Author: Michael Alvaro

Credit: NT News

NTFL Men’s Premier League wrap: Round 6 – Stroobants stars in Warriors’ maiden win

WARATAH officially got on the board in Round 6 of the Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Men’s Premier League, winning out in a bottom three clash. Meanwhile, Wanderers took advantage of Darwin’s slip-up to jump into fourth place, while Nightcliff extended its gap at the top with another grinding win.

WARATAH 5.5 | 12.8 | 19.8 | 21.15 (141)
TIWI BOMBERS 3.4 | 7.5 | 13.7 | 15.8 (98)

GOALS:

Waratah: S. Stroobants 6, H. Kerinaiua 5, K. Kantilla 3, A. Ankers 3, J. Beugelaar 2, B. Carroll, B. Minkulk.
Tiwi: G. Cunningham 4, L. Wale-Buxton 3, D. Munkara 2, A. Wonaeamirri 2, R. Puruntatameri, J. Simon, J. Pupangamirri, H. Puruntatameri .

BEST:

Waratah: N/A
Tiwi: N/A

Steve Stroobants booted Waratah to its maiden official win in season 2019/20, kicking six goals in a high-scoring affair. The breakthrough win also saw the Warriors claim the Maurice Rioli Cup, with home fans treated to the entertaining 21.15 (141) to 15.8 (98) result.

Stroobants was joined by Henry Kerinaiua (five goals), Kim Kantilla (three), and Abe Ankers (three) in an impressive list of multiple goalkickers for Waratah, with influential skipper Brodie Carroll also finding the big sticks on one occasion. It was the same case for Tiwi as Gerrard Cunningham led the way with four majors, followed closely by bigman Liam Wale-Buxton (three), the zippy Dion Munkara (two) and ex-Dee Austin Wonaeamirri (two). Both sides were relatively on form inside forward 50, but Waratah’s 13 more scoring shots proved its higher rate of production.

An early three-goal buffer was the difference for most of the bout for Waratah, with the Warriors repeatedly breaking away and being reigned back in each term. The Bombers managed to boot the opening goals in quarters two and three and even cut the margin to just 14 points in the latter term through Wale-Buxton, but the hosts had all the answers and continued to pile on goals of their own throughout. A 7.0 to 6.2 third quarter was the showcase period of play for the game, highlighting the clinical scoring abilities of either side in the open contest.

Both sides find themselves stuck in the bottom three, one and two games adrift from the finals spots. Waratah will fancy its chances of further bridging the gap as it takes on a lowly Palmerston next time out, while Tiwi faces a tough ask in rebounding against the red-hot Southern Districts on Saturday afternoon.

NIGHTCLIFF 1.2 | 7.3 | 10.4 | 14.5 (89)
DARWIN BUFFALOES 3.2 | 6.6 | 8.9 | 9.12 (66)

GOALS:

Nightcliff: D. Joyce 4, M. Bricknell 2, C. Ilett 2, L. Sharp 2, K. Niki, B. Arnold, S. Wilson, T. Melville.
Darwin: D. Stafford 3, J. Stokes 2, S. Ahmat, A. Sambono, P. Boles, C. Williams.

BEST:

Nightcliff: J. Tsitas, K. Riley, D. Joyce, J. Budarick, D. Bowles, L. Holt-Fitz
Darwin: P. Boles, I. Seden-Kurnoth, D. Maymuru, C. Williams, D. Stafford

The Tye-Bonson Memorial Shield went to Nightcliff on Saturday as the Tigers found a way once again, beating Darwin by 23 points to keep their perfect record in tact. The reigning premiers built into the game well after a slow opener to lead at every other break in the 14.5 (89) to 9.12 (66) victory.

A six goals to three second stanza saw Nightcliff claim the lead at the main break, not looking back to almost mirror its score perfectly in the following half with a wealth of class in front of goal. The 14.5 effort was matched by sound defence too, with the Tigers not allowing the Buffs more than three goals in each term and keeping them to two in a tense third. As has constantly been the case, the undefeated side was better for longer and outlasted its opponent to salute for a sixth time in season 2019/20.

Nightcliff’s James Tsitas and Darwin’s Patrick Boles were recognised as best afield for their respective sides in the memorial match, both continuing solid runs of form in recent weeks. Speaking of, Kaine Riley and Liam Holt-Fitz were also named among the Tigers’ best half-dozen for the third consecutive game, while Dylan Joyce booted four goals and Cam Ilett backed up with another two. Adam Sambono only managed the one goal on return for Darwin as Daniel Stafford‘s three majors led the effort, with Chris Williams the only other goalkicker to also be named in the Buffs’ best.

The Tigers’ lead at the top was extended to six points as the previous top four all played off, also boasting 42 percentage points more than its nearest rival with third placed St Mary’s up next. Darwin will look to bounce back from sliding to fifth as it faces the new fourth place side, Wanderers on Saturday evening in what is sure to be a cracker.

PALMERSTON 2.5 | 2.5 | 4.7 | 7.9 (51)
WANDERERS 7.6 | 7.6 | 11.8 | 12.11 (83)

GOALS:

Palmerston: K. Holt-Tubbs 4, R. Marika, C. Timms, K. Groves.
Wanderers: B. Eddy 3, K. Smith Thompson 2, M. Cooper 2, K. Fejo 2, J. Jeffrey, R. Fejo, B. O’Connell.

BEST:

Palmerston: K. Holt-Tubbs, S. Brock, A. Lonergan, B. Launer, J. Berry, L. Dhurrkay
Wanderers: B. McLean, L. Dyer, C. Baird, K. Fejo, R. Fejo

Wanderers climbed into fourth with a comfortable 33-point win over Palmerston on the road to close out Saturday’s proceedings. Five of the Muk Muks’ goalkickers found the big sticks more than once as they simply had too much for the winless Magpies in the 7.9 (51) to 12.11 (83) result.

The lead was built early-doors as Wanderers zipped out to a 31-point buffer at the main break, looking every bit the finals-bound side. The Magpies had few answers as the battle wore on and could not bridge the gap enough as they continued to leak goals. The final score was prettied up by three late Palmerston majors, but the home side was still well adrift as the final siren sounded to put its sixth defeat in the books.

Keidan Holt-Tubbs was a shining light once again for the Magpies, booting over half of his side’s goals (four) in the loss to be named their best afield. Blake Launer was also among the best for the second time in three games, while the likes of Sandy Brock and Aaron Lonergan also stood up. For the Eagles, former-Port player Brett Eddy snared three goals on debut, but it was Braedon McLean who was named their best. Ronald and Keelan Fejo both found the goals and were influential, with youngsters Beau O’Connell and Joel Jeffrey also hitting the scoreboard.

Wanderers will look to lock down fourth spot next week as it takes on the newly removed Darwin in Round 7, while a bottom two clash beckons for Palmerston, presenting the Magpies’ another good opportunity to get on the board in recent weeks.

SOUTHERN DISTRICTS 6.1 | 7.2 | 11.7 | 12.9 (81)
ST MARY’S 4.2 | 5.3 | 5.5 | 10.9 (69)

GOALS:

Southern Districts: D. Barry 3, W. Farrer 3, E. Barlow 3, D. Williams, J. Farrer, S. Barnett.
St Mary’s: J. Calder 3, N. Paredes 2, J. Long, A. Parry, B. Slater, J. Long, S. Rioli.

