Injuries have forced the NT Thunder Under 18 Academy to make a number of changes to the team to take on the Western Jets this Sunday in Melbourne which has created opportunity for a number of players to come into the team and represent the Northern Territory for the first time at Under 18 level.
Ronald Fejo (quad), Shawn Foster (ankle), Joel Jeffrey (shoulder/flu), Kynan Kenny (ankle), Brodie Lake (foot) all go out of the team who went down to the Tasmania Devils last weekend.
Tall and versatile, Braxton Ah Mat who played 12 games of senior footy with St Mary’s during the 2018/19 NTFL season, has worked hard to earn his call up to the team. Mobile for his height he can play both ends of the ground.
Ah Mat will be joined by St Mary’s team mate Jacob Long who also played senior NTFL football and is the son of St Mary’s legend John Long and nephew of Michael Long. The younger Long is a versatile player who can play a number of positions and likes to kick goals.
Jamal Lynch from the South Alice Football Club will also come into the team for his first game and he is described as a tall, athletic and skillful player and will likely start on the wing.
The fourth inclusion is Joseph Salmon from Wanderers Football Club who played seven games of senior football in the 2018/19 NTFL season and was awarded the Rising Star nomination in Round 12. Super fit due to his second sport of long distance running, Salmon runs the lines well and has been impressive on the training track. He is also a qualified umpire.
Marly McGregor comes back into the side after debuting in Round 1 of the NAB League. From the Nightcliff Tigers Football Club, McGregor played in the losing Under 18 NTFL Grand Final in 2018/19 and will be used through the midfield in a different role for him this week.
NT Thunder Under 18s Head Coach, Jason Roe said all five players had an opportunity to make an impact in the team this weekend.
“We’ve had to make five forced changes this week due to injury which is a little frustrating but it also gives an opportunity for the players coming into the side to show their talent on the national stage.
“All of our inclusions have had experience at senior NTFL or CAFL level so have played against bigger bodies and should rise to the challenge.
“The NT team is up against one of the founders of the TAC Cup, now known as the NAB League, in the Western Jets and it will be a test for our players and coaching staff at this level,” he said.
Roe said the squad was still positive despite not yet recording a win and training this week had been upbeat.
“Last week we had a really good start and were up by two goals at quarter time but then got challenged and we reacted instead of responded. The coaching group have gone through the review process and identified that our spread from the contest and accountability across the ground is a key area which we focused on during the week.
“The Western Jets have tasted success in Round 1 against the Northern Knights and were competitive last week and we will be aiming to run with them for four quarters.
“One of our key focuses this week is a positive mindset not just going into the game but to maintain that for four quarters,” Roe said.
After this Sunday’s game the squad will remain in Melbourne until Thursday for State Combine Testing with AFL draft testing protocols run by AFL Northern Territory High Performance Manager, Eliza Morrison and AFL Talent staff. Fitness tests including speed, agility and the yoyo tests and Talented Athlete Skills (TAS) sessions await.
Fans interested in following the team on Sunday can do so through the NAB League app.
NAB League Round 3
NT Thunder vs Western Jets
Sunday 14 April
Downer Oval, Williamstown
B: Stephen Cumming, Joel Budarick, Isaac Seden-Kurnoth
HB: Matthew Green, Matthew Cumming, Jonty Patrick
C: Michael Cooper, Dominic Forbes, Brandon Rusca
HF: Joseph Salmon, Ben Jungfer, Jamal Lynch
F: Maurice Rioli (Jnr), Wade Derksen, Beau O’Connell
FOLL: Brendan Minkulk, Braxton Ah Mat, Braith Hodges
INT: Jacob Long, Tyson Woods, Joel Stevens, James Box, Marly McGregor
EMERGENCIES: Simon Richardson
IN: Braxton Ah Mat, Jacob Long, Jamal Lynch, Joseph Salmon, Marly McGregor
OUT: Ronald Fejo (quad), Shawn Foster (ankle), Joel Jeffrey (shoulder/flu), Kynan Kenny (ankle), Brodie Lake (foot)