Author: Michael Alvaro

2020 AFL Women’s team preview: Collingwood

COLLINGWOOD looms as a big improver in the upcoming 2020 AFL Women’s season, with much of its list fresh off a premiership-winning VFLW campaign. The only way is up for last year’s Conference B wooden spooner, and a handful of elite talents should guide the Magpies close to the finals frame, with added dynamism and depth down the all-important spine boding well for a promising year ahead. Their engine room looks mean, and at full strength the Magpies have some serious potential with talent on every line.

KEY PLAYER:

Brianna Davey (utility)

The prize recruit of the off-season finally gets the chance to prove she was worth the hefty cost, albeit having already contributed heavily to the Magpies’ VFLW premiership triumph. An ex-captain of Collingwood’s arch-rival, Davey brings undeniable leadership quality and can win games off her own boot. She showed just that on an almost weekly basis during Carlton’s run to the 2019 AFLW grand final, taking home joint best and fairest honours in the process. Able to play just about anywhere, the 2017 All Australian is as pure a ball winner as they come and is a player who coaches wish they had one of on each line. She is the complete package and may well be the player to turn games for her new club, making her key to their 2020 season.

RISING STAR:

Sarah Dargan (forward/midfielder)

The basketball convert came on well in her second AFLW campaign, earning a Rising Star nomination for her 16-disposal effort in Round 4 and featuring in all seven games. Her rate of development was highlighted by a move to the midfield, with the tenacious Calder Cannons graduate lauded for her attack on the ball and tackling intent. Given the recruit of Davey left the Magpies with a compromised draft hand, Dargan may well be the youngster to make the biggest rise and help her side challenge for the finals spots. Should she continue to play further afield, Dargan’s ability to find the ball will be a key area she improves on.

WATCH FOR:

Chloe Molloy (key position utility)

Molloy served a timely reminder of her talent during Collingwood’s premiership-winning VFLW campaign, completing her comeback from a lisfranc injury which ruled her out of the entire 2019 AFLW season. But the 2018 All Australian and Magpies best-and-fairest will be keen to get back out on the big stage and into her best form after watching her side’s lacklustre 2019 effort from the sidelines. Able to play off every line, Molloy can provide the key position support the Magpies lacked last year up either end, as well as some class through the midfield with a full VFLW campaign and pre-season behind her. It could be a big year for Molloy, who will look to stamp herself as a top-five player once again.

CONFERENCE OPPONENTS: Carlton, Fremantle, Melbourne, St Kilda, West Coast, Western Bulldogs.

FIXTURE:

Round 1 – vs. West Coast
Round 2 – @ Carlton
Round 3 – @ Fremantle
Round 4 – vs. Melbourne
Round 5 – vs. Bulldogs
Round 6 – @ Brisbane
Round 7 – vs. St Kilda
Round 8 – @ Geelong

Perhaps a deceptively tough draw for the Magpies, with some must-win bouts coming after a softer Round 1 fixture against league newcomer, West Coast. Games against two finalists from 2019 in Rounds 2 and 3 will be conference defining, but a late-season run against the Bulldogs, Lions, and Saints could push the Magpies into the top three depending on how they fare in the first month of the season. An away clash with Geelong, their second crossover opponent, will be a tough ask to see out the season, but it could definitely have been worse.

PREDICTION: 4th/5th Conference B

Last year’s conference wooden spooner should fare much better this time around, helped by the injection of two elite talents in the returning Molloy and prize recruit, Davey to add to the class of Ash Brazill, Jaimee Lambert, and Brittany Bonnici. A VFLW premiership bodes well for team chemistry, and the Magpies have a bunch of leaders among their high-end talents who can steer their side to a much-improved result. The fight for that third finals spot will be fierce in Conference B, and with last year’s results in mind, expect Collingwood to feature on the precipice of that range.

NTFL Men’s Premier League wrap: Round 14 – Tigers roar to big win over Saints

NIGHTCLIFF sent a clear message to its Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Men’s Premier League opponents on Saturday, claiming an authoritative win over St Mary’s in a lacklustre top of the table clash. Elsewhere, results saw Southern Districts drop all the way back to fifth, while Waratah notched just its fourth win against fellow bottom three battler, Palmerston. With the top five now set, the race for finals supremacy begins.

SOUTHERN DISTRICTS 2.3 | 6.6 | 7.10 | 9.14 (68)
TIWI BOMBERS 3.4 | 5.7 | 11.9 | 17.12 (114)

GOALS:

Southern Districts: W. Farrer 3, D. Barry 2, J. Clarke, K. Dingo, J. Innes, D. Hall.
Tiwi: A. Wonaeamirri 3, J. Best 2, A. Hams 2, D. Kruse 2, R. Tungatalum 2, M. Kantilla 2, N. Djerrkura, P. Heenan, C. Abala, S. Munkara.

BEST:

Southern Districts: T. Holman, D. Staunton, J. Watts, M. Pemberton, C. McAdam, D. McLachlan
Tiwi: R. Baird, N. Djerrkura, X. Grant, J. Monigatti, C. Luff, A. Hams

Southern Districts’ hunt for a top two spot has been dealt a major blow, with the Crocs no match for an in-form Tiwi Bombers outfit. The Bombers’ enacted a second half blitz, overcoming a five-point half time deficit to kick away to the eventual 17.12 (114) to 9.14 (68) victory in style.

As the top four status of the clubs coming in would suggest, the opening exchanges were hotly contested as Tiwi edged to a slight advantage at the first break. After the Crocs hit back to find a lead of their own in the following stanza, it was all Tiwi in a 12-goal to three second half as their firepower and run across the board proved too hot to handle. As is often an indicator of their best form, the Bombers had 10 individual goalkickers, with six of them finding the big sticks on more than one occasion. Ex-Melbourne livewire Austin Wonaeamirri led the way with a team-high three majors, with fellow goal-getters Nathan Djerrkura and Ashton Hams named in the best half-dozen players behind Rodney Baird – all of whom played further afield. Will Farrer found some form after going goalless last time out, collecting a handy bag of three majors while Dylan Barry snared two in his return to the senior side. Thomas Holman and Charlie McAdam were also among the Crocs’ best in the losing effort, with plenty to improve on heading into the all-important final home-and-away month.

It does not get any easier next week for Southern Districts though with Nightcliff waiting in the wings, but consecutive fixtures against the bottom three sides thereafter could see the Crocs bounce back into the top three pending other results. Tiwi will hope to prevent that while looking to break into the top two themselves, but face a tough run against three fellow top four sides in the run home.

WARATAH 4.2 | 9.4 | 11.6 | 18.12 (120)
PALMERSTON 0.4 | 2.6 | 9.7 | 10.7 (67)

GOALS:

Waratah: H. Kerinaiua 3, J. Beugelaar 3, W. Gorman 3, B. Carroll 2, M. Graham 2, K. Kantilla 2, N. Gooch, M. Blake, B. Zobel.
Palmerston: T. Freeman 3, D. Nichols 2, A. Davey, J. Berry, W. Shadforth, D. Gaykamangu , K. Holt-Tubbs.

BEST:

Waratah: N/A
Palmerston: W. Shadforth, S. Brock, E. Frank, M. Chester, J. Berry, A. Davey

Waratah brought Palmerston back down to earth with a thud after its maiden win in Round 13, inflicting a 53-point belting on its fellow bottom three side. The Warriors were far too good throughout, withstanding a third term Palmerston swoop to run out 18.12 (120) to 10.7 (67) winners.

The Warriors burst out of the gates with a four-goal to nil opening term, followed up by another block of five to Palmerston’s two in building a 40-point half time buffer. But that was where the game looked to be turning for the Magpies as they piled on seven majors to cut the deficit to eleven points, heading into the final turn with a heap of momentum in hopes of a second-straight win. It was not to be, with Waratah holding strong and proving attack is the best form of defence on the back of seven fourth quarter goals. An impressive six of Waratah’s nine goalkickers booted multiples, with Henry Kerinaiua leading a trio of Warriors to claim an equal game-high three goals. Brodie Carroll snared a double upon his successful return to the line-up, while Kim Kantilla was also not far away from the action. Tom Freeman quadrupled his season goal tally with a haul of three for Palmerston, but was shaded in the Magpies’ best by fellow goalkickers Wade Shadforth, Jack Berry, and Alwyn Davey. It was another case of not being in the hunt for long enough for Davey’s side, conceding costly flurries of goals despite enjoying their own spurts of momentum.

The Magpies’ quest to scrape themselves off the bottom of the ladder will be a difficult one given they face four top five opponents in the upcoming month, but a win in any of those games would help end the year on a high. The Warriors may fancy themselves for consecutive wins as they take on the struggling Wanderers next time out, but have a similarly formidable run home otherwise.

DARWIN BUFFALOES 3.1 | 7.4 | 12.4 | 14.11 (95)
WANDERERS 1.2 | 4.4 | 7.7 | 9.9 (63)

GOALS:

Darwin: B. Hogan 4, I. Palmer 3, D. Shillabeer 3, J. Stokes 2, C. Williams 2, M. Quinn.
Wanderers: W. Williams 2, T. Motlop 2, S. Motlop, D. Braun, B. O’Connell, K. Stephens, L. Dyer.

