Tag: brayden culhane

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

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 preview: Round 8 – Traditional rivals square off

TRADITIONAL rivals St Mary’s and Tiwi meet again in Round 8 of the Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Men’s Premier League, chasing slightly different goals among the top five places. Meanwhile, all four Round 7 losers will look to bounce back as they face off against each other, with Darwin and Waratah resuming their interesting recent duel on Saturday evening.

WANDERERS (5th, 3-3-1) vs. NIGHTCLIFF (1st, 6-1)
Saturday November 23, 2:30pm
TIO Stadium

Seldom do two top five sides meet after respective losses, but that is exactly the case as Wanderers and Nightcliff prepare to do battle on Saturday afternoon. While the Muk Muks have struggled to string wins together in a season full of promise, Nightcliff had been a figure of consistency in its premiership defence before tasting defeat for the first time in Round 7. The Tigers’ loss to fellow premiership contender St Mary’s did not set them back in terms of ladder standing, but Wanderers’ defeat at the hands of Darwin saw the two sides swap spots to put the Eagles in danger of dropping out of the top five should they fare no better in this contest.

While three Motlops have been named in an extended Wanderers side, Marlon Motlop is not one of them. Nonetheless, ex-AFL experience remains in the form of Liam Patrick, while Liam Jurrah and Brett Eddy feature on the 12-man interchange. Nightcliff’s side becomes a touch scarier with the inclusions of former Williamstown pair Willie Wheeler and Leigh Masters, set to inject class in the forward half. The Tigers’ depth and dynamism is clear as the likes of Kaine Riley and Trent Melville look set to start from the pine.

With both sides looking to return to the winners list, it will be a case of who responds best and wants it more. The Tigers remain the team to beat, so should come in as favourites but will have to be switched on against an Eagles outfit keen to remain in the finals hunt.

PALMERSTON MAGPIES (8th, 0-7) vs. SOUTHERN DISTRICTS (3rd, 4-2-1)
Saturday November 23, 5:00pm
Palmerston Oval

The remaining two losers out of Round 7, Palmerston and Southern Districts have the opportunity to make amends on Saturday evening as they clash at Palmerston Oval. While the Crocs looked to be angling for a top two spot before an upset loss to Tiwi, the Magpies have been season 2019/20’s cellar dwellers with a winless record to this point. A win would still leave them at least four points behind the pack as their finals hopes dwindle, but it would be a welcome change of fortune in front of home fans. On the other hand, a fifth win would put the Crocs back on track as they push to jump into the top two with St Mary’s and Nightcliff facing slightly tougher fixtures respectively.

The Crocs’ spine looks strong as ever, with the middle strengthened by the rare inclusion of ex-Tiger Richard Tambling, pushing Nikolaus Rokahr to the bench as Josiah and Will Farrer look set to be key absentees. Alwyn Davey‘s Palmerston’s side is still without the same real ex-AFL starpower and experience, but forward movers Kyle Emery and Keiden Holt-Tubbs are always dangerous inside 50 and Aaron Lonergan adds value through midfield.

While it would be easy to dismiss this contest based on looks on-paper, the Magpies should be well buoyed by their home support and the chance to finally get on the board. But their opposition is fearsome and will come in fired up after a loss to bottom-three opposition.

WARATAH (7th, 2-5) vs. DARWIN BUFFALOES (4th, 4-3)
Saturday November 23, 5:00pm
TIO Stadium

Waratah can continue its climb up the NTFL ladder with a third official win for the year, but face stiff opposition in the form of Darwin on Saturday evening. The Warriors have the wood over the Buffs, boasting four consecutive wins over their weekend opponents dating back to last season’s finals series – despite what this year’s records show. While the Round 3 result came somewhat controversially, there can be no debate about Waratah’s recent form over the Buffs. But Darwin look primed to make amends after a big win over fellow finals hopefuls, Wanderers last time out. But Waratah’s 89-point drubbing of Palmerston in the same weekend makes them tough opposition at this stage, and poises the clash as a cracker.

