Nine young players from the NT Thunder Under 18s male Academy have travelled east to participate in a high performance training camp at the Gold Coast Performance Academy.
The players are training with the Gold Coast SUNS Academy, completing gym sessions and participating in face-to-face and online meetings with SUNS Academy coaches and staff.
Selected to participate in the program were Darwin's Tom Barrett, Joshua Hollamby, Joel Jeffrey, Tyrrell Lui, Brandon Rusca, Ned Stevens, as well as Alice Springs' Liam Coach, James McLaughlin and Alonzo Nelson.
With the 2020 talent programs; being the NAB League and national championships, unable to proceed as planned because of COVID-19, AFLNT determined that it was better to involve the most promising young players in an elite program for a week to ensure they continued to develop.
Before COVID-related restrictions, AFLNT ran the first of its remote player camps in February and is keen to continue engaging as many talented athletes as possible, so is looking at other opportunities for the NT Thunder Academy players to partake in this year.
NT Thunder Academy Coach, Jason Roe travelled with the players to the Gold Coast and said he is grateful for the opportunity he and the players have been presented.
"The red carpet has been rolled out for us, and we are greatly appreciative to the Gold Coast SUNS Academy Manager Jason Torney and recruiter Kall Burns and our partnership with the broader team for organising this and other fantastic opportunities thus far.
"The players are busy preparing for a game this Sunday, where they will put out on field everything they've been learning the past few days," he said.
AFLNT Manager of Game Development and Community Programs, Brendan Parker highlighted how fortunate the selected players are considering a full-squad visit was not possible due to COVID-19 restrictions.
"This is a significant opportunity for those fortunate enough to have been selected to travel. While it was our preference to be able to provide an opportunity for our entire squad, once it became clear we could not, it become paramount that we were able to secure an opportunity for as many as we could in the short term."
Four of the selected players will participate in an academy game between the Gold Coast SUNS and Brisbane Lions academies. The match will be played at Labrador Oval at 2:00pm AEST (1:30 NT time) this Sunday 16 August and will be live-streamed here.
The NT Thunder Women's Academy has not been forgotten either, with a replica opportunity to be provided following the QAFL season and ahead of the AFLW draft.
"This will ensure our best female talent is provided with an opportunity to put their case forward for consideration in this year’s draft. With no female academy games occurring at this point, and Gold Coast SUNS Academy squad training yet to resume, the timing did not quite match-up," Parker said.
He anticipates that more games and opportunities, for male and female Academy participants, will take place soon.
"With the high performance camp locked away, we will now direct our attention to developing a program of games within the NT that provides an opportunity for all our Academy players to showcase their talents in a representative format.
"Through this period, squad training will continue under the current format to ensure that all players are well prepared for an eventual suite of representative games.
"We anticipate these occurring late September," he said.