Tag: cyril rioli

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

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

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


TIWI BOMBERS 2019/20 SEASON REVIEW

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

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

Most goals: Austin Wonaeamirri (35)

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

MVP: Jason Puruntatameri (best & fairest winner)

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

Best Nichols Medal poller: Ashton Hams (12)

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

Young gun: Jeffrey Simon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finals 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 6 – Sambono returns as top four square off

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GOALS:

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

BEST:

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

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

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

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

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

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

GOALS:

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

BEST:

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

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

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

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

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

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

GOALS:

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

BEST:

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

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

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

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

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

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

GOALS:

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

BEST:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NTFL Men’s Premier League weekend preview: Round 1 – Grand Final replay highlights TIO round

A GRAND final replay between reigning premiers Nightcliff and runners-up Southern Districts headlines the opening round of Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Men’s Premier League. All four games are played at TIO Stadium with two on Saturday and two on Sunday.

DARWIN BUFFALOES vs. TIWI BOMBERS
Saturday, October 5, 2.30pm
TIO Stadium

It has been a long seven months for Tiwi Bombers, having to stew on a disastrous 20-goal loss in the preliminary final to Southern Districts last season. After a shaky start to the 2018/19 season, the Bombers picked up in the second half to storm home with all the momentum and justify their third placed finish on the table. Unfortunately they could get nowhere near the Crocs on the day and will want to make the best possible start this year with a Round 1 victory over Darwin Buffaloes. The Buffs finished fifth last season and are usually strong starters so could get an early win on the board given the youth that is coming through the Darwin program. Cyril Rioli is by far the biggest name in the NTFL and the Bombers will unleash him at some stage this season, but it will depend on when he wants to run out, however his knowledge as an assistant coach will be invaluable. Outside of the Cyril magic, the Bombers have been steadily improving with experienced former AFL talents in Nathan Djerrkura and Austin Wonaeamirri, as well as Ross Tungatalum, Dion Munkara, Adam Tipungwuti and Jason Puruntatameri, it would be hard to write them off as a premiership contender this season. For Darwin, experienced leader Adam Sambono has been named in the side alongside Antonio James. Joe Anderson has also returned to play in the game with both sides evenly match in terms of talent.

NIGHTCLIFF vs. SOUTHERN DISTRICTS
Saturday, October 5, 7.00pm
TIO Stadium

The match of the round will likely be the grand final replay between the Tigers and Crocs as the Tigers raise their flag from last season in front of their opponents from that day. It should fire the Southern District players up in the prime time night game that will have all spectators on the edge of their seat. Nightcliff was the clear standout team last season, finishing two wins and plenty of percentage ahead of the Crocs, and should look to start the season how they finished off. The Districts received a massive boost with Keegan Dingo re-registered back in the NTFL, but the huge inclusion for the Tigers was Bendigo Football League goalkicking machine Lachlan Sharp named for Round 1, having booted 133 goals from 19 games this year in Victoria. With the likes of former Port Adelaide forward John Butcher and the talented Trent Melville, the reigning premiers will be hard to contain up forward. On the other side, Damian Williams has also been named for Southern Districts having crossed from Darwin and is expected to provide some forward line power for the Crocs to counter that of the Tigers. In what could add some spice to the Grand Final replay, former Tigers, Faron James and Devin Lines are among those in line to switch to the Crocs. Nightcliff go in as favourites given the firepower, but the match is won and lost in the midfield.

WARATAH vs. WANDERERS
Sunday, October 6, 2.30pm
TIO Stadium

Waratah and bottom two side Wanderers go head-to-head on Sunday afternoon with the Warriors seeing this game as a must-win to start off their season. They tended to drop games they should not have last season, while claiming wins against top teams in an inconsistent year. If they can lift their performance when they are not at the top of their game, they will likely challenge any team on their day and give the Wanderers something to worry about in this clash. For the Wanderers, last season was one that was ultimately disappointing with just the six wins, and with three losses against the Warriors, the Wanderers will be very keen to break that winning drought against their opposition. After a surprise year in 2018/19, the Warriors will head into this game as favourites with Abe Ankers and Brodie Carroll leading the charge into the new season, while Liam Patrick and Brett Eddy have been named in the Wanderers’ forward line for the opening game, meaning Waratah cannot take the side too lightly. A tough one to pick the winner.