Waratah’s extended bench alone is as formidable as they come, with last week’s six-goal hero Kim Kantilla featuring among the likes of Abe Ankers, ex-Bendigo Pioneer Laine Fitzgerald, and former Melbourne forward Michael Newton. All four add enormous value and experience to the lineup led by centreman, Brodie Carroll. Brayden Culhane and Jalen Clarke are Darwin’s own bench threats, with ex-AFL pair Joe Anderson and Matt Campbell leading the Buffs’ lineup from the forward half.

With experience and class on each line, expect the fourth place side to come in well equipped to turn its fortunes around and solidify a finals spot. But recent results will be fresh in the Warriors’ minds, and an improved starting lineup will make them strong through the mid-season period.

ST MARY’S (2nd, 5-2) vs. TIWI BOMBERS (6th, 3-4)
Saturday November 23, 7:30pm
TIO Stadium

Potentially the game of the round again features St Mary’s, as it looks to rectify an early-season loss to Tiwi when the two sides meet to close out Round 8. The Bombers enter Saturday night’s clash in good form after a solid win over Southern Districts last time out, and can be further assured by a fighting shootout victory over the Saints in Round 3. But St Mary’s come in having shown just as formidable form in a win over the previously undefeated Nightcliff, stamping its authority as a genuine premiership threat.

While Nicholas Yarran looks like being a key absentee this week, Saints club legend and eight-time premiership player Peter McFarlane has been named in a forward line featuring former Collingwood-listed utility Michael Manteit, while draft hopeful Kieren Parnell starts on a wing. They will all be important in the face of a relative full-strength Tiwi side, with the Bombers’ pace through Adam Tipungwuti, Dion Munkara and Harley Puruntatameri posing problems for each side. The former-AFL midfield pair of Ashton Hams and Nathan Djerrkura should also prove vital in Tiwi’s hopes of a win.

The Bombers are one of just two sides the Saints are yet to beat this season, so the opportunity to claim another scalp should ring true for the better-placed side. Either way, this clash should provide a raft of real highlights if the first encounter is anything to go by.

Credit: Ivan Rachman/NT News

NTFL Men’s Premier League update: Round 7 – Waratah claims opening Indigenous Round win

WARATAH kicked off the inaugural Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Men’s Premier League Indigenous Round with a bang, setting the tone for a big weekend of action. Fans will be treated to another two top five clashes, with Darwin hosting Wanderers before St Mary’s takes on Nightcliff tonight, while Tiwi will hope to bring a halt to Southern Districts’ run in the afternoon game.

WARATAH 3.2 | 8.4 | 13.7 | 17.10 (112)
PALMERSTON 0.0 | 0.2 | 1.5 | 3.5 (23)

Waratah won convincingly in the first ever NTFL Indigenous Round fixture, thumping Palmerston by 89 points at TIO Stadium under Friday night lights. The win is the Warrior’s second in as many weeks, consigning fellow bottom two battler Palmerston to its seventh defeat via a 17.10 (122) to 3.5 (23) scoreline.

A goalless first half from the Magpies meant there was no answer for Waratah’s physicality and nous around goal, with the Warriors piling on eight unanswered majors to head into the main break 50 points to the good. It was smooth sailing from there as the Warriors put on another nine goals to finish the game, with Palmerston finally getting on the board in the third term and finishing just shy of a four-goal total – its lowest for the season. Kim Kantilla lead the onslaught with six goals, joined in the best by the likes of Timothy Mosquito, Henry Kerinaiua, and Brendon Minkulk.

With two wins under their belts, the Warriors will be looking to build a top five charge when they face Darwin next time out after having a Round 3 win against the Buffs revoked for a team sheet mishap. Meanwhile, Palmerston’s search for a maiden win continues into Round 8 as it hosts Southern Districts on Saturday evening.

