Territory talent ready for NAB AFL & AFLW All-Star show

Team captains with Matt Hewer

AFL Northern Territory (AFLNT) is delighted to announce two dynamic groups of young men and women who will represent the Northern Territory in tomorrow night’s NAB AFLW and AFL All-Star games. 

Instead of the usual AFL and AFLW national programs, this year each state/territory is hosting its own NAB AFL and AFLW All-Star match.

The women’s and men’s All-Star matches will take place at TIO Stadium on Friday 25 September and are free for spectators to attend but will also be live-streamed across the AFLTN channels, meaning AFL clubs can tune in;

5:30pm Women’s – Team Ponter (black) vs Team Hewett (yellow) – https://youtu.be/-jZLLde4eYA 

7:15pm  Men’s – Team Rioli (black) vs Team McLean (yellow) – https://youtu.be/cWk6WtEcrCs 

Representatives from right across the Territory have been invited to play, and on Thursday evening they converged in Darwin for their final training session and the announcement of the team captains.

Team Ponter will be led by Janet Baird, while Jasmyn Hewett will lead the team named after her.

On the men’s side, Team Rioli will be led by Brandon Rusca and Team McLean will be led by Liam Holt-Fitz.  

Both women’s teams contain an even mix of Cazalys NT Thunder Academy members as well as mature-aged players who provide experience. While the men’s teams will see the Rioli side drawn from the Under 19s in the Cazalys NT Thunder Academy and the McLean team will be younger Academy players topped up with experienced players up to the age of 23. 

Though not playing, Adelaide Crows’ AFLW premiership player and NT star, Danielle Ponter will be heavily involved with the team named in her honour. Gold Coast SUNS AFLW player Hewett, who first started her career in the NTFL, will build on her experience representing the NT. 

On the men’s side, there is no mistaking the trailblazing efforts associated the team names and the impact they’ve had at the VFL/AFL level. 

The Rioli team is named in honour of one of the families most synonymous with Territory footy. Particularly the late Maurice Rioli Snr, who was captain of the most famous NT representative team; the 1988 Bicentennial Carnival Division 2 champions. Maurice’s son, Maurice Junior, would’ve been playing for the team except for COVID and having to stay in Melbourne for his schooling. His sister, Maria will line up for Team Hewett.

The McLean team is aptly named for the great Michael ‘Mago’ McLean, who represented the NT at senior level on eight occasions. He was also vice-captain of the 1988 Bicentennial Carnival team. Each year the best player in the NT Thunder Academy at Under 18 level is awarded the McLean Medal. 

NT Thunder Academy Coach, Jason Roe described his teams;

“Team Rioli has the best available talent in the NT; they possess a good variety of skills and flare and a mixture of hard-workers, excitement machines, ‘x-factor’ and workhorses. 

“Team McLean mixes a wealth of football experience, including NTFL premiership players, with the rawness and magic of the young remote talent.

“This game is going to allow more of our kids to be exposed at a higher level and to play in a structured environment,” he said.
 
Speaking to the appointment of Rusca and Holt-Fitz, Roe described them as Territory-born products.
 
“Brandon is a Yanyula, Borroloola man and Liam hails from Tennant Creek, they are both proud family people and Territorians. 

“Both have them have also come right through our NT Academy system, and Brandon has grown up to be a leader amongst his peers. He is a great footballer who sets the standards around the Academy and deserves the opportunity to lead them tomorrow night.
 
“Holt-Fitz is a dual premiership player and a Chaney Medallist. He is the right man to lead and to inspire his teammates to represent the McLean name in the fashion it deserves,” he said. 

NT ThunderW Academy Coach, Heidi Thompson was full of the same praise for her captains.

“Janet has shown incredible persistence over the past few years and has overcome several setbacks which has made her a more resilient player and person. 

“In Danielle’s absence, it is only fitting she is rewarded with an opportunity to captain Team Ponter on home soil. 

“And Jas will lead her troops from the front, she has a wealth of experience, and her journey to the AFLW started here in Darwin,” she said. 

Speaking of how the players would turn friendships into on-field competitiveness, Thompson said;

“Playing against one another will seem a little different to usual, so our aim tomorrow night is to have two-even teams that can be competitive and put on an entertaining match showing the best of NT footy. 
 
“The feeling at training since these games were announced has been one of excitement, some nerves but most of full of positive energy at what could potentially come from this opportunity,” she said. 

The team announcement also provided the perfect opportunity to welcome the Thunder Academy’s major partner Cazalys Palmerston – a relationship that has been forged since the start of the Thunder club.
 
Cazalys Palmerston was an inaugural partner of NT Thunder and was the naming rights partner until the cessation of the senior Thunder men’s and women’s sides in their respective competitions last year.
 
AFLNT Commercial Manager Peter Bailey said that discussions with Cazalys had always been open throughout the period regarding continued support of the club.
 