BEST:

Southern Districts: E. Barlow, T. Holman, N. Rokahr, D. McLachlan, R. O’Brien, Z. Smith
St Mary’s: L. Larson, S. Rioli, N. Yarran, A. Hill, R. Smith, A. Parry

Southern Districts continued its surge up the NTFL ladder, overcoming fellow finals hopefuls St Mary’s by 12 points in Sunday’s lone fixture. The 12.9 (81) to 10.9 (69) scoreline did justice to the closeness of the bout, with one dominant period for the Crocs enough to see them over the line and into second place.

A trio of Crocs – Dylan Barry, Will Farrer, and Ed Barlow – each claimed a hat-trick of goals to lead the winning effort, with Barlow the sole multiple goalkicker to also feature among the best. Dylan McLachlan and Zach Smith continued their good runs of form to also be thereabouts, while Nikolaus Rokahr bobbed up in the best for the second time in three games. For St Mary’s, Jackson Calder was the only player to hit three goals in a more even scoring spread, with Nate Paredes the only other multiple goalkicker. Shannon Rioli pitched in with an important major and was named among the best with Nicholas Yarran, but both were behind Leroy Larson as the Saints’ most influential player.

While the Crocs’ fast start set up a two-goal buffer which they would hold for much of the match, a four-goal to nil third term made all the difference in setting up the win. With the four points all but beyond them, the Saints finished the better of the two sides but left too much for too late as they fell by that telling two-goal margin.

St Mary’s will have to back up with another top four clash in Round 7 as the undefeated Nightcliff awaits, with a win crucial to keep within touch of the Tigers. Meanwhile, the Crocs will fancy their chances of a fifth consecutive win as they face Tiwi next time out and look to take advantage of the St Mary’s/Nightcliff result.

2020 AFL Women’s Academy Announced

THE 2020 AFL Women’s Academy was announced yesterday, with Victoria metropolitan regions continuing their dominance in contributing to the nation’s high-end talent pool in the biggest intake yet. As is the standard, the Academy is split into Level 1 (Under-17) and Level 2 (Under-18) squads, with each state and territory having at least one representative across the 52 players chosen.

NSW/ACT, Queensland, and Western Australia each have four members in the top-age Level 2 Academy, headlined by the likes of Abby Favell (Murray Bushrangers/NSW/ACT), Zimmorlei Farquharson (Calamvale/Yeronga/QLD), and Mikayla Morrison (East Perth Royals/WA), while South Adelaide pair Teah Charlton and Indy Tahau are South Australia’s representatives, and Stephanie Williams (Darwin Buffaloes) is the lone Northern Territory selection.

Northern Knights’ undefeated premiership season has translated to contributing four of the 12 Vic Metro members, with early first pick contender Ellie McKenzie leading the pack. Sandringham had two products picked, while Eastern and Oakleigh had two each and Isabelle Pritchard was the lone Western Jet to get a nod. Eight Vic Country representatives also made the squad, with a trio of Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels leading the line from a Geelong Falcons pairing and single selections from Dandenong, Murray and Gippsland.

The Level 1 squad features four representatives each from Queensland, Vic Metro, and Vic Country, with 2019 NAB League best and fairest winner Georgie Prespakis (Calder) headlining the list from the likes of Cannons teammate Tahlia Gillard and Tara Slender. Queenslander Tegan Levi (Broadbeach) joins sister Maddison (Level 2) in the academy, while Charlie Rowbottom (Oakleigh) – sister of Sydney’s James – also makes the list. Promising Tasmanian Amy Prokopiec (Clarence) is her state’s sole selection, with Ally Morphett (Murray Bushrangers) the same for NSW/ACT, and Zoe Prowse (Sturt) for South Australia, while Western Australia has two representatives.

Academy members will all have the chance to train with AFLW clubs across December and January, while also attending high performance training camps in January, April, and August.

Level 2 Squad:

Tarni Evans Queanbeyan Tigers NSW/ACT
Abby Favell Murray Bushrangers NSW/ACT
Emily Pease Belconnen Magpies NSW/ACT
Jayde Hamilton Queanbeyan Tigers NSW/ACT
Stephanie Williams Darwin Buffaloes NT
Annise Bradfield Southport QLD
Zimmorlei Farquharson Calamvale/Yeronga QLD
Daisy D’Arcy Hermit Park QLD
Maddison Levi Bond University QLD
Teah Charlton South Adelaide SA
Indy Tahau South Adelaide SA
Tyanna Smith Dandenong Stingrays Vic Country
Darcy Moloney Geelong Falcons Vic Country
Laura Gardiner Geelong Falcons Vic Country
Maggie Caris GWV Rebels Vic Country
Isabella Simmons GWV Rebels Vic Country
Renee Saulitis GWV Rebels Vic Country
Olivia Barber Murray Bushrangers Vic Country
Megan Fitzsimon Gippsland Power Vic Country
Alyssa Bannan Northern Knights Vic Metro
Tarni Brown Eastern Ranges Vic Metro
Alice Burke Sandringham Dragons Vic Metro
Jessica Fitzgerald Northern Knights Vic Metro
Sarah Hartwig Sandringham Dragons Vic Metro
Mimi Hill Oakleigh Chargers Vic Metro
Ellie McKenzie Northern Knights Vic Metro
Olivia Meagher Eastern Ranges Vic Metro
Isabelle Pritchard Western Jets Vic Metro
Joanna Lin Oakleigh Chargers Vic Metro
Isabella Eddey Sandringham Dragons Vic Metro
Maeve Chaplin Northern Knights Vic Metro
Sarah Verrier Peel Thunder WA
Shanae Davison Swan Districts WA
Isabella Lewis Claremont Tigers WA
Mikayla Morrison East Perth Royals WA

Level 1 Squad:

Amy Prokopiec Clarence TAS
Ally Morphett Murray Bushrangers NSWACT
Teagan Levi Broadbeach QLD
Bella Smith Maroochydore QLD
Maggie Harmer Maroochydore QLD
Mikayla Pauga Maroochydore QLD
Zoe Prowse Sturt SA
Tara Slender Bendigo Pioneers Vic Country
Nyakoat Dojiok GWV Rebels Vic Country
Ella Friend GWV Rebels Vic Country
Jaide Anthony Dandenong Stingrays Vic Country
Tahlia Gillard Calder Cannons Vic Metro
Georgie Prespakis Calder Cannons Vic Metro
Charlie Rowbottom Oakleigh Chargers Vic Metro
Maykaylah Appleby Northern Knights Vic Metro
Charlotte Thomas Subiaco Lions WA
Courtney Rowley Peel Thunder WA

NTFL Men’s Premier League preview: Round 6 – Sambono returns as top four square off

FOUR different venues host each game in Round 6 of the Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Men’s Premier League, with fixtures between the top four sides headlining what is set to be a cracking weekend of football.

