Tag: adam tipungwuti

2019/2020 NTFL Men’s Premier League team review: Tiwi Bombers

THE next team under review in our club-by-club Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Men’s Premier League recap is Tiwi Bombers, who produced many a highlight throughout this year’s campaign. Renowned for their electric end-to-end style and pace on the outside, the Bombers were one of the more free-scoring sides of 2019/20 and caught plenty of eyes on the way to a third-consecutive finals berth.

In a boost for the club, favourite son Cyril Rioli Jnr made his long-awaited return to the Islands, suiting up and playing a key role in his side’s memorable Round 5 win over Palmerston, while gun midfielder Adam Tipungwuti is currently trying his hand at cracking the AFL at North Melbourne’s VFL side. Despite exiting finals in straight sets having scraped in for a double-chance, moments like these made Tiwi’s season a special one.


TIWI BOMBERS 2019/20 SEASON REVIEW

Record: 4th, 11-7 (0-2 finals), 102%

Most games: Jason Puruntatameri, Matthew Kantilla, Patrick Heenan (18)

Most goals: Austin Wonaeamirri (35)

A Tiwi stalwart and mainstay in their dynamic forward line, Wonaeamirri was consistently the centrepiece of his side’s attacking efforts. The former Melbourne goalsneak is a reliable set shot and clever at ground level, making him a dependable option around goal. Wonaeamirri was held goalless just twice across 17 games this season, booting multiple goals on 12 occasions and embarking on a remarkable stretch of 11 games where he found the big sticks at least once. In his third-straight season of 30-plus goals, Wonaeamirri only confirmed his status as one of the premier goalkickers.

MVP: Jason Puruntatameri (best & fairest winner)

One of the key exponents of Tiwi’s run-and-gun style, Puruntatameri consolidated his standing as Tiwi’s finest player this year with a campaign good enough to earn a second-consecutive best and fairest nod. Much of Tiwi’s rebound and dash out of its own half was generated by the play-making defender, who was incredibly consistent in his equal team-high 18 appearances this season. Testament to his importance to the team, Puruntatameri was named among the best 14 times in 2019/20, including a streak of 10 games to begin the season which featured three best afield performances.

Best Nichols Medal poller: Ashton Hams (12)

The former West Coast Eagles small did incredibly well to poll 12 votes in just six NTFL Premier League games in 2019/20, playing a key role in five regular season wins before standing tall in a disappointing semi final loss. The diminutive midfielder/forward transitioned well as he moved closer to goal later in the year, booting all of his eight goals in his last three outings for Tiwi – including a bag of four against Darwin in Round 15. Leaning on all of his AFL and WAFL experience, Hams was an integral part of the Bombers’ lineup when available, and gave it his all when picked.

Young gun: Jeffrey Simon

An NT Thunder Under 16 representative in 2018 and Under 18 squad member last year, Simon made his mark on the Premier League this season, adding 17 senior games to the 19 he amassed previously. A multiple-time Rising Star nominee, the talent of Simon is known to all in the NT, and he continues to build on an impressive resume. Able to be utilised on any line and in multiple roles, Simon looks at home on the outside where he can use his clean skills and penetrating run to create forward opportunities for his side. Coming into his draft year, he may be one to watch.

Best win: Round 3 – def. St Mary’s 20.7 (127) to 17.11 (113)

Goals: R. Tungatalum 4, A. Wonaeamirri 4, R. Farmer 2, H. Puruntatameri 2, D. Munkara 2, J. Simon 2, G. Cunningham 2, J. Puruntatameri, P. Heenan
Best: J. Puruntatameri, A. Tipungwuti, H. Puruntatameri, C. Molyneux, D. Munkara, C. Luff

This game was an absolute shootout, producing fireworks between two traditional rivals – in the right way – with an incredible display of attacking football. After two sizeable losses to open their season, not much was expected of the Bombers against the much-improved Saints, but they came out firing and held off St Mary’s late charge to win an all-time classic. The usual suspects all starred, with Jason Puruntatameri named best afield, while Ross Tungatalum and Austin Wonaeamirri each booted four goals. This was the game which proved what Tiwi was capable of.

Worst loss: Round 4 – def. by Wanderers 8.10 (58) to 10.12 (72)

Goals: G. Cunningham 2, R. Tungatalum 2, J. Simon, J. Best, P. Heenan, D. Munkara
Best: J. Puruntatameri, N. Djerrkura, R. Baird, B. Palipuaminni, S. Babui, L. Howe

Coming straight after such a team-lifting win against St Mary’s the previous week, this was such a disappointing way to back it up. In Tiwi’s first of just two losses to the eventual bottom three sides, a depleted Bombers lineup was outdone by the youthful and exciting Wanderers team. While the experience and class of Puruntatameri, Nathan Djerrkura, and Rodney Baird was there to steady the ship, the Muk Muks hit back strong after a slow opening term and held on for the surprise win. With a 1-3 start to the season, there were doubts over Tiwi’s credentials, which were quickly quashed.

Finals semi-finals preview: NTFL Men’s Premier League – Tigers and Saints to battle for Grand Final spot

A DOUBLE-header at TIO Stadium sees the remaining four sides battle it out in search of keeping their premiership dreams alive. For Nightcliff and St Mary’s, they have a second chance locked in the bank, with a Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Men’s Premier League Grand Final spot on the line, with the loser through to the preliminary final. For Tiwi Bombers and Southern Districts, there is no turning back for the loser, in the do-or-die final. The winner heads to the preliminary final, while the loser bows out of the 2019/20 finals.

