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“The Iletts can take enormous credit for the evolution of the Thunder into a genuine premiership threat in a short period of time and both have the happy knack of doing their best work in a crisis when the team needs them most”.

And in the 2011 Season the Thunder gods ruled supreme and took out the prized double of the Northern Conference Premiership and the inaugural NEAFL Cross Conference Premiership. Club Captain Cameron Ilett, who won the Andrew Ireland Medal, expressed his pride at his side’s twin achievements.

Brother, Jared, editor of a Territory wide sports magazine and the face of Channel 7’s The Boot, has recently been appointed Thunder’s chief executive.

Between them they have a bag full of coveted trophies not only for the best players, but for the best and fairest and most professional.

And much of their inspiration comes from their grandfather, John (Jack) William Ilett, highly respected and esteemed member of the Northern Territory Police Force from 1961 until his retirement in 1995.

Their grandfather’s influence is best illustrated by extracts from this tribute to Jack delivered by his son, Sergeant Roger Ilett OIC Jabiru, at a memorial held at St Mary’s Football club on 18th January 2008:

“Dad practiced his passion for sport as a player and a spectator throughout his life. I remember fondly the games he played; his drop kick was a marvel to see. He coached Little Athletics, soccer and football over many years. He coached the Parap Primary School footy teams for a number of years during the 70s playing down at the Gardens Oval in the local schools competition under the guidance of a young Peter Atkinson.

For almost 10 years every July we would be in the car driving South for our 2 week footy road trip. Dad loved to follow the boys when they represented the Territory at the U16 and U18 levels. Those were good days, travelling in convoy to the Mecca of Australian Rules Football to support our Territory boys.

Dad was a fanatical Carlton Supporter. It was in his blood. It was a family tradition which he gladly passed on to his sons and grandsons. One of Dad’s best mates was Youngie, Peter Young. They had a love/ hate relationship; Dad supported Carlton – Youngie Collingwood – arch enemies from before the Ice Age. Youngie loved Collingwood and Dad hated them. Dad loved Carlton and Youngie hated them. In 1961 they started a bet of one pound every time the two teams played. Over time it changed to the dollar note that would be folded and stapled 40 to 50 times and sent between the two. Often the letter was unstamped so that the receiver had to pay the postage. This went on for years. I remember when Youngie was in hospital, Dad rang the Collingwood Footy Club and told them about the one-eyed Collingwood supporter who loved Peter Daicos. When Daicos and Bob Rose were in town, Dad coordinated a visit to Youngie, and asked the club if they would present Youngie with a Collingwood guernsey. They agreed to visit, but would not provide the guernsey. Dad went and purchased the Collingwood guernsey and gave it to Daicos before he entered Youngie’s room. I can still remember the pleasure that Youngie got from their visit, but especially when he led the group in singing ‘Good Old Collingwood Forever’, and threw the jumper in the air saying, ‘Eat your bloody heart out Ilett’.”

Roger continues:

“Our boys were given a choice of playing for whatever club training they could ride their push bikes to. Logistics and school buddies made their choice Saints. Dad’s three sons had all ended up playing rugby union, a bit of a disappointment for a bloke who was a die-hard Aussie Rules player, supporter and critic all his life. However, his legacy and his faith were restored when (his grandsons), Jared, Ryan and Cameron began playing footy. The boys remember well the afternoon kicks, the tips, the game assessments and the stats collected. The game post mortems will be missed.

As the boys began playing A grade, we would go to footy and Dad would always be seated about three rows in front of Vic Ludwig. Now everyone knows Vic and his vocal appraisal of the game and performance of the umpires – over the years Dad and Vic would often provide the umpires with a joint glowing commentary of their performances. The banter was comical, but became embarrassing on Monday mornings when my wife’s boss, the CEO of AFL NT, would make comment about Vic and Granddad performing the double act again!

Even when he was feeling ill, Granddad went to the footy – in Adelaide he loved nothing better than to watch his grandsons play. Remember Dad you tried to step over seats instead of inconveniencing people by moving along the rows; you slipped and fell knocking your head. The security guard came down to the dressing rooms and told Cam, ‘Come quick your Granddad’s fallen over and he’s bleeding everywhere’. Now if anyone knows the Port Adelaide Footy Club, just getting into the rooms before the A grade game let alone getting out is no mean feat. So Cammy goes up and there’s Granddad on the ground with blood pouring out discolouring his white hair. Before Cam could say anything Dad said, ‘If I had some blue paint in my hair, I would be a Central Districts supporter!’.”

Your family has done you proud Jack.

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