THE 2020/21 Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Women’s league season is set to commence this weekend, with four huge matches coming up and Darwin Buffettes handed the first bye for the season. While last season saw Big River Hawks join the fray, the side will not field a team this season taking the tally back to nine teams playing across 18 rounds, with finals taking place at the end of February. We take a look at each of the NTFL Women’s teams and what to expect of them this season.
Round 1 will see three matches played this coming Saturday with Wanderers and St Mary’s opening proceedings, before Pint has the tough task of taking on the reigning premiers in Southern Districts. Next up, Nightcliff and Tracy Village will go head to head in the only night match of the fixture, while Sunday will see Waratah take on Palmerston Magpies in an intriguing battle given the two sides finished within the top three last season. Meanwhile, Darwin Buffettes have an extra week at their disposal, with the first bye of the season.
While the Warriors were the minor premiers in season 2019/20, they were just pipped at the post by Southern Districts in the grand final. Waratah had some exciting names in the mix, with both Lauren O’Shea (24 goals) and Jenna Singh (20) among the top five goalkickers, the side struggled with bouts of inaccuracy across a number of matches which inevitably saw the Warriors have some issues when they came up against other powerful forward-lines. Nevertheless, the Warriors will have a point to prove and were not minor premiers for no reason last season, making Waratah one to watch once more. Waratah has picked up Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s duo Danica Pedersen and Eliza Straford over the off-season, bolstering the side’s stocks.
The reigning premiers last season, Southern Districts were virtually unstoppable when they got going despite a few blips in the radar very early in the season when two wins were removed by default. That being said, there was no denying the Crocs were among the best in the competition, with leading goalkicker Ebony Miller kicking 61 majors across 17 outings – including two bags of 10 in Rounds 7 and 18. With very little going against the Districts last season, expect the Crocs to come out with a fire in the belly to replicate their premiership glory and go back-to-back.
A highly exciting side last season, the Magpies had plenty of firepower but did not always have the consistency they needed to get the job done. With 12 wins and five losses, the Magpies were rarely out of the contest with a flurry of goal kickers at their disposal with teenagers Arthurina Moreen (36 goals in 15 games) and Freda Puruntatameri (24 in 12) among the top five for the competition but both unable to string a full season together and ultimately still young players themselves. While the Magpies had some strong competitors among the troops last season, they will need a few more of those veteran players to step up and provide a spark when the young guns are well covered.
The Buffettes had an excellent start to the season before suffering against the top teams later but ultimately could not be underestimated with some very impressive youngsters among them last season. Another high firepower team, the Buffs put on some outstanding showings and, as a confidence side, managed an excellent winning rate once they got one on the board, stringing along consistent victories. The Buffettes very rarely faltered but when they did it was when it was least expected, meaning the side will want to lift that intensity and consistency to fire as much against the lower teams as the top ranked sides this season.
After a number of years at the bottom of the ladder, 2019/20 was Nightcliff’s season coming in at fifth on the ladder and coming away with a stellar nine wins and eight losses. While the side lost in the elimination final to the Buffettes, it was full credit to Nightcliff to making it to finals for the first time and showcasing some real up and coming talent in the side which helped lead them to victory. While they had a couple of shaky showings early in the season against the top sides, and some sloppy outings at the midway point, Nightcliff really hit their stride once they realised a potential finals berth was coming. They were strong competitors in just about every match bar a frustrating fixture which saw significant back-to-back losses in Rounds 16 and 17 against the top four Buffettes and Magpies.
A finals berth and subsequent semi-final last season is sure to put a bit of confidence into the Pint side heading into this season, with the Queen Ants challenging a few sides and, like many teams, only really coming off second best to the top teams. Even then, Pint continuously built in confidence to provide a chance at finals, making it through the elimination round despite all fingers pointing the other way and their great season was nipped in the bud by Waratah. Pint has picked up Williamstown’s Jacinta Reid to join a quartet of ex-Waratah names on their new-look list, with Amy Chittick, Gemma Cusack, Maddi Gissing and Bec Pryer all joining the Queen Ants in what could be a huge chance for the side to go one step further in 2020/21.
A solid season from the Wanderers saw them sit for much of the season in the middle of the mid-table logjam, and while they lost four of their last five matches, it was overall a competitive season from the Wanderers who were rarely defeated easily. While two of their wins came by default, the Wanderers consistently put competitive scorelines on the board and were fairly accurate at that, especially in the latter stage of the season when they tightened up out the front. That being said, improvements can be made in their ability to compete and really contest against the top sides, so will hope to put up a challenge this season to break through to finals contention, having just missed out by default given Pint’s draw with the Buffettes saw the Queen Ants steal sixth spot.
Inconsistency plagued St Mary’s in 2019/20, with a couple of impressive showings really challenging the top teams but then struggling other rounds in what could have been achievable wins. Like many other teams, St Mary’s did not cope well defensively when there were multiple forward targets within the opposition’s forward-line, making it tough for the side to stay in touch. That being said, St Mary’s were able to keep the scorelines relatively low throughout most of their effort – apart from the top teams – and almost always responded well on the scoreboard. St Mary’s is another team that has picked up a couple of Victorian players, with Williamstown pair Megan Williamson and Ash Melnikas and St Kilda AFL Women’s talent Claudia Whitfort joining the fray.
It is safe to say that season 2019/20 was a rough one for Tracy Village, with just two wins on the board – both technically against Big River Hawks, with the latter in Round 12 a win by default when the Hawks forfeited. Realistically, the Razorbacks just lacked the firepower out front to really challenge teams and struggled to compete against the top teams that had multiple targets up forward. This season will likely be another of rebuilding, and given the side suffered with inaccuracy inside 50 with 23 goals and 40 behinds for the season, they will want to adjust that ratio to challenge teams a bit more.