TIWI BOMBERS vs. SOUTHERN DISTRICTS
Saturday, February 29, 4.30pm
TIO Stadium

In the first game of the double-header, Tiwi Bombers will look to bounce back from a loss against St Mary’s last weekend to face Southern Districts who kept their finals dream alive with a win in the elimination final last round. These sides have met twice thus far, with the third placed Bombers getting up on both occasions. Back in Round 7 at TIO Stadium, Tiwi won by 35 points, before doubling it up with a 46-point victory at Norbuilt Oval showing a capacity to win on the road as well. Aside from two losses to St Mary’s and one to Nightcliff in the past four weeks, the Bombers had won six on the trot, and then finished the season with a 13-point victory over Wanderers. While their end to the season was disappointing, they did play the top two teams for three losses and they should be much better placed here. The Crocs on the other hand have run into form for the finals, winning the past four games and averaging 113 points per game while restricting their opponents to 52.5 points per game. The Puruntatameri‘s will loom as two of the danger players in the Bombers’ side, with Harley booting 21 goals – the third most of any Tiwi player – while Jason has been named in the best a remarkable 14 times from 17 matches. Rodney Baird and Adam Tipungwuti are always dangerous, while Austin Wonaeamirri (32 goals) and Ross Tungatalum (23 goals) are the ones likely to apply plenty of scoreboard pressure. In terms of goalkicking power, William Farrer is by far the standout in this game, slotting 49 goals from 17 games including a haul of eight. Thomas Holman has been the standout player and is arguably leading the Crocs’ best and fairest with 11 times named in the bests, while Josiah Farrer (19 goals) has also got amongst it, as has former AFL player, Ed Barlow. With young gun, Brodie Lake having a superb senior season, the Crocs have the depth and talent to get a win here. In saying that, the Bombers have won on both occasions against the Crocs and should be able to do it again.

NIGHTCLIFF vs. ST MARY’S
Saturday, February 29, 7.00pm
TIO Stadium

While the first game offers plenty to the neutral, the two best sides in the NTFL Men’s Premier League go at it in the night game with reigning premiers, Nightcliff tackling reigning wooden spooners St Mary’s. It has been a remarkable rise from the Saints who have risen from a disappointing season to get back to where they have been throughout their history as the most successful club in the competition. In saying that, it will be a tough ask for the Saints as Nightcliff has been the clear standout side and look likely to defend its title in 2019/20. The last time these teams played, Nightcliff won in a canter, 14.13 (97) to 4.8 (32) at home on PSC BM Oval, which reversed the result from a 27-point loss to the Saints on this very stadium at TIO. That loss turned out to be the only blemish in Nightcliff’s otherwise perfect season and it was the day that former Collingwood and Brisbane Lions forward, Jackson Paine booted five goals and led his side to victory. The Tigers have the most scoring options in the competition with Trent Melville (41 goals), Liam Holt-Fitz (30), Cameron Illett (24) and Lachlan Sharp (20) all booting more than 20 goals this season in the yellow and black. Kaine Riley has been a sensation for Nightcliff, named in the best 10 times from a possible 16 games, while Illett and Holt-Fitz will also be pushing for the best and fairest votes. With plenty of inclusions at different times, the likes of Brodie Filo and Michael Hagan have benefited, while VFL player James Tsitas has had an impact when on the park. Jackson Calder has been the dominant goalkicker for the Saints and would be a key player to stop in this final, slotting 28 goals from 11 games, while Shannon Rioli (25) has plenty of majors to his name. Nathaniel Paredes has once against been a force to be reckoned with, booting 22 goals and named among the best five times in a really consistent season. Helped by the inclusion of former AFL players, Paine, Jarrad Waite, Raphael Clarke and Shaun Edwards, they are always a threat to any opposition. However the Tigers should get up in this one because they have been the clear best team all season and are hungry for another flag.

Finals preview: NTFL Men’s Premier League – Tigers primed for premiership defence

EIGHTEEN rounds of Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Men’s Premier League football have come and gone, leaving a final five which was clearly ahead of the rest. Reigning premier, Nightcliff will come into the post-season as favourite to defend its crown, but challengers in the form of St Mary’s – the only team to beat them in season 2019/20 – and Tiwi are not far behind. That is not to mention elimination finalists Southern Districts and Darwin, who will both be looking to shake up what is set to be a hotly contested finals series.

REGULAR SEASON RECAPS:

NIGHTCLIFF – 1st, 17-1 (197%)

Leading goalkicker: Trent Melville (41 goals)

MVP: Kaine Riley

Best win: Rd 14, def. St Mary’s by 65 points

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

The Tigers will be unbackable favourites to go back-to-back this year, which would provide a fitting end to their 17-1 regular season – defeating every side on their way to a near-perfect record. The only blemish on said record was a Round 7 loss to second-ranked side, St Mary’s, but was redeemed just seven games later as the Tigers toppled the Saints by a whopping 65 points. Tiwi was the only other side to get within a goal of Nightcliff, with the minor premier taking on each challenge from finals contenders while also proving ruthless against bottom three opponents. Three players; Daniel Bowles, Kyle Winter-Irving, and Trent Melville played every home-and-away game, with Melville returning another massive goal tally (41) to lead the club in that area. Seventeen-game players Liam Holt-Fitz (30 goals) and Cam Ilett (24) also had no trouble finding the big sticks, while bit-parters Lachlan Sharp and John Butcher combined for 36 majors over just six outings each. Kaine Riley deservedly took out the club’s best and fairest award, named in the best half-dozen in 10 of his 17 games. With plenty of experience and stars on each line, it is not hard to see why Nightcliff has so comprehensively become the competition’s benchmark, but the Tigers will need to stay motivated to claim that deserved flag.

ST MARY’S – 2nd, 14-4 (137%)

Leading goalkicker: Jackson Calder & Leroy Larson (24)

MVP: Thomas Davies

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

Worst loss: Rd 3, def. by Tiwi Bombers by 14 points

St Mary’s looms as the biggest challenger to Nightcliff’s throne after a 14-4 regular season which saw it finish three games clear in second. During a much-improved season, the 2018/19 wooden spooners were the only side to beat Nightcliff, while only going down to the finals-bound Tigers, Crocs, and Bombers (twice). Despite those thorns in their side, the Saints were just one of two teams to beat every other NTFL club this season, making them the clear best of the rest. Thomas Davies held down the fort for much of the year to be named among the best 12 times across 17 games, while Leroy Larson and Jackson Calder led the goalkicking with 24 apiece. Calder’s average of 2.4 goals per game was superior, with ex-Roo and Blue Jarrad Waite and Dylan Johnstone also proving handy when available, while mainstays Shannon Rioli and Nate Paredes each booted over 20 majors. The returns of Kieren Parnell, Jake Long, Shaun Edwards, and Jackson Geary all lifted Saints’ spirits, while cameos from even more former-AFL players ensured St Mary’s maintained its level of form. That form is good enough to trump any side and given its already formidable resume, St Mary’s is a genuine premiership contender.