WARATAH (7th, 0-5, 55%) v. TIWI BOMBERS (6th, 2-3, 72%)
Saturday November 9, 2:30pm
Gardens Oval

A bottom three clash opens Round 6 as the winless Waratah hosts Tiwi at Gardens Oval on Saturday afternoon. Despite putting up competitive efforts in most games thus far, including a win which was later revoked, the Warriors are one of two sides languishing without any premiership points after a handful of efforts. Missing key talent and the former-AFL firepower of others, it has been a tough initiation to season 2019/20 for Waratah. But that could all change with a win over the Bombers, who are looking to build a win streak and break into the top five. Much-hyped coming into the season, Tiwi has been a touch lacklustre thus far but still provided two highlights for the year in each of its two wins – beating rivals St Mary’s in a high-scoring thriller and having Cyril Rioli Jnr make his long=awaited return last week.

The Bombers’ hopes of another headline win will be made difficult by Waratah’s likely inclusions, with key players Abe Ankers and Steve Stroobants joining Brodie Carroll and Henry Kerinaiua in the side to give the Warriors plenty of forward drive. The Bombers have not named Rioli after his to-plan debut, but Victorian Charlie Molyneux looks like being a handy replacement in midfield. There are still plenty of stars in the side in any case, with the likes of Adam Tipungwuti, Nathan Djerrkura, and Austin Wonaeamirri providing class on each line. Youngsters Jeffrey Simon and Preyben Tipiloura also keep their spots, giving the Bombers plenty of flair.

It is hard to look past the Bombers on paper, but their unpredictable nature against Waratah’s more consistent base makes this clash one which should be close.

NIGHTCLIFF (1st, 5-0, 185%) v. DARWIN BUFFALOES (4th, 3-2, 169%)
Saturday November 9, 4:00pm
PSC BM Oval

Ladder leader Nightcliff plays host to Darwin at PSC BM Oval on Saturday twilight in the first of two mouth-watering top four bouts. The Tigers’ premiership defence has been near-faultless thus far, notching an impressing 5-0 record having dispatched of each opponent to come their way. While you can only beat who is put in front of you, wins over the bottom two sides coming into this clash does not make for an ideal run-in to such a high stakes game, but more testing wins over finals hopefuls Wanderers and Southern Districts should put Nightcliff in good stead nonetheless. On the other hand, Darwin’s promising start has since hit a couple of road blocks, and the Buffs are lucky to still hold their positive record. Last week’s heartbreaking loss to Southern Districts will be fresh in the memory, with Darwin raring to go as some key players return.

Adam Sambono is the most notable inclusion for Darwin, named at full forward for his first game back after a 12-goal haul in Round 1. With Joe Anderson and Brayden Culhane named in the same forward 50, Darwin all of a sudden looks more like the attacking powerhouse it has been of late. Goalsneak Trent Melville will look to lead Nightcliff’s effort to outgun the Buffs after a four-goal effort last time out, especially with Brodie Filo left unnamed. Kaine Riley has been in good form further afield, with NT stalwart Cam Ilett and VFL-listed James Tsitas others who will be important to the cause.

The Tigers have undeniable class across the field and are the team to beat overall, but do not discount the Buffaloes in this clash given the boosts made to their forward half.

PALMERSTON (8th, 0-5, 51%) v. WANDERERS (5th, 2-2-1, 86%)
Saturday November 9, 5:00pm
Palmerston Oval

Wanderers will look to keep clear of the chasing pack with a win as it travels to face Palmerston on Saturday evening. The Muk Muks are yet to string consecutive wins together, but have shown plenty of promise with their young list and will look to notch a third win against their third bottom-three opponent in Palmerston. On the other hand, the winless Magpies had their hearts broken last week as they gave up a five-goal buffer to lose in a count-back to Tiwi last week. Their slimmest losing margin to that point was 30 points, with heavy losses coming in Rounds 3 and 4 and the gulf in class evident. But last week’s effort will leave the fire burning for Palmerston, and the opportunity to play spoiler awaits.

The Magpies’ spine is bookended by Nigel Lockyer Jnr and Ezekiel Frank, with the pair looking to prop up a side which is set to go in without the class of former-AFL jets Alwyn and Aaron Davey at ground level. The Eagles will have no such worries in that department as ex-Port player Brett Eddy comes into the lineup, surrounded by young excitement machines in Joel Jeffrey, Ronald Fejo, Tyrell Lui and Beau O’Connell in a side slightly short on pure talls.

Waratah’s young talent has gotten them through a couple of real tests thus far, and they will need to be switched on to come out on top in a clash they are expected to win. Palmerston should give it a proper crack though, especially with a bottom two clash just around the corner.

SOUTHERN DISTRICTS (3rd, 3-1-1, 139%) v. ST MARY’S (2nd, 4-1, 131%)
Sunday November 10, 4:00pm
Norbuilt Oval

Arguably the game of the round will be left until last as Southern Districts hosts St Mary’s at Norbuilt Oval in Sunday’s only fixture. The Crocs are rising after four undefeated rounds, scraping home by three points over fellow finals hopeful, Darwin in Round 5. Having only gone down to the 5-0 Nightcliff, this game will give neutrals an idea of whether Southern Districts will be the reigning premier’s nearest challenger. The Saints technically hold that mantle at this stage as they sit in second spot at 4-1, with a surprise loss to Tiwi splitting those wins. This will be St Mary’s third-straight bout against a top five opponent having won comfortably in the last two weeks against solid opposition.

The Crocs’ ability to kick big scores has started to come back into the fray of late, with South Australian Sam Barnett providing a focal point for the likes of Ed Barlow and Dylan McLachlan to hit up from further afield. Add the dangerous Beau Schwarze and Will Farrer to the mix and Southern Districts boasts a strong forward 50 once again this week. But if any side can claim having class on each line, it is St Mary’s, and the Saints have seldom been overwhelmed thus far. Possessing weapons of their own in the form of Raphael Clarke, Jake Long, Nick Yarran, and Nate Paredes, the visitors will bring so much valuable experience to Sunday’s clash.

The Saints have improved out of sight since last year and the Crocs are only just reaching that level again, so expect them to meet somewhere in the middle and provide an entertaining game of football.

NTFL Men’s Premier League wrap: Round 5 – Cyril stars in Tiwi Islands thriller

CYRIL RIOLI‘s fairytale return hallmarked a dramatic round of Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Men’s Premier League action, with the former Hawthorn star attracting all eyes to Bathurst Island on Saturday afternoon. Elsewhere, Southern Districts leapfrogged Darwin, while finals hopefuls St Mary’s and Nightcliff both won handily.

SOUTHERN DISTRICTS 4.0 | 5.3 | 7.4 | 10.6 (66)
DARWIN BUFFALOES 5.3 | 5.5 | 7.8 | 9.9 (63)

GOALS:

Southern Districts: W. Farrer 3, D. McLachlan 2, B. Schwarze 2, J. Clarke, J. Farrer, S. Barnett.
Darwin: D. Stafford 2, J. Anderson, A. Stokes, T. Eldridge, M. Quinn, J. Stokes, C. Williams, P. Boles.

BEST:

Southern Districts: D. McLachlan, N. Horbury, D. Williams, Z. Smith, B. Lake, K. Dingo
Darwin: P. Campbell, D. Maymuru, S. Tahana, M. Quinn, P. Boles

Southern Districts claimed a dramatic three-point win in the Round 5 opener to leapfrog Darwin into third place. The Crocs fought back from trailing narrowly at every break to clinch the lead when it mattered most to clinch the 10.6 (66) to 9.9 (63) victory.