BEST:

Darwin: B. Hogan, I. Palmer, J. Stokes, S. Foster, D. Shillabeer, D. Lines
Wanderers: B. O’Connell, A. Motlop, L. Dyer, M. Garton, W. Williams

Darwin remains in the hunt for a top two spot after brushing Wanderers aside with a 32-point win on Saturday night. The lights stayed on all the way through this time to shine on the Buffs’ form, as they maintained a steady pace in the 14.11 (95) to 9.9 (63) result.

The Eagles did not get the all-important start they were after given their second half form of late, but the three-goal half time gap was enough to keep them in with a fighting chance. It proved elementary for the Buffs though as they answered each challenge to coast to victory in the end, looking reasonably comfortable without setting the world alight to consign Wanderers to an eight consecutive defeat. Former Port Melbourne forward Billy Hogan was on song with four goals in a breakthrough outing, followed by bags of three from Darren Shillabeer and Ishmael Palmer with skipper Jarrod Stokes also lively. Warwick Williams and Thomas Motlop were the only Eagles to kick multiple goals (two each), with youngster Beau O’Connell starring alongside Aaron Motlop to be named his side’s best in the losing effort. The fall has been steep for Wanderers, which now finds itself dislodged from the sixth place that it has held for most of the 2019/20 season.

Winning chances will run thin for the Eagles towards the end of the year, so a fixture against Waratah next week could be their last realistic shot at a set of four points. They could play spoiler against the three top five opponents, which will serve Darwin well. The Buffs face a mixed bag in the lead up to finals, set to do battle with the other two bottom three sides while also having to face St Mary’s and Tiwi. In any case, there is not much movement to be made.

NIGHTCLIFF 2.0 | 8.4 | 10.8 | 14.13 (97)
ST MARY’S 0.2 | 0.4 | 1.7 | 4.8 (32)

GOALS:

Nightcliff: L. Holt-Fitz 3, J. Butcher 2, K. Winter-Irving 2, B. Filo 2, S. Wilson 2, J. Tsitas, M. Hagan, T. Melville.
St Mary’s: N. Paredes 2, R. Jordon, S. Lampton.

BEST:

Nightcliff: L. Holt-Fitz, K. Winter-Irving, J. Kickett, M. Hagan, S. Wilson, B. Arnold
St Mary’s: T. Davies, J. Long, S. Edwards, A. Long, R. Jordon, J. Long

Nightcliff stamped its authority as the clear competition benchmark, disposing of an undermanned St Mary’s to the tune of 65 points in a top of the table clash. The Saints had no answer for the reigning premier’s firepower forward of centre, hardly making a dent in the 14.13 (97) to 4.8 (32) loss.

After some scrappy opening exchanges, Nightcliff scraped ahead by two goals while keeping the Saints goalless, continuing the theme into the second term while extending their lead to an even eight goals heading into the main break. The Saints’ first goal finally came after half time, and they added another three in the fourth quarter to no avail as the Tigers had free reign over the scoreboard. Liam Holt-Fitz was again electric forward of centre, booting a game-high three goals while big man Kyle Winter-Irving and ex-Port forward John Butcher were terrific in bagging two each. Nate Paredes was one of St Mary’s’ sole forms of resistance as he bagged two of his side’s four goals, but was overlooked in the best six with Thomas Davies, Jake Long, and Shaun Edwards all achieving the honour instead. Fans will be looking forward to the two hopefully tussling at full strength come finals time, with the ledger now squared at one win apiece.

The minor premiership is now all but officially sewn up for Nightcliff as it holds a 12-point lead in top spot, and have two of the bottom three sides in its midst. On the other hand, St Mary’s will have to fight to maintain its top two spot with just four points separating it from a rampant Tiwi side. Two clashes against bottom three sides of their own should put the Saints in good stead.

NTFL Men’s Premier League preview: Round 14 – Top two clash headlines finals-refining weekend

FOR the second time in as many weeks, the Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Men’s Premier League’s top four sides will face off in a finals-defining round of action. This time, the top two square off while third and fourth do battle as the race for ascendancy among the top five heats up.

SOUTHERN DISTRICTS (4th, 7-5-1) vs. TIWI BOMBERS (3rd, 8-5)
Saturday January 18, 2:00pm
Norbuilt Oval

Southern Districts hosts Tiwi in the weekend’s first top four clash, with the Crocs hoping to reclaim the top three spot they have long held this season. But Tiwi has already proven to be stiff opposition for the Crocs, with a Round 7 meeting between the sides yielding a 35-point Bombers victory. But much has changed since that last outing, with Tiwi coming from outside the top five to cement itself in the top three as it stands and standing now as a much more formidable opponent. It was somewhat of a shock result in November, but the Bombers come in as favourites given their four-game win streak. It may not be that simple though, with their run-in to a month of football against the remaining top five coming after comparatively more comfortable fixtures.

Both sides come in relatively settled, with many of their big names enjoying a consistent run of game time. Jeff Garlett and Richard Tambling are two of those for Southern Districts, possessing the class going forward which can perfectly counteract the damaging Bombers. Add to that the competition’s leading goalkicker, Will Farrer and his midfield-forward brother, Josiah at the feet of Sam Barnett, and you have a dynamic side forward of centre. But the Bombers are one of the most dynamic sides across the park, able to damage opposition with their pace. While last week’s five goal hero Tom Bell is out of the side, along with Charlie Molyneux and Nick Riddle, Tiwi looks set to regain Ashton Hams in what is still very much a stacked line-up. As arguably the hottest side in the competition right now, the Bombers need to capitalise on their winning form ahead of a tough few weeks.

WARATAH (7th, 3-10) vs. PALMERSTON MAGPIES (8th, 1-12)
Saturday January 18, 2:30pm
TIO Stadium

Fresh off its maiden win for season 2019/20, Palmerston will fancy itself a real chance at going back-to-back when it faces fellow bottom three side, Waratah at TIO Stadium. The Magpies were terrific last time out in a win they were made to earn – 12 weeks in the making – and should come in with similar energy given the buoyancy a wins gives a team. On the other hand, Waratah has suffered two heavy losses to quality opposition since the mid-season break, seeing its finals aspirations dwindle even further. But a massive Round 7 win against the Magpies should give the Warriors great hope of snapping their three-game losing run with a fourth win, and there is nothing to lose at this point.

Waratah’s Kim Kantilla is a man in serious form at the moment, coming of a four goal haul in last round’s loss and booting half of his side’s majors the week before. He and Henry Kerinaiua have been the main source of inspiration inside attacking 50, and the two should get some good service with Brodie Carroll named on an extended bench alongside bigman, Alex Aurrichio. The quartet will be crucial with Abe Ankers‘ name left off the team sheet. Skipper Aaron Lonergan will lead his Magpies out alongside playing coach, Alwyn Davey, whose son (Alwyn Jnr) remains in the line-up. Up forward, spearhead Keiden Holt-Tubbs takes up his usual position, but will not be joined by fellow Round 13 three-goal hauler, Leigh Williams. Pride and bragging rights are the only thing left on the line for the two sides at this point, so the chance of adding to their slim winning tallies should make it a good contest.

DARWIN BUFFALOES (5th, 7-6) vs. WANDERERS (6th, 3-9-1)
Saturday January 18, 7:00pm
TIO Stadium

It is do or die for Wanderers in term of a finals berth as it prepares to face fifth-placed Darwin in a Saturday night showdown. The Eagles are well adrift from the finals pack, but still stand a mathematical chance of making the top five if they can pull off some remarkable wins. After going down to Palmerston last week to extend their losing run to seven games, the Muk Muks will be desperate to get one back over the side which started that streak all the way back in Round 7 – Darwin. The Buffs have had form troubles of their own, going down in three of their last four outings, but have faced the best opposition possible in the only four sides ahead of them. This fixture marks a much lighter run to the end of the home-and-away season and, hopefully for them, a return to form.

The want for a win will only be compounded by the occasion, with much-loved skipper Jarrod Stokes running out for his 150th senior game in Buffs colours. He will be joined in the side by playing coach, Matt Campbell and Darwin spearhead Daniel Stafford in what should form a formidable full forward line at some point in the game. Wanderers’ typical show of young talent will again feature Mark White up forward, who will look to make up the Eagles’ own dangerous forward line alongside Joel Jeffrey and Beau O’Connell. But with Darwin’s side littered with seasoned vets and finals experience, it will prove a challenge for the Eagles to keep their legs and concentration throughout the entire contest.

NIGHTCLIFF (1st, 12-1) vs. ST MARY’S (2nd, 10-3)
Sunday January 19, 4:00pm
PSC BM Oval

Arguably the game of the round will receive a standalone Sunday slot, with Nightcliff hosting St Mary’s in a top-of-the-table blockbuster. A thorn in the reigning premiers’ side, St Mary’s is the only team to have beaten Nightcliff this season – in Round 7 – and sit just close enough to make the race for the minor premiership interesting. With eight points separating the two teams coming in, a win for the Saints would put the pressure right on Nightcliff, but a loss would all but put an end to their hopes of snatching first place come season’s end. Winning has clearly been no issue for either side to this point, with Nightcliff remaining undefeated in the seven games since its sole loss, while St Mary’s is on a five-game winning run.