TIWI BOMBERS – 3rd, 11-7 (102%)

Leading goalkicker: Austin Wonaeamirri (30)

MVP: Jason Puruntatameri

Best win: Rd 3, def. Tiwi Bombers by 14 points

Worst loss: Rd 1, def. by Darwin Buffaloes by 113 points

Tiwi recaptured the late 2018/19 form which saw it earn a preliminary final berth, overcoming a shaky start to finish the 2019/20 season in third place. The Bombers left it late too, losing in Rounds 16 and 17 to slide to fourth, but regaining third spot with a tight win over Wanderers. Early signs were shown as the Bombers outgunned St Mary’s in a Round 3 shootout, and their true credentials came to the fore between Rounds 7 and 10, where they went 3-1 against the then top four. It was smoother sailing from then, onwards, with Tiwi one of the more exciting teams to watch. Austin Wonaeamirri led the goalkicking with a season of 30, while a group of nine players littered with mainstays all notched up over 10 majors. Jason and Harley Puruntatameri were instrumental throughout the season alongside North Melbourne VFL signing Adam Tipungwuti, with cameos from Charlie Molyneux, Nathan Djerrkura, Jake Best, and Ashton Hams among the best throughout a top season – not to mention Cyril Rioli‘s Round 5 homecoming. With only the best sides left to face, Tiwi will have to find an extra gear to overcome the top two teams, and have the strength to do so.

SOUTHERN DISTRICTS – 4th, 10-7-1 (120%)

Leading goalkicker: Will Farrer (47)

MVP: Josiah Farrer

Best win: Rd 6, def. St Mary’s by 12 points

Worst result: Rd 2, drew with Wanderers

Southern Districts were half a game away from creeping into third place after an indifferent 2019/20 campaign, with a Round 2 draw with Wanderers ultimately costing the Crocs a finals second chance. A rocky start was soon rectified by four-consecutive wins, with Districts able to demolish the teams below them for the most part, but eventually struggling against the rest of the top five. Spearhead Will Farrer ended a stellar season as the competition’s leading goalkicker, bagging a high of eight goals while being held goalless just twice in 16 games. Thomas Holman and Josiah Farrer will be among the leading best and fairest candidates, with the latter the only Croc to play all 18 games. Young guns Brodie Lake, Brandon Rusca, and Beau Schwarze all showed promising signs, with the ex-AFL experience of Ed Barlow, Michael Barlow, Richard Tambling, and Jeff Garlett aiding them. At full strength, the Crocs can match it with anyone, but finding peak form has been an issue for the 2018/19 grand finalists. Three comfortable wins coming in will bode well for Districts, but four-straight defeats before that run will not.

DARWIN BUFFALOES – 5th, 10-8 (118%)

Leading goalkicker: Daniel Stafford (39)

MVP: Christopher Williams

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

Worst result: Rd 3, def. by Waratah (overturned)

The unluckiest side out of Round 18’s results, Darwin will enter the finals series having fallen just one win short of a top three berth. The story of the Buffs’ early season was one of streaks, building short winning runs to go two steps forward, before dropping a step back with consecutive losses. Their second half of the season proved just as inconsistent, but the Double Blues still managed to maintain a positive record a remain one of the teams to beat – dropping 0 points to the eventual bottom three. Daniel Stafford was central to the Buffs’ scoring efforts, booting 39 goals in 12 games with just one goalless outing. Arguable best and fairest favourite Christopher Williams was the only Buffalo to play every game, with Darwin’s forward half its biggest strength. The likes of Darren Shillabeer, Brayden Culhane, and skipper Jarrod Stokes all enjoyed strong seasons, while Brodie Foster and Ishmael Palmer added value in patches. Should all those cogs click in the clutch, Darwin could inflict a couple of post-season upsets, but the Buffs will have to be flawless given their elimination slot.

WEEK ONE PREVIEW:

Southern Districts and Darwin Buffaloes put it all on the line in their elimination final clash to open the post-season, while St Mary’s and Tiwi play off for the chance to face Nightcliff next week in a bumper first round of finals.

The Crocs and Buffs have clashed twice before in season 2019/20, each claiming a win by a combined eight points. Darwin’s victory in their most recent clash effectively proved the difference as Districts missed out on third, adding a little extra spice to this contest with no margin for error in their current situation. Watch for a potential shootout between mercurial forwards Farrer and Stafford, with the outside run and class of Districts potentially granting them more avenues for goal, while the seasoned veterans of Darwin will need to stand up across the ground.

In the featured final bout between St Mary’s and Tiwi, another chapter will be written in the league’s leading traditional rivalry. The two sides have met three times already this season, with the Bombers proving the thorn in St Mary’s side early on, but eventually dropping points in their Round 17 meeting. Tiwi’s firepower has tested the usually well-structured Saints defence before, but the inclusion of Jake Long went a long way to rectifying that last time out. Expect the Saints to back themselves to match Tiwi in that department should they be at full strength, but more likely look to slow the game down and control the tempo. Tiwi’s pace and outside run can match that of any team, but St Mary’s has become renowned for its spread of class on each line.

FIXTURES:

Elimination Final – Southern Districts vs. Darwin Buffaloes
Saturday January 22, 4:30pm @ TIO Stadium

Head-to-head: 1-1

Form: Crocs 3-2, Buffaloes 3-2

Tip: Crocs by 15

Qualifying Final – St Mary’s vs. Tiwi Bombers
Saturday January 22, 7:00pm @ TIO Stadium

Head-to-head: 2-1 Bombers

Form: Saints 4-1, Bombers 3-2

Tip: Saints by 24

NTFL Men’s Premier League preview: Round 18 – Super Saturday sees out regular season

THE final Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Men’s Premier League round goes down on what is set to be a super Saturday of footy, with all four fixtures taking place on the one day at four separate venues. Three sides are vying for the all-important third place to secure a second chance in finals, while the top two and bottom three are all locked in with one set of games to play.