ST MARY’S vs. PALMERSTON
Sunday, October 6, 5pm
TIO Stadium

In the final game of the round, 2018/19 NTFL wooden spooners take on sixth placed Palmerston who unfortunately missed out on finals narrowly last season. The Magpies lost four of their last five games to tumble out of fifth spot, and split their head-to-head with St Mary’s as both teams recorded a win apiece – the Magpies’ victory coming in Round 17 and one of only two this calendar year. The Saints had just the five wins last season, and fell away in the second half of the season, defeating Darwin Buffaloes by 37 points in Round 15 as their only triumph since December 8. Palmerston recently picked up Frankston Dolphins’ talent Dylan Gordon after he crossed from Darwin, with the fly-in player available for limited games. The Magpies will welcome back Kyle Emery inside 50 with the dominant goalkicker joined by Rodney Baird and Nigel Lockyer as players who continued to cause heachaches for the opposition. Throw in fly-in talent Matt Dennis, as well as Alwyn Davey and Ezekiel Frank and the Magpies could swoop into a finals spot this year and get an early win here. Davey will also have the rare honour of running out alongside his twin sons, Alwyn Jnr and Jayden.

2019/20 NTFL Men’s Premier League season preview

WITH the Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Men’s Premier League competition set to get underway on the weekend, we take a look at the eight teams competing for the ultimate prize over the summer.

DARWIN BUFFALOES

Last season: 5th
Win-loss: 8-10
Points: 32
Percentage: 94.6

The Buffs are coming in off an indifferent 2018/20 campaign that saw them scrape into finals after a promising start. They were eliminated in a crushing 73-point elimination final loss to Waratah after going down to the Warriors in Round 18 as well, finally folding after struggling to reclaim the early-season form that had them pegged for another top two finish. Having captain-coach Matt Campbell and star players Joe Anderson, Adam Sambono and Malcolm Rosas Jnr shuffle in and out of the side at times did not help the Buffaloes in their search for some consistency, but the talent base is certainly there. Ex-Blue Anderson and highly rated junior Sambono are poised to feature prominently again under Campbell’s tutelage, while Rosas Jnr’s availability hinges on his AFL Draft hopes. Those three are all capable of seeing a heap of the ball and having important touches, with the consistent figures of Shaun Ahmat and Kevin Maroney set to again add that stability to the lineup each week. With Rosas seemingly moving on to the elite system, the young gun in Darwin’s crop this year is Antonio James. James featured for two straight years for the NT Thunder’s Under-16 side and was part of the Under-18 NAB League squad without playing, making him a good chance to feature for them in the upcoming season. The Buffs will be keen to see how he goes at Premier League level, with his enthusiasm and pace from defence helping him to stand out to this point. After a disappointing finish to last season, the storied club will hope to reach the heights they did in 2017/18 and sneak back into that top two. They certainly have the top-end talent to challenge, and should provide some highlights along the way.

Players to watch:

Joe Anderson
Adam Sambono
Malcolm Rosas Jnr
Shaun Ahmat

Young gun:

Antonio James

NIGHTCLIFF

Last season: 1st
Win-loss: 15-3 (Premiers)
Points: 60
Percentage: 166.08

The reigning premiers took home their fourth premiership cup last season, and in doing so moved one clear of Palmerston and Southern Districts to outright fifth on the overall premiership table. It was a dominant year for the Tigers, only losing thrice on their way to an outright minor premiership and getting up by 22 points over then-reigning premiers Southern Districts in the grand final. Trent Melville was the side’s spearhead, booting 56 goals from his 20 games to finish as the league’s leading goal kicker, but Nightcliff had a wealth of scoring threats. Melville will suit up again alongside the likes of Liam Holt-Fitz and Matthew Bricknell up forward, with big-man and NT Thunder representative Hugo Drogemuller a chance to feature up either end. The Budarick brothers, Jess and Joel will also be important between the arcs for the Tigers, with Joel turning out for the NT’s Under 18 academy this year. Jess appeared for the Thunder in the NEAFL this season and should add to his games tally this time around, adding to Nightcliff’s list of promising youngsters. Andy Moniz-Wakefield, Jamie Jones and Ned Stevens are also on that list after playing a part in the NT’s Under 16 campaign this year, putting the reigning premiers in good stead to feature well again and into the future. Their depth is solid, and their firepower is almost unmatched.

Players to watch:

Jess Budarick
Trent Melville
Matthew Bricknell
Hugo Drogemuller
Liam Holt-Fitz

Young gun:

Joel Budarick

PALMERSTON

Last season: 6th
Win-loss: 7-11
Points: 28
Percentage: 70.57

The Palmy Army experienced much more joy in 2018/19 after claiming the wooden spoon in season 2017/18, with a vastly-improved sixth place finish – just one win outside of the finals spots. The Magpies had their depth tested with ex-AFL players like Aaron Davey, Alwyn Davey, and Ezekiel Frank missing chunks of games throughout the year, while Matthew Stokes only appeared in a two-game cameo. All four of those stars provided great value though and could do so again in this year’s competition to aid a bunch of regulars who stood out. Victorian ruck veteran Matthew Dennis featured among the best for all but one of his 18 games last year and could go around again, with VFL player Dylan Gordon set to make his NT return. He joins the likes of prolific goalsneak Kyle Emery, as well as the ever-improving Nigel Lockyer and consistent figures of Samuel Autio and Samuel Talbot. Add youngster Jason Baird to the mix and so much of the Magpies’ firepower comes in their forward movers, despite not being able to post the biggest scores last year. Up the other end, their defence was the leakiest in 2018/19 and will need some tightening if Palmerston is to continue its upward trend.

Players to watch:

Kyle Emery
Matthew Dennis
Dylan Gordon
Samuel Talbot
Nigel Lockyer

Young gun:

Jason Baird

SOUTHERN DISTRICTS

Last season: 2nd
Win-loss: 13-5 (Runners-up)
Points: 52
Percentage: 147.36

So close, yet so far, the Crocs battled hard throughout the season and looked at times like premiership favourites, particularly after a 20-goal smashing of Tiwi Bombers in the preliminary final. But as they found out, the Grand Final is a different ball game, going down to Nightcliff by 22 points. That does not take away from the dominance the Crocs have had over the competition during the last two seasons, with a ton of depth and some scary firepower. Ex-AFL players Leroy Jetta, Richard Tambling, Ed Barlow and Jared Brennan were all terrific over multiple games for the 2017/18 premiers, adding arguably the highest level of ex-professional class. Goals came aplenty through the likes of Jess Koopman and Michael Mummery, while Bradley Vallance, Dean Staunton, Charles McAdam, and Beau Schwarze were others to combine their scoreboard impact with ball winning. They should all be important figures again if Southern Districts is to have another flag tilt, providing a consistent base throughout the year with a raft of other stars coming in and out of the team. It is always hard to look past the Crocs on paper and given the ability they have to blow teams away, expect them to be right up there once again this season. With young gun Brodie Lake also one of the NT’s big hopes for next year’s draft, they have some future talent to nurture too.

