Tag: alwyn davey

Draft Central All-Star Team matchup: Gippsland Power vs. South Adelaide

OUR next All-Star Team battle is one between a Victorian region in Gippsland, and a South Australian club in South Adelaide. The two captains voted in by the public as the All-Star Players of the AFL Draft era were Scott Pendlebury (Gippsland Power) and Simon Goodwin (South Adelaide).

TEAMS:

These clubs are seeded 14th (Gippsland Power) and 19th (South Adelaide) respectively, forming another Round of 32 clash in our second half of the draw. The winner will qualify for the Round of 16 stage, set to face the victor of our Port Adelaide Magpies vs. Peel Thunder tie.

STRENGTHS:

The midfield is undoubtedly South Adelaide’s strongest line, boasting over 650 games of AFL experience through the centreline and a star quartet at the centre bounces. Captain Goodwin is at the heart of it all, alongside fellow Adelaide Crows champion Mark Bickley, Ryan Griffen, and ruckman Brendon Lade. A couple of small defenders also complement Nigel Smart down back, in Michael Doughty and current Western Bulldogs gun, Caleb Daniel.

Gippsland’s midfield is also quite talent rich, with its skipper in Pendlebury also on-ball, joined by Collingwood premiership teammate Dale Thomas and Essendon captain Dyson Heppell. The star trio even pushed Brendon Goddard out onto the wing, alongside Richmond fan favourite Greg Tivendale. The Power’s proposed forwardline is also handy, laying claim to another current AFL captain in Sam Docherty, who would provide great rebound with the likes of Robert Murphy, Jason Gram, and David Wojcinski.

WEAKNESSES:

Mark Stevens is a slightly undersized choice at centre half-forward for the Power, although the height of Leigh Brown and marking power of Tim Membrey should make up for it alongside Jarryd Roughead. The team doesn’t particularly hold any glaring weaknesses otherwise, which is why it’s so solid.

Conversely, South Adelaide’s squad perhaps lacks the bench depth of Gippsland’s. Jason Torney is also undersized at full back, while the forward six lacks a bit despite the presence of Luke Darcy and Alwyn Davey.

SUMMARY:

For its wealth of pure depth and class across the board, we have Gippsland getting up in this clash. The midfield battle would be interesting, but the Power simply boasts greater firepower up either end of the ground and on the bench.

Which All-Star Team are you picking?
South Adelaide
Gippsland Power

Draft Central All-Star Team: South Adelaide

SOUTH Adelaide Panthers have some serious top-end talent at their disposal in the Panthers’ All-Star Team of the AFL Draft era. With a strong midfield and multiple ruck options, the Panthers would win plenty of clearances and give their forwards first opportunity to score.

THE TEAM:

The South Adelaide side is riddled with a number of former-Crows, headlined by dual premiership winning midfielders Mark Bickley and Simon Goodwin – both of whom captained Adelaide. The Panthers have also produced two top tier ruckmen in Luke Darcy and Brendon Lade. Whilst they have not quite produced the same amount of talent in recent years, Caleb Daniel appears destined to have a long career in the AFL.

DEFENCE:

The South Adelaide backline features a strong tri-coloured flair, with four of the starting six having played for the Adelaide Crows. Dual premiership-winning utility Nigel Smart is named at centre-half-back for his ability to play on both small and tall opponents. Also a weapon up forward, ‘Smarty’ kicked 116 goals in 278 games at AFL level and was a three-time All-Australian. Smart’s premiership teammate Clay Sampson earns a spot on the back-flank. He played 64 AFL games and, like Smart, was also used up forward at times, kicking a total of 36 majors.

Skilful and extremely smart with high endurance, current-Bulldog Daniel is perhaps South Adelaide’s most successful product of recent years. An integral component of the Dogs’ successful 2016 campaign despite his small stature, Daniel has played 95 games since debuting in 2015. Durable and reliable former Crows defender Michael Doughty was an obvious selection in the back pocket, after playing AFL 231 matches. Jason Torney‘s 118 games with Richmond and 77 with Adelaide earned him a spot at full back, with Angus Brockhurst named beside him.