WANDERERS vs. TIWI BOMBERS
Saturday February 15, 2:30pm
TIO Stadium

Tiwi will consider itself as being in the box seat to snatch back third spot, as it opens the closing regular season round against Wanderers at TIO Stadium. While consecutive losses – albeit to the top two sides – have seen Tiwi slip down to fourth, the Bombers have shown form to suggest they can challenge the very best come crunch time. But in somewhat of a bittersweet story for their season, the Bombers will be without recent North Melbourne VFL signing Adam Tipungwuti as he undergoes his first Victorian pre-season. Tiwi will still come in with a strong lineup heading into finals, with Tipungwuti’s run left for Harley Puruntatameri to generate, while Nathan Djerrkura will make up his class on the ball. Wanderers, looking to end its season on a high amid 11 consecutive losses, also comes in boasting an exciting extended squad, with a heap of young talent set to take the stage once again. Joel Jeffrey has been the standout as the Eagles’ leading goalkicker, set to team up with Liam Patrick inside forward 50. The in-form Beau O’Connell teams up again with Braedon McLean through midfield, with the x-factor of Mark White also in on the extended bench. With plenty of pace lining up across the field, expect a heap of highlights from two clubs which have been notorious for them over the course of this season. It may seem a foregone conclusion with Tiwi hunting a superior finals position and percentage boost, but expect the Eagles to be competitive.

SOUTHERN DISTRICTS vs. WARATAH
Saturday February 15, 4:00pm
Norbuilt Oval

Southern Districts’ slim chances of snatching third spot boil down to at least getting a result against Waratah in their clash on Crocs’ territory, with the Warriors looking to play spoiler. While Districts struggled to navigate a month of top five match-ups, their run home against the bottom three sides has seen them enter winning form heading into finals, with this another opportunity to extend that run. The Crocs are set to field a relatively strong team too, highlighted by the inclusion of former Brisbane and Gold Coast utility Jared Brennan, while the midfield-forward rotation is also typical strong; featuring Richard Tambling, Ed Barlow, Josiah Farrer, and Jeff Garlett. That is not to mention competition leading goalkicker Will Farrer, who comes in off an eight-goal haul against Palmerston. In response, Waratah is set to field a decent side with leader Abe Ankers named at the heart of midfield, while the trio of Kim Kantilla, Jae McGrath, and Michael Newton headline an exciting front six. They will need to produce plenty of opportunities to overshadow the Crocs’ firepower, with the fifth-ranked side cracking the fabled ton in its last two outings. But Districts should take nothing for granted against the Warriors, who have already proven their ability to be competitive at their best despite enduring a lacklustre season.

ST MARY’S vs. DARWIN BUFFALOES
Saturday February 15, 4:00pm
Gardens Oval

St Mary’s has the opportunity to foil Darwin’s attempt to hold onto third spot when the two sides do battle at Gardens Oval in the Saturday twilight. The Saints have won in eight of their last nine outings to stand as one of the clear top two sides in the competition, and will have a say in deciding which team they will face in the first week of finals. On the other hand, the Buffs have made the most of their opportunities amid a tricky last six weeks, beating the teams they were expected to while also picking up a crucial four points against Southern Districts to sit as the best of the rest heading into finals. Buffs playing-coach Matt Campbell – named on an extended bench – will have a ridiculously strong spine to make use of; with Ryan Pendlebury and Stephen Tahana lining up down back, Daniel Stafford and Darren Shillabeer up forward, while skipper Jarrod Stokes returns to the fold alongside the possible inclusion of Adam Sambono. Cameron Stokes will also beef up an already solid back six, escaping suspension amid an appeal. They will need all the class they can get too, with St Mary’s posting a star-studded team sheet in response. The spine of the team is just as strong, with Tom Davies and Jake Long combining down back, Jarrad Waite and Jackson Calder positioned up forward, while Nate Paredes, Jackson Paine, and Shaun Edwards patrol the engine room with David Armitage also named on the bench. The strength on each line across both sides is clear, and it makes for what promises to be one of the highest-quality NTFL games this season. The Saints will take some beating, but the Buffs have plenty to play for.

PALMERSTON MAGPIES vs. NIGHTCLIFF
Saturday February 15, 5:00pm
Cazalys Arena

First and last place take the field for the final NTFL 2019/20 regular season fixture, as Nightcliff travels to take on Palmerston at Cazalys Arena. The records of either side are, in satisfying fashion, perfectly opposite heading into the ultimate round, with Nightcliff’s comprehensive premiership defence to date juxtaposed by Palmerston’s second wooden spoon in three years. The Tigers have steamrolled their way to 16-1 on the back of 10-consecutive wins, overcoming every side in the competition to set a ridiculously high benchmark. On the flip-side, Palmerston’s peak Round 13 breakthrough victory has been clouded out by another string of losses to end the season – which looks likely to continue here. Most of the Nightcliff stars will get one last run-out before finals, with Trent Melville, Kyle Winter-Irving, and Daniel Bowles all named to make their 18th appearance of the season, while possible best and fairest leader Kaine Riley also features and excitement machine Liam Holt-Fitz will have the opportunity to add to his 29-goal campaign. For the Magpies, Aaron Lonergan will lead out the likes of Sandy Brock, Kyle Emery, and Wade Shadforth alongside playing-coach Alwyn Davey. But in a blow, Palmerston may fall short in the ruck department this week, as bigmen Matthew Dennis, Jack Berry, and Keidan Holt-Tubbs all remain absent. It only makes the going tougher for this year’s cellar dweller, so expect it to be over quickly despite Palmerston’s tendency to show glimpses of form.

NTFL Men’s Premier League: Round 17 – Bombers look for three-peat over Saints

THE penultimate Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Men’s Premier League round features just one fixture between two top five sides, but it promises to be a cracker nonetheless with the bottom three teams looking to play the cat among the pigeons against finals-bound opponents. The minor premiership, wooden spooner, and final five might already be wrapped up, but there is still plenty to play for over another weekend of NTFL action.

