NT Thunder excitement machine Zephi Skinner will fly the QAFL flag into the 2011 Toyota AFL premiership after he was drafted by the Western Bulldogs tonight.

Thursday, 18 November, 2010

NT Thunder excitement machine Zephi Skinner will fly the QAFL flag into the 2011 Toyota AFL premiership after he was drafted by the Western Bulldogs tonight.

Skinner, winner of the 2010 NAB QAFL Rising Star Award, was picked up by the Bulldogs with selection No. 88 in the Draft, held on the Gold Coast ahead of the Gold Coast Suns entry to the AFL next year.

His selection came after he trained with the club prior to the 2010 Rookie Draft and was monitored closely throughout an outstanding 2010 QAFL season with the Thunder.

Skinner was the only ‘new’ face from Queensland / Northern Territory to win entry to the AFL for the first time tonight after the Gold Coast had already pre-listed four would-be Queensland draftees – Rex Liddy, Lewis Moss, Joel Wilkinson and Tom Hickey.

Dogs recruiting manager Simon Dalrymple said of Skinner on the club’s website: “Originally from Fitzroy Crossing, he’s an excitement machine. I think our supporters should really look forward to watching him play. He’s 190cm third tall who is a great tackler and applies great defensive pressure. That was a priority for us and Zephi was number one on our list.

“He’s got great flair, but that’s also coupled with the defensive pressure. It’s a big city, Melbourne, which will be a big change from Fitzroy Crossing but he’s been in Darwin for a year now and we’ve got some plans in place,” said Dalrymple.

Skinner’s selection represents a giant tick for the combined selection panel for this year’s NAB QAFL Rising Star Award, with the players who finished first, third and equal fourth all getting picked up by the AFL.

Skinner headed the vote tally with 39 votes, from Labrador’s Todd Grayson (19) and Hickey (18), while Wilkinson (17) was in a three-way tie with Morningside’s Tom Bell and Mt.Gravatt’s David Hill.

Skinner, too, is now in line to become the first player named Zephania, as is his full Christian name, to play AFL football. But, as was revealed in the QAFL Record after he won the Round 5 Rising Star nomination, he faces a big task.

Among more than 11,850 VFL/AFL players over 114 years, including even the short-lived University Club which played from 1908-1914, not one has been named Zephi.

So uncommon is it that even a google search of Zephi doesn’t toss up too many famous types.

First listed is musician Zephi Kramer, followed by actor Zephi Alsec and designer Zephi Singh.

Then it gets down to Zephi Velarde, executive director of the Apartment Association in Richland Hills, Texas, followed by the Linkedin listing of Zephi Friel, a student at George Washington University in Washington DC.

Zephi, the abbreviated version of Zephania, doesn’t even rate a mention on the global website, where we learn that the full form is of Hebrew origins and means ‘treasured by god’.

Skinner is from the remote Kimberley Aboriginal Community called Nookanbah, located 500km inland between Broome and Fitzroy Crossing in WA.

He was with the Noonkanbah Blues and had previously played with the Claremont Colts in 2007-08 before returning to his home community.  

He played 11 games with Nightcliff Tigers in the 2009-10 NTFL competition and committed to the NT Thunder this year with a determined view to making his dream come true of playing AFL.

According to coach Murray Davis, all Thunder players and support staff will testify to what a terrific person he is to have around the club.

He has a terrific attitude, character and genuinely is everyone’s friend, Davis said at the time of Skinner’s Rising Star nomination.

“And he certainly has an exciting highlights reel,” adds the coach, noting his exciting ability to leap and get through traffic,” he added.  “I’ve been really impressed with his tackling and focus on keeping the ball inside our forward 50. He’s averaging six tackles a game which is a great effort.”

It didn’t change. In fact Skinner confirmed his commitment to the cause by missing just three games throughout the long and taxing season. And he missed only through injury when he would most have wanted to play because it kept him out of the Queensland side for the interstate clash with Tasmania.

The 21-year-old ‘discovery’ told the QAFL Record he had enjoyed being part of the professional unit. “It’s pretty good. It’s good to make new friends playing footy,” Skinner said. “The travelling has been pretty good, a good experience. I’m having a lot of fun.”

He also showed plenty of respect for the people who have supported him and the competition itself. “My host family, Di and Jeff Borella, been good to me and feeding me good,” he said. “And I want to thank my teammates for giving me the ball.

Skinner clinched his Rising Star win with an outstanding finish to the season, highlighted by a standout performance as the Thunder upset minor premiers Labrador at Gardens Oval in Darwin in Round 17.

He was also a three-goal standout in a beaten side against Mt Gravatt in the elimination final.

Skinner kicked 13 goals in the last six games of the year to finish with 25 for the season and rnak third behind Ray Hughson Medal runner-up Darren Ewing and Syd Guildford Trophy winner Cameron Ilett.

Photo by Matthew Kemp of EPIC Moments

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