MIDFIELD:

The Panthers onball brigade is headlined by a trio of South Australian footballing champions. A brilliant tap-ruckman and excellent tall forward, Lade kicked 182 goals in 234 games with the Power. A premiership player in 2004 and two-time All-Australian, the Kangaroo Island product is one of South Adelaide’s finest. AFL Hall of Famer and current Demons coach Goodwin played 275 games in a decorated career with the Crows. Amongst a multitude of personal accolades, ‘Goody’ was a dual-premiership player, a five-time All-Australian, three-time best and fairest winner and captain of the club from 2008 until his retirement in 2010.

Alongside Goodwin in the starting first ruck is Goodwin’s former-captain Bickley. Skipper of the club in their back-to-back premierships, Bickley was a skilful midfielder who managed 272 games in the AFL and was regarded as an exceptional team-man during his 13 year career. Goalkicking midfielder Darren Kappler earns a spot on the wing for his 187 AFL games with Hawthorn and Sydney. Another wingman with goal-kicking abilities, Matthew Rogers is also included in the Panthers ‘best 24 of the AFL era’, whilst former-Bulldog and Giant running machine Ryan Griffen is deserved of his selection as the starting centre-man.

FORWARD:

Bulldogs great Darcy is the anchor of the Panthers forward-line. Although regarded as an excellent ruckman, Darcy has been pushed into the forward-line with the selection of Brendan Lade. However Darcy would provide an excellent target in attack, after he kicked 183 goals in 226 games with the Dogs. Darcy is paired up in the forward-line with Chris Groom, who was infamously involved in the trade which saw Andrew McLeod head to the Crows.

Although better-known for his comedy, third-tall Ryan ‘Fitzy’ Fitzgerald managed 23 goals in just 18 AFL games with Adelaide and Sydney. Providing speed and a tough of magic is former Bomber Alwyn Davey, who is selected after playing 100 matches and kicking 120 goals during his time at Windy Hill. Yet another Crows premiership player, Kym Koster earns a spot on the forward-flank. First drafted by Footscray, Koster returned to his native South Australia to play a role in the Crows back-to-back flags. A Crow before heading to Hawthorn, Randall Bone further adds to the Panthers tall timber in attack.

DEPTH:

Despite their star power in the midfield, South Adelaide lacks a bit of depth on the bench. Journeyman ruckman Keegan Brooksby has certainly moved around since being drafted in 2015, playing 14 matches with Gold Coast before a one year stint at West Coast. He is currently listed with Hawthorn. Fellow tall Stephen Doyle and strong-built small defender Matthew Powell also gained selection, along with dreadlocked midfielder Mark West, who was yet another South Adelaide product to head to the Whitten Oval.

A two-time SANFL leading goalkicker with the Panthers, Brett Eddy earned an AFL call-up from the Power, where he played three games. Rounding out this side is current Demon midfielder Tom Sparrow, who has shown glimpses of his explosiveness and ball-winning talent in a couple of AFL games to-date.

2019/2020 NTFL Men’s Premier League team review: Palmerston Magpies

THE final team under review in our club-by-club Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Men’s Premier League recap is Palmerston, who only managed to claim one victory in 2019/20 as wooden spooners, but boast a handful of high-level individuals among a developing squad. In a season where they suffered 10 losses by over 50 points, the Magpies showed a good amount of promise by getting within a goal of finalists, Tiwi and Darwin with over 80 players tried throughout their top flight campaign. Relive the highs and lows of Palmerston’s year, as we also highlight the key performers for the Magpies this time out.

PALMERSTON 2019/20 SEASON REVIEW

Record: 8th, 1-17, 50%

Most games: Aaron Lonergan, Sandy Brock (16)

Most goals: Keidan Holt-Tubbs (11)

Regaining a good level of consistency after suffering long-term injury setbacks, Holt-Tubbs continues to be one of Palmerston’s most valuable players. Plying his trade as a key forward for the most part, the Magpies’ bigman also showed marked confidence in his troublesome knee by returning to ruck duties in stints this season – which was especially important in easing the load on Jack Berry with Matthew Dennis missing large chunks of the year. He booted multiple goals thrice in a team which struggled for them, and looks primed for some more good years ahead if he can keep on the park.

