A mid-table arm-wrestle has ensued with three sides battling for the last two finals positions in the Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Men’s Premier League. Darwin will be looking to consolidate its third place, with Waratah best placed to snatch fourth as its closest competition meets the top two sides.
ST MARYS v. DARWIN BUFFALOES
Round 15 – Friday, January 25, 7pm
St Marys will be looking to steer clear of equal-last spot when it clashes with an in-form Darwin Buffaloes side to open the round. The Saints find themselves separated by percentage only to last-place Wanderers, who got the wood over them in the previous round. Darwin, meanwhile, are back on a solid winning run having knocked off Southern Districts twice in the last four rounds, while only going down to ladder-leaders, Nightcliff in that time. The inclusion of Lindsay Thomas in the new year has been key for the Buffaloes, with the former North Melbourne and Port star booting five goals last week to drag his side over the line, while livewire Adam Sambono has also fronted in the resurgence. The experience of Matt Campbell and consistency of Kevin Maroney up the field will also be important for the Buffaloes if they are to continue on their way, and the potential match-up of Darryl White against St Marys’ Raphael Clarke could be key. The Saints have been buoyed by the form of Nathaniel Paredes (three best-afield in four games), while Nick Yarran and youngster Brayden Rioli also look to be coming into form they have shown glimpses of. It looks to be an uphill battle here for St Marys given Darwin’s firepower, but four points will be crucial to them if they are to have one last tilt at the finals and keep clear of the cellar door.
WARATAH v. WANDERERS
Round 15 – Saturday, January 26, 4pm
A spot back on the winners list is up for grabs for Waratah when it faces bottom-placed Wanderers in Saturday’s sole fixture. The Warriors have gone down in consecutive games, seeing them slip out of the top four for the first time since Round 1 in what has been a consistent season thus far. The Muk Muks are two games away from the deadlock from fourth to sixth place, but managed a confidence-boosting win over second-bottom St Marys last time out to level them on points with their most recent opponents. Neither side is particularly renowned for their prowess in front of goal, but posses key assets around the big sticks who can deliver big performances. Kim Kantilla and Sam Godden have consistently troubled the scoreboard for Waratah, while Thomas Motlop is coming off a clutch five-goal performance in last week’s win for Wanderers. Eagles fans have also enjoyed the inclusion of former-Sun Liam Patrick, but that ex-AFL talent is something that the Warriors have been short of with Michael Newton only featuring twice – booting 13 goals in those outings. With both sides keen for four points given their respective positions, expect the usually low-scoring sides to provide a greater output in front of goals to snatch the four points.
NIGHTCLIFF v. TIWI BOMBERS
Round 15 – Sunday, January 27, 2pm
PSC BM Oval
Arguably the two form sides of the competition meet when Nightcliff and Tiwi Bombers do battle on Sunday. The ladder-leading Tigers have won their last eight games, including a tight affair against Tiwi in Round 9, when the Bombers were on another winning run. The visitors have looked irresistible over the last two rounds, smashing Wanderers by over 100 points and toppling top-two fancies Southern Districts in what has been a rich vein of form, setting up what promises to be another thriller between the two sides. Nightcliff’s forward threats of Trent Melville and Matthew Bricknell continue to fire and will have to produce in this game, with Tiwi’s Ross Tungatalum and Austin Wonaeamirri booting 22 goals between them in the last three games. The midfield battle could also prove key, with Nightcliff guns Liam Holt-Fitz and John Butcher also able to hit the scoreboard from up the field. Bomber inclusions Ashton Hams and Nathan Djerrkura have added enough class to match the Tigers in that area, so we may well be set for an absolute shoot-out. With an abundance of ex-AFL talent on both lists, this could be a game we look back on at the end of the year as an NTFL classic. Playing the role of spoilers in this clash, the Tigers will hope to quell the Bombers’ surge, but this Tiwi side could make a real statement about their finals credentials with a win here.
PALMERSTON MAGPIES v. SOUTHERN DISTRICTS
Round 15 – Monday, January 28, 4pm
A chance to consolidate finals spots is on the line for both Palmerston and Southern Districts when they meet on Monday afternoon to see out the round. The Magpies were unlucky not to come away with a win last week, falling narrowly to the free-scoring Darwin Buffaloes, but remain well within the hunt for either fourth or fifth spot in the finals equation. Their opponents, Southern Districts have been a constant in the top two this year and currently look to be the clear second-best side despite falling twice to third-place unit, Darwin. With both sides coming off losses, this will be a good chance for both a confidence and percentage boost respectively. Palmerston’s Matthew Dennis has been among the best players in each of his 14 games, proving to be a key cog around the ground with his big frame and admirable leadership. Having led many a finals campaign with Bundoora in the Northern Football League of Melbourne, he will no doubt continue to be a feature as the year wraps up alongside Davey brothers Alwyn and Aaron, as well as Kyle Emery up forward. The Magpies will be without Sam Talbot and Sam Autio due to suspension, with Crocs guns Beau Schwarze, Richard Tambling and Seb Guilhaus ones who can take advantage of their absence. Michael Mummery and Jess Koopman are also in good form, and will be key if Southern Districts is to flex its muscle and overpower the ‘Pies. There is a fair bit on the line for the Palmerston side, so expect them to put it right to the Crocs, who looked down last week.