ROUND 7 PREVIEW:

TIWI BOMBERS vs. SOUTHERN DISTRICTS
Saturday November 16, 2:30pm
TIO Stadium

Tiwi Bombers will be looking to play spoiler in Southern Districts’ rise to the top when the two sides clash to open Saturday’s proceedings. The heat is on the sixth placed Bombers with Waratah’s win meaning the Warriors are breathing down their neck in the bottom two. A bounce-back win would help Tiwi keep pace with the finals pack, while four points would see the Crocs keep touch with the undefeated Nightcliff in the race for top spot. The Bombers have been exiting in patches but have not been able to produce consistently enough, and the Crocs will snap up any chance they get in small lapses of concentration.

Much of the Tiwi core remains with Rodney Baird, Nathan Djerrkura, and Ross Tungatalum all named down the middle, with speedsters Adam Tipungwuti, Dion Munkara, and Richard Puruntatameri named on an extended bench, while Brayden Rioli returns and Jeffrey Simon slots into midfield. They all have what it takes to help take down the Crocs, but will be matched in class by the likes of Ed Barlow and Charlie McAdam in Southern Districts’ midfield, while the forward quartet of Sam Barnett, William Farrer, Dylan McLachlan and Beau Schwarze is sure to cause headaches.

The Crocs are back to their damaging best and keep finding wins, but do not count Tiwi out of the contest with its eye-catching lineup.

DARWIN BUFFALOES vs. WANDERERS
Saturday November 16, 5:00pm
TIO Stadium

A third-consecutive top five clash awaits Darwin as it faces Wanderers on Saturday evening with both sides hoping to solidify their finals standing. The Buffs risk falling behind in the finals race as the midway point of the season approaches, with Waratah and Tiwi sure to turn up the heat from the bottom three. They are also coming in off losses to the top two sides, while Wanderers will be buoyed by two wins in its last three outings. The Muk Muks have been unable to string their wins together, and one over Darwin here would come in handy as they look to leave the trailing pack in their wake.

Adam Sambono again comes out of the Darwin lineup, with Joe Anderson returning to midfield after a forward stint, joined in there by last week’s best afield, Patrick Boles. Matt Campbell is a handy addition, set to feature up forward alongside young goalsneak Brayden Culhane. But Wanderers have their own rising stars inside 50 in the form of Beau O’Connell and Davin Ferreira, while versatile tall Joel Jeffrey has been named in midfield. Ex-AFL experience also comes in spades as Marlon Motlop, Liam Jurrah, and Liam Patrick all look primed to feature for the Eagles.

While Darwin has been on a skid in the win column, the Buffs’ true form is difficult to measure having faced the top two sides. Wanderers is in the same boat, but has arguably shown more extended form and come in as favourite with its superior ladder position.

ST MARY’S vs. NIGHTCIFF
Saturday November 16, 7:00pm
TIO Stadium

Arguably the game of the round will again be left until last as St Mary’s pushes to climb back into the top two and hand Nightcliff its first defeat all in one fell swoop on Saturday night. The Saints have improved out of sight from last season, but have faced a couple of hurdles this season in an otherwise consistent six rounds. The formline is much more linear on the Tigers’ end however, enjoying a streak of six-straight wins to open its premiership defence. The result of this contest is set to answer the open question of which side will be Nightcliff’s closest flag threat, and the Saints look primed to take that mantle.

But St Mary’s will have to pull it off without their leader, Raphael Clarke, replaced by Victorian spearheads Jackson Paine (ex-AFL) and Jackson Calder in the key forward spots. The midfield trio of Shannon Rioli, Nate Paredes, and Nick Yarran should also work a treat against the likes of John Butcher and James Tsitas. Those two, along with legendary utility Cam Ilett and the in-form Liam Holt-Fitz will be key for the Tigers, with their perfect record set to face its biggest test in this outing.