The Tigers should be up for the occasion, looking to claim the final scalp in their 2019/20 season collection, and should have a some handy additions to lean on with John Butcher, James Tsitas, and Jayden Shaw all named on an extended bench. As one of the more dynamic and experienced sides, they should have all the tools to rectify Round 7’s result. But the Saints are no slouches, coming in with a spine consisting of Shaun Edwards, Jake Long, Maurice Rioli Jnr, and Jackson Paine, despite missing the likes of Davin Ferriera and Nick Yarran. With talent littered across the park and so much to play for, this looms as must-see viewing for all NTFL fans.

NTFL Men’s Premier League wrap: Round 13 – Magpies claim maiden win

PALMERSTON’S maiden win of the 2019/20 Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Men’s Premier League season headlined an otherwise straightforward round of action, with Tiwi rising to third and the top two sides separating from the trailing pack.

TIWI BOMBERS 6.2 | 10.4 | 15.6 | 23.9 (147)
WARATAH 5.2 | 6.7 | 9.10 | 13.12 (90)

GOALS:

Tiwi: T. Bell 5, H. Puruntatameri 5, S. Munkara 3, J. Best 2, J. Simon 2, A. Wonaeamirri 2, A. Darcy 2, C. Molyneux, N. Djerrkura
Waratah: K. Kantilla 4, H. Kerinaiua 3, A. Ankers 2, J. Schaper, M. Graham, K. McBean, M. Bordignon

BEST:

Tiwi: J. Monigatti, T. Bell, N. Djerrkura, C. Molyneux, H. Puruntatameri, N. Riddle
Waratah: N/A

Tiwi continued its rise up the NTFL ladder on Saturday, thumping Waratah by 57 points to jump two places into third spot. The Bombers were too slick on the outside, running away in the second half with a clinical 23.9 (147) to 13.12 (90) victory.

While four-goal hero Kim Kantilla posted the game’s first goal for Waratah, it was all Tiwi immediately after as an Austin Wonaeamirri double spurred the Bombers to the next six majors. Harley Puruntatameri also wreaked havoc inside forward 50 with two classy finishes of his own, but Waratah pegged the margin back late with four unanswered goals to trail by a sole goal at quarter time. A slower second term did not stop Tiwi from again kicking away with the final three majors of the stanza, before the Warriors mounted another comeback after the main break via some more Kantilla magic. The margin got back to within a goal, but Tiwi again had the legs to finish the term and doubled its 32-point three-quarter time lead to run out comfortable winners.

Tom Bell joined Puruntatameri with a bag of five goals come the final siren, and Tiwi’s best half dozen had a distinct Greensborough feel about it as Bell’s Northern Football League teammates Charlie Molyneux and Nick Riddle were also named. The likes of Molyneux were fed all day by bigman Jack Monigatti, with the pair combining for the South Australian’s first term stoppage goal. For Waratah, Kantilla’s solo efforts going forward were terrific alongside Henry Kerinaiua, who bagged three goals, while the returning Abe Ankers also made a difference moving forward. But the Warriors’ win over Tiwi in Round 6 seems a world away now, with the Bombers mounting a top two charge while Waratah battles to be the best of the rest.

ST MARY’S 1.1 | 5.3 | 8.6 | 10.10 (70)
SOUTHERN DISTRICTS 1.3 | 5.6 | 7.9 | 8.9 (57)

GOALS:

St Mary’s: J. Salmon 3, S. Edwards 3, J. Paine, M. Rioli Jnr, R. Jordon, L. Larson
Southern Districts: J. Farrer 4, J. Innes, S. Barnett, J. Clarke, D. Staunton

BEST:

St Mary’s: J. Salmon, T. Davies, J. Long, S. Edwards, A. Long, J. Paine
Southern Districts: N/A

St Mary’s picked up another scalp in its promising 2019/20 campaign, made to earn a vital 13-point win over Southern Districts in their top four clash. The 10.10 (70) to 8.9 (57) victory was the Saints’ fifth in a row, and sees them move eight points clear in second place with 10 wins.

The four points were gained amid some scrappy exchanges, most notably in the first term where the sides could only manage a goal apiece. Josh Innes‘ goal after the quarter time siren put the Crocs two points to the good, and the second quarter produced a similar story – albeit with more scoring. Just as quickly as the Saints got on a three-goal run, the Crocs bounced back with four of their own to again snatch the lead at the second break by under a goal. But it was the third term where the tide started to shift as St Mary’s got on top, only to be discounted by some energy from resting midfielder Josiah Farrer inside forward 50, which kept Southern Districts well within striking distance. It was tit-for-tat in the final term as a fourth Farrer snap kept the margin at five points at the midway point, but St Mary’s strength across the ground and superior legs got it over the line.

While his brother, William leads the Crocs’ goalkicking tally, Josiah Farrer was Southern Districts’ source of inspiration in front of the big sticks with four opportunistic goals. It was otherwise all single goalkickers for the Crocs, who could not make full use of Michael Barlow‘s ball winning prowess further afield. The Saints were led up forward by Joseph Salmon and ex-GWS utility Shaun Edwards, who booted three goals apiece while Jackson Paine and Jacob Long were also impressive. A chance to knock Nightcliff off for a second time looms for the Saints, who can make the minor premiership race interesting with the right result. Meanwhile, the Crocs continue a trying month with assignments against two top three sides next up as they slip down to fourth, as wins become paramount for finals positions.

WANDERERS 3.1 | 6.2 | 9.5 | 13.7 (85)
PALMERSTON 2.4 | 5.6 | 10.9 | 14.9 (93)

GOALS:

Wanderers: J. Jeffrey 4, B. O’Connell 3, S. Bates, W. Williams, E. Colley, A. Motlop, J. Jeffrey, T. Motlop
Palmerston: K. Holt-Tubbs 3, L. Williams 3, C. Timms 2, W. Shadforth, K. Emery, A. Davey, J. Patrick, R. Stone, J. Berry

BEST:

Wanderers: B. O’Connell, J. Jeffrey, A. Motlop, M. Motlop, D. Dos Santos
Palmerston: K. Holt-Tubbs, K. Emery, C. Timms, W. Shadforth, J. Berry, L. Williams

Palmerston broke through for a much-deserved maiden win of its 2019/20 campaign, outlasting Wanderers to come out eight-point winners. The Magpies were made to earn it too, trailing at the first two breaks before hitting the front when it mattered in the 14.9 (93) to 13.7 (85) result.

As has been the case for most of the Eagles’ season, they started brightly and found their way in front with three goals in each of the opening two terms. But the two-point half time margin was not nearly enough as they began to run out of legs, with Palmerston determined to earn its first set of four points. A nine-goal second half helped the Magpies to their highest score for the season, good enough for that elusive first win with another bottom three side next on the agenda.

There was somewhat of a family theme across both camps as three of Palmerston’s Daveys – Alwyn, Alwyn Jnr, and Russell lined up against Wanderers’ five Motlops and three Jeffrey brothers – Jordan, Joel, and Jai. AFL Academy member and Gold Coast SUNS trainee Joel Jeffrey was by far the pick of the bunch, booting a game-high four goals to lead the Muk Muks’ scoring effort alongside fellow youngster Beau O’Connell (three goals). The two were named their sides’ best players, with Keidan Holt-Tubbs claiming that honour for the Magpies on the back of another bag of three. Kyle Emery was another difference-maker as he returns to his best form further afield, while playing-coach Alwyn Davey was also influential. The Magpies will fancy themselves to make it two-consecutive wins against Waratah next time out, while Wanderers will have to face Darwin in hopes of snapping a seven-game losing run.

NIGHTCLIFF 5.2 | 10.6 | 12.8 | 12.8 (80)
DARWIN BUFFALOES 1.1 | 5.2 | 7.5 | 7.5 (47)

GOALS:

Nightcliff: L. Holt-Fitz 3, T. Melville 3, L. Sharp 3, B. Arnold, C. Ilett, K. Winter-Irving
Darwin: D. Stafford 4, J. Stokes, C. Williams, L. McKenzie

BEST:

Nightcliff: B. Filo, L. Holt-Fitz, C. Ilett, M. Hagan, P. Wills, K. Winter-Irving
Darwin: N/A

An untimely power outage saw Nightcliff only have to work for a little over three quarters to earn its twelfth win of the season, downing Darwin by 33 points on Saturday night. But the Tigers were well on top as the lights went out on Darwin’s chances of a comeback with 17 minutes gone in the third term, gifting the 12.8 (80) to 7.5 (47) result to Nightcliff with play unable to resume and more than half the game having already been played out.

The Tigers looked ominous from the opening bounce, booting the first three goals of the game before Daniel Stafford chimed in with a much-needed major for the Buffs. But it did little to thwart the ladder leaders’ momentum as they quickly extended a 25-point quarter time lead to 37 early in the second stanza. Darwin simply could not string goals together as Nightcliff answered every challenge, maintaining that five-to-six goal buffer all the way to the main break. It proved match-defining, with the goal-for-goal trend continuing right until the game’s premature end.