A high-scoring first term saw nine goals scored, but was levelled by a one-goal second term where Southern Districts claimed the sole major. The Buffs’ two-point half-time lead doubled out to four heading into the final turn, but was not enough as the surging Crocs ran home with three goals to two to snatch the spirited win.

Southern Districts’ William Farrer led the goalkicking stakes with a game-high three majors, followed by best-afield player Dylan McLachlan and Beau Schwarze (both two). That feat was matched by Daniel Stafford for Darwin, who was his side’s sole multiple goalkicker. Paul Campbell was named the Buffaloes’ best alongside the consistent figures of Mark Quinn and Patrick Boles, while the less heralded lights of Nathan Horbury and Damian Williams joined Brodie Lake and Keegan Dingo in the Crocs’ best six.

Both sides will go on to face fellow top four opponents next time out in what looms as an exciting round, with Southern Districts poised to face St Mary’s, while the Buffs are set to do battle with the undefeated Nightcliff Tigers.

TIWI BOMBERS 4.0 | 4.2 | 6.5 | 11.13 (79)
PALMERSTON MAGPIES 2.1 | 6.4 | 10.5 | 12.5 (77)

GOALS:

Tiwi: J. Best 3, M. Kantilla 2, H. Puruntatameri, P. Tipiloura, T. Tambling, P. Heenan, A. Darcy, C. Rioli.
Palmerston: N/A.

BEST:

Tiwi: C. Jones, H. Puruntatameri, A. Tipungwuti, D. McLinden, W. Stuart, J. Puruntatameri
Palmerston: N/A

A last gasp Rioli goal helped Tiwi claim a miraculous come-from-behind win over Palmerston on Bathurst Island, keeping Palmerston winless. The Magpies looked on track to break their duck in wet conditions, but had their hearts broken as the Bombers crawled into the lead with a last minute behind to make it 11.13 (79) to 12.5 (77).

There was a touch of drama as the scoreboard read 12.6 (88) apiece, but a recount ensured Tiwi got the four points and the home crowd went away happy. It came after Palmerston had controlled much of the middle period of the game, breaking ahead to the tune of over two goals in the second term amid wet conditions. But the eventual 24-point three quarter time buffer was mown down with help from Rioli and co. as the Bombers finally clicked back into gear to claim the unlikely result.

Jake Best snared another bag of three goals, joined by Matthew Kantilla as the Bombers’ sole multiple goalkickers, with Christopher Jones named their best afield. Harley and Jason Puruntatameri joined Adam Tipungwuti as consistent figures to also make up the Tiwi best six. Steven Lorenzo was lively up forward alongside the influential Keidan Holt-Tubbs with multiple goals in the second term, while ruckman Matthew Dennis was one Magpie who impacted around the ground and Aaron Davey starred with his ball use going forward.

Palmerston’s search for win number one heads home to Palmerston Oval next time out, while Tiwi will look to continue its upward trend when it clashes with the league’s other winless team, Waratah in Round 6.

WANDERERS 2.1 | 3.3 | 4.5 | 8.7 (55)
ST MARY’S 4.3 | 5.6 | 8.8 | 12.9 (81)

GOALS:

Wanderers: J. Jeffrey 4, D. Ferreira 3, E. Colley.
St Mary’s: D. Johnstone 4, T. Gilbert 2, N. Paredes, R. Clarke, W. Hams, J. Cullen, B. Slater, L. Larson.

BEST:

Wanderers: N. Sedgwick, J. Jeffrey, D. Weetra, B. McLean, W. Williams
St Mary’s: W. Hams, R. Clarke, N. Yarran, T. Davies, T. Gilbert, L. Larson

St Mary’s stamped its authority as a genuine premiership contender with a 26-point win over fifth-place Wanderers at TIO Stadium. The Saints were simply better for longer in the 12.9 (81) to 8.7 (55) result, leading at every break on the back of their superior depth.

A one goal apiece second quarter was the only stanza where St Mary’s failed to notch at least three majors, with consistent scoring matching an equally shrewd defensive effort for most of the contest. The Eagles managed to tick over a few consolation goals late in the piece as the sides shared eight goals evenly to close out the game, but were ultimately outgunned and lacked the same range of threats going forward.

The ex-AFL class of Will Hams and Raphael Clarke again proved telling alongside the run of Nicholas Yarran, while Thomas Davies and Tom Gilbert both continued their runs of form to be named among the best. Dylan Johnstone booted four goals to lead the Saints’ line, with prodigious talent Joel Jeffrey matching the feat for Wanderers. Davin Ferreira chimed in with three as the Muk Muks’ only other real goal threat, but both were beaten out to best-afield honours by Nicholas Sedgwick in the loss.

Wanderers will look to rebound against last-placed Palmerston on the road in Round 6, fancying its chances of maintaining a gap in the last finals spot. Meanwhile, St Mary’s is set for a proper test as it readies to face Southern Districts at Norbuilt Oval in what will be a real eight-pointer.

WARATAH 6.1 | 8.3 | 9.6 | 9.6 (60)
NIGHTCLIFF 5.5 | 8.9 | 12.10 | 16.13 (109)

GOALS:

Waratah: N/A
Nightcliff: T. Melville 4, B. Filo 3, L. Holt-Fitz 2, L. Sharp 2, M. Hagan, P. Wills, S. Wilson, J. Kickett, C. Ilett

BEST:

Waratah: N/A
Nightcliff: C. Ilett, L. Holt-Fitz, T. Melville, K. Riley, J. Budarick, B. Filo

A big second half effort helped Nightcliff maintain its perfect record with a 49-point win over Waratah to round out the weekend’s action. The Tigers’ roaring finish was another reminder of their credentials, with the 16.13 (109) to 9.6 (60) result looking easy in the end.

Waratah found themselves ahead after a high-scoring bolt from the blocks from both sides, booting six goals to five in the opening term. The Warriors were pegged back quickly though as Nightcliff took the lead heading into half-time and never looked back, sealing the win with eight goals to one after the main break in a big scoring effort.

Trent Melville was one of the stars of the show, booting four goals and taking an eye-catching hanger to lead the Tigers’ charge alongside Brodie Filo (three goals), Liam Holt-Fitz (two), and Lachlan Sharp (two). Stalwart Cam Ilett beat them all out to best-afield honours though, with Kaine Riley and Joel Budarick also getting among the action without finding the goals. Jae McGrath and Henry Kerinaiua resumed their dangerous partnership up forward, but could not spark the Warriors for long enough as they eventually fell away.

The winless Warriors could fancy a breakthrough win over fellow bottom three side Tiwi at home next week, while Nightcliff hosts Darwin in what should be a ripping clash between two finals hopefuls.

NTFL Men’s Premier League preview: Round 5 – Rioli to make long-awaited debut

TWO games with top five implications take place in Round 5 of the Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Men’s Premier League, as the competition table starts to take shape. A clash between Tiwi and Palmerston also sees teams outside of the finals spots given a chance to begin their game of catch-up in the race for finals.