It is always hard to look past Nightcliff, but this game should be a cracker and has real implications on the pointy end of the NTFL ladder heading into the mid-season period.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GOALS:

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

BEST:

Southern Districts: N/A
Waratah: N/A

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

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

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

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

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

GOALS:

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

BEST:

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

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

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

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

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

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

GOALS:

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

BEST:

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

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

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

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

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

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

GOALS:

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

BEST:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NTFL Men’s Premier League preview: Round 3 – Wanderers face Nightcliff in lone top five clash

ONLY one game in Round 3 of the Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Men’s Premier League will be played between teams in finals spots, with Wanderers facing reigning premier Nightcliff on Saturday evening. Meanwhile, both Southern Districts and Palmerston have the chance to grab their first win of the season, and St Mary’s will look to stay undefeated.

TIWI BOMBERS (8th, 0-2) vs. ST MARY’S (2nd, 2-0)
Saturday October 19, 2:30pm
TIO Stadium

Teams with polar opposite formlines meet to kick off Round 3 as Tiwi plays host to St Mary’s at TIO Stadium. The topped-up Saints have been excellent so far in toppling Waratah and Palmerston, but will face a tricky task in upholding their form against an underperforming Bombers unit. Both teams had a good amount of build-up coming into the season, but Tiwi’s production has been levels off that of its weekend opponent. To be fair to the Bombers, fixtures against Darwin and reigning premier Nightcliff to start the year arguably poised them with the toughest early draw, but their best started to come to the fore in the second and third terms against Nightcliff after the Tigers got the jump on them. Slow starts seem to be a theme for the bottom-placed side, which had to dig itself out of a similar rut in the opening stages of last season. St Mary’s ended up being the side to claim the dreaded wooden spoon, but all signs point toward a more positive outcome this time around.

The talent on either side is undeniable, stacked with famous NT names throughout. Saints leader Raphael Clarke has made a starring start to the year alongside smaller types in Nicholas Yarran, Nathaniel Paredes, and the returning Jackson Geary. Ex-AFL midfielder Will Hams has also been a welcome addition to what is a re-energised Saints line-up looking to crack back into its rightful top-end spot. Former-Saint Michael Dunn has bagged multiple goals in both of his games thus far and will provide good opposition alongside Adam Tipungwuti and Jason Puruntatameri. They will look to new recruit Michael Mummery, Round 2 rising star nominee Jeffrey Simon, and Harley Puruntatameri to provide some added spark, with the Bombers’ x-factor something that sets them apart. That unpredictability against some of St Mary’s proven quantities will be key to this contest, and we could well get a belter.

SOUTHERN DISTRICTS (5th, 0-1-1) vs. PALMERSTON MAGPIES (7th, 0-2)
Saturday October 19, 4:00pm
Norbuilt Oval

One team’s zero is set to go, as the winless Southern Districts and Palmerston do battle at Norbuilt Oval in the weekend’s only game away from TIO Stadium. Given the 0-2 Magpies sit without any points altogether, the Crocs would be smelling blood in the water at the opportunity continue their trend of going one-better in each passing game. A draw against Wanderers last time out was less than ideal though, with the Crocs unable to truly click into gear for four quarters despite showing some promising signs in their Round 1 grand final rematch. Another less-than-ideal situation is that they will be without William Farrer for at least this fixture after he became the first NTFL player to be charged under the Auditory Offences matrix for umpire abuse. It serves as another blow to the Crocs’ firepower, which is already missing ex-AFL star Leroy Jetta and now-Bomber Michael Mummery from last year’s campaign. They will have to turn to Josiah Farrer, Beau Schwarze and Brodie Lake, as well as the experience of 100-gamer Charlie McAdam for inspiration in this clash, with Palmerston boasting a few tricky customers.