Stafford proved Darwin’s only real form of resistance as he snagged four goals to edge closer to the top of the league’s goalkicking standings, joined for inspiration inside 50 by skipper Jarrod Stokes. The man at the top of those standings is Nightcliff’s Trent Melville, who added three goals to his tally alongside the electric Liam Holt-Fitz and consistent Lachlan Sharp, proving the winners’ superior firepower. But it was Brodie Filo who was named the Tigers’ best afield, with bigman Kyle Winter-Irving also impressive. Nightcliff will go on to face the only side it is yet to beat in St Mary’s, while Darwin will look to rebound against Wanderers with a leaner month ahead.

NTFL Men’s Premier League preview: Round 13 – Top four do battle in bumper weekend

A ladder-defining round of Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Men’s Premier League football is set to take place on Saturday, with the top four sides tussling it out for ladder supremacy. With just six rounds left to play out, eight-point games like these will prove vital.

TIWI BOMBERS vs. WARATAH
Saturday January 11, 1:30pm
Tracy Village

The Tiwi Bombers will look to widen the gap to a fledgeling trailing pack when they take on Waratah at Tracy Village to open Round 13. A favourable draw after the mid-season break sees the Bombers take on a second-consecutive bottom three side, with a very handy 16-point buffer on their weekend opponent already fairly ominous. On the other hand, Waratah’s tough return from the break may only be compounded in this fixture after going down by 138 points to Nightcliff last week. Despite looming as a top five threat at their best, the Warriors have rarely been able to put it together this season and sit well behind in the finals race.

But some very handy inclusions could help the struggling Warriors bounce right back against a talented Bombers outfit, with ex-Melbourne forward Michael Newton named at full forward and Thunder captain Abe Ankers featuring on an extended bench. Kim Kantilla has been the main source of inspiration for Waratah forward of centre, so will again have to find the goals in the face of Tiwi’s overwhelming scoring prowess. A Bombers forward 50 spine of ex-AFL talent in Austin Wonaeamirri and Tom Bell looks promising, while Bell’s Greensborough teammates Nick Riddle and Charlie Molyneux take up respective spots in defence and midfield. It only adds to the Bomber’s already impressive depth, providing some stability among the pace and forward drive. Form puts these two sides at opposite ends of the ledger, but do not count the Warriors out if they can get it right.

ST MARY’S vs. SOUTHERN DISTRICTS
Saturday January 11, 2:30pm
TIO Stadium

The first top four clash of the weekend takes place in the opening game of a TIO Stadium triple-header, as St Mary’s does battle with Southern Districts. While the second placed Saints hit the ground running in 2020 with a big win over Wanderers, the third placed Crocs fell just short against Darwin in a thriller. Needless to say, a win is important for both sides as they play catch-up in the finals race. St Mary’s will be made to work to keep within striking distance of Nightcliff in first, while Southern Districts’ charge for second may come down to the wire as it faces the current bottom three sides to see out the regular season. With this the start of a tricky month for either team, dropping points is not an option.

St Mary’s will have to lean on its depth as Nate Paredes and Jackson Calder loom as key outs, but the inclusion of Shaun Edwards to a forward 50 already boasting Shannon Rioli, Maurice Rioli Jnr, and Leroy Larson is an exciting proposition. Up the other end, Jake Long and Kieren Parnell will combine to provide intercept marking and classy foot skills. For Southern Districts, an ex-AFL midfield trio of Richard Tambling, Jeff Garlett and Michael Barlow looks impressive on paper, with William Farrer and Sam Barnett great targets to kick to inside 50. With a more settled lineup of late, a win for the Crocs here could be the catalyst they need to push on and become a true premiership threat, having previously fallen short of fellow top three sides. With huge talent on each line for either side, this one could go either way.

WANDERERS vs. PALMERSTON MAGPIES
Saturday January 11, 5:00pm
TIO Stadium

It is a case of do-or-die for Wanderers as it faces Palmerston with its hopes of pushing for a finals spot fading fast. Sitting 14 points adrift of a rising Tiwi Bombers side in fifth, the Eagles have lost their last six outings after what was a promising start to the season. Their last win fittingly came over Palmerston all the way back in Round 6, with the chance to repeat the act key in keeping their finals aspirations alive. But the Magpies will come into the game with hope of bringing its winless run to an end, presented with perhaps their most feasible chance of doing so. The gap between either sides’ best and worst is sizeable, so the team that can pull it all together has a greater opportunity to pick up a rare set of four points.

Wanderers’ spine of Jordan Jeffrey, Braedon McLean, and Joel Jeffrey has worked well, and played a big part in keeping last week’s outing against St Mary’s a competitive one for over half of the game. But the Eagles’ youthful side has often run out of legs, so will need to produce a four quarter effort to return to the winners list here. Palmerston’s lineup is starting to get back to full strength, with Alwyn Davey stringing games together alongside the likes of Kyle Emery, Misha Perry, and recruit Jack Berry. But Adam Diamond looms as a key out, with the engine room building as a key area as a heap of talent lines up at the bookends. Clashes between sixth and eighth are not always ones to attract the eye, but this could well be the closest bout of the round.

NIGHTCLIFF vs. DARWIN BUFFALOES
Saturday January 11, 7:30pm
TIO Stadium

First plays fourth in the round’s second top four clash as Nightcliff looks to knock off Darwin for the second time this season. The two sides met back in Round 6 as the Tigers ran out 23-point winners, hardly putting a foot wrong in their premiership defence to date with just one scalp evading them. The Buffs have had a slightly more turbulent time of it over the course of 12 rounds, only just extending its positive record with a key win over Southern Districts following two-straight defeats. While Nightcliff has been a figure of consistency throughout and will inevitably be favourite to defend its crown, it is a matter of peaking at the right time for Darwin, and a win here would do wonders for that.

The Buffs will go in with a typically settled lineup, spearheaded by Daniel Stafford and made even more dangerous with Joe Anderson and Jarrod Stokes alongside him inside forward 50. Brodie Foster is a key out from last week’s side, but the Tigers will be without their own goalkicking hero from Round 12 in John Butcher. The likes of Trent Melville and Liam Holt-Fitz nonetheless possess great forward craft, so will go a long way to ensuring Darwin’s defence has its hands full. The versatility of Nightcliff’s lineup and multiple scoring avenues constantly prove too much for its opposition, and may well get the Tigers over the line once again. But with the stakes so high and Darwin looking like turning the corner, anything can happen.

NTFL Men’s Premier League review: Round 12 – Buffs prevail in dramatic eight-pointer

THE new year tossed up some predictable results in Round 12 of the Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Men’s Premier League, but Darwin and Southern Districts played out a cracker in the weekend’s sole top five clash. While the Buffs closed the gap on their weekend opponents in the race for a top three spot, the remaining finals-bound sides went about solidifying their standing in the top five.

ST MARY’S 1.4 | 6.10 | 9.12 | 14.17 (101)
WANDERERS 1.3 | 2.4 | 5.7 | 5.8 (38)

GOALS:

St Mary’s: J. Salmon 3, N. Paredes 2, L. Larson 2, J. Long, R. Jordon, M. Rioli Jnr, N. Yarran, R. Smith, B. Slater, R. Miller
Wanderers: J. Jeffrey 2, M. Cooper, T. Motlop, B. McLean

BEST:

St Mary’s: R. Smith, T. Davies, R. Jordon, N. Yarran, J. Salmon, N. Paredes
Wanderers: N/A

It was business as usual for St Mary’s as it trounced Wanderers by 63 points to open Round 12 on Friday night. In a contest that was largely competitive until midway through the third term, the Saints kicked away against a tiring Eagles side to cap the 14.17 (101) to 5.8 (38) result.

After a tight opener, the Saints looked to be pulling away to a straightforward victory after jumping out to a five-goal half time lead. But the Muk Muks gave their all to mount a short-lived comeback after the main break, booting the first three goals of the term to draw back within four points of the finals-bound Saints. Unfortunately, the Eagles spent all their fuel tickets on the fightback, leaving nothing left to edge in front as St Mary’s ruthlessly pulled away with five goals to nil in the final quarter. There were still positives to be drawn from the loss for Wanderers, with the returning Joel Jeffrey showing off all of his talent in the air and at ground level to go with two classy goals, while Braedon McLean’s energy in the middle was terrific in the third term. For the winners, 10 individual goal kickers were led by Joseph Salmon‘s three majors, but it was Ryan Smith who was named best afield as the likes of Thomas Davies and Nick Yarran also contributed.

Winning form is good form for the Saints, especially with two of its fellow top three sides immediately ahead on the fixture list and other sides closing in on second place. For Wanderers, the last chance finals saloon opens with a game against the winless Palmerston, which is now a must-win with Tiwi 14 points adrift in fifth.