SOUTHERN DISTRICTS (4th, 2-1-1, 146%) vs. DARWIN BUFFALOES (2nd, 3-1, 194%)
Friday November 1, 7:00pm
TIO Stadium

Two sides in rising and falling form respectively meet as Southern Districts and Darwin Buffaloes open Round 5 under Friday night lights. While technically 3-1 on the offical NTFL standings, the Buffs have entered a sudden skid after making an ominous start to the season, going down in consecutive weeks. Still sitting pretty in second on the back of a forfeit win, Darwin’s spot could be relinquished with a loss given Southern Districts sits just half a game behind the 3-1 Buffs and St Mary’s. The Crocs look to have found their groove after a slow start which saw them drop points to reigning premier Nightcliff and an exciting Wanderers unit, catching up immediately with wins by a combined 135 points.

They will be as strong as in previous weeks, going in again with the pairing of Ed and Michael Barlow through midfield and with in-form key forward Sam Barnett providing the focal point inside 50. The likes of Brodie Lake, Charlie McAdam and Jayden Clarke all have class to offer on each line too, making the Crocs as formidable as any side. The Buffs will be lifted by the return of Joe Anderson, who slots in at centre half-forward on the team sheet, looking to provide inspiration alongside dangerous young goalkicker Brayden Culhane. Either side is enduring very different form coming into the clash, with Southern Districts the team looking to pounce on a potential top two berth.

TIWI BOMBERS (6th, 1-3, 67%) vs. PALMERSTON MAGPIES (8th, 0-4, 43%)
Saturday November 2, 1:30pm
Tiwi Oval

A chance to start catching the leading pack is up for grabs as Tiwi and Palmerston do battle in a stand-alone game at Tiwi Oval on Saturday. There was reasonable hype surrounding the Bombers coming into season 2019/20, but they have failed to delivery as consistently as they would have liked given the talent at their disposal each week. The draw has not done them any favours though, facing every top five side bar Southern Districts thus far and doing well – outgunning St Mary’s in an absolute shootout but going down handily otherwise. The Magpies’ formline is much more linear, albeit far less fruitful too, with a smallest losing margin of 30 points telling the tale of their season. The gap in firepower between the two sides here stands as being the most telling factor, with Tiwi looking to get the swoop on the Magpies with a big score.

Former Hawthorn star and Tiwi favourite son Cyril Rioli is set to make his long-awaited return to the islands, named on the wing in a stacked Bombers lineup. He adds to the ex-AFL experience of Nathan Djerrkura with Austin Wonaeamirri absent, and will look to set an example for Under-18 stars Jeffrey Simon and Preyben Tipiloura. The Magpies have a couple of handy additions of their own, naming Aaron Davey in defence, Nigel Lockyer Jnr up forward, and Matthew Dennis in the ruck after a rare week off. The high-scoring potential of Tiwi should give Palmerston a few headaches, but the Magpies need to lift fast if they are any chance to climb the ladder.

WANDERERS (5th, 2-1-1, 90%) vs. ST MARY’S (3rd, 3-1, 128%)
Saturday November 2, 2:30pm
TIO Stadium

The second top five clash of the round sees Wanderers take on St Mary’s at TIO Stadium in what shapes as being the game of the weekend. A beefed up Saints squad has taken to the 2019/20 campaign with aplomb, only losing out to rivals Tiwi but getting back on the winners list last time out. Wanderers looks like being their biggest test yet though, with wins over bottom-two teams Palmerston and Waratah prettying up that 3-1 record. The Muk Muks have compiled a decent run of form of their own, only dropping points to 2018/19 grand finalists Nightcliff and Southern Districts to this point. Their youthful exuberance has put them in good stead, making for exciting contests and dare that is hard to come by in more experienced teams. That experience is something St Mary’s has in spades, coming of late from some former AFL guns.

Young talent is the Eagles’ theme once again, with Beau O’Connell boosting an exciting lineup which features the likes of Joel Jeffrey and Davin Ferreira. Former-Sun Liam Patrick is another welcome addition to the forward 50, possibly pushing Jeffrey up the ground. While the Saints will momentarily lose Jarrad Waite, they maintain a level of AFL experience with Will Hams named in midfield. Nick Yarran will look to move into the engine room with a trio of Longs named in defence, while young prospect Keiren Parnell is set to provide dash off the wing. These are two of the more enjoyable sides to watch and look evenly matched on paper, but expect St Mary’s raft of experience to play a key part in deciding this contest.

WARATAH (7th, 0-4, 55%) vs. NIGHTCLIFF (1st, 4-0, 185%)
Sunday November 3, 4:00pm
Gardens Oval

Waratah will hope its ‘0’ will finally go as it hosts reigning premier Nightcliff at Gardens Oval in Sunday’s only fixture. The Warriors’ breakthrough win over Darwin was revoked, meaning they join Palmerston as one of two winless sides after four rounds. The game of catch-up, if not hard enough at 0-4, will be made even more difficult in the face of Nightcliff’s form. The undefeated Tigers have given little to each of their opponents thus far while also booting over 119 points in three of their four outings. It means they are again the team to beat at this early stage, already overcoming two top five sides in relatively comfortable fashion.

Abe Ankers‘ continued absence will make the job even tougher for Waratah, with Brodie Carroll and Michael Graham looking to fill the void through midfield. The in-form Jae McGrath will have to carry an even heavier load too, as ex-VFL forward Steve Stroobants has not been named. While not at full strength, the Tigers still have no shortage of firepower to rotate forward from midfield as they look to keep their perfect premiership defence record in tact. It is hard to look past Nightcliff in any game, but the Warriors should put up a good fight here against the odds.

NTFL Men’s Premier League wrap: Round 4 – Tigers remain unbeaten

NIGHTCLIFF remains the sole undefeated side after four Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Men’s Premier League rounds, while Palmerston and Waratah continue to search for their first wins. Elsewhere, St Mary’s put Darwin’s first official loss on the board in the weekend’s only top five clash.

SOUTHERN DISTRICTS 7.2 | 9.5 | 13.10 | 16.13 (109)
WARATAH 3.1 | 7.3 | 9.3 | 10.7 (67)

GOALS:

Southern Districts: S. Barnett 2, B. Dawe 2, S. Stewart 2, R. Owen-Skender, D. McLachlan, J. Farrer, W. Farrer, L. Ogden, B. Ngalkin, J. Clarke, T. Brook, B. Schwarze, D. Williams
Waratah: J. McGrath 4, S. Stroobants 3, J. Fallon, M. Graham, J. Schaper

BEST:

Southern Districts: N/A
Waratah: N/A

Southern Districts continued its work into form, outlasting Waratah to win by 42 points in the Round 4 opener. The Crocs stayed strong under a couple of Waratah surges, keeping ahead at every break in the 16.13 (109) to 10.7 (67) result.

A deadly 10-minute spurt in the first term proved more than the difference for Southern Districts, with an impressive seven individual goalkickers getting on the board in the second half of the opening term. The goals somewhat dried up after that as Steve Stroobants chimed in to bring the margin back to seven points in the next stanza, only to see the Crocs run away with the game comfortably amid 34-degree heat. Ultimately, it was Waratah’s lack of options which cost them dearly as Southern Districts’ brigade of dangerous forwards helping themselves to 29 scoring shots.