DARWIN BUFFALOES vs. WARATAH
Friday February 7, 7:00pm
TIO Stadium

Darwin and Waratah resume their mini-rivalry under Friday night lights at TIO Stadium, with the Buffs continuing their push for top three qualification. The fourth-placed Buffaloes have not been able to string consecutive victories together since Rounds 7 and 8, going 4-4 in their eight matches since amid a tricky late-season draw. Meanwhile, the Warriors were only officially ruled out of finals contention last week in their loss to St Mary’s, ending a two-game winning run in the process. While the records show the ledger between these sides to be 2-0 in favour of Darwin, the Warriors were controversially stripped of a Round 3 win over the Buffs due to a team sheet error. So with the actual scales showing even, this should be an entertaining grudge match as Waratah looks to foil Darwin’s post-season plans for a second season running. But Daniel Stafford‘s inclusion for the higher-ranked side is a timely one with both Brodie Foster and Darren Shillabeer absent, set to link up with the in-form Ishmael Palmer and Isaac Seden-Kunoth inside 50. Darwin skipper Jarrod Stokes is again set to miss, easing the pressure on Waratah’s back six a touch. But the Warriors will also come in slightly undermanned, with Henry Kerinaiua, Brodie Carroll, and Abe Ankers all among the absentees. It could still prove to be a danger game for the Buffs, who should take nothing for granted heading into the finals with winning form always the best form.

SOUTHERN DISTRICTS vs. PALMERSTON MAGPIES
Saturday February 8, 2:30pm
TIO Stadium

Southern Districts’ slim hopes of cracking the top three lie mostly in other results, but the Crocs still have to get past Palmerston this weekend to keep them alive with a finals spot already sewn up. A horror run of form ended last week for Districts as it comfortably accounted for Wanderers, with its lighter run to the post-season against the bottom three continuing here. Palmerston’s short-lived success in Round 13 has been quickly forgotten amid another string of losses, confirming the Magpies’ second wooden spoon in three seasons with a couple of rounds still to play out. Despite there being little to lose for either side, both come in with reasonably strong line-ups as opportunities on to impress run thin. The Crocs have been settled across the last few weeks at the selection table aside from sweating on Michael and Ed Barlow‘s availability, and come in with a typically deadly midfield-forward rotation boasting Richard Tambling, Jeff Garlett, and Josiah Farrer. For Palmerston, Keidan Holt-Tubbs is a key out but will be replaced in the ruck by returning bigman Matthew Dennis, while Aaron Davey replaces his suspended brother and coach, Alwyn Davey, and Kyle Emery remains at the heart of midfield. While many would consider this clash a foregone conclusion given the combined 152-point discrepancy between the two sides in their clashes this season, there is enough class in the Magpies team to test Southern Districts should all go to plan.

NIGHTCLIFF vs. WANDERERS
Saturday February 8, 4:00pm
PSC BM Oval

Nightcliff will be out to maintain its strong momentum heading into finals when it hosts Wanderers at PSC BM Oval on Saturday. The formlines of these two sides could hardly be more opposite, with the Tigers excelling in their flag defence to notch up nine consecutive wins and the minor premiership to boot, while the Muk Muks have lost in 10-consecutive outings to sit a lowly seventh. The two previous meetings between these sides have gone as expected too, with the Tigers clocking up a combined 137-point winning margin in Round 3 and 8 triumphs to only further consolidate their status as clear favourite. While the young and exuberant Wanderers side will come in near full strength and on the hunt for an upset, the Tigers have maintained their starting side in hopes of getting a solid run into the post-season. Under-18 standout Joel Jeffrey could spend some time in the midfield having been named in the centre, with Shannon Motlop a handy inclusion to add to the likes of Beau O’Connell and Braedon McLean in the engine room rotation. Danny Butcher and James Tsitas are the most notable inclusions for Nightcliff with much of its core remaining, and competition leading goalkicker Trent Melville also set to feature. This game could go one of two ways; if Nightcliff want to continue to make statements as the competition benchmark, it will, but if Wanderers come out and throw caution to the wind, it could really bring it to the table-toppers.

TIWI BOMBERS vs. ST MARY’S
Saturday February 8, 7:00pm
TIO Stadium

Arguably the game of the round is again left til last as traditional rivals and premiership contenders Tiwi and St Mary’s go head-to-head on Saturday night. With Tiwi two games off the Saints in third place, a win would keep the Bombers in with a sniff of snatching second spot in Round 18, while a loss could also see them fall back out of the top three and into the elimination final zone. As one of the form sides of the competition, the Bombers have only gone down to Nightcliff – twice – in their last 10 outings, storming up the ladder and within striking distance of the Saints. Having already toppled their rival twice in a couple of unlikely results, much of the momentum is with the red and blacks. But the much-improved Saints are no easy-beats, triumphing in seven of their last eight games to have second spot all-but wrapped up. Despite a superior standing, St Mary’s could well be considered the underdog in a third clash between the sides, coming in with a slightly weaker side. While the core of Shaun Edwards, Jake Long, Jackson Paine, Jackson Calder, and Tom Davies remains, there is still a bit of strength to come back into the Saints line-up in the lead-up to finals. On the other hand, the Bombers have strengthened their side with the inclusions of Greensborough pair Tom Bell and Charlie Molyneux, while its attacking 50 boasts the likes of Adam Tipungwuti, Harley Puruntatameri, and Austin Wonaeamirri – all of whom have been finding the big sticks of late. The clash needs little sprucing, and should provide plenty of highlights if recent history is anything to go by.

NTFL Men’s Premier League preview: Round 16 – Danger games await final five

WITH the Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Men’s Premier League finalists all-but decided, each of the final five will be hoping to avoid any slip-ups on their way to the post-season. Just one Round 16 fixture is set to be played out between finals-bound sides, making this weekend one with a bunch of danger games.

PALMERSTON MAGPIES (8th, 1-14) vs. DARWIN BUFFALOES (4th, 8-7)
Friday January 31, 7:00pm
TIO Stadium

It is now or never for Darwin in its last-ditch attempt to snatch a top three spot, with cellar dweller Palmerston standing in the way of a much-needed set of four points. The Buffs have not been able to string together consecutive wins since completing a streak of three against the Magpies in Round 9, and have struggled to match it against fellow top five opponents. But Matt Campbell‘s side has fared much better against the current bottom three, going 6-0 so far and looking to add to that record here. Palmerston’s season has not produced many highlights, but a heartbreakingly narrow loss to the Buffs in that Round 9 meeting should provide a boost in confidence for the 1-14 Magpies. The class of Alwyn Davey, Aaron Davey, and Kyle Emery from on and behind the ball will be key to Palmerston’s success, with skipper and focal point Aaron Lonergan awaiting their delivery at full forward. He may find himself marked by the returning Ryan Pendlebury, who comes in to buff Darwin’s back six, while the likes of Campbell and Joe Anderson will have added responsibility with captain Jarrod Stokes missing from the team sheet. While the Buffs may see this as an opportunity to boost their percentage and keep touch with Tiwi, they should take nothing for granted in a game they simply must win.