DARWIN BUFFALOES 3.2 | 8.4 | 11.6 | 13.9 (87)
SOUTHERN DISTRICTS 2.2 | 5.4 | 6.7 | 12.10 (82)

GOALS:

Darwin: D. Stafford 5, B. Foster 3, K. Campbell 2, J. Stokes 2, D. Miles
Southern Districts: D. Hall 3, W. Farrer 2, J. Farrer 2, D. McLachlan, R. O’Brien, B. Schwarze, D. Corbett, M. Barlow

BEST:

Darwin: N/A
Southern Districts: N/A

Southern Districts has been made to rue a miss after the siren in its dramatic five-point loss to Darwin Buffaloes in a top five eight-pointer. Rory O’Brien pulled his set shot to level the scores after marking a Michael Barlow kick 25 metres from goal, sealing the unfortunate 13.9 (87) to 12.10 (82) loss.

The result looked dead and buried as David Miles kicked truly into an open goal late in the third term, punishing the Crocs for their inability to convert up the other end. A fifth goal to Daniel Stafford in the final term to push the margin back out to 11 points with under 10 minutes left looked to again have sealed the result, but it did not deter the Crocs as they doubled their goal tally in a single stanza. It proved futile in the end as O’Brien failed to convert and snatch the draw, but made for great viewing on the neutral end. Earlier, Stafford and Brodie Foster combined for seven of the Buffs’ eight first half goals, with skipper Jarrod Stokes also extending his influence to the scoreboard. Davin Hall led the response for Southern Districts with three majors in just his fourth game for the season, while Josiah and William Farrer also chimed in with two apiece as Barlow found plenty of the ball to very nearly prove a game winner.

Three more top five opponents lie ahead for Southern Districts, with each result massive in deciding positions three to five. Meanwhile, the next few weeks will be a mixed bag for Darwin, set to test its premiership credentials against the competition’s benchmark next week, while also facing two bottom three opponents in the following rounds.

NIGHTCLIFF 4.4 | 13.5 | 19.7 | 25.11 (161)
WARATAH 1.0 | 1.2 | 1.5 | 3.5 (23)

GOALS:

Nightcliff: J. Butcher 6, R. Mu 3, T. Melville 3, M. Bricknell 2, L. Holt-Fitz 2, C. Ilett 2, M. Hagan 2, J. Budarick, N. Brown, B. Arnold, D. Bowles, S. Wilson
Waratah: K. Kantilla 2, D. Simpson

BEST:

Nightcliff: S. Wilson, K. Riley, R. Mu, J. Butcher, P. Wills
Waratah: N/A

The mid-season break only heightened Nightcliff’s hunger for goals as the reigning premier put on a scoring masterclass against Waratah, winning to the tune of 138 points. 12 Tigers found the goals in the 25.11 (161) to 3.5 (23) romp as the ladder leaders dominated across the ground.

A four-goal opening term was Nightcliff’s lowest-scoring period, following it up with nine majors and six in each quarter after half time to see out the huge victory. While their ruthlessly precise finishing inside 50 was ultra-impressive, the Tigers were just as good further afield as they kept the Warriors goalless across the second and third terms, while only conceding a high of two in the final period of play. Waratah had to wait until seven minutes into the fourth quarter for its second six-pointer, ending a massive period of unanswered goals. John Butcher was the Tigers’ chief destroyer with his half-dozen majors, but two non-scoring players – Kaine Riley and Phillip Wills – made their impact felt up the ground to be named in the best behind Shaun Wilson. Kim Kantilla again proved hot to handle as one of the few Warriors to stand tall, booting two of his side’s three majors in the absence of some of their prime movers. Daniel Simpson also found room for a celebration after finding the big sticks in the final term despite the massive margin.

It does not get any easier for Waratah with Tiwi next on the agenda, but respite should come with consecutive fixtures against fellow bottom three sides to round out January. Up the other end of the ladder, a month of competing against top five opponents could dislodge Nightcliff from first place, but the Tigers have already proven their worth against the best of the rest.

PALMERSTON 2.1 | 4.3 | 5.7 | 7.10 (52)
TIWI BOMBERS 3.3 | 9.7 | 10.10 | 16.17 (113)

GOALS:

Palmerston: K. Emery, K. Holt-Tubbs, L. Roberts, L. Williams, R. Warfe, D. Nichols, C. Timms
Tiwi: A. Wonaeamirri 3, H. Puruntatameri 3, D. Munkara 2, R. Tungatalum 2, C. Abala 2, P. Heenan, A. Tipungwuti, A. Darcy, N. Riddle

BEST:

Palmerston: K. Emery, D. Gordon, J. Berry, J. Rhodes, M. Perry (Jnr), J. Damaso
Tiwi: D. Munkara, H. Puruntatameri, N. Riddle, D. McLinden, J. Puruntatameri, J. Monigatti

Tiwi was quick to shake off Palmerston in Round 12’s final fixture, overpowering the Magpies to come out 61-point winners. Both sides had trouble converting at times, but the Bombers’ wealth of opportunities proved far too much for the struggling Magpies in the 7.10 (52) to 16.17 (113) loss.

After very nearly overcoming the Bombers in Round 5, Palmerston looked like providing a good challenge to its opponent once again, keeping touch for just over a quarter. But Tiwi soon clicked into gear with six goals to two to set up the win, consolidating with another half-dozen majors in the final term to pretty up the scoreboard. Both sides had at least seven individual goalkickers, but it was the Bombers’ five multiple goalkickers which proved the difference as no Magpie managed to trouble the scorers more than once. Austin Wonaeamirri and Harley Puruntatameri each booted a game-high three goals, but it was Dion Munkara who was judged best afield for the winners. Kyle Emery impressed for the Magpies, but he was unable to provide the goals needed alongside usual goal-getter Keidan Holt-Tubbs as the Bombers well and truly outgunned them with speed and class across the ground.

A twelfth loss sees Palmerston still 12 points adrift of seventh, but the opportunity to grab a breakthrough win may come knocking with two bottom three match-ups set for the Eagles upcoming fortnight. Waratah is next up for Tiwi, but the tough month following that fixture makes it a must-win for the Bombers as hopes dwindle among the bottom three.

NTFL Men’s Premier League preview: Round 12 – Teams return from mid-season break

FOOTBALL is back in 2020 as the Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Men’s Premier League season resumes under Friday night lights ahead of a huge triple-header on Saturday. In the game of the round, Darwin and Southern Districts play off in an eight-pointer while the remaining top five sides meet opponents further off the pace.

ST MARY’S (2nd, 8-3) vs. WANDERERS (6th, 3-7-1)
Friday January 3, 7:00pm
TIO Stadium

St Mary’s will be looking to extend its three-game winning run into the new year when it faces Wanderers to open Round 12 under Friday night lights. The Saints did not dwell on a second loss to Tiwi in Round 8, bouncing back to claim three wins on the trot and go clear in second heading into the mid-season break. While St Mary’s’ form has been consistent, Wanderers’ path has been less linear as the young side battles to regain its early-season form. The Eagles are set for a big boost as Gold Coast SUNS trainee Joel Jeffrey looks primed to return to the lineup, and he may be used up both ends as Victorian twin towers Jackson Paine and Jackson Calder have been named inside forward 50 for the Saints. The AFL experience of recent weeks is not quite as prominent for St Mary’s, but Jake Long is set to feature alongside potential 2020 Richmond father-son, Maurice Rioli Jnr. Opportunities will be limited for Wanderers as it pushes to reclaim a top five spot, and the Saints should pose a tough test as one of the genuine premiership contenders. Expect St Mary’s experience to come into play as the four quarters wear on.

DARWIN BUFFALOES (4th, 6-5) vs. SOUTHERN DISTRICTS (3rd, 7-3-1)
Saturday January 4, 2:30pm
TIO Stadium

Arguably the game of the round opens a huge Saturday triple-header at TIO Stadium, with Darwin and Southern Districts battling it out for top five supremacy. The Buffs have only defeated one of the current top five sides – Tiwi, all the way back in Round 1 – and come in having gone down to two of them right before the break. The Crocs fared slightly better in the build up to 2020, albeit having gone down comfortably to Nightcliff, but should take confidence in having already beaten the Buffaloes in Round 5. Both sides come in well stacked, with Southern Districts naming the likes of Michael Barlow, Ed Barlow, Jeff Garlett, and Richard Tambling, not to mention a forward line boasting the competition’s leading goalkicker in Will Farrer. Matt Campbell will lead his side in response, with the prolific Adam Sambono poised to return, Brodie Foster another likely inclusion, and Joe Anderson set to feature up forward alongside Daniel Stafford. While the Crocs’ side jumps off the page and their form has been telling at times, Darwin can beat anyone at its absolute best. The Buffs will need to bring exactly that if they are to stay in the top two hunt.

