Darwin’s Historic NEAFL Grand Final
Saturday, September 19 2015 @ 08:28 am ACST
Contributed by: Wesley Hull
The Northern Territory’s own NEAFL team, the NT Thunder, qualified for this year’s Grand Final last weekend setting up a home event against the Aspley Hornets to decide the NEAFL premiership for 2015. Territorians have spent the week preparing TIO Stadium in Darwin ready for the match, aware that it will be a national showcase for the venue.
The Thunder enjoyed a strong season, finishing second on the home and away ladder behind the UWS Giants. Last weekend they won their Preliminary Final against Sydney University by 70 points to reach the big day. This will be the third time in a Grand Final for the Thunder after having won the inaugural NEAFL flag in 2011 by defeating Brisbane club Morningside, then being beaten in the 2012 final by the Brisbane Lions.
Their opponent, the Aspley Hornets, have been perennial finalists also. Last year they won the flag by defeating the Sydney Swans by just two points. In 2013 they went down to the Brisbane Lions. Both the Hornets and the Thunder have been regular finalists since 2011.
For the NT Thunder it represents a great chance to play to their fans in Darwin in such a big game. When the team won the 2011 title, the game was played 1500 kilometres further south at TIO Traeger Park in Alice Springs. Whilst TIO Stadium and Darwin fans see plenty of the Thunder during the season, a Grand Final in the city will be momentous.
The NT Thunder has always been a who’s who of both tremendous local talent from NTFL clubs and across the Northern Territory. It has also been a team littered with both past and present AFL players. Coached by former St Kilda and Brisbane Lions player, Xavier Clarke, tonight’s team will feature former AFL listed players including Liam Patrick (Gold Coast), Richard Tambling (Richmond/Adelaide), Jason Roe (Collingwood/Brisbane Lions) and Dom Barry (Melbourne) along with famous NT football names in Rioli. Motlop and Long.
The Aspley Hornets are coached by former South Melbourne/Fistroy and St Kilda footballer, John Blair. Former Brisbane Lion, Cheynee Stiller is the Hornet’s captain and he has experiences beside him in former North Melbourne player, Eddie Sansbury.
Other AFL listed players to have represented the NT Thunder are Jed Anderson (Hawthorn), nakia Cockatoo (Geelong), Alwyn Davey (Essendon), Nathan Djerrkura (Geelong/Western Bulldogs), Brett Goodes (Western Bulldogs), Steven May (Gold Coast), Andrew McLeod (Adelaide), Relton Roberts (Richmond), Zephaniah Skinner (Western Bulldogs), Troy Taylor (Richmond) and Austin Wonaeamirri (Melbourne).
History says that the form line of these two teams in 2015, their successful NEAFL histories and their playing lists match them evenly. But a home Grand Final in Darwin for the NT Thunder might just be the advantage needed for a second NEAFL flag for the Thunder.
In other Northern Territory footy news, Michael Solomon, former Head of Operations and Media Business at AFL Media, has been appointed the new CEO of the AFLNT, replacing former long-serving CEO, Tony Frawley.
The new Northern Territory Football League 2015/16 season will kick off in Darwin on October 10th featuring the Grand Final replay between Wanderers and St Marys, the Tiwi Bombers taking on Waratah, Palmerston versus Buffaloes and Nightcliff clashing with Southern Districts.