MVP: Kyle Emery

Arguably Palmerston’s best and most important player over the last two seasons since switching from Nightcliff, Emery enjoyed a much more midfield-oriented role this year after finishing as the Magpies’ leading goalkicker in 2018/19. But Emery was still able to showcase his nous inside 50, finding the big sticks in six of his 12 games for the campaign, while also being named as one of his side’s best two players in five outings. He was particularly influential after the mid-season break despite his side’s losing form, and played his usual role in the Magpies’ sole win for the season with a goal.

Young gun: Sandy Brock

Brock came on leaps and bounds throughout his second season of NTFL Premier League football, locking down a key role for Palmerston down back. While he can be utilised at either end of the ground, Brock showed his best form in locking down some of the competition’s best key forwards at just 17 years of age, leaning on all of his natural athleticism and teachings from the NT Thunder Academy. The Thunder Under 18 representative is just as competitive in the air as he is on the ground, and did not looked deterred against more mature bodies despite being slightly raw when compared to a more traditional key defender size.

Surprise packet: Jack Berry

Already boasting one of the standout fly-in rucks in Matthew Dennis, few expected Palmerston to be able to unearth another as the bigman only managed four games this season, but the Magpies did exactly that through Jack Berry in 2019/20. Berry has VFL experience across two clubs, and proved all of his class as Palmerston’s premier tall when his side needed it most. He was named among the Magpies’ best players in nine of his 12 appearances, mixing well with his new teammates in his first crack at NTFL footy.

Best win: Round 14 – def. Wanderers 14.9 (93) to 13.7 (85)

Goals: K. Holt-Tubbs 3, L. Williams 3, C. Timms 2, W. Shadforth, K. Emery, A. Davey, J. Patrick, R. Stone, J. Berry.
Best: 
K. Holt-Tubbs, K. Emery, C. Timms, W. Shadforth, J. Berry, L. Williams

The first and only win of Palmerston’s season was a good one, spearheaded by some usual suspects. Keidan Holt-Tubbs notched three majors in a best afield performance, with Kyle Emery and Jack Berry not far behind. With one of the best sides they had put on paper throughout the season, Alwyn Davey’s Magpies were able to outlast their youthful opponents for a memorable win.

Worst loss: Round 7 – def. by Waratah 3.5 (23) to 17.10 (112)

Goals: J. Brauman, K. Emery, B. Church.
Best: 
J. Brauman, J. Berry, R. Mungatopi, S. Brock, M. Chester, A. Diamond

It may not have been the Magpies’ heaviest loss of the season, but an 89-point thrashing at the hands of a team that did not make finals does not bode well – and neither does the three-goal effort. There was still something to take out of the game though as Werribee VFL teammates Jack Berry and Jack Brauman made for an influential one-two punch, but the Magpies ultimately could not match Waratah’s speed in attack.

NTFL Men’s Premier League wrap: Round 18 – Tiwi snatches third despite Crocs’ late lunge

THE fate of the final five was left to the last Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Men’s Premier League regular season round, with Tiwi snatching third spot back from Darwin as the Buffs went down to St Mary’s to cap a dramatic pair of fixtures. Elsewhere, Southern Districts and Nightcliff kept the status quo against bottom three opponents, taking winning form into the finals.