NIGHTCLIFF (1st, 10-1) vs. WARATAH (7th, 3-8)
Saturday January 4, 5:00pm
TIO Stadium

League leaders Nightcliff will aim to pick up where it left off in 2019, with bottom three opponent Waratah first on the agenda in the new year. The Tigers have been near-perfect in their premiership defence thus far, only going down to the second-ranked side and beating every other opponent through 11 rounds. While they will be looking for more of the same, a change of fortunes will be what Waratah is after as it looks to latch onto the heels of the top five. There has been a sizeable gap between the Warriors’ best and worse, with the absence of key players proving telling – and it could well be the case in this game. With Abe Ankers and Brodie Carroll not named in the squad, spearhead Kim Kantilla looks set for some added midfield time having been named as ruck rover. There should be no such issues for the versatile and deep Nightcliff side, with most of the key Tigers players set to feature. Trent Melville will look to push into top spot in the goalkicking charts on the back of a potential percentage booster, while Kaine Riley is one of many who will hope to continue their great form. The Tigers are always formidable, and will prove another tough ask for the Warriors in this fixture.

PALMERSTON MAGPIES (8th, 0-11) vs. TIWI BOMBERS (5th, 6-5)
Saturday January 4, 7:30pm
TIO Stadium

Palmerston’s new year resolutions will be clear heading into its first match of 2020, with the Tiwi Bombers first on the agenda in Round 12’s final fixture. While they have gone close a couple of times, the Magpies have mostly been well off the pace this season and sit bottom of the league as the only side yet to crack a win. Meanwhile, the Bombers have flown up into the top five after an indifferent start to their campaign, maintaining a positive record and now looking to extend the gap to sixth. This matchup could provide a great opportunity to do so given Wanderers and Waratah’s difficult assignments, but Palmerston’s lineup suggests it will be up for the fight. Alwyn Davey will lead his side on-field alongside brother, Aaron and son, Alwyn Jnr, while Kyle Emery and Misha Perry Jnr will also look to make an impact going forward. Tiwi’s side is stacked as usual, featuring the AFL experience of Tom Bell, Nathan Djerrkura, and Ashton Hams to go with their formidable list of usual suspects. While it looks a mismatch on paper, anything can happen after the break and the Magpies will be hungry to rectify a disappointing 2019.

Mid-season review: NTFL Men’s Premier League

THE mid-season break is in full swing for all Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Men’s Premier League clubs and fans alike, with the top five already looking set. We recap how each team has gone thus far in order of the current ladder; highlighting the big wins, losses, and outstanding players.

NIGHTCLIFF (1st, 10-1, 169%)

Best win: def. Tiwi Bombers by six points, Round 9

Worst loss: def. by St Mary’s by 27 points, Round 7

MVP: Kaine Riley

Most goals: Trent Melville (26)

In a premiership defence with just one blemish thus far, Nightcliff has proven it remains the team to beat. Barring a 27-point loss to St Mary’s in Round 7, the Tigers have beaten every side put before them – including fellow top five contenders Southern Districts and Tiwi twice each – constantly outlasting their opponents and finding a way to win. The reigning premier has had four players feature in every game, with Kaine Riley and Trent Melville two of them. Riley has been among the best in eight of those outings, while Melville has booted 26 majors to sit second in the league goalkicking tally. NT veteran Cam Ilett has proven instrumental with his versatility and leadership, with Joel Budarick coming on well and Liam Holt-Fitz forming a dangerous partnership with Melville inside 50. John Butcher has again been a handy recruit, with former-Williamstown VFL pair Leigh Masters and Willie Wheeler also enjoying decent cameos. With a settled lineup and class across the park, the Tigers will be tough to beat in the second half of the season.

ST MARY’S (2nd, 8-3, 138%)

Best win: def. Nightcliff by 27 points, Round 7

Worst loss: def. by Tiwi Bombers by 34 points, Round 8

MVP: Thomas Davies

Most goals: Jackson Calder, Shannon Rioli (15)

It has been a stark contrast to last season’s effort for St Mary’s, with the iconic NTFL club working its way back to the top end of the ladder. A Round 7 win over the otherwise undefeated Nightcliff was a clear season highlight, with a combined 174-point winning margin in Rounds 9 and 10 also right up there. With the highs came a couple of lows with shock losses to traditional rival, Tiwi and another at the hands of Southern Districts momentarily halting the Saints’ train. While regular fixtures Thomas Davies, Shannon Rioli, Nathaniel Paredes, and Leroy Larson have all been instrumental, the injection of AFL experience has also been telling. Jarrad Waite, David Armitage, Will Hams, Jackson Calder, Jackson Paine, and Michael Manteit have all had influential stints, while favourite sons Raphael Clarke, Shaun Edwards, and Jake Long also impacted on their returns. On their day and with a full-strength lineup, St Mary’s is one of the most formidable sides in the league, and could well be the one to dethrone Nightcliff come season’s end.

SOUTHERN DISTRICTS (3rd, 7-3-1, 129%)

Best win: def. Darwin Buffaloes by three points, Round 5

Worst loss: def. by Tiwi Bombers by 35 points, Round 7

MVP: Josiah Farrer

Most goals: William Farrer (27)

After an indifferent start to the season, Southern Districts has bounced back to put itself firmly in the premiership frame with a record good enough for third place. A 93-point drubbing of Palmerston kickstarted the Crocs’ season, going on to make it four wins in a row by toppling Darwin and St Mary’s back-to-back. Nightcliff continues to be the thorn in Southern Districts’ side though, going down to the Tigers twice while also dropping points to Tiwi in disappointing fashion. But the positives have been there for the Crocs, boasting the league’s leading goalkicker in William Farrer among a talented forward 50. The likes of Josiah Farrer and Beau Schwarze have rotated well through there, while South Australian Sam Barnett has provided a great focal point. The big names came through late in the piece as Michael Barlow, Ed Barlow, Richard Tambling, and Jeff Garlett all featured, only adding to the Crocs’ ferocity. With a dynamic front half and some experienced difference-makers, Southern Districts is a team capable of plenty on its day, but needs to put it together more consistently now.

DARWIN BUFFALOES (4th, 6-5, 126%)

Best win: def. Tiwi Bombers by 113 points, Round 1

Worst loss: def. by St Mary’s by 14 points, Round 11

MVP: Christopher Williams

Most goals: Daniel Stafford (17)

Darwin’s season to this point has been somewhat of a rollercoaster, but the Buffs have can still boast a positive record and safety in their top five spot. The Double Blues kicked off their season with a bang, trouncing Tiwi by over 100 points as Adam Sambono bagged an incredible haul of 12 goals. Looking a real flag threat, they improved to 3-0 after a controversial overturned win against Waratah, but were shortly reigned back by consecutive defeats at the hands of the current top three. But in overcoming the opposition they should, the Buffs are well placed heading into the new year. Key forward Daniel Stafford has only been held goalless once to lead his side’s goalkicking with 17 majors, followed by the enigmatic Brayden Culhane (16) and Sambono (13). Now less reliant on Joe Anderson and playing-coach Matt Campbell, Darwin’s leaders in Christopher Williams and Jarrod Stokes have stood up. Patrick Boles has been a great inclusion through midfield, while former-VFL stars Brodie Foster, Ryan Pendlebury and Stephen Tahana have had decent cameos. With their best names on the park, the Buffs look damaging, but there is a gap to bridge between that and their worst. Could be a big riser or faller in the second half of the season.

TIWI BOMBERS (5th, 6-5, 89%)

Best win: def. St Mary’s by 14 points, Round 3

Worst loss: def. by Darwin by 113 points, Round 1

MVP: Adam Tipungwuti

Most goals: Dion Munkara (16)

Rounding out the top five is Tiwi Bombers, another team to have enjoyed some terrific highs and disappointing lows. With a talent-stacked and exciting squad, the Bombers are hard to stop in full flight – just ask St Mary’s, who were on the receiving end in Round 3 as Tiwi got up in an absolute shoot-out. Boasting four wins over fellow finals-bond opponents is no mean feat, but is somewhat dampened by two losses to bottom three candidates, and near misses against Palmerston and Wanderers. Nonetheless, the dashing dare of Adam Tipungwuti, Dion Munkara, and Harley Puruntatameri has excited onlookers, with the reliability of Jason Puruntatameri, Rodney Baird, and Ross Tungatalum making Tiwi a well-rounded unit. Munkara leads an even goalkicking tally, from Austin Wonaeamirri, with features from former AFL midfielders Ashton Hams and Nathan Djerrkura proving handy along with the one-game cameo of Cyril Rioli. Victorian trio Charlie Molyneux, Nick Riddle and Liam Wale-Buxton also hit the ground running to feature in the best at least once each. The potential is there for Tiwi and the names would suggest so, with inconsistency the only issue to iron out as the Bombers mount a finals charge.

WANDERERS (6th, 3-7-1, 79%)

Best win: def. Tiwi Bombers by 14 points, Round 4

Worst loss: def. by Nightcliff by 73 points, Round 8

MVP: Braedon McLean

Most goals: Joel Jeffrey (19)

Wanderers slipped out of the finals spots on the back of five consecutive defeats after a promising start, with the mid-season break coming at an ideal time for the young side. A win over Tiwi and draw to Southern Districts in the first four rounds highlighted the Muk Muks’ potential, but a second heavy loss to Nightcliff to go with ones to Waratah and Tiwi means the gap to fifth place is 10 points. The exuberance of youth was clear to see as Joel Jeffrey, Beau O’Connell, Ronald Fejo, and Mark White all impressed in the forward half, with Jeffrey’s absence in the last month proving costly. Jordan Jeffrey, Braedon McLean, and Keelan Fejo have been serviceable, while stints from Liam Jurrah, Brett Eddy, Marlon Motlop, and Davin Ferreira are exactly what the young squad needs. The drop-off was steep, but with a break and time to refresh, Wanderers could be a team to challenge for the top five.