TIWI BOMBERS (3rd, 10-5) vs. NIGHTCLIFF (1st, 14-1)
Saturday February 1, 2:30pm
TIO Stadium

Arguably the game of the round kicks off a super Saturday of NTFL football, with three of the four weekend fixtures to be played across the afternoon and evening. Two of the league’s hottest sides in Tiwi and Nightcliff do battle, with the Bombers looking to sew up a top three berth and the Tigers out to officially wrap up the minor premiership. This will be a real test of Tiwi’s premiership credentials with six-straight wins under its belt, but Nightcliff remains the only side the Bombers are yet to overcome, falling to the all-conquering Tigers in Rounds 2 and 9. While the Bombers are set to come in a touch undermanned in terms of interstate starpower, mainstays in the form of Adam Tipungwuti, Dion Munkara, and Harley Puruntatameri should provide that typical Tiwi dash and dare going forward, while Nathan Djerrkura remains at the heart of midfield. Tiwi’s starting forward line looks formidable on paper, but Nightcliff’s defence is as stingy as any, while also possessing the firepower to score big. Competition leading goalkicker Trent Melville is one who can help match Tiwi’s forward threat alongside Liam Holt-Fitz in the absence of John Butcher and Lachlan Sharp, while a raft of experienced heads steady the ship further afield. It is set to be a hot contest, and a good test for either side just a few weeks out from finals.

WARATAH (6th, 5-10) vs. ST MARY’S (2nd, 11-4)
Saturday February 1, 4:00pm
Gardens Oval

Waratah faces a tough ask in maintaining its unlikely turnaround towards finals, set to clash with the second-ranked St Mary’s on home turf. Consecutive wins have mathematically kept the Warriors in the hunt for fifth spot, but it all depends on whether they can win their three remaining games, and if Southern Districts lose all three of theirs. The Saints come in having only gone down to Nightcliff in their last seven outings, looking like a genuine premiership contender to sit safe in a double chance spot. While top three qualification is very nearly sewn up, a win would officially do it for last year’s wooden spooners. Much of the Saints’ strength will lie in their midfield this week, boasting the likes of David Armitage, Will Hams, Shaun Edwards, Jackson Geary, and Nate Paredes, while Maurice Rioli Jnr could also roll through there in the forward rotation. With Brodie Carroll and Abe Ankers set to miss, Waratah will hope to outgun the Saints through the likes of Jae McGrath and Mitchell O’Donnell inside 50, while Kim Kantilla and Henry Kerinaiua provide the creativity moving forward. It may seem a foregone conclusion on paper, but the Warriors’ form suggests they could prove tricky for the Saints to handle.

WANDERERS (7th, 3-11-1) vs. SOUTHERN DISTRICTS (5th, 7-7-1)
Saturday February 1, 7:00pm
TIO Stadium

Southern Districts will look to put any doubt over its top five spot to rest and get back to a positive record when it faces Wanderers to see out Round 16. The Crocs have had a tough time of it of late, going down in all of their last four outings – albeit against the top four sides – sliding down to fifth and almost out of top three contention. But with three games against the bottom sides to see out the regular season, starting here, the Crocs could seal an unlikely spring out of the elimination final slots. A team in an even worse rut at the moment is Wanderers, out to snap a nine-game losing run dating back to Round 6, having previously looked like a finals contender. The young Muk Muks have been lively in patches and have some terrific talent, but have not been able to stay in games for long enough. That should play into the hands of Southern Districts, with the experienced Ed Barlow and Michael Barlow set to join Richard Tambling through midfield, while their own prodigy in Brodie Lake should also make a difference. Wanderers engine room partnership of Braedon McLean and Beau O’Connell is set to resume, but will be tested greatly at the coalface. In a boost to the Eagles’ forward line, ex-Croc Shane Thorne makes his Premier League return to support the goalkicking prowess of Joel Jeffrey. Wanderers have nothing to lose, and should go at the Crocs with freedom given winning form is everything to Southern Districts heading into finals.

NTFL Men’s Premier League wrap: Round 15 – Tigers wrap up minor premiership

BARRING an unprecedented turnaround, Nightcliff has secured its second-consecutive Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Men’s Premier League minor premiership after claiming its fourteenth win for the season on Saturday. The final five is also all-but set, with Waratah’s current winning run the only thing keeping Southern Districts sweating in fifth place. With just three weeks of regular season action left, points are at a premium.

TIWI BOMBERS 3.3 | 7.7 | 11.10 | 14.14 (98)
DARWIN BUFFALOES 1.2 | 3.6 | 4.8 | 8.12 (60)

GOALS:

Tiwi: A. Hams 4, A. Wonaeamirri 3, A. Tipungwuti 2, B. Rioli, C. Molyneux, R. Baird, K. Dunn, P. Heenan.
Darwin: D. Shillabeer 5, C. Atkinson, B. Foster, L. Mununggurr.

BEST:

Tiwi: C. Molyneux, A. Hams, J. Monigatti, J. Puruntatameri, R. Baird, O. Henry
Darwin: I. Seden-Kurnoth, D. Lines, D. Shillabeer, P. Campbell, M. Coombes, C. Williams

Tiwi surged two games clear in third with a crucial 38-point win over fellow finals contender, Darwin on home turf. The 14.14 (98) to 8.12 (60) result also keeps the Bombers in the hunt for a top two berth, while Darwin will remain in the top five barring three-straight losses and a large percentage deficit. The consistent scoring power on Tiwi’s end proved too much across the contest for Darwin, which struggled for inspiration without spearhead Daniel Stafford. A lead was built steadily by the Bombers, booting no more than four goals per term and no less that three to eventually extend out to a handy final margin. The second and third terms proved vital, with Tiwi notching eight goals to three in what was a game-defining period. Adopted Bomber Ashton Hams was terrific with four goals to lead his side’s effort, but Charlie Molyneux beat him out for best-afield honours. Austin Wonaeamirri and Adam Tipungwuti provided good support going forward with a combined five goals as the Bombers’ depth of scoring options proved much greater than that of the Buffs. Darren Shillabeer fronted the Darwin response with a bag of five majors, with Isaac Seden-Kurnoth judged to be the Buffs’ best in a losing effort along with Devin Lines. With premiership points all-important in the final regular season month, Darwin’s hopes of bouncing back will be boosted by a fixture against Palmerston, while Tiwi faces the biggest test of its premiership credentials yet in a clash with Nightcliff in Round 16.

