By JESS WEBSTER
Boasting one of the competition’s greatest players, and one of the best young talents, NT Thunder provided plenty of highlights in season 2017 as a youthful side made it an Elimination Final berth under new coach Andrew Hodges.
Here is Thunder’s season in review.
By the Numbers
Ladder position: 5th
Last year: 5th
2017 NT Thunder FC Award Winners
Ilett Medal: Cameron Ilett
Rookie of the Year Award: Adam Sambono
U23 Best Talent Award: Abraham Ankers
Most Professional Award: Tom Davies
Clubman of the Year Award: Scott McLeod
Leading Goalkicker Award: Darren Ewing (64 goals)
Players’ Player Award: Cameron Ilett
No More Campaign Most Improved Award: Sam Smith
Territory Sports Medicine Most Courageous Award: Michael Coombes
KIK Digital Community and Media Award: Nick Yarran
St John Ambulance Tony West Club Person of the Year Award: David Bywaters
Top 5 NEAFL MVP votes
73: Cameron Ilett (2nd overall)
34: Adam Sambono
23: Abraham Ankers
23: Darren Ewing
12: Daniel Weetra
Snapshot: A youthful and new-look NT Thunder side has its ups and downs under new coach Andrew Hodges in 2017. They were mainstays in the top four for most of the year, but won only two of their last five to cough up the chance to host a home final in week one of the finals series. Eventually, they were overrun by Gold Coast in an Elimination Final to finish the season in fifth for the second consecutive season.
Highlight: Francis Kinthari lived out every young footballer’s dream in Round 14 against the GIANTS at Spotless Stadium. No more than 10 points separated the sides in a frantic last quarter, and had a two-point advantage after Harry Perryman missed a shot on goal at the 28-minute mark. But NT Thunder regained possession, and went the length of the field in time for Francis Kinthari to mark 45m out moments before the siren. He coolly slotted the goal
Lowlight: It was a dark day for NT Thunder when they travelled to Sydney to take on the almighty Swans in Round 17. With eight forced changes heading into the clash, NT were simply no match for their opposition in a 146-point loss. It was NT Thunder’s lowest ever score (4.4) and highest losing margin in club history.
Star Power: Club legend Cameron Ilett will leave massive shoes to fill after he finished his NEAFL career on a high with a dominant season. Runner-up in the NEAFL MVP and winner of the club’s best-and-fairest – renamed in honour of the Ilett family – the superstar midfielder will leave an indelible mark on the competition. However, there were some positive subplots to Thunder’s season. NEAFL representative Abraham Ankers was in career-best form, and the emergence of defender Sam Smith has set the platform for the duo to grow in importance in 2018.
Next Generation: Adam Sambono produced one of the most stunning debut seasons the NEAFL has seen with the 20-year-old livewire taking out the NEAFL Rising Star Award over a quality field, and placing himself right into AFL Draft contention. There were plenty of young guns making their mark this year, with Nick Yarran earning a Rising Star nomination, Beau Schwarze impressing in his NEAFL debut, and Michael Mummery is among the next crop of Territory stars to come through the ranks in the coming years.
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