WARATAH (7th, 3-8, 75%)

Best win: def. Tiwi Bombers by 43 points, Round 6

Worst loss: def. by 123 points by St Mary’s, Round 9

MVP: Abe Ankers

Most goals: Kim Kantilla (20)

Waratah proved one of the more unlucky sides at the start of the season, searching for a win in the first five rounds before finally breaking through against Tiwi. Points against Darwin were overturned in Round 3 due to a team sheet error, and the Warriors have struggled against top four opposition since. The difference Abe Ankers makes to the side is profound, with the midfield ace booting 16 goals having only played in around half of his side’s games. Kim Kantilla has been terrific up forward with hauls as high as six, teaming up with Henry Kerinaiua and former VFL forward Steven Stroobants to good effect. Midfielder Brodie Carroll has also been reliable, but his side has been less so over the course of 11 rounds. Michael Newton has been one of the few big fish to land at Waratah this year but has not had the same impact as previous seasons, with the Warriors’ home grown talent leading their charge. With some classy players who can break games open, Waratah again looms as a late-season threat to the top five, but is well adrift at 12 points behind fifth.

PALMERSTON (8th, 0-11, 49%)

Best win: Nil

Worst loss: def. by Waratah by 89 points, Round 7

MVP: Jack Berry

Most goals: Broderick Church, Nigel Lockyer Jnr (7)

Stuck at the base of the ladder is Palmerston, still winless after 11 games following a disappointing campaign in 2018/19. While the Magpies have understandably suffered heavy defeats to top-end competition, they have fallen short from winning positions against Tiwi and Darwin in promising displays. A big loss to fellow bottom three side, Waratah in a clash between seventh and eighth compounded the misery, with few highlights to this point. Essendon trainee Nigel Lockyer Jnr was one of them before suffering an ankle injury, while the pair of Broderick Church and Keidan Holt-Tubbs has held up inside forward 50. The debuts of coach Alwyn Davey‘s sons, Alwyn Jnr and Jayden were much-hyped, while Victorian recruit Jack Berry has played a key hand in the part-time absence of Matthew Dennis. Through midfield, Adam Diamond and Aaron Lonergan have been solid with Sandy Brock another consistent contributor. While a win has looked far away at times, there is enough in this Palmerston unit to improve a heap in the second half of the season – the only way is up after all.

NTFL Men’s Premier League wrap: Round 11 – Tigers head into break on top

THE mid-season break is among us after 11 rounds of Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Men’s Premier League action, as the top five sides sitting pretty with a 10-point gap to those out of finals spots. There were two great comebacks and a couple of blowouts in a mixed weekend, with plenty of highlights as per usual.

TIWI BOMBERS 4.3 | 5.4 | 5.4 | 9.11 (65)
WANDERERS 2.2 | 4.7 | 8.12 | 8.13 (61)

GOALS:

Tiwi: D. Munkara 2, R. Tungatalum 2, A. Wonaeamirri 2, M. Kantilla, J. Simon, J. Monigatti
Wanderers: C. Haley 3, R. Fejo 2, L. Patrick, M. White, B. O’Connell

BEST:

Tiwi: J. Monigatti, D. Kruse, H. Puruntatameri, J. Puruntatameri, N. Riddle, P. Heenan
Wanderers: D. Thompson, B. O’Connell, C. Haley, M. Motlop, E. Colley

Tiwi pulled off a monumental comeback in a game of momentum swings to move 10 points clear of weekend opponent, Wanderers with a four-point win. The young Eagles side fell away once again at the crucial moment, falling short in the 9.11 (65) to 8.13 (61) result with both sides proving inaccurate.

The Bombers were ahead at two of the four breaks with the sides drawing level at half time, but that did not tell the true story of the game, with Wanderers looking good for the four points after adding 4.5 to nil in a dominant third quarter. But a goalless term of their own to follow up brought all the hard work undone as Tiwi again managed a great escape to end the year. It was a case of the usual suspects pulling through for both sides, as the likes of Dray Thompson and Beau O’Connell contributed for the Muk Muks, while Charlie Haley had his best game for the year with three goals. A slightly subdued Tiwi scoring effort was led by Dion Munkara, Ross Tungatalum, and Austin Wonaeamirri‘s two majors apiece, but Jack Mongiatti, David Kruse, and Nick Riddle were recognised as the best Bombers.

After a real eight-pointer in terms of filling out the top five, Tiwi find themselves well clear with a 10-point gap in fifth to the sliding Eagles as the ladder starts to take shape. The Bombers will look to resume their season in style when they face Palmerston next month, while Wanderers takes on St Mary’s in the new year with the break coming at an ideal time.

DARWIN BUFFALOES 4.1 | 6.3 | 6.6 | 6.9 (45)
ST MARY’S 0.4 | 4.4 | 6.6 | 8.11 (59)

GOALS:

Darwin: D. Stafford 3, M. Campbell 2, K. Campbell
St Mary’s: L. Larson 3, A. Parry, R. Jordon, J. Waite, S. Rioli, R. Miller

BEST:

Darwin: D. Stafford, T. Eldridge, K. Maroney, I. Seden-Kurnoth, B. Stokes
St Mary’s: J. Geary, T. Davies, R. Jordon, J. Salmon, S. Edwards, A. Long

An incredible second half turnaround helped see St Mary’s trump fellow finals hopeful Darwin in the round’s other tight contest. The Saints’ top-end class proved too much for the Buffs over time, carrying the winners to an 8.11 (59) to 6.9 (45) win.

The Buffs looked on early, with four goals in the opening term, all while keeping their opponents without a major until after the first break. But the Saints moved within striking distance at half time and would draw level heading into the last turn, completing a lockout second half to move ahead by the eventual 15-point margin. Leroy Larson bagged his second three-goal haul for the season at the ideal time to lead the Saints inside 50, but it was the efforts of Jackson Geary, Thomas Davies, and Shaun Edwards further afield which made all the difference once again. Darwin’s defence did well to keep Jarrad Waite and Jackson Calder to one goal between them, while their own big forward, Daniel Stafford booted three of his own and coach Matt Campbell added two. Kevin Maroney and Bradley Stokes were also back among the best in a tight losing effort.

The crucial win sees St Mary’s end the year in second, now two games clear of Darwin but the same distance away from Nightcliff in first. The going will be just as tough for the Buffs in the new year as they face Southern Districts straight off the bat, while St Mary’s has a dangerous Wanderers to content with come January.

WARATAH 2.2 | 5.4 | 6.6 | 7.9 (51)
SOUTHERN DISTRICTS 2.2 | 6.5 | 10.7 | 16.9 (105)

GOALS:

Waratah: H. Kerinaiua 2, D. Simpson, K. Kantilla, A. Raikiwasa, D. Collis, R. Bulluss
Southern Districts: W. Farrer 4, L. Stanbrook 3, J. Garlett 2, B. Rusca 2, D. Barry, J. Farrer, R. Tambling, D. Corbett, D. Staunton

BEST:

Waratah: N/A
Southern Districts: D. Staunton, T. Holman, C. McAdam, R. Tambling, B. Rusca, M. Barlow

A stacked Southern Districts side lived up to the billing with an impressive second half romping of Waratah at Gardens Oval. The Crocs simply had too much firepower for their bottom three opponent, kicking away to the 16.9 (105) to 7.9 (51) result.

The Warriors were gallant for a good half of the game, sharing the spoils to quarter time and falling just one goal short heading into the main break. But the floodgates began to open after that as Southern Districts turned it on going both ways, piling on ten goals while keeping the Warriors to just two in a one-sided end to the contest. Will Farrer continued his ominous goalkicking form with another bag of four goals – besting his season average of three per game. He was backed well by Luke Stanbrook (three goals) and Jeff Garlett (two), with Garlett’s ex-AFL Crocs teammates Richard Tambling and Michael Barlow featuring among the best. Henry Kerinaiua was again prominent inside 50 for the losing side, with fellow goalsneak Kim Kantilla finding the goals and former Bendigo Pioneer Laine Fitzgerald proving a welcome addition.

Southern Districts is ten points off the top but safe in the finals zone, with a clash against Darwin after the break one which will have real implications on the finals race. Speaking of, finals is a quest which is slowly slipping away from Waratah, with a big effort needed in the new year if the Warriors are to recover the three-game deficit to fifth – starting with Nightcliff in January.

NIGHTCLIFF 4.2 | 9.5 | 11.11 | 13.13 (91)
PALMERSTON MAGPIES 1.0 | 2.1 | 2.1 | 2.4 (16)

GOALS:

Nightcliff: T. Melville 6, L. Holt-Fitz 2, P. Wills 2, R. Mu, C. Ilett, Z. Brain
Palmerston: N/A

BEST:

Nightcliff: B. Filo, M. McGregor, C. Ilett, L. Holt-Fitz, P. Wills, Z. Brain
Palmerston: N/A

The gap from first to last proved vast as Nightcliff trounced Palmerston to the tune of 75 points to see out the round and year of football. With the result beyond reasonable doubt as early as at half time, the Tigers made a statement in the 13.13 (91) to 2.4 (16) result.