Norwood products Sam Barnett and Brady Dawe teamed up to snare two goals apiece for the winners, with Barnett’s repeat leads and high marking impressing the Aboriginal TV Channel 4 crew. At ground level, it was the likes of Josiah Farrer, Beau Schwarze and a bandaged Jayden Clarke who compounded the damage throughout, while ex-Sun and Docker Michael Barlow enjoyed a steady entry into the NTFL through midfield. For Waratah, Stroobants was superb with his three goals, giving the Warriors a sniff heading into half time. He was beaten out by Jae McGrath‘s game-high four goals though, accounting for seven of their side’s 10 majors.

Next up for the surging Crocs is a grudge match against the Darwin Buffaloes, who suffered their first official loss this weekend. Meanwhile, Waratah’s search for a first official win heads to Gardens Oval as the Warriors play host to an unbeaten Nightcliff.

ST MARY’S 4.4 | 6.6 | 10.10 | 12.12 (84)
DARWIN BUFFALOES 1.0 | 7.1 | 7.3 | 9.8 (62)

GOALS:

St Mary’s: J. Waite 3, R. Clarke 3, N. Paredes 2, N. Yarran 2, L. Larson, A. Parry
Darwin: B. Culhane 5, T. Swan, S. Tahana, P. Boles, D. Stafford

BEST:

St Mary’s: D. Armitage, J. Waite, T. Gilbert, R. Clarke, J. Long, T. Davies
Darwin: C. Stokes, P. Boles, B. Culhane, D. Lines, M. Quinn, S. Tahana

Second time proved a charm in consigning Darwin to its first loss, as St Mary’s bettered the Buffs by 22 points on Saturday. The Saints were consistent throughout, with a four-goal to nil third term proving the key period as they ran out 12.12 (84) to 9.8 (62) winners.

St Mary’s maintained a satisfyingly linear scoreline, booting 4.4 in the first and third terms while adding 2.2 in the second and fourth to end at an even 12.12. Former-St Kilda duo Raphael Clarke and David Armitage were outstanding for the Saints, with Clarke notching three goals alongside ex-Roo and Blue Jarrad Waite, while Armitage earned best afield honours from midfield. The usual suspects of Nicholas Yarran and Nate Paredes were impactful, each finding the goals to go with their damaging forward run. New recruit Tom Gilbert also worked into the team well, named among the best handful for St Mary’s.

For the now 3-1 Darwin, young forward star Brayden Culhane kicked his second big bag for the year (five) as the Buffs’ main treat, with only four of his teammates also finding the goals. The likes of Cameron Stokes and Patrick Boles provided their usual output after Darwin’s slow start, but the team as a whole could not keep it going for long enough as St Mary’s capitalised on quiet patches. Others to impress were Mark Quinn and Stephen Tahana, but the Buffs were sorely missing a bit of spark to get them going against the much-improved Saints.

Darwin’s attempt to rebound will come against Southern Districts, a tough ask for any side at the moment, while St Mary’s faces Wanderers in a battle of two very exciting teams vying for finals berths.

WANDERERS 1.3 | 7.5 | 9.8 | 10.12 (72)
TIWI BOMBERS 4.3 | 5.6 | 7.8 | 8.10 (58)

GOALS:

Wanderers: S. Bates 2, M. Cooper 2, J. Jeffrey 2, M. Motlop, D. Thompson, J. Tipiloura, D. Weetra
Tiwi: G. Cunningham 2, R. Tungatalum 2, J. Simon, J. Best, P. Heenan, D. Munkara

BEST:

Wanderers: N/A
Tiwi: J. Puruntatameri, N. Djerrkura, R. Baird, B. Palipuaminni, S. Babui, L. Howe

Wanderers brought Tiwi back down to Earth in Round 4, grinding out a 14-point win on Saturday night to stay clear in the top five. The Bombers started better, but were outdone for the remaining three terms as they went down 10.12 (72) to 8.10 (58).

Exuberance of youth has been a key asset of the Eagles’ resurgence, and Michael Cooper was this time at the forefront as he earned the Round 4 Rising Star nod for his two-goal effort. Under-17 gun Joel Jeffrey needs no introduction, and he matched Cooper’s effort alongside Simon Bates to lead the winners’ forward charge. Overcoming a slowish start, the Muk Muks booted six goals to one in the second term to claim the lead, never looking back in what was an arm-wrestle of a second half with both sides only managing three goals apiece.

Jason Puruntatameri and ex-Cat Nathan Djerrkura were again outstanding for Tiwi, with Rodney Baird one to also stand up in the loss and Sylvani Babui returning his best outing for the year. Gerrard Cunningham booted two majors to take his tally to eight in three games, while Ross Tungatalum also found the goals twice to round out the multiple goalkickers. It was a down display from the Bombers against an equally-promising side in Wanderers, with ground still to make up outside of the top five as they fall six points behind the pack.

Another night game is in the midst for Wanderers, with the Eagles’ fixture against St Mary’s in Round 5 shaping as being the most exciting of the weekend. The Bombers will fancy their chances of bouncing back against the winless Palmerston, but cannot take anything for granted in their current position.

NIGHTCLIFF 2.5 | 8.7 | 13.13 | 19.18 (132)
PALMERSTON MAGPIES 2.1 | 3.4 | 3.5 | 4.7 (31)

GOALS:

Nightcliff: C. Ilett 4, L. Evans 3, T. Melville 3, M. Hagan 3, J. Kickett 2, L. Holt-Fitz 2, D. Bowles, G. Moniz Wakefield
Palmerston: N/A

BEST:

Nightcliff: T. Kidney, D. Bowles, M. Hagan, K. Riley, L. Holt-Fitz, C. Ilett
Palmerston: N/A

Nightcliff’s perfect premiership defence rolls on as it recorded a thumping 101-point win over Palmerston on Sunday to round out the weekend’s proceedings. The Tigers booted at least five goals in each of the last three terms to romp to the 19.18 (132) to 4.7 (31) result, proving far too strong for the winless Magpies.

It was not always smooth sailing for the Tigers though, only managing to etch out a four-point lead at the first break as the sides evenly shared four majors. But it was party time from then-on as Nightcliff piled on 17 goals to Palmerston’s two to breach the 100-point margin upon the final siren. The heavy loss sees Palmerston languishing in last place with a percentage of 43.1, joined by Waratah after the Warriors’ Round 3 win was revoked.

NT legend Cam Ilett was again terrific with a game-high four goals – equalling the Magpies’ tally – joined in the best handful of players by fellow goalkickers Michael Hagan (three) and Liam Holt-Fitz (two) in the best among six Tigers to find the goals on more than one occasion. Tyson Kidney, Daniel Bowles and Kaine Riley all again put in big performances to continue their form, while Trent Melville bagged three majors in his standout game for the season thus far.

Palmerston’s campaign to get on the board continues in Round 5 against fellow bottom-three side Tiwi, while Nightcliff will look to keep its distance at the top and remain undefeated when it travels to face another winless side in Waratah.