“As a brand, NT Thunder has never been shelved, and we always knew that the Thunder Academy would form a significant part of the future,” he said.
 
“Cazalys was keen to continue that relationship, and we’re very excited that they’ve come on board as the major partner of our Academy teams.
 
“This is just another example of the incredible support by Cazalys across the footy community in the Territory.”
 
Cazalys General Manager Matt Hewer was on hand to meet the team captains today and said he was thrilled that the association was continuing with the Thunder Academy brand.
 
“Cazalys has now been operating for 20 years, and a large part of our origins are linked to Australian football in the Territory,” he said.
 
“As a family-friendly venue with connections to our local community, our support of Thunder is very important, and we’re thrilled to continue our association.”

Team Ponter

Head Coach – Heidi Thompson
Lead Assistant – Shannon Millar
Captain – Janet Baird
* Denotes a player who changed jumper number on the night of the game

# NAME SURNAME REGION
1 Janet Baird Top End
2 Latoya Tipiloura Tiwi Islands
3 Leah Ankin Maningrida
4 Jaimie Bryant Katherine
5 Shakira Cooper Gove
6 Madi Hohn Katherine
7 Annabel Kievet Top End
8 Mickayla Ward Top End
9 Djimila Totham Top End
10 Jemma Iacono Top End
11 Katie Streader Top End
12 Gemma Cusack Top End
13 J'Noemi Anderson Top End
14 Ashanti Bush Top End
15 Dominique Carbone Top End
16 Bella Clarke Top End
17 Monet Hunter Top End
18 Sarah Ingram Top End
30* Molly Althouse Top End
21* Matisse Hunter Top End
29 Grace Whittaker Top End

Team Hewett

Head Coach – Heidi Thompson
Lead Assistant – Chris Atkinson
Captain – Jasmyn Hewett
​​​​​​​* Denotes a player who changed jumper number on the night of the game

# NAME SURNAME REGION
6 Tabitha May Top End
7 Eliza Morrison Top End
8 Libby Taylor Central Australia
9 Matilda Johnson Top End
10 Kaitey Whittaker Top End
29* Freda Puruntatameri Tiwi Islands
13 Shakirah Stevens Top End
15 Maria Rioli Tiwi Islands
16 Kaya Mununggurr Gove
17 Silvana Goldbach-Eggert Katherine
18 Morgan Johnston Top End
19 Georgia Johnson Top End
20 Claudia Fabris Top End
21 Ciaralii Parnell Top End
22 Jasmyn Hewett Gold Coast Suns FC
23 Charli Simmonds Top End
24 Kyanne Campbell Central Australia
25 Marietta Puautjimi Top End
26 Anju Goninon Top End
27 Janaya Kopp Central Australia
28 Shanoah Leedie Top End

Team Rioli

Head Coach – Jason Roe
Captain – Brandon Rusca
​​​​​​​* Denotes a player who changed jumper number on the night of the game

# NAME SURNAME REGION
1 Beau O'Connell Top End
2 Tyrell Martin Central Australia
3 Alonso Nelson Central Australia
4 Peter Politis Top End
5 Jack Peris Top End
6 Nathaniel Cooper Croker Island
7 Brandon Rusca Top End
8 Alwyn Davey Top End
9 Brodie Lake Top End
10 Zac Hartley Top End
11 Matthew Kantilla Tiwi Islands
12 Riley Stone Top End
13 Mishai Wollogorang Central Australia
14 Antonio James Materanka
15 Mikey Coleman Top End
16 Ned Stevens Top End
17 Tadhg Evans Top End
24* Joel Jeffrey Top End
19 Joshua Hollamby Top End
20 Kobi Russell Top End
21 Sandy Brock Top End
22 Deacon Braun Top End
23 Shanton Ladd Barunga
18* Jamie Jones Top End
25 Elijah Kelly Lajamanu

Team McLean

Head Coach – Josh Heath
Captain – Liam Holt-Fitz

# NAME SURNAME REGION
1 Liam Holt-Fitz Barkly
2 Tyson Woods Central Australia
3 Stewart Hodgson Wadeye
4 James McLaughlin Central Australia
5 Ryan Mu Top End
6 Liam Coach Central Australia
7 Harry Williams Top End
8 James Quinn Top End
9 Malakhi Puertollano Gove
10 Jesiah Minor Central Australia
11 Michael Cooper Tiwi Islands
12 Marly McGregor Top End
13 Anthony Raymond Barkly
14 Kostya Green Barkly
15 Terrence Miller Groote Eylandt
16 John Tipiloura Tiwi Islands
17 Shane Inkamala Central Australia
18 Braxton Ahmat Top End
19 Jacob Long Top End
20 Tyrrell Lui Top End
21 Leroy Jones Barkly
22 Brock Reynolds Katherine
23 Jalen Clarke Top End
24 Jonah Nemarluk Wadeye
25 Shawn Foster Central Australia