By JESS WEBSTER
The rise of Abraham Ankers to genuine star status was a big highlight for NT Thunder this year despite falling to ninth position after promising start.
Here is Thunder’s season in review.
By the Numbers
Ladder position: 9th
Last year: 5th
Top 5 NEAFL MVP votes
55: Abraham Ankers
28: Cameron Ilett
16: Jarrod Stokes
14: Joe Anderson
11: Darren Ewing
Snapshot: NT Thunder’s 2018 campaign started brightly with a new-look side defeating defending premier Brisbane in a one-point thriller in Round 1, before travelling to Brisbane and overrunning finals contender Aspley by 28 points. But the wheels soon fell off, as Thunder lost eight of their next nine games to send their season into a tailspin. Their only two victories in the run home came against bottom-placed Redland as a combination of injury, inexperience and fatigue contribution to NT Thunder’s lowest ever finish to a NEAFL season.
Highlight: NT Thunder gave us a glimpse in to how good they could be when they hosted the Lions to kick off the season at TIO Stadium in Darwin. Whilst it was the first game of the year, it had everything you could ask for – club legends Cameron Ilett and Darren Ewing at their best, exciting highlights from new signings Dion Munkara and Ross Tungataluam, and a one-point victory over the 2017 premiers boasting 14 AFL-listed players.
Lowlight: In similar vein to wooden spooners Redland, NT Thunder’s moment to forget in 2018 was their last match of the season against Sydney University at Blacktown. The Students raced to an 88-point lead at half-time before finished 109-point victors, holding NT Thunder to its lowest ever NEAFL score (3.6) to mark the end of a disappointing season for the Territorians.
Star Power: One of the stories of the NEAFL season was the emergence of NT Thunder midfielder, Abraham Ankers. Taking his game to incredible new heights, the 23-year-old established himself as a contested possession beast with several outstanding performances earning himself a first NEAFL Team of the Year selection. Elsewhere, Cameron Ilett was still at his match-winning best and Sam Smith continues to grow in to one of the competition’s best defenders.
What’s Next: NT Thunder announced a two-year extension for coach Andrew Hodges after the season as the club focuses on rebuilding in season 2019. Champion full-forward Darren Ewing’s retirement leaves a hole up forward, but with some clever recruiting to support their emerging talent, there is no reason not to believe NT Thunder can climb back into finals calculations next year.
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