WANDERERS 3.4 | 6.7 | 8.11 | 12.14 (86)
TIWI BOMBERS 3.5 | 5.5 | 8.11 | 14.15 (99)

GOALS:

Wanderers: S. Thorne 2, R. Fejo 2, B. O’Connell 2, M. White 2, D. Braun, W. Williams, R. Howard, J. Jeffrey
Tiwi: G. Cunningham 4, R. Tungatalum 2, P. Heenan 2, K. Dunn, L. Howe, J. Simon, C. Jones, H. Puruntatameri, M. Kantilla

BEST:

Wanderers: B. O’Connell, D. Braun, T. Lui, A. Motlop, S. Thorne
Tiwi: L. Howe, R. Tungatalum, R. Farmer, M. Dunn, G. Cunningham, R. Baird

Tiwi arrested a two-game losing streak at the perfect time, outlasting Wanderers to qualify for a finals double-chance. The Bombers were made to work for it against a young Eagles side coming off 11-straight losses, finding themselves down at half time and only managing to draw level heading into the final turn. But with experience and some flair of their own at their disposal, the third-ranked Bombers ran home the stronger side to get up 14.15 (99) to 12.14 (86). Gerrard Cunningham collected his third bag of four goals for the season in an impactful display up forward, with Ross Tungatalum and Patrick Heenan snaring two each while Harley Puruntatameri‘s sole major was one for the highlight reel. Lachlan Howe was named the Bombers’ best despite the aforementioned efforts, with Wanderers gun Beau O’Connell again brilliant in a losing effort. The NT Thunder Academy graduate managed two goals, matched by fellow youngsters Ronald Fejo and Mark White, with Tyrell Lui named among the best alongside O’Connell. While the Muk Muks’ poor end to the season would leave a sour taste, this effort showed exactly what the promising squad is capable of. For Tiwi, its 11th set of four points sets up a qualifying final clash with St Mary’s – a game which is sure to attract a whole lot of attention.

ST MARY’S 2.2 | 3.6 | 8.8 | 13.10 (88)
DARWIN BUFFALOES 3.2 | 7.5 | 8.7 | 11.8 (74)

GOALS:

St Mary’s: D. Johnstone 3, J. Waite 3, S. Rioli 2, J. Cheek, N. Paredes, L. Ferreira, L. Larson, A. Parry
Darwin: D. Stafford 4, I. Palmer 2, P. Boles, T. Eldridge, M. Campbell, L. McKenzie, A. Sambono

BEST:

St Mary’s: J. Long, J. Long, J. Paine, T. Saunders, D. Johnstone, N. Paredes
Darwin: T. Eldridge, M. Coombes, C. Williams, D. Stafford, P. Boles, L. McKenzie

St Mary’s stepped up in the clutch moment to boot Darwin out of the top three, finishing strongly to edge the Buffs by 14 points. The Saints rallied after a lacklustre opening half, edging ahead at three-quarter time in a four-goal turnaround and eventually kicking away to the 13.10 (88) to 11.8 (74) victory. The win sets up a fourth clash with Tiwi in this weekend’s qualifying final, with the fate of third spot firmly in St Mary’s hands coming into the ultimate round of the regular season. The return of Jarrad Waite proved timely as the ex-Roo and Blue booted three goals alongside Dylan Johnstone to lead the attack, with Shannon Rioli the only other Saint to notch up multiple goals. In response, Daniel Stafford again carried the brunt of the scoring load with a game-high four majors, and Ishmael Palmer continued his good form with two. But much of the good work from either side was done slightly further afield, with Jake Long arguably St Mary’s best alongside Jackson Paine, while Timothy Eldridge and Christopher Williams had their say for the Buffs. With Darwin’s elimination final bout with Southern Districts now sealed, the Saints will take on Tiwi on the same weekend with a chance the two sides could meet again in week two of finals.

SOUTHERN DISTRICTS 4.4 | 8.6 | 14.9 | 17.13 (115)
WARATAH 1.1 | 3.1 | 7.3 | 8.7 (55)

GOALS:

Southern Districts: J. Brennan 4, W. Farrer 3, E. Barlow 3, D. Barry 2, J. Farrer 2, J. Garlett, J. Watts, N. Horbury
Waratah: T. Mosquito 2, F. Kantilla 2, J. Smith, T. Toma, S. Godden, N. Gooch

BEST:

Southern Districts: E. Barlow, J. Brennan, B. Lake, T. Holman, P. Gallow, J. Watts
Waratah: N/A

