WITH the race for finals spots heating up, Round 9 hosts a few ‘eight-pointers’ as the ladder starts to take shape coming up to the halfway mark of the season.
NIGHTCLIFF v. TIWI BOMBERS
Round 9 – Saturday December 1, 2:30pm
In what is set to be the game of the round, the two form teams of the competition, Nightcliff and Tiwi, do battle on Saturday to open this weekend’s proceedings. With both sides on win streaks and competition for finals spots heating up, this bout between two attacking powerhouses is set to produce fireworks. The Tigers have regained their rhythm after going down to Southern Districts in Round 6, winning their last two games to sit four points outside of first place. Meanwhile, the Bombers have now won three on the trot after opening their account in the same round, including wins over fellow finals hopefuls Darwin and Waratah. There is class around the ground for Nightcliff, with the recent addition of former Port forward John Butcher proving handy, adding to the consistent danger of Trent Melville, Mathew Bricknell and Joel Budarick going forward. Speedster Liam Holt-Fitz should also be a feature, providing run from the back half. For Tiwi, Adam Tipungwuti and Jason Puruntatameri have been ever-reliable, but they’ll look towards the likes of Dion Munkara, Ross Tungatalum, and youngster Jeffrey Simon to provide the firepower to match Nightcliff. With finals repercussions set to come from a result either way, expect both sides to throw the it all on the line to grab an important four points. If the shootout in their previous encounter is anything to go by, this will be a high-scoring affair.
WANDERERS v. WARATAH
Round 9 – Saturday December 1, 5:00pm
Wanderers will be looking to claim consecutive wins when it comes up against finals hopefuls, Waratah in Saturday’s evening fixture. The Eagles are fresh off a stunning upset victory over Darwin, and despite remaining bottom of the ladder, are only a win off being tied for fifth. Waratah was brought back down to earth after their own upset win over Southern Districts in Round 7, going down to a surging Tiwi outfit in a close one. It’s an important game for the Warriors in particular, as results could see them fall right back into the pack after holding on to fourth place for most of the year. For the Eagles, a run of form is within reach and they could soon scrape off the bottom if things go their way. Joel Jeffrey was the key man last time out, but Wanderers may be without him for this one, leaving it up to the form of Davin Ferreira and Thomas Motlop to find goals. Ex-Roo and Crow Sam Gibson‘s recent cameo has come to an end, but the Eagles will hope that Liam Patrick can have a good run at it up forward after returning to the side. On the other side of the coin, Waratah’s Tom Toma found form of late and will look to have an impact alongside Jaxon Neagle and Cameron Barrett going forward, supported by Timothy Mosquito and Nick Gooch further back. With a bottleneck forming from third to eighth, this will be a key game in the grand scheme of things despite it not looking like a thriller on paper.
DARWIN BUFFALOES v. ST MARYS
Round 9 – Saturday December 1, 7:30pm
The final game in Saturday’s TIO Stadium triple-header pits two sides coming off losses against each other, with Darwin and St Marys looking to re-enter the winners list. The Buffaloes have now suffered consecutive surprise defeats after going down to bottom side, Wanderers last time out, and could slide heavily with a loss hear. On the other hand, the Saints were beaten by a Southern Districts side breathing fire after a loss, but can still jump into a finals spot if they get over the line here. With young gun Malcolm Rosas out of the side, Jed and Javadd Anderson have stepped right up in his absence and will be key figures alongside the returning Adam Sambono. The leadership of Matthew Campbell has also been important of late, and that is an aspect that St Marys has missed with Raph Clarke missing. The Saints’ firepower is still there though, with Brayden and Ben Rioli constantly shining alongside Nathaniel Paredes. They will also hope that young Maurice Rioli jnr can strut his stuff this time out in an effort to compete with the Buffaloes’ forward threat. Darwin will inevitably come out hard, looking to prove a point as it looks to break away from the mid-table pack once again. St Marys will provide stiff competition despite being hard to read, but it is a good opportunity to the Saints to get up over a usually strong side.
SOUTHERN DISTRICTS v. PALMERSTON MAGPIES
Round 9 – Sunday December 2, 4:00pm
Southern Districts will hope to extend its lead atop of the NTFL ladder when it clashes with Palmerston to close out the round. The Crocs bounced back well from their Round 7 loss with a convincing win over St Marys in their last bout, putting their usual scary form on show once again. Palmerston have been a touch more inconsistent, suffering two straight losses after finding consecutive wins. The last fixture between the two was a landslide victory for Southern Districts, but the Magpies will be confident of competing much better having settled into the season. Michael Mummery was fantastic in Round 8 with four goals, but Shane Thorne has undoubtedly been the Crocs’ form player alongside the likes of Dean Staunton and recent inclusion, Seb Guilhaus from the ruck. The injection of AFL experience in the form of Jared Brennan, Richard Tambling and Leroy Jetta makes them an even scarier prospect for the Magpies, who will look to their own AFL stars in the Davey brothers to add some class. Kyle Emery will provide the goals up forward, with Matthew Dennis shouldering ruck duties, and Rodney Baird and Nigel Lockyer jnr providing cool heads up the field. Another one-sided affair looks likely on paper given Southern Districts’ recent inclusions, but Palmerston always pose a threat with the injections of class they have on each line.