NIGHTCLIFF 0.7 | 7.7 | 11.9 | 16.13 (109)
SOUTHERN DISTRICTS 2.3 | 4.7 | 7.10 | 7.10 (52)

GOALS:

Nightcliff: L. Sharp 5, R. Mu 2, Z. Brain 2, T. Melville 2, B. Grewar, H. Drogemuller, C. Ilett, L. Holt-Fitz, K. Winter-Irving.
Southern Districts: J. Garlett 3, D. Barry, J. Clarke, J. Watts, L. Stanbrook.

BEST:

Nightcliff: N. Brown, B. Grewar, C. Ilett, K. Riley, L. Sharp, Z. Brain
Southern Districts: T. Holman, M. Bowden, D. McLachlan, D. Staunton, J. Watts

Nightcliff’s premiership defence is in ideal shape as the Tigers all-but-officially wrapped up the 2019/20 minor premiership with a comprehensive 57-point win over Southern Districts at TIO Stadium. The reigning premiers clicked into gear after an indifferent start, mixing irresistible attack with immovable defence to come out 16.13 (109) to 7.10 (52) winners. Though 0.7 was Nightcliff’s tally at the first break, the 7.0 in the second term more than made up for the eight-point deficit conceded early on. There was no looking back from that point for the dominant Tigers, as they continued to apply scoreboard pressure while completely shutting out their opponents in the final term in a statement-making display. Victorian sharpshooter Lachlan Sharp bettered his three-goal-per-game average with a bag of five to lead Nightcliff inside 50, while three others notched multiples among a raft of nine individual goalkickers. But credit to the Tigers’ work further afield, the likes of Nathan Brown, Cam Ilett and Kaine Riley were all named among the best ahead of Sharp. For Southern Districts, Jeff Garlett got on the board again after a couple of goalless games to find the big sticks three times as the Crocs’ sole multiple goalkicker, with Will Farrer kept without a major. But Thomas Holman was their best for a second-straight week, while Dean Staunton and Dylan McLachlan also featured in the best again. The Crocs run home gets a little lighter with Wanderers up next in a game which could sew up the final five, while Nightcliff is set to face Tiwi in what looms as a potential finals preview match-up.

PALMERSTON 3.1 | 6.2 | 7.2 | 8.4 (52)
ST MARY’S 0.3 | 3.7 | 10.10 | 14.15 (99)

GOALS:

Palmerston: D. Gaykamangu 2, D. Nichols 2, B. Booth, R. Davey, A. Lonergan, K. Emery.
St Mary’s: J. Long 3, L. Larson 2, N. Paredes 2, J. Calder 2, J. Salmon 2, J. Waite 2, R. Jordon.

BEST:

Palmerston: B. Booth, K. Emery, B. Bennett, M. Perry (Jnr), D. Gaykamangu , J. Thompson
St Mary’s: T. Davies, J. Long, R. Jordon, S. Edwards, A. Long, J. Waite

St Mary’s maintained its standing in second spot with a trying win against Palmerston on the road, made to earn every bit of the 14.15 (99) to 8.4 (52) victory. The Magpies were much better starters, making the most of their opportunities to boot three majors in each of the opening two terms and bolt out to a shock 13-point half time lead. But with an upset brewing, the Saints were slammed at the main break and came out firing in response, notching seven goals to one in a more characteristic third term. The trend continued as St Mary’s saw out a more comfortable-looking win, adding four goals to one in the final term to pretty up what was previously a concerning scoreline for the finals bound side. The Saints had an impressive six multiple goalkickers among their seven overall, with Jacob Long bagging a game-high three while Jarrad Waite was among five Saints to notch two. In what was a rallying team effort by game’s end, Thomas Davies was recognised as best afield while Rhett Jordon, Anthony Long and Shaun Edwards also had their usual impact. Ben Booth was Palmerston’s best in his maiden game for the year, with goalgetters Kyle Emery and Djamangi Gaykamangu also named among the best as Dane Nichols booted two majors for a second-straight outing. But the Magpies simply did not have enough to match St Mary’s for long enough, which has proven to be a downfall for much of their 2019/20 campaign. They will begin to wind down with Darwin next on the agenda, while St Mary’s push to secure second place heads to Waratah next time out, with the Warriors in a decent run of form of late.

WARATAH 5.2 | 7.4 | 16.7 | 23.7 (145)
WANDERERS 4.1 | 7.6 | 9.6 | 10.10 (70)

GOALS:

Waratah: J. McGrath 5, M. O’Donnell 4, M. Newton 3, H. Kerinaiua 2, K. McBean 2, M. Blake, J. Stevens, B. Minkulk, J. Wilkins, A. Aurrichio, C. Barrett, W. Gorman.
Wanderers: D. Brown 2, J. Jeffrey 2, B. O’Connell 2, S. Bates, D. Weetra, D. Braun, A. Motlop.

BEST:

Waratah: N/A
Wanderers: N/A

Waratah notched up consecutive wins for the second time in season 2019/20, pulling away to trump fellow bottom three side, Wanderers by 75 points in Sunday’s lone fixture. The win keeps the Warriors in with a mathematical chance of slotting into the top five should they continue their winning streak, pending some unlikely other results. A hot start saw both sides get into a scoring grove, each clocking up seven goals to the main break in a closely contested half. Waratah constantly looked like pulling away, but Wanderers kept finding a way to keep in touch and even snuck ahead by over a goal in the third term without totally capitalising on their territory. But some wasteful use forward of centre eventually caught up with the Eagles, with Waratah pouring on a massive string of unanswered goals to open up an unassailable lead. The 16-goal to three second half was fitting of the Muk Muks’ seasonal trend, but there were still strong glimpses in between. Joel Jeffrey was terrific again as the primary target inside 50, booting two goals while Dillen Brown looked lively in his own two-goal effort, which was also matched by the exceptional Beau O’Connell from midfield. A trio of inclusions combined well in attack for Waratah, with Jae McGrath, Mitchell O’Donnell, and Michael Newton combining for 12 goals among a dozen Warriors goalkickers. Kim Kantilla was also lively in a more advanced role, thriving as the goalkicking pressure was eased on him. Waratah’s last-ditch finals effort continues at home next week against St Mary’s in a tough match-up, while Wanderers will hope for some consolation premiership points in a clash with Southern Districts next time out.