Southern Districts did all it could to grab the last second-chance spot among the top five, but fell just short despite thumping Waratah by 60 points. The Crocs looked up for the hunt early, managing four goals in each of the opening two terms to set up a 35-point buffer heading into the main break. But the brunt of the damage was yet to come for Waratah as the Crocs went on to pour on another nine goals after half time to come away comfortable 17.13 (115) to 8.7 (55) winners. A near full-strength team aided the Crocs’ cause, spearheaded by former AFL utility Jared Brennan, who put through a game-high four goals on his NTFL return. Competition leading goalkicker Will Farrer was not far behind with three, while best afield Ed Barlow matched the effort. NT Thunder Under 18 Brodie Lake was also influential in a well-rounded team performance that will put the Crocs in good stead heading into finals. On the other hand, the Warriors end their indifferent season on another dour note, but positive cameos from the likes of Timothy Mosquito and Francis Kantilla came in handy in the losing effort. Districts now go on to face Darwin in the elimination final, ranked the better side but with the ledger even between the two sides.

PALMERSTON 1.0 | 1.1 | 3.3 | 5.4 (34)
NIGHTCLIFF 2.3 | 7.7 | 13.13 | 21.16 (142)

GOALS:

Palmerston: R. Davey 2, M. Chester, A. Lonergan, A. Davey
Nightcliff: D. Singh-Lippo 5, C. Ilett 4, T. Melville 3, J. Tsitas 2, B. Arnold 2, K. Riley, J. Peris, J. Kickett, L. Holt-Fitz, M. Hagan

BEST:

Palmerston: N/A
Nightcliff: J. Tsitas, C. Ilett, J. Miles, D. Butcher, S. Wilson, D. Singh-Lippo

Nightcliff and Palmerston finished their regular seasons with perfectly opposite records, as the reigning and minor premier notched its 17th win against the lowly Magpies to the tune of 108 points. The Tigers were dominant across the match, barring an even first term, and created a wealth of scoring opportunities to run out 21.16 (142) to 5.4 (34) winners. With at least six goals in each of the final three quarters, the Tigers overwhelmed Palmerston and did not let up despite the match being a dead rubber, with form vital given they now have a week off in the post-season. Nightcliff junior Declan Singh-Lippo had a breakout game with five goals, with veteran Cam Ilett moving forward for four of his own while club leading goalkicker Trent Melville managed three and best afield James Tsitas, two. There were far less contributors for the Magpies, but Russell Davey claimed a pair of majors as his side’s sole multiple goalkicker, with leaders Aaron Lonergan and Alwyn Davey also finding the big sticks. While a disappointing season for the wooden spooners comes to an end, the Tigers can look forward to a much shorter break of their own before taking on the winner of this week’s qualifying final between St Mary’s and Tiwi.

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 preview: Round 15 – Four separate venues host defining round

FOUR separate venues host what is set to be the first round in a finals-defining last month of the regular season, with four of the top five sides again going head-to-head amid heavy jostling for position. St Mary’s, currently sitting second, could be the main benefactor as it readies to face current wooden-spooner Palmerston, but there is plenty to play out in Round 15 of the Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Men’s Premier League.

TIWI BOMBERS (3rd, 9-5) vs. DARWIN BUFFALOES (4th, 8-6)
Saturday January 25, 2:00pm
Tracy Village

Third spot is up for grabs as Tiwi Bombers and Darwin Buffaloes do battle at Tracy Village, with the Buffs looking to arrest a two-game losing skid. The game also marks the end of a tough month of fixtures for the travelling side, and another set of four points here could even keep Darwin in the hunt for second spot. With jostling for position among the top five becoming much more intense, the Buffs look to be going all out for their third meeting with the Bombers. Joe Anderson and Brodie Foster come back into the side to push Jarrod Stokes into midfield under the ruckmanship of Stephen Tahana, while Adam Sambono looms as another possible inclusion having been named on the extended bench. But Tiwi is seldom short of their own big names, and the Bombers’ bench alone is one to behold. Former AFL midfielders Ashton Hams and Nathan Djerrkura feature alongside Greensborough pair Charlie Molyneux and Nick Riddle, while Collingwood VFL star Lachlan Howe could also come into the already stacked side. This could be an all-out shootout judging by the line-ups, and with plenty of big names scattered across the field, is a must-watch for neutrals. Tiwi will come in as favourite given its form, but should be wary of the Buffs – who can beat any side on their day.

