NTFL Men’s Premier League weekend preview: Round 11 – Buffs and Saints to battle it out in game of the round

THE final Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Men’s Premier League round prior to the Christmas break takes place tomorrow with three teams jostling for second spot, while a loss for others could just about mean curtains on their season.

TIWI BOMBERS vs. WANDERERS
Saturday, December 14, 1.30pm
Tiwi Oval

Round 11 kicks off on the Tiwi Islands with the Bombers hosting Wanderers in a fifth against sixth clash. The Bombers are now six points clear of the Eagles, and are just four points and percentage behind fourth placed Darwin. A win to the Bombers and loss to the Buffs would see Tiwi draw level for a top four spot heading into the Christmas break. The Wanderers desperately need a win too however, with the season slowly slipping away. Considered a proverbial “eight-point game”, the Eagles would slip 10 points adrift of the top five and make it difficult with seven rounds remaining in the new year. A win however, and the Wanderers move within two points of a finals spot. The Bombers have started to build some form in the second half of the season, winning three of their past four games, and only losing the fourth by a goal to reigning premiers and ladder leaders, Nightcliff. The Wanderers grabbed the points the last time these two teams met, but have gone cold over the past month, dropping four consecutive games – albeit to three of the top four teams. What makes the Wanderers’ task more difficult is the fact young star Joel Jeffrey is unavailable, having booted 19 goals in seven games thus far this season. Liam Jurrah (six goals) is also missing, meaning a lot of the scoring prowess will fall on Davin Ferreira‘s (nine) shoulders. Braedon McLean is a player Wanderers has been able to rely on all season, while Dray Thompson and Beau O’Connell provide good support between midfield and attack. The biggest advantage the Bombers have over a lot of sides is their ability to spread the load. They have the most players that have run out this season, but Dion Munkara (14 goals) and Austin Wonaeamirri (13) are the two most prolific goalkickers. With Jason Puruntatameri and Adam Tipungwuti always providing experience and X-factor in the front half, it will be hard to look past the Bombers in this game.

DARWIN BUFFALOES vs. ST MARY’S
Saturday, December 14, 2.30pm
TIO Stadium

Darwin Buffaloes will turn to some added Victorian Football League (VFL) experience when Port Melbourne star, Shannen Lange runs out for the Buffs tomorrow afternoon. Lange joins former teammate, Ryan Pendlebury at the Double Blues. The pair will provide plenty of run through the middle and allow Daniel Stafford (14 goals from six games) and Christopher Williams to go to work up forward. The Buffs went down to Tiwi Bombers last weekend by 14 points, closing the gap between fourth and fifth. Prior to that, Darwin had knocked off Wanderers, Waratah and Palmerston respectively, but will now look to bounce back and regain that form. A win to the Buffs could potentially see them grab third, and with a large enough win, even second given their opponents hold a four-point, eight-per cent advantage on them. Along with their fresh talent, the Buffaloes will also look to Patrick Boles and Isaac Seden-Kurnoth to provide some strong support. The Saints have been enjoying a strong season in 2019/20 thus far, bouncing back from a lean few years to be a genuine contender and place themselves with a 7-3 record one round out from the Christmas break. A win would ensure the Saints retain second spot, while a loss could see them slip as far as fourth. Jackson Calder has been named in the side and will look to add to his 15 goals from four games this season, while Nathaniel Paredes continues to establish himself as one of the top NTFL players this year. Shannon Rioli is also a danger inside 50, the recently signed Williamstown recruit, Kieren Parnell provides slick kicking skills off half-back, while former North Melbourne and Carlton key forward Jarrad Waite and former GIANTS and Essendon player Shaun Edwards have also been named for their third and second games respectively which means there is plenty of former AFL and current VFL talent on show in the game.

WARATAH vs. SOUTHERN DISTRICTS
Saturday, December 14, 4.00pm
Gardens Oval

An absolutely stacked Southern Districts side will travel to Gardens Oval in a bid to head into the Christmas break with a win, and possibly second spot when it takes on Waratah tomorrow evening. The Crocs have loaded up on former AFL talent, with Richard Tambling, Michael Barlow, Ed Barlow and Jeff Garlett all named in the side, which could spell trouble for Waratah. The Warriors sit seventh with just three wins from 10 games, but the good news for the side is that all the three victories have come in the past five rounds. Excluding an embarrassing 123-point shellacking at the hands of St Mary’s a fortnight ago, the Warriors were able to knock off Tiwi Bombers, Wanders and Palmerston – albeit the three sides that are around them in the bottom four. The Warriors will need the likes of Kim Kantilla (19 goals) and Abe Ankers (16) to really fire, while Henry Kerinaiua and Matthew Blake have also been a consistent feature in the home side’s team this year. There is no doubting the task to try and knock off Southern Districts is massive, even outside the obvious top-end AFL talent. William Farrer (23 goals in eight games) is in terrific form, while Sam Barnett (17 goals) and Josiah Farrer (10 goals) are also among the key scorers. The Crocs will keep an eye on the earlier game, because if Darwin can topple St Mary’s, then Southern Districts can snatch second spot ahead of a well-earned break.

NIGHTCLIFF vs. PALMERSTON MAGPIES
Saturday, December 14, 7:00pm
TIO Stadium

In what is predicted to be the most one-sided contest of the weekend, bookend sides Nightcliff and Palmerston Magpies go head-to-head tomorrow night at TIO Stadium. The reigning premier Tigers are expected to make light work of the winless wooden spoon favourite Magpies, having already passed the test against Tiwi Bombers, Darwin Buffaloes and Southern Districts in the past month. Excluding a 25-point defeat at the hands of St Mary’s in Round 7, it is hard to find flaws in the Tigers’ premiership defence. The same cannot be said for Palmerston, with the Magpies clearly bottom with an 0-10 record and 26 per cent below the two lowest percentage sides. A fortnight ago the Magpies almost stunned finals-bound Darwin, but fell four points short, and the three games either side of that gallant effort saw a combined deficit of 199 points. Broderick Church has been the Magpies’ highest goal scorer this season with seven majors, alongside Nigel Lockyer Jnr who has only managed the three games. Keidan Holt-Tubbs has slotted six goals in seven games, whereas every other player has two or less. By comparison, Nightcliff has seven players in double-figure goals thus far. It is no surprise to see Trent Melville up the top of the list again with 20 goals from 10 games, and Cameron Illett (15 from nine) and Michael Bricknell (12 from 10) not far behind. Brodie Filo has also been a star in the six games he has played, booting 10 goals and named in the best four times. Kaine Riley will be one of the league best and fairest contenders, named in the Tigers’ best eight of a possible 10 times, while Daniel Bowles has also been consistent. For the Magpies, Jack Berry, Adam Diamond and Sandy Brock have earned the most plaudits from coaches, in what has been an otherwise disappointing start to the season. Neither side can move from its spot regardless of the result, but all signs point to Nightcliff in a fairly easy win here.

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