Abe Ankers in action for NT Thunder. Photo: TJ Yelds/NEAFL.

By JUSTIN LILLECRAPP

 

NT Thunder midfielder Abraham Ankers won his first Ilett Medal for NT Thunder’s best-and-fairest after a breakout NEAFL season in 2018.

The 23-year-old edged out six-time winner Cameron Ilett by 16 votes and emerging defender Sam Smith to be crowned Club Champion after finishing runner-up to Ilett in 2017.

Ankers had an impressively consistent season with his lowest tally six out of the maximum 10 votes for any given game.

A season which included monster contested ball numbers, including 26 contested possessions in Round 11 against Canberra Demons and Round 14 against Redland, Ankers displayed the qualities AFL recruiters are looking for in a mature-age recruit.

In the back half of the season, Ankers added an extra bow to his repertoire, kicking 12 goals in a seven-game stretch between Round 11 and Round 19.

“It is a great award to win, it means a lot,” Ankers told neafl.com.au.

“It was a focus (kicking goals), Hodgey (NT Thunder coach Andrew Hodges) said that it is another aspect of my game I can work on.”

Whilst Ankers is pleased with his individual season, he is continually looking to improve his game and take his performance to another level.

“I thought at the start I was a bit patchy and I sort of found how I wanted to play. I still have a lot of aspects to my game to improve.

“I was happy with the way I finished the season, coming up against some good, well-rounded midfielders, some bigger bodies than me. I was able to hold my own,” he said.

“I just have to keep working on all aspects of my game and becoming a better footballer each week.”

Ankers relished the opportunity to play against ex-AFL stars Andrew Boston and Craig Bird to name a few.

As well as playing alongside NT Thunder stars Ilett, Joe Anderson and Richard Tambling, Ankers has an attitude to always learn and improve his game to be the best player possible.

“Definitely something I like to pride myself on is winning the footy,” he said.

“In a competition as good as the NEAFL, you have a lot of good midfielders around you, so you have got to be able to win the footy and have the leg speed to get out of the contest, which is something I would like to continue to improve on and get better at.”

It was a difficult season for NT Thunder, with the club recording just five wins – their lowest in a season.

Whilst the injury list played a part in the side’s inconsistent form in 2018, Ankers pinpointed a couple of key areas NT Thunder need to improve on going into season 2019.

“We need to improve all our numbers and hold the footy for longer,” he said.

“To be able to do that, we need to be fitter, stronger and more consistent as a playing group.”

A strong pre-season will go a long way to improving these areas and with some young talent coming through the ranks, Ankers remains buoyed about a rebound in 2019.

“We have Malcolm Rosas, Isaac White, Dom Forbes coming through who will play key roles for us next year,” he said.

“We have a bright future ahead, we just have to get them developed and ready for NEAFL footy.”

 

 

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