NIGHTCLIFF (1st, 13-1) vs. SOUTHERN DISTRICTS (5th, 7-6-1)
Saturday January 25, 4:00pm
TIO Stadium

An out-of-form Southern Districts faces the toughest of tasks in regaining its mojo, with reining premier Nightcliff next on the agenda. The Crocs come in having lost three-consecutive games and four of their last five, all against top five opposition in an ominous omen for this clash. Two previous losses to Nightcliff in this campaign bode no better for Southern Districts, with its slide to fifth spot perhaps the product of a tough draw. But this should be the Crocs’ final regular season hurdle with three bottom sides awaiting, and there should be plenty of class at their disposal despite the absence of Michael and Ed Barlow. Richard Tambling retains his spot in the heart of midfield, set to link up with Josiah Farrer in the engine room. The forward rotation will also be important for Districts, with Jeff Garlett, Dean Staunton, and Beau Schwarze set to move through there alongside spearheads, Will Farrer and Sam Barnett. With such firepower, this looms as a danger game for the somewhat undermanned Tigers, who lose John Butcher and James Tsitas for this match. But there is plenty of class remaining, with Liam Holt-Fitz‘s form leading the likes of Trent Melville and Kaine Riley among a host of other consistent performers. While the Tigers have earned favouritism for every game this season having beaten every team in the league, the Crocs could well pull off a remarkable return to form.

PALMERSTON MAGPIES (8th, 1-13) vs. ST MARY’S (2nd, 10-4)
Saturday January 25, 5:00pm
Cazalys Arena

A better-stocked St Mary’s will hope to return to the winners list in its clash with the lowly Palmerston Magpies on the road, with second spot the Saints’ to lose at this point. Coming off a crushing loss to league-leader, Nightcliff, the Saints look poised to bring in some serious talent in hopes of recapturing the form which saw them string together five-straight wins. With Jack Long and Shaun Edwards remaining a key part of St Mary’s spine, ex-Blue and ‘Roo Jarrad Waite looks set to join Jackson Calder inside forward 50 while Nate Paredes and Nick Yarran return on the outside. Those inclusions make the proposition a whole lot harder for Palmerston, but the Magpies have been able to turn to some ex-AFL experience of their own with Aaron Davey joining brother and coach, Alwyn in the side. Alwyn Davey Jnr also remains in the starting line-up, with Russell Davey again making it a true family affair. But it remains quite a one-sided contest on paper, and St Mary’s hunger should be heightened given its disappointing outing last time out against Nightcliff. It could be over early, which would be ideal for the Saints as they look to maintain a percentage advantage with second spot looming as tough to hold on to.

WARATAH (6th, 4-10) vs. WANDERERS (7th, 3-10-1)
Sunday January 26, 4:00pm
Gardens Oval

Two bottom three sides get a standalone Sunday slot as Waratah and Wanderers clash for the third time this season, with the ledger sitting at one win apiece. The Warriors’ Round 14 win over Palmerston will have them licking their lips at the opportunity to snare another set of four points, especially given Wanderers’ current eight-game losing streak. But much of this fixture’s outcome relies on the crop available to either side, with Waratah looking a top five side at its best, and Wanderers needing all the pieces to be put together to stay on top. The Warriors could well field a very strong line-up, with Abe Ankers, Michael Newton, Brodie Carroll, and Kim Kantilla all named – albeit with a heavily extended bench. In response, the Muk Muks have included Braedon McLean, Davin Ferreira, Joel Jeffrey, Beau O’Connell, and five of the Motlop clan to make up a near-full strength side and put some intrigue into this clash. It should be a close one despite the wavering form of either team, with pride still on the line despite finals hopes being firmly out of the question. The winner could finish as the best of the rest.

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.