The Magpies were competitive despite falling short of Darwin by almost four goals in Round 2, slowly building on a disappointing opening round showing. State combine invitee Nigel Lockyer Jnr has been the standout with three goals in both games so far, while Bundoora stalwart Matthew Dennis has transferred last year’s form to this season. All three Davey boys were absent last time out for the Magpies in what was a blow to their creativity forward of centre, so a combination of them back in the side would do a world of good. Kyle Emery and Misha Perry Jnr will look to up their output to match the Crocs too, with the inability to kick a winning score one of the things holding Palmerston back from the better teams as it stands. If Southern Districts can find its groove and get on top early, watch out, otherwise expect to see the Magpies compete again for four quarters.

DARWIN BUFFALOES (1st, 2-0) vs. WARATAH (6th, 0-2)
Saturday October 19, 5:00pm
TIO Stadium

Another clash of opposing form is set to go down in Saturday’s evening game between Darwin and Waratah, with the former looking to remain atop the NTFL ladder. The Buffs have made an inspired start to the season for a second campaign running, sparked by big bags of goals from Adam Sambono (12 goals) and Brayden Culhane (six) in either game. While Sambono was absent in Round 2, his return would spell serious trouble for the struggling Warriors as it would free the likes of Joe Anderson and Patrick Boles to wreak havoc further afield. Lee Mununggurr and Antonio James are others who can excite, making Darwin a real handful for any side in the competition with their star-power across the board.

On the other hand, Waratah has struggled to exit second gear after an outstanding 2018/19 campaign and had its depth tested far more with the absence of Abe Ankers last week. He remains the key man for them with his scoreboard impact from midfield, despite some of the scoring load eased by VFL-listed small forward Steve Stroobants. Scoreboard assistance is sure to come in the form of Henry Kerinaiua and Kim Kantilla, with Cam Barrett, Sam Godden and ex-Bendigo Pioneer Laine Fitzgerald looking to make an impact further afield. The Warriors have been unlucky to come up against three in-form teams to start the season, but will be sure to give it a red-hot crack if their consistency last season is anything to go by. The memory of their 2018/19 thrashings of Darwin late in the season would also be fresh and serve as apt motivation, with the Buffs looking like a true premiership contender at this point. Expect their class to shine through, but to be tested depending on who is available.

WANDERERS (4th 1-0-1) vs. NIGHTCLIFF (3rd, 2-0)
Saturday October 19, 7:30pm
TIO Stadium

The game of the round will be the last for the weekend, as Wanderers and Nightcliff battle it out to remain undefeated. It serves as the only fixture this week between two teams in finals spots, with the Tigers one of three 2-0 sides while Wanderers suffered the first blemish to its record with a draw to Southern Districts last time out. If football math ever worked, this would be a time to use it given both sides have already faced the Crocs, with the Tigers managing to get the better of them in Round 1’s grand final rematch. But that kind of analysis is hardly useful this early in the piece, and does not take into account the x-factor that Wanderers can bring. Under-17 star utility Joel Jeffrey leads the way in that department, followed closely by Round 1 Rising Star nominee Ronald Fejo Jnr. Both have been impactful thus far, particularly up forward, with consistency of Shane Thorne and spark of Davin Ferreira set to come into play too in the absence of experienced star Marlon Motlop from last campaign. There is still a raft of players of the same name making a difference this time around, and the Muk Muks will need all of their talent to continue Wanderers’ promising start.

Nightcliff remains the biggest test in the competition though, starting with a perfect record against good opposition despite not yet clinching that top spot. The Tigers’ scoring power is scary and comes from a raft of players, including the likes of NT legend Cam Ilett, with others like Trent Melville, Matthew Bricknell and Wade Derksen still due to claim a big bag. Ex-Port forward John Butcher is another who can come back into the side and slot through multiple goals, making Nightcliff’s forward threats every bit as deep as any other side. It could be a case of the ultra-consistent and high-scoring Tigers bringing Wanderers back down to earth, but do not be surprised to see the Eagles give the reigning premier a good run on the back of some confidence gained over the first two rounds.