IN the last round before a break over the new year, sides will be looking to snatch ascendancy from close opposition. Battles for first place, finals berths and escaping the wooden spoon are all hotting right up, making each game an eight-pointer for the respective teams.
TIWI BOMBERS v. WANDERERS
Round 11 – Saturday December 15, 2:30pm
Both Tiwi Bombers and Wanderers will be looking to bounce back from consecutive losses when they clash to open the round via a TIO Stadium triple-header. After boosting their stocks with two-straight wins in Rounds 6-8, the Bombers have been bettered by the top two sides more recently, going down to a rejuvenated Southern Districts last time out. Meanwhile, the Eagles went down to St Marys to remain bottom, with only their weekend opponents at a reachable distance to leapfrog should they earn a sizeable win here. While they have struggled in front of goal all year to post the worst points tally thus far, the Muk Muks are not always as absent down back and will need to hold up strongly again this week. The likes of Davin Ferreira and Thomas Motlop have done the business in previous rounds, and should find the goals again here. Tiwi’s own firepower of Dion Munkara and Ross Tungatalum have been close to kicking bags in recent rounds without completely taking over, with Harley and Jason Puruntatameri providing great consistency as they look to pick their season back up. Despite sitting a game from bottom, Tiwi are arguably the form side from fifth to eighth, and will be confident in climbing out of a rut with a win. For Wanderers, this is a great opportunity to find some form against a side with a similar form line, with the greater hope of climbing out of the cellar door on offer.
DARWIN BUFFALOES v. SOUTHERN DISTRICTS
Round 11 – Saturday December 15, 5pm
The build-up to the last time Darwin Buffaloes and Southern Districts met was much different, with the hype around a grand final rematch all the way back in Round 1 poising the two clear-best sides against each other. While the Crocs remain kings of their swamp, Darwin has suffered a massive slide through the mid-part of the season – earning just two wins in its last six outings. After finally going down in Round 7, Southern Districts has come back with a point to prove and looks to be back to its menacing best. Last time out, a bag of five goals from Jess Koopman helped the Crocs to a comfortable victory over Tiwi, hands from Leroy Jetta (seven goals in three games) and Shane Thorne (15 in eight) proving vital in their mini revival. Another important cog was the two-game contribution of ex-AFL highlight reel Jared Brennan, whose absence leaves a hole in Districts’ defence that Darwin will look to exploit. The Buffaloes sorely missed their own firepower last week, with the likes of Matthew Campbell, Joe Anderson, Adam Sambono and Malcolm Rosas all missing. If they are to have any chance here against a powerful Crocs’ 22, Darwin will need all the experience and class they can manage, with the risk of sliding out of the top four becoming greater with each loss.
NIGHTCLIFF v. ST MARYS
Round 11 – Saturday December 15, 7:30pm
A scarily good Nightcliff side will be hoping to stay in touch with Southern Districts, while also keeping St Marys out of the top four when they clash to round out Saturday’s TIO Stadium triple-header. In last week’s featured game, an even spread of goals saw the Tigers comfortably account for fourth-place Waratah in a dominant 113-point victory. St Marys also entered the winners list as it got up over Wanderers in another decent team display, keeping the Saints just a game from third and right in the finals mix. Nathaniel Paredes continues to be the Saints’ best, booting three goals while Raphael Clarke swung forward effectively to claim two on his return to the side. The x-factor of Maurice Rioli jnr and Shane Yarran could also provide headaches for Nightcliff here, but its the Tigers forward line that look most likely of dictating the result. Leading goalkicker Trent Melville will look to build on his tally of 38, with help from Cam Ilett (seven goals in last two games), Liam Holt-Fitz and Matthew Bricknell (both 15 goals) making for a seriously dangerous goal threat. Nightcliff really needs to maintain its winning run if it is to catch the Crocs, but the Saints can put a dampener on their opponents’ hopes with a win, while having the opportunity to break away as clear fifth if results go their way.
WARATAH v. PALMERSTON MAGPIES
Round 11 – Sunday December 16, 4pm
Waratah will be looking to bounce back from a heavy defeat last time around when it faces Palmerston Magpies to see out Round 11 on Sunday. Having met a Nightcliff side on an absolute mission, the Warriors where simply overwhelmed by the Tigers’ power, and Palmerston will hope to swoop on the weaknesses shown in that display. The Magpies managed an upset win over another down-on-form finals contender in Darwin last weekend, so will hope for a repeat of that effort to finish both the round and 2018 action with a statement. Having only registered four goals in its last effort, Waratah will need to build heavily on that if it is to have a return win, and could do so with Palmerston holding the second-worst defensive record this season. Raven Jolliffe and Kim Kantilla have been the go-to’s of late for the Warriors, but they’ll have to match the efforts of Magpies spearhead Kyle Emery – who has 21 goals to his name this year. Ian Milera’s recent addition has provided another forward dimension for Palmerston, with Nigel Lockyer jnr running the engine room alongside ruckman Matthew Dennis. Waratah will have to show a massive turn of form to get up here, but have the capable talent at hand to remain entrenched in the established top four and keep the likes of Palmerston at bay. While they don’t quite have the percentage to jump higher, the Magpies could well jump into a finals spot with a win here.