Nightcliff opened its account steadily with four goals to one in the first term, but soon overwhelmed the Magpies with another five goals to enter the main break 46 points to the good. The mix of tight defensive efforts and overpowering attack proved the story of the day, with Palmerston running out of answers quickly. Trent Melville was back to his best with six goals as the main avenue up forward, aided once again by Liam Holt-Fitz, while Brodie Filo was named best afield for his efforts. It was a tough day out for the Magpies with just two goals kicked and no points on the board heading into the new year, but spurts of competitive action should put them in good stead for an improved second half of the season.

Tiwi is first up for Palmerston as the Magpies look to start afresh in 2020, with a tight contest in the reverse fixture something to find confidence in. The Tigers will restart against another bottom three opponent in Waratah, with a near-flawless start to the season making them the clear best team thus far.

NTFL Men’s Premier League wrap: Round 10 – Tiwi breaks clear in top five

THE Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Men’s Premier League top five is becoming clear after 10 rounds, with most teams looking settled heading into the mid-season break. Nightcliff stamped its authority as the competition’s best with a big win over its nearest rival, Tiwi managed a meaningful win at home, St Mary’s jumped into second, and Waratah got up in a bottom three clash.

TIWI BOMBERS 4.7 | 9.8 | 11.12 | 15.15 (105)
DARWIN BUFFALOES 3.3 | 7.6 | 8.9 | 13.13 (91)

GOALS:

Tiwi: A. Tipungwuti 2, M. Kantilla 2, R. Tungatalum 2, H. Puruntatameri 2, D. Munkara 2, A. Wonaeamirri 2, P. Heenan, B. Rioli, D. Daniels
Darwin: D. Stafford 6, A. McAdam 2, D. Shillabeer 2, J. Niki, C. Williams, B. Culhane

BEST:

Tiwi: A. Darcy, A. Hams, R. Baird, J. Puruntatameri, H. Puruntatameri, R. Farmer
Darwin: N/A

Tiwi earned some breathing space in the NTFL top five with a hard-earned win over Darwin at home, putting the Bombers six points clear of the bottom three. The home side’s transition running proved too much throughout, powering it to a 15.15 (105) to 13.13 (91) result.

The Bombers managed to stay just enough ahead at every break, opening up a 10-point gap in the first term and building on it with each passing stanza. A late surge from the Buffs proved too little, too late, with Tiwi holding on under pressure and Darwin left to rue some missed opportunities. An impressive six players booted two goals each for Tiwi, but it was Alastair Darcy, Ashton Hams, and Rodney Baird who were named best for their efforts further afield. Bomber Michael Kantilla was also recognised with a rising star nomination. For Darwin, key forward Daniel Stafford did most of the damage with six goals, with fellow bigman Darren Shillabeer managing two but both spurning some good chances. Christopher Williams was his usual self, while Aidan McAdam was lively up forward.

Heading into a crucial clash with St Mary’s, the Buffs will be without Shillabeer after he was offered a two-match ban for umpire abuse, while Donga Maymuru sustained a horror knee injury and is set for a long spell on the sidelines. With no such concerns, Tiwi will look to further cement its spot in the top five next when when it does battle with Wanderers at Tiwi Oval.

PALMERSTON MAGPIES 4.1 | 5.2 | 7.3 | 10.5 (65)
ST MARY’S 5.3 | 10.9 | 14.10 | 17.14 (116)

GOALS:

Palmerston: B. Church 3, A. Davey, M. Bunworth, W. Shadforth, A. Diamond, E. Frank, J. Patrick, J. Thompson
St Mary’s: D. Johnstone 4, J. Calder 4, S. Rioli 3, N. Paredes 2, J. Long, N. Yarran, L. Larson, J. Cheek

BEST:

Palmerston: A. Diamond, B. Church, J. Rhodes, J. Patrick, W. Shadforth, J. Berry
St Mary’s: J. Geary, R. Smith, D. Armitage, N. Paredes, J. Calder, B. Slater

St Mary’s pounced back into second spot with a comfortable 51-point win over the lowly Palmerston Magpies, keeping touch with Nightcliff in the process. The Saints were far too good in the 17.14 (116) to 10.5 (65) win, posing a host of attacking threats and maintaining a dour defence when it mattered.

After a competitive start, St Mary’s broke away in the second term with five goals to one, building a base for its winning margin and setting the tone for the rest of the game. Another one-sided term put the result all but beyond doubt, with Palmerston lacking answers to the scoreboard pressure. Dylan Johnstone and Jackson Calder shared almost half of the Saints’ goals with four apiece, backing up from big hauls last week. Shannon Rioli was also among the goals (three), but it was Jackson Geary and Ryan Smith who again went one and two in the best ahead of David Armitage. Broderick Church was the answer up forward for Palmerston as he notched three majors, leading a pack of eight individual goalkickers. Adam Diamond continued his good form to be named the Magpies’ best, with Jack Berry also featuring once again.

The Magpies’ search for a maiden win will not get any easier before the new year with Nightcliff next in their sights, making for a scary proposition. On the other hand, the Saints play off against a fellow finals-bound side next time out in the form of Darwin, just as the race for second hots up.

SOUTHERN DISTRICTS 3.1 | 4.4 | 5.7 | 8.7 (55)
NIGHTCLIFF 3.1 | 6.4 | 11.5 | 14.9 (93)

GOALS:

Southern Districts: W. Farrer 3, R. O’Brien 2, J. Farrer, B. Schwarze, D. Williams
Nightcliff: M. Hagan 3, T. Melville 2, L. Holt-Fitz 2, C. Ilett 2, B. Grewar, S. Wilson, M. Bricknell, J. Butcher, D. Bowles

BEST:

Southern Districts: R. O’Brien, B. Schwarze, T. Holman, J. Farrer, D. McLachlan
Nightcliff: C. Ilett, B. Grewar, L. Masters, D. Bowles, Z. Brain, L. Holt-Fitz

Nightcliff put its foot down as the team to beat, trumping Southern Districts by 38 points in a top of the table clash. The Tigers were ultra-impressive going both ways, sealing the 14.9 (93) to 8.7 (55) result in style to go eight points clear on top.

A stalemate first term and close second stanza saw the Crocs remain within striking distance at two goals adrift as Nightcliff’s defence held strong, but a five-goal to one third term broke the game open for the winners. It was elementary to finish off, with Southern Districts unable to chew into the lead far enough as the Tigers remained on the pulse. Nine individual goal kickers were led by Michael Hagan‘s bag of three for Nightcliff, teaming well with the likes of Liam Holt-Fitz. Cam Ilett also troubled the scorers and was named best afield, with ex-Williamstown forward Leigh Masters also among the action. Will Farrer produced a couple of highlights on his way to nabbing three goals for Southern Districts, with fellow goalkickers Rory O’Brien, Josiah Farrer and Beau Schwarze also influential.

With the result putting them in third, the Crocs will look to bounce back against Waratah next time out, but may have their work cut out for them with the Warriors coming off an impressive win despite their bottom three status. Meanwhile, Nightcliff will look to finish its year on a high when it faces bottom side, Palmerston on Sunday night.

WARATAH 3.3 | 4.8 | 12.11 | 14.14 (98)
WANDERERS 0.4 | 4.5 | 6.7 | 9.12 (66)

GOALS:

Waratah: A. Ankers 4, K. McBean 2, K. Kantilla 2, H. Kerinaiua, S. Godden, D. Collis, B. Zobel, D. Booth, W. Gorman
Wanderers: W. Williams 3, S. Tipiloura 3, D. Thompson, S. Motlop, K. Fejo

BEST:

Waratah: N/A
Wanderers: W. Williams, B. McLean, W. Yunupingu, E. Colley, D. Thompson

Waratah kept its thin finals hopes alive with a win over fellow bottom three side, Wanderers to the tune of 32 points. The Warriors answered each Muk Muks charge, coming out comfortable 14.14 (98) to 9.12 (66) winners in the end.

In a game with heavy momentum swings, Wanderers hit back after a goalless opening term to head into the main break just three points behind. But another big quarter from Waratah, with eight goals to two, put it 40 points to the good with time running out for the Muk Muks. It proved a bridge too far, with a spread of nine goalkickers helping Waratah boot the winning score. Abe Ankers led the way once again with four majors, while dangerous smalls Kim Kantilla and Henry Kerinaiua also found the big sticks. It was less of an even spread for the Eagles, with three goals apiece from Warwick Williams and Stanley Tipiloura very useful nonetheless. Braedon McLean was again influential, but the very young Eagles side just could not perform consistently enough over the four quarters.

Drawing within two points of Wanderers with the win, Waratah next faces Southern Districts in a tough assignment, while the Eagles have the equally tough task of taking on Tiwi as they look to steady their season and break back into the top five.