The Northern Territory news Fri 22 Jun 2018
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16 SPORT FRIDAY JUNE 22 2018 NTNE01Z01MA - V1 GREY MORRIS Youth has the Swans sitting pretty ALIIR Aliirs return is the latest reminder of Sydneys depth that has the AFL team poised to be a premiership contender again. Aliir played in round four, then was recalled in round 13, but he was otherwise stuck in the seconds during the opening half of the Swans season. The 23-year-old made the most of his chance against West Coast, producing a couple of clutch goal-saving ef forts last Friday in defence. Youngsters Oliver Florent, George Hewett, Tom Papley, Will Hayward, Ben Ronke and Tom McCartin also stepped up under immense pressure during Sydneys 15-point win over the Eagles. Getting the best out of inexperienced players has been a key part of the Swans recent run of finals appearances, which looks set to continue barring a drop-off after the bye. Sydney sits third on the ladder amid a six-match winning streak, leaving it well placed to make the finals for a ninthstraight year. Yet again there is fierce competition for spots at the SCG, with coach John Longmire unwilling to gift any player regardless of age or reputation a game. All the younger boys have been playing quality roles for us all year, Harry Cunningham said. Magpies mentally stronger, says Buckley C O L L I N G W O O D c o a c h Nathan Buckley admits his AFL team wasnt ready to handle success the last time it challenged for finals in 2015. Ahead of their clash against old foes Carlton at the MCG on Sunday, when the Magpies are expected to bank their ninth win of the season, Buckley reflected on the last time his team was in such a position. In 2015, Collingwood was sitting fourth heading into its round-12 bye. But it lost the next three games by 10 points or less which Buckley said shattered confidence, with the team only winning another two games for the season as it plummeted out of contention. We probably just werent ready as a group, Buckley said yesterday. Its easy to look retrospectively and say that we had a narrow loss to Hawthorn and then lost to a goal to Freo and then to Port Adelaide by three points. It seemed to me like our spirit was broken a little bit at that point, even at eight (wins) and six (losses) and we werent able to maintain our positive momentum. Buckley felt the current squad was better equipped to deal with such adversity. Its more resilient and more ready and weve got a deeper squad, the coach said. STEVEN Motlop likens his new club Port Adelaide to a bottle of fine wine maturing and getting better with age. The former Territory and Geelong flyer is in Power colours these days after moving to Adelaide late last year following a 135-game career with Geelong. His 12 games have already produced a major highlight the winning goal against fierce rival Adelaide in Round 8. The former Wanderers and Territory Thunder junior said that goal was pretty simple in the context of the game, more particularly being in the right place at the right time. I didnt have a lot of time to think to tell you the truth, there wasnt too long to go so I was pretty happy to be in the right spot to get an opportunity to kick the goal, he said. Thats what you want to do, win those games against the Crows and it was good for us after we hadnt beaten them for a while. Motlop mirrored his own form with his new club a little bit up and down. But were in a good spot now, were eight wins and four form. Motlop missed the preseason with his new club and felt it during the early weeks of the season proper. I probably wasnt as fit at the start of the year as I wanted to be, he said. But it all seems to be working now with me playing in the usual role at half forward, rotating through the wing. Weve always had the belief within the group, I guess were just getting back to full strength with blokes coming back from the reserves and running into a bit of form. Motlop pointed to Sam Powell-Pepper and Tommy losses and the side is going really well, he said. Weve played some good footy over the last couple of weeks and before the bye with that win against the Crows. Weve been able to match it with the best sides, which is good and weve got another test against Melbourne who have been in good Weve been able to match it with the best sides Rockliff as examples of why the Power was playing good and consistent football. Both of those blokes started with the club this year and are up and running, he said. Were all starting to jell now and its showing on the scoreboard as well. Four wins from its last five starts, including a last-gasp loss to Hawthorn in Tasmania has Ken Hinkleys side in seventh position on the ladder. A win over Melbourne at the Adelaide Oval tonight will be another plus for a Port Adelaide side beginning to justify its off-season recruiting. Christensen came close to calling it quits in AFL BRISBANES Allen Christensen has revealed how close he had come to pulling the pin on his AFL career after a string of shoulder injuries. The midfield-forward has made a strong comeback this season to the Lions team, playing every game and earning a one-year contract extension. Christensen (pictured) didnt play last year after collarbone injuries that first plagued him since midway through the 2016 season. The 2011 Geelong premiership player opened up on the physical and mental toll of being in rehabilitation for about 18 months. T h e r e were definitely times where I was thinking I dont know if I can do this (play AFL) anymore, Christensen said. I was thinking is this going to hold up to the rigours of AFL footy? But thankfully, I had a strong rehab team and Sel Griffith, our rehab guy, hes one of my closest friends now. He made sure I kept my head up and kept working. Christensen, 27, said helping out the Lions AFL and NEAFL coaches helped him stay on track during his time off the field. If I didnt have that, I dont know what I wouldve done, Christensen said. I couldve just done my work and disappeared into the wilderness. Thats where I think a lot of the mental issues (in football) come in if you have nothing, so the coaching side kept me connected to the club. Christensen spent several years of his childhood growing up in Darwin, where father Brendan coached St Marys in the early 2000s. After heading to the Gabba from Geelong during the 2014 trade period, the former Saints junior has taken his AFL career games tally to 110. The Lions, who sit 17th on the ladder, will look for just their second win of the season tomorrow when they host Greater Western Sydney. OLIVER CAFFREY He used to grace the fields for Wanderers in Darwin and for the Cats in Geelong, now Steven Motlop is making a name for himself with Port Adelaide and tonight faces Melbourne in a monster clash at Adelaide Oval Picture: SARAH REED Motlop and Port Adelaide in tune
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