By JUSTIN LILLECRAPP
NEAFL ROUND 15
Saturday, July 14, 2018
NT Thunder (9th) v Sydney Swans (2nd) at TIO Stadium, 6.30pm
*This match will be streamed live on ThunderVision (youtube.cmo/northeastafl).
NT Thunder is coming off a 12-point win over last placed Redland and face a must-win clash against the form team of the competition to keep their season alive. Sydney is sitting pretty in second, having won eight consecutive matches after a winless first month.
Since starting their season with back-to-back wins against Brisbane and Aspley, NT Thunder have not been able to create any momentum in 2018. A fortnight ago in Darwin, NT Thunder showed their ability to compete with the best teams leading competition frontrunners Southport by 13 points at the main break, before falling away sharply in the second half. They will be looking for a sustained effort in front of their home fans against Sydney.
Sydney will be hungry to continue their winning streak and keep the pressure on Southport in the fight for minor premiership honours.
Round 17, 2017: Sydney 25.24 (174) d NT Thunder 4.4 (28) at Sydney Cricket Ground
Round 5, 2017: Sydney 16.12 (108) d NT Thunder 13.6 (84) at TIO Stadium
Round 20, 2016: NT Thunder 14.8 (92) d Sydney 8.6.(54) at TIO Stadium
1. NT Thunder superstar Darren Ewing will lace up the boots for his 150th NEAFL game this weekend in front of his home crowd. Ewing is the first player in NEAFL history to 150 games. His durability has helped him reach the mark, having never played less than 18 games in a NEAFL season. Ewing was an integral part of NT Thunder’s 2011 and 2015 premierships, and the NEAFL legend has been the leading goalkicker in five of the seven NEAFL seasons to date, including the last three seasons. After kicking his 600th goal last week against Redland, Ewing will be aiming to kick a bag to help his side to an unlikely victory in his milestone game.
2. Sydney’s midfield has been a significant reason for their eight-match unbeaten run. They have five of the top six players for average player rankings points (minimum six games) as shown by Champion Data statistics. Daniel Robinson ranks first (158 average) followed closely by team mates Harry Marsh (143), Nic Newman (142) and Darcy Cameron (141) and Irishman Colin O’Riordan in sixth (126). While it has been announced O’Riordan will make his AFL debut after a breakout 39-disposal performance against the GIANTS, Sydney’s midfield is setting the benchmark for the competition with the consistency week-to-week.
3. Abe Ankers has been a step above for NT Thunder in 2018. Last week against Redland, Ankers polled nine votes in the NEAFL MVP Award as he registered 32 disposals (26 of which were contested, equalling his mark from three weeks prior against Canberra). Ankers also had 14 clearances and kicked two goals. The inside midfielder ranks first in the league for inside 50 entries, third for contested possessions and fifth for clearances. Ankers ability to win the hard ball and get assistance from his team mates will be crucial to NT Thunder giving Sydney a run for their money.
North Shore Bombers product, 17-year-old Sydney Swans academy player Harrison Parker, played just his second NEAFL game last weekend against the GIANTS. Parker impressed with 19 disposals, three marks and nine inside 50 entries. Parker will no doubt take inspiration from the season team mate Bailey Stewart is putting together. Stewart, a nominee for this year’s Tribal Sport NEAFL Rising Star Award, has played 10 games for Sydney this season averaging 17 disposals and an impressive four tackles a game.
STATS THAT MATTER
Sydney had 70 inside 50 entries last week against the GIANTS for the second time this season after they had 72 against Southport in Round 7 at the SCG. Sydney ranks first for inside 50 differential, averaging 12 more entries than their opponents. NT Thunder rank eighth, averaging eight fewer entries than their opponents. The midfield battle and ability of both teams to intercept the football off half back will be crucial to which side comes out the winner.
Sydney by 25 points.
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