Players to watch:

Jess Koopman
Michael Mummery
Dean Staunton
Ed Barlow
Brandon Rusca

Young gun:

Brodie Lake

ST MARY’S

Last season: 8th
Win-loss: 5-13
Points: 20
Percentage: 78.14

The NTFL powerhouse side was publicly in financial trouble over the off-season, but is back in the league to try and bounce back from its poor season last year. After missing the 2017/18 Grand Final for only the second time since 2002/03, the Saints went through a rebuilding phase last season dropping to the bottom of the table. With nine more premierships than its nearest rival, expect this successful club to move back up the ladder in season 2019/20. Former Gippsland Power prospect Nathaniel Paredes was the Saints’ shining light last season, featuring in the best 10 of 15 times and booting 20 goals in the process. A host of famous names and relations also fill out the side, with Ben Rioli and Jacob Long sure to join prodigious youngsters Maurice Rioli Jnr and Brayden Rioli – pending their availability. Nicholas Yarran and Raphael Clarke would be handy returns after solid 2017/18 seasons, along with the likes of Mathias Liddy. St Mary’s is renowned for producing top talent, and NT Under 16 representative Preyben Tipiloura is an exciting type to come through further this year alongside Rioli Jnr and Brayden Rioli, while Kieren Parnell is another rising star set to make his long-awaited injury return. Given the club’s strong history and the raw talent set to be displayed, expect St Mary’s to be a riser this year – the only was is up from last season after all – and a couple more former-AFL coups could help.

Players to watch:

Nathaniel Paredes
Maurice Rioli Jnr
Jacob Long
Ben Rioli
Kieren Parnell
Brayden Rioli

Young gun:

Preyben Tipiloura

TIWI BOMBERS

Last season: 3rd
Win-loss: 9-9
Points: 36
Percentage: 101.72

Tiwi very nearly became one of the better stories out of last season as their run in the back-end saw them earn an unlikely preliminary final berth. Although they were soundly beaten while searching for a grand final spot, the journey there was something to behold. It came long after a slow start to the season, with a raft of experienced and reliable players helping the famous Bombers click into gear. They were awesome in front of goal at times, and that is only set to be helped this year with the return of favourite son Cyril Rioli, who joins as a player-coach. The prospect of having him run around alongside fellow ex-AFL players Austin Wonaeamirri and Nathan Djerrkura, as well as Ross Tungatalum is scary and sure to bring plenty of excitement to the league. Add to that club stalwarts Jason Puruntatameri, Dion Munkara and prolific young guns Adam Tipungwuti and Jeffrey Simon, and you have a fun side destined for big things. The improvement they showed last year should only be built on this time around, and there is no reason why the Bombers cannot fly back to the top of the NTFL with a continuance of their form. Do not be surprised to see Tiwi go in as one of the flag favourites, and there will certainly be plenty of expectation given how dangerous they look on paper in the forward half.

Players to watch:

Cyril Rioli
Ross Tungatalum
Austin Wonaeamirri
Jason Puruntatameri
Dion Munkara
Nathan Djerrkura
Adam Tipungwuti

Young gun:

Jeffrey Simon

WANDERERS

Last season: 7th
Win-loss: 6-12
Points: 24
Percentage: 74.22

A somewhat down 2018/19 season saw Wanderers narrowly escape the bottom of the ladder with a final round victory over Palmerston, despite only winning half the amount of games they lost in the 18-game season. It looked a justified ladder position given they were second-to-last for both points scored and conceded, but there are some promising signs pointing to the future for the Muk Muks. They are set to field young stars aplenty, with NT Under-18 representative Beau O’Connell one who could team up with Davin Ferreira through midfield alongside the experience of Marlon Motlop. John Tipiloura is another lively youngster, as is Mark White, who starred up forward in the 2019 Under 16 Division 2 carnival. But arguably the best of the lot is 2020 AFL Draft hopeful Joel Jeffrey, who was a regular for Wanderers last year and played out on the MCG in the Under-17 grand final curtain raiser. If he is available before his top-age year, look out for his high marking up either end of the ground. While the immediate impact of their talent has not quite translated to results just yet, expect to see the Eagles sore in years to come.