NTFL Men’s Premier League preview: Round 4 – Saints and Buffs headline TIO triple-header

FINALS contenders St Mary’s and Darwin are set to provide the sole top five clash in Round 4 of the Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Men’s Premier League. The game headlines what will be a big day of action at TIO Stadium as a triple-header awaits.

SOUTHERN DISTRICTS vs. WARATAH
Saturday October 26, 2:30pm
TIO Stadium

Waratah will again look to secure its first official win of the season, but it will prove a tough ask against a Southern Districts side finding its groove. While the Warriors soundly beat Darwin on-field last week, they were stripped of the four points and relegated back down to seventh mid-week after fielding a player not included on the team sheet. The now 0-3 start puts plenty of pressure on the 2018/19 preliminary finalists, with those kinds of deficits hard to overcome as other teams rise. Southern Districts has endured a similarly subdued start to the season, only really clicking into gear last week with a big win over the hapless Palmerston Magpies. Feasting on another winless side will be the goal once again, with some ex-AFL experience set to help out. Former Docker and Sun Michael Barlow joins Ed Barlow on the team sheet, likely to provide for South Australian big-man Sam Barnett up forward. Kicking a winning score should not be an issue for the Crocs, with Barnett’s fellow six-goal hero from last week, Jayden Clarke also named. For Waratah, the player in question last week – Brodie Carroll – slots into the starting 18 to remove all doubt, while Abe Ankers is at the heart of midfield and former Coburg VFL forward Steve Stroobants lines up in a dangerous forwardline. It is hard to look past the Crocs after a great showing last time out, but the Warriors were equally impressive and should make it a good contest.

ST MARY’S vs. DARWIN BUFFALOES
Saturday October 26, 5:00pm
TIO Stadium

The sole top five clash of the round sees Darwin looking to maintain its perfect record against the revitalised St Mary’s side. Both sides should sit at 2-1 after both suffering defeats in Round 3, but Darwin’s unbeaten record was reinstated after Waratah was controversially made to forfeit its win due to an incorrect team sheet. Meanwhile, the Saints recovered from a nine-goal quarter time deficit to sneak ahead of Tiwi last week, but were ultimately outgunned in the thrilling rivalry clash. Both sides look like being contenders when their best 22 is on the park, and should provide plenty of highlights in this clash. The long-awaited return of promising Saints youngster Keiren Parnell headlines the inclusions, with recently delisted St Kilda midfielder David Armitage set to debut. He slots into a forwardline led by fellow former-AFL players Raphael Clarke and Jarrad Waite, who have plenty of goals in them. Goals are not usually hard to come by for Darwin but proved just that last week, and the Buffs may struggle for inspiration again with Joe Anderson and Adam Sambono still absent. A midfield anchored by Patrick Boles is still strong though, and Brayden Culhane is one who has already shown his goalkicking exploits with a bag of six. The Buffs may find it hard again here after a hot opening two rounds, especially against such a strong St Mary’s lineup this week.

WANDERERS vs. TIWI BOMBERS
Saturday October 26, 7:30pm
TIO Stadium

Fifth spot is up for grabs as current holder Wanderers faces sixth-place Tiwi to round out the TIO Stadium triple-header. The Eagles are unlucky not to have two wins on the board after a promising start to the year, instead settling for six points after drawing with Southern Districts. The Bombers find themselves just behind the Muk Muks after opening their account last week in a high-scoring win over traditional rival, St Mary’s. There are big names and excitement machines on each line for Tiwi, with speedy NT Under-16 representative Preyben Tipiloura set to make his highly-anticipated debut. Ex-Cat Nathan Djerrkura looks like slotting back into the side, giving the Bombers’ raft of goalkicking options even more to look forward to in terms of delivery from midfield. For Wanderers, the bookend pairing of Joel and Jordan Jeffrey has been named once again, with the young talents of Ronald Fejo and Tyrell Lui also set to light up TIO Stadium once again. While Wanderers has made inroads early compared to last season’s effort, the Bombers look to be finding that high-scoring rhythm and will be as dangerous as any side when at full strength – as they almost are here.

NIGHTCLIFF vs. PALMERSTON
Sunday October 27, 4:10pm
PSC BM Oval

The winningest does battle with the winless in Sunday’s sole fixture at PSC BM Oval as Nightcliff plays host to Palmerston to see off Round 4. The Tigers have been near-faultless in their premiership defence thus far, recording three relatively comfortable wins to sit pretty in second spot. Amid a complete opposite run of form, Palmerston sits bottom at 0-3, taking it to teams at times over each defeat but hardly looking like prizing a win. This task will be the toughest of the lot, and could spell trouble for the struggling Magpies. Arresting the skid will be made even more difficult with consistent ruckman Matthew Dennis left unnamed, replaced by Broderick Church. Alwyn Davey‘s likely inclusion should steady the lineup, which will be tested by a very strong Tigers outfit. A dynamic spine of Cam Ilett, Joel Budarick and Liam Holt-Fitz forms the base of a fearsome Nightcliff side which has had little trouble scoring of late. It looks like being a one-sided contest on paper, but do not count Palmerston out of making it competitive once again.

The ‘big three’s’ take on how the AFLW draft unfolded

GABBY Newton, Lucy McEvoy, and Georgia Patrikios; dubbed pre-draft as the three players vying for the honour of being taken first off the AFL Women’s Draft board.

But ask all three about whether they knew what was to unfold on Tuesday afternoon, and all three almost unanimously insist they had not the slightest clue.

“I wasn’t sure going in,” Bulldogs’ number one pick Newton said. “I knew Lucy and Patrikios were obviously also big contenders but I’m so glad (the Bulldogs) picked me up, I can’t wait to be a part of it.”

“I sort of had no idea coming in so it was just ‘Whatever happens, happens,’ St Kilda’s Patrikios added. “I’m happy to be at the Saints and (I’m) just going to move from there.

“Carlton did say they were keen from the start and I was pretty keen… to get to pick two,” Carlton’s McEvoy told the club’s media team with more conviction. “It’s so good though, so exciting.”

McEvoy was incidentally the one to inadvertently create the ‘big three’ tussle, throwing a spanner in the works as she nominated for the Victorian Metro draft zone. Hailing from Geelong and rising through the Falcons’ junior pathway, it seemed the Cats’ AFLW side was destined to pick up another top-five talent at a cut price after snaring Olivia Purcell with pick 14 last year. That was not to be, with McEvoy’s choice “to get out of (her) comfort zone” planting even more intrigue into the top-end.

“It was pretty much based off my studies next year, I’m hoping to do paramedicine,” she said. “I’ve got my exams coming up so hopefully I can put my best foot forward in that and get the score that I need.”

“I would’ve loved to play at Geelong, I’ve got really good friends there but I think for me to grow, as a person, it would’ve been to tick the Melbourne box.”

In an interesting twist, all three players also had unique ties to pick two holder, Carlton. McEvoy’s father, Phil played 50 reserves games for the Blues during the 1970s and 80s, while Newton played two games this year for their VFLW side and Patrikios is studying sports coaching and development at the club’s College of Sport. Needless to say, they are all still stoked with how it all unfolded nonetheless.

“I just need to pinch myself because I can’t believe it’s actually happening to be honest,” Newton said. “All the girls drafted to the Doggies, Liz (Georgostathis) and Gem (Lagioia) as well and Izzy Grant, they’re all such good friends. “I can’t believe we’re all going in together, it’s so exciting.”