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 weekend preview: Round 11 – Buffs and Saints to battle it out in game of the round

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NTFL Men’s Premier League preview: Round 10 – Top of the table clash headlines bumper weekend

A TOP of the table clash headlines a big weekend of Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Men’s Premier League action, with Southern Districts looking to close the gap on Nightcliff. St Mary’s and Darwin could benefit from the result of that game and jump into second with wins, while Tiwi will hope to continue its push for finals as Wanderers trail closely.

TIWI BOMBERS vs. DARWIN BUFFALOES
Saturday December 7, 1:30pm
Tiwi Oval

A fixture with implications on both sides’ finals hopes takes place as Tiwi Bombers host Darwin Buffaloes at Tiwi Oval on Saturday afternoon. The Bombers have thrown themselves into the mix and are in good form of late, going down by just six points to Nightcliff last time out but managing to hold on to fifth place. On the other hand, Darwin snatched a close win over Palmerston in Round 9 to put them up into third on the back of three consecutive victories. With Tiwi hoping to hang onto its top five spot and Darwin looking to break into the top two, there is plenty on the line either way.

The Bombers come in once again with a great lineup on paper, with the likes of Adam Tipungwuti, Brayden Rioli, and Ross Tungatalum resigned to the bench, but they look like being without ex-Cat Nathan Djerrkura for this clash in a blow to their midfield stocks, with Ashton Hams perhaps one to cover. The Buffs have bolstered their line-up with the signing of Ryan Pendlebury, the brother of Scott and an ex-VFL Team of the Year member. He should add value in the back half, adding to the experience of Cameron Stokes and Chris Williams further afield as Matt Campbell and Joe Anderson come out of the side.

While Darwin’s three wins on the trot and ladder position puts them in the category of favourite, Tiwi looks to be in slightly better form going off last week’s effort and should pose plenty of questions to the Buffs defence. It looms as a battle of the Bombers’ speed against some of the Buffs’ strength.

PALMERSTON MAGPIES vs. ST MARY’S
Saturday December 7, 2:30pm
TIO Stadium

St Mary’s will look to compound the misery of a bottom three side for the second straight week when it takes on Palmerston in the first game of a TIO Stadium double-header. The Saints have slipped to fourth, but could climb as high as second with results pending and will look to put their best foot forward with a top of the table clash following theirs. Given how St Mary’s handled Waratah last week, the winless Magpies could be in for another long day. But Palmerston’s form last week exceeded its current record, and a couple of close losses would have the Magpies eager to prove their worth.

Alwyn Davey Jnr joins his father in the Palmerston side, with Senior set to line up in midfield under Ezekiel Frank while Adam Diamond shifts to the forward half. They will have their work cut out for them, with the Saints naming David Armitage, Shaun Edwards, and Jackson Paine in midfield, while Jackson Calder is set to team up with the returning Jarrad Waite up forward. It all but guarantees plenty of goals, and plenty of excitement at the least.

On paper, it seems this clash could get ugly given the experience and firepower of the Saints, but do not discount the effort of Palmerston on its better days. Fans can look forward to seeing a heap of ex-AFL players either way, with a few favourite sons taking the field for both teams.

SOUTHERN DISTRICTS vs. NIGHTCLIFF
Saturday December 7, 7:00pm
TIO Stadium

The game of the round earns a prime time slot on Saturday night as Southern Districts look to get one back on Nightcliff and tighten the minor premiership race. The Crocs started their season with a loss to last season’s grand final foes, but have since steadied the ship and sit six points adrift in second. Such has been Nightcliff’s dominance, the Southern Districts is only one of a couple of sides to have truly challenged the reigning premiers, and will look to go a step further this time around. And with both sides coming in off consecutive wins, it seems an ideal time to do battle.

A couple of very handy ex-AFL players come into the Crocs side, with Jeff Garlett and Jared Brennan named. Garlett should team up nicely with the likes of Will Farrer and Beau Schwarze up forward, while Brennan may slot in up the other end in a key position post. There are no ex-AFL inclusions for the Tigers, who will be without Willie Wheeler, but a forward 50 featuring his ex-Williamstown teammate Leigh Masters alongside Trent Melville and Liam Holt-Fitz has been working a treat. Add the impact of John Butcher, Kaine Riley, and Cam Ilett across the ground, and you have a settled lineup ready for any challenge.

The Tigers will need to be at their best to quell the Crocs, which are snapping at their heels, but should have great confidence having aced all but one test put to them this year. Southern Districts will be hungry for a win with dual-meaning, getting one back while keeping touch at the top.

WARATAH vs. WANDERERS
Sunday December 8, 4:00pm
Gardens Oval

Wanderers will hope to re-enter the finals fold when it clashes with fellow bottom three side, Waratah in Sunday’s lone fixture. Both sides come in off disappointing losses, with Waratah’s 123-point thumping at the hands of St Mary’s a clear lowlight for the season. Wanderers has strayed after a promising start, looking to rectify a run of three-straight losses. With both teams somewhat underperforming at this stage and the mid-season break coming up, expect them to throw everything at getting a result here.

Abe Ankers is a very welcome addition to the Warriors side which looks like heading in without Brodie Carroll, while Michael Newton is set to resume a dangerous forward trio with Kim Kantilla and Henry Kerinaiua at the fall of his aerial contests. Joel Jeffrey is a big out for Wanderers as he takes up training with the Gold Coast Suns, but the Muk Muks still boast dangerous youngsters in the form of Mark White, Beau O’Connell and Ronald Fejo, with all three able to play across every line.

There looks to be a good amount of talent spread across both sides, with plenty of excitement in either attacking 50. Expect some neat highlights and a competitive game between two teams looking to do better than their ladder position would suggest.