Players to watch:

Beau O’Connell
Marlon Motlop
Joel Jeffrey
Davin Ferreira
John Tipiloura

Young gun:

Mark White

WARATAH

Last season: 4th
Win-loss: 9-9
Points: 36
Percentage: 100.44

Waratah is a team which surprised some last year, holding strong with its local talent to cap a consistent year off in fourth place with an even record – hardly ever looking like missing out on finals throughout the season. Anchoring the side in midfield was Abraham Ankers, who will be key again in this campaign alongside fellow NT Thunder squad member Brodie Carroll, who played 16 games last year. Zach Westerberg, Cameron Barrett, and Henry Kerinaiua were others to hold down spots, and another possible cameo from ex-Melbourne forward Michael Newton could spell some more goals. Newton’s two games aside, Waratah is one of the teams with the fewest ex-AFL experience, making their exploits even greater. Andrew Moore could change that factor slightly as he is poised to sign for the Warriors, and Matthew Green could have the effect of a new signing after only featuring a couple of times last season. Watch for Under 18 Allies representative Ben Jungfer if available, given he is Adelaide-based, with his clearance work outstanding. With a lot of other sides improving, it will be a battle for Waratah to maintain their form, but they have the stock to match it with the best once again.

Players to watch:

Abraham Ankers
Matthew Green
Brodie Carroll
Andrew Moore
Cameron Barrett

Young gun:

Ben Jungfer

Fantastic Five: Memorable moments from the weekend

A PREMIERSHIP, forgotten hero and a young star shining bright were among the most memorable moments from the weekend. Here are five moments which are likely to be remembered from the football on and off the field, from the last few days.

Western Bulldogs claim AFLW flag

For a life-long lasting memory, it is hard to go past a premiership. On the weekend, 21 footballers tasted the ultimate glory when the Paul Groves-coached outfit knocked off the Brisbane Lions in a thrilling finish to the second AFLW Grand Final. Young Bulldog and former Calder Cannons star Monique Conti was Best on Ground for her performance in clutch moments. She might have been the youngest player on the ground, but the pocket rocket starred in a performance that is unlikely to be forgotten any time soon. The win was made all more remarkable by the fact the Dogs were without captain Katie Brennan, and number one pick Isabel Huntington, both of whom could have filled key position posts up forward.

Cyril’s return

Sometimes when players are injured for so long, you forget the impact they can have at their best. Hawthorn’s Cyril Rioli is a player who adds that X-factor and game nous that very few others have, and in his first game back from injury after missing the majority of the 2017 season, he was unbelievable – especially considering he was underdone. If he regains full fitness, opposition clubs will have to be wary because Cyril is capable of anything on his day, and just make the Hawks side look that much more dangerous.

TAC Cup returns for season 2018

After an exciting few weeks of TAC Cup Girls football, the boys’ competition kicked-off with a bang on the weekend. The first round was not without some surprise results, as the young Gippsland outfit – with an excess of bottom-agers – toppled the experienced Murray Bushrangers, while Dandenong Stingrays made their premiership intentions clear with a big win over fellow contenders Geelong Falcons. In the rain at Frankston, perennial success stories Oakleigh Chargers and Sandringham Dragons got their respective wins, while Western Jets and Bendigo Pioneers were the other winners in round one.

Gold Coast start season on high

After yet another disappointing season which saw Gold Coast lose their head coach, the Suns need to fly high in their first game. With Stuart Dew in control, Gold Coast got the job done in torrential rain in Cairns, so much so the AFL considered calling off the game pre-match. Luckily for the home side they did not, and the Suns knocked off North Melbourne to start their season on the right note.

Chloe Molloy wins AFLW Best First Year Player

Okay, so it was not quite on the weekend, but the Collingwood star and former Calder Cannons gun, Chloe Molloy, was today awarded AFLW’s Best First Year Player Award. It was hardly a surprise for anyone who had watched the competition this season. The rebounding defender who played forward in stints was a standout for the Magpies in a season where despite their best being good enough, could not make finals. But Molloy was a shining light, and the AFL Draft Central writer is only going to get better next season and beyond.