McEvoy, dubbed ‘Big Boy’ as the cousin of Hawthorn ruck Ben, had equal sentiment.

“It’s so exciting… to know that I’m starting at a new club, I get to meet all these new people which I’m so excited about,” she said. “Hopefully I can make a good first impression, I’m really looking forward to getting stuck into it.”

Going against the suggested unknown order of events heading into the big day, Patrikios came armed with arguably the best line of any draftee on the day.

“It’s going to be great to bring footy back to Moorabbin,” she said, becoming an instant hit with the Saints faithful – and likely the marketing department, too.

“Lucy and Gabby are amazing players and even (more) amazing people. “They deserved it, they’ve worked so hard, they’ve put a lot of work in over the last couple of years and they’ve been amazing. “I can’t wait to see how they go next season,” she added, becoming an even bigger hit with her fellow big three buddies.”

Fresh and familiar faces to build Bulldogs’ future

HOLDING four top ten picks – including the first – heading into Tuesday’s AFL Women’s Draft, much of the pre-draft chat surrounded how the Western Bulldogs would use their high-end selections.

They lost superstars Katie Brennan and Monique Conti to league newcomer Richmond after ending their premiership defence with just two wins and at the bottom of a strong Conference A. It called for rejuvenation, a new direction, and their raft of new pups would front it.

Brennan replacements now come in the form of pick one, Gabby Newton and pick six, Nell Morris-Dalton – both key members of the undefeated Northern Knights and Vic Metro sides. Skip a selection over to picks eight and nine and the themes become more evident. Classy speedsters Gemma Lagioia (Oakleigh) and Elisabeth Georgostathis (Western) plug the run-and-carry void left by Conti, with father-daughter selection Isabella Grant, Northern’s Britney Gutknecht, and Oakleigh’s Amelia van Oosterwijck filling out a rejuvenated Dogs list.

Player retention is currently a hot topic in the game, and one would think recruiting seven girls who had all played together under the very same coach they would look up to in their first AFLW season goes a long way to solving that issue. Indeed, new Dogs coach and former Sandringham/Vic Metro mentor Nathan Burke had a huge say in how his new side’s draft hand played out, and it saw his club remain a focal point carrying into the post-draft chat.

While the Brennan/Conti replacement theory is rather basic, wide-eyed and bubbly draftee Lagioia gave a similar analysis of how she might fit into the team alongside fellow outside runner, Georgostathis.

“Obviously there’s some pretty big shoes to fill,” she said. “I think working into it, we won’t be at that level this year but hopefully in the next few years we can really pay back what (the Bulldogs) have given us by taking us so early.”

“We’ve played together before, we’re quite similar players so maybe I’ll play on one wing and Liz will play on the other.”

“Obviously Gabby (Newton) and Nell (Morris-Dalton) are very close, they played at Northern and then we all played together at Vic Metro so it’s just really exciting to be able to stick together and go into a club where you know a lot of people already.”

Hailing from the Western region, Georgostathis’ sense of belonging at her new club comes two-fold, with the versatile runner proud to be the first Jet to find an AFLW home in 2019. Coming in alongside the likes of Lagoia, Newton and Morris-Dalton made the occasion that bit sweeter.

“Yeah I am (happy),” she said. “Being the first Western Jet girl is pretty good, the Jets have helped me so much over the past four years and I’m so grateful for them and all the development and all the staff there.”

“I’m sure the Bulldogs have a great development program and all they want is the best for the girls to help us develop into the future, not just this year but hopefully the next five years.”

“Seeing we’ve played with (Gabby and Nell) in the National Championships we know how they play and we all know how each other work a bit so we can use that on the field… I don’t know if Gem remembers but we played together in the Under-15 National Championships. “We didn’t know each other that well back then but then coming again this year and playing Vic Metro together, it’s pretty good and now playing Bulldogs with (Gemma) is really good.”

Rounding off the consensus sentiment among the new pups was number one pick Newton, who sounded a great advertisement for the Dogs’ tactics in the love shown for each teammate she is set to line up alongside for years to come.

“I love Nell, she’s one of my best friends,” she said. “All the girls drafted to the Doggies, Liz and Gem as well and Izzy Grant, they’re all such good friends. “I can’t believe we’re all going in together, it’s so exciting to have fresh faces in and around the club.”

The use of familiarity in building a future spine could prove to be one of the most fruitful draft strategies of recent times, but a lot has to play out until we can say so for sure. For now though, boy is the 2019 Bulldogs draft class chuffed with being reunited, ready to help Footscray find its way firmly back on the map.

Note: The Western Bulldogs also signed South Adelaide young gun and talented athlete Hannah Munyard today as a free agent.

Gavalas completes “whirlwind” draft day bolt

DRAFT day shocks are ironically commonplace nowadays, and you can add Ellie Gavalas‘ rise to become a top 10 selection to the list.

The 23-year-old had her name called by North Melbourne in the first round of Tuesday’s draft having only taken up the Aussie rules code two years ago. Speaking minutes after the fact, Gavalas was still stuck in the “whirlwind” of her shock early selection with little inkling of it happening beforehand.

“Whirlwind’s a pretty good word,” she said. “I’m feeling pretty excited and shocked at the moment… it’s been a massive year and to top it off to become a Kangaroo is pretty exciting.”

“We’d had a couple of interviews, well one interview but I’d seen (North Melbourne AFLW list manager Rhys Harwood) a couple of times. “But no, I wasn’t expecting anything. I was hoping but not expecting anything so I’m pretty shocked.”

The new Roo’s history in sport runs deep, having moved on from a promising soccer career to pursue a different footballing code. Gavalas grew up in Tasmania but also had family in Melbourne, with her move to the mainland originally inspired by that round-ball potential. Her first meaningful experience with the oblong ball came as she joined the Marcellin Old Collegians in Melbourne’s north-east, sparking a rapid rise to the elite level.

“Coming from just playing footy for two years… mainly this year and last year at Marcellin,” Gavalas said. “It has been a massive whirlwind and I’m pretty excited.”

After her initial experience at Marcellin, Gavalas became a wildcard entrant to Western Bulldogs’ VFLW squad in 2019, making her debut in Round 2 and never looking back to average 16.4 disposals and 4.1 tackles across 16 games – becoming a lock in the grand finalists’ starting 23.

Her move from the Bulldogs into the Kangaroos’ system is akin to that of AFLW superstar Emma Kearney – minus the fanfare – who will undoubtedly form a hardened midfield partnership with Gavalas.

“Absolutely I’m looking forward to playing alongside (Kearney),” she said. “To be playing with someone like Emma is awesome so I’m super excited to get started.”

The switch also marks somewhat of a homecoming for the Apple Isle product, who joins Launceston exports Mia King and Abbey Green at the Tasmanian Roos. The Roos’ home games across Bass Strait and academy connection to the region also bring Gavalas full-circle, and even the best script writers would struggle to match the sentimentality of that journey.

With only her everyday job as a physiotherapist to compete with celebrations and her emerging career, the mature-ager is sure to make an immediate impact among the raft of slightly younger draftees who shared the same honour on Tuesday.