NIGHTCLIFF claimed a second consecutive Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Men’s Premier League premiership on Saturday night, defeating St Mary’s in a tense decider on the back of Trent Melville‘s five-goal haul. Melville took out the Chaney Medal for the player adjudged best afield, notching half of his side’s majors in the 10.13 (73) to 9.6 (60) triumph. The victory sees Nightcliff go from enduring 54 years without premiership success, to tasting it in back-to-back campaigns.
In a game described as an intense, four-quarter battle by Melville post-match, the Tigers were reigned in each time they looked to extend the lead and made to work for each goal while being tested in defence throughout. It came as no surprise given St Mary’s had beaten Nightcliff twice before this season – the only side to do so – and boast one of the best fly-in lists in the competition. Those recruits and some returning home grown talent helped the Saints soar from bottom in 2018/19 to runners-up this season, falling just short of what would have been an epic turnaround for the NT’s winningest club.
Coming in off a week off, the Saints were somewhat jumped by a hungry Tigers team, conceding the first two goals of the game but still managing to keep touch in a bruising finals initiation. But one of the Saints’ four Under 18s afield, Maurice Rioli Jnr hit back late in the first term to get the ball rolling for his side, and the game opened up slightly. It only lead to Nightcliff again winning the short battle with a four-goal to three second term, building a handy 17-point lead at the main break to put the Tigers in good stead.
Then it was St Mary’s turn to take over as the Saints doubled their goal tally in what looked like a game-saving third term, pouring on four majors to Nightcliff’s one to edge to within a goal at three-quarter time. The aerial presence of Jarrad Waite inside 50 proved crucial, with Jackson Calder the beneficiary of some of his smarts heading towards goal as both players hit the scoreboard. Needing to arrest the momentum, Nightcliff would see itself battle down to the wire to earn the flag its 17-1 regular season deserved.
In an exciting crescendo to the season, the Tigers rallied with three goals to one in the form of a true champion team, with all its recent NTFL finals experience shining through against the younger Saints side. The impact of those youngsters on both sides was still profound, with Rioli Jnr providing a spark and Braxton Ah Mat justifying his spot in the side for St Mary’s, while Ryan Mu booted two goals in an electric display in yellow and black. All the usual suspects stood up for Nightcliff too, with the criminally underrated Kaine Riley, James Tsitas, and Shaun Wilson all putting in shifts worth of best-on-ground recognition. We were promised a corker, and the two talent-rich sides well and truly delivered.
ST MARY’S 1.1 | 4.3 | 8.4 | 9.6 (60)
NIGHTCLIFF 2.3 | 6.8 | 7.12 | 10.13 (73)
St Mary’s: J. Calder 2, N. Paredes 2, J. Waite 2, S. Rioli, M. Rioli Jnr, J. Long.
Nightcliff: T. Melville 5, R. Mu 2, J. Butcher 2, M. Hagan.
St Mary’s: N/A
Nightcliff: T. Melville, S. Wilson, D. Bowles, B. Filo, N. Brown, M. Hagan
Chaney Medal: Trent Melville (Nightcliff)