager, Wally Gallio detailed what earned Jungfer his selection.
"Because of Ben's Allies campaign and the games he played representing the NT and also what he's contributed and done with the AFL Academy in the last 12 months he has earned this opportunity. He is a hard-working, diligent footballer who also has great natural abilities."
An excited Jungfer can't wait for the opportunity; "It's a great privilege to be invited to the Combine, the hard work both NT Thunder and myself have put in over the past couple of years is starting to pay off, but I know I’ve still got more to go," he said.
Alice Springs native, Lockyer also came through the Thunder Junior ranks before honing his footy skills with Central Australian football clubs, South and Rovers as a 17-year-old. Now 22-years-old, Lockyer added to his experience by playing for the NT Under 18s and in the Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) in Darwin, before making his NEAFL debut with NT Thunder in Round 8 this year. He has since gone on to play every game for the Club, and at 190 centimetres his height has made him a versatile option, often fulfilling a position at full-back to becoming a marking target up forward, amassing nine goals.
Gallio said Lockyer had real potential.
"Nigel has always been a bright prospect but he has gone away and done a lot of work with his fitness the last couple of years and gotten back into playing some really good footy which has been noticed by the AFL's recruiting staff. It's a well-deserved call-up for him," he said.
Lockyer was speechless when he found out the great news.
"I am stoked to be given this shot in the State Combine and can't wait to get down to Melbourne with the other boys and show how much I want this opportunity," he said.
The fairytale comeback story goes the way of Parnell, who also began his footy with Thunder Juniors in Alice Springs before joining St Mary's in the NTFL as a junior. One of the brightest NT prospects going into his draft year in 2017 Parnell tore the ACL in his right knee twice in quick succession. Before his Round 1 NT Thunder senior debut this year his last game of football was in May 2017 when playing in the SANFL Under 18s he suffered a partial tear to the same ACL that he first injured 14 months earlier during the opening minutes of the 2015/16 TIO NTFL Men’s Premier League Grand Final.
Now 20-years-old, Parnell has added 13 senior Thunder games to his name and has worked his way back onto the AFL recruiters' lists, Gallio said.
"After more than two years in the wilderness with his knee injury and off the back of a Rising Star nomination in the NEAFL, we are so pleased to see that Kieren has earned his chance to be tested for the first time in front of AFL recruiting officers and AFL staff in Melbourne.
"There is no reason why he can't blow them away now, albeit two years later than what could've been," he said.
Parnell, who was there to break the news to his fellow Combine invitees (watch the video below) showed great satisfaction.
"I'm excited to head down to the Combine in October. It's a big relief for all the hard work that has been put in this year. To get this opportunity is humbling," he said.
The NAB AFL Draft Combine takes place in Melbourne from Tuesday 1 to Friday 4 October, with Jungfer, Lockyer and Parnell taking part in the Victorian State Combine component on that Friday.
Gallio said the team at AFLNT would prepare all four of the NT's Combine representatives as best they could.
"We will continue to help with the boys' playing programs through NT Thunder and with Ben in Adelaide. Based off that our high-performance manager, wellbeing coach, general coaches and strength and conditioning team will help manage their loads and give them all the support they need."
The Combine testing usually consists of five main tests along with official height, weight and medical screenings:
- 20-metre sprint
- Yoyo running
- Standing vertical jump
- Running vertical jump
AFL club recruiting staff will also be given the opportunity to interview and converse with players.
The 2019 NAB AFL Draft will take place at the end of November.