Tag: ed barlow

2019/2020 NTFL Men’s Premier League team review: Southern Districts

THE next team under review in our club-by-club Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Men’s Premier League recap is gallant preliminary finalist, Southern Districts. Losers in the 2018/19 decider, the Crocs looked to again be in the premiership hunt after a tight Round 1 grand final rematch against Nightcliff, but struggled to capture their best form for consistent periods throughout the season. Arguably their best streak came at the ideal time though, with a string of three wins heading into the post-season putting Districts in perfect stead to notch two high-class finals wins. While they fell just short of a third-consecutive grand final berth to the eventual premier, the Crocs produced some terrific football when at their best.


SOUTHERN DISTRICTS 2019/20 SEASON REVIEW

Record: 3rd, 10-7-1 (2-1 finals), 120%

Most games: Josiah Farrer (21)

Most goals: William Farrer (52 – league best)

With over double the goals tally of the next-best Croc (Ed Barlow, 25), Will Farrer thrived as his side’s spearhead in 2019/20 to finish as the league’s leading goalkicker. Farrer’s incredible run of finding the big sticks in all of his first 10 outings is testament to his consistency, being held goalless just twice in 19 games – against the top two sides, no less. The high-flying forward also booted more than three goals 11 times this year, making him a reliable figure for the Crocs in helping to take contests away from their opponents. His season-high haul of eight goals came against Palmerston in Round 16, just as Districts started to turn their form around.

MVP: Josiah Farrer

The profound impact that both Farrer boys have on the Southern Districts side is no secret, and Josiah was arguably the centrepiece in 2019/20 as a mainstay in the lineup. The midfielder/forward was the only Croc to feature in every round this season, finding the goals in 15 outings to average almost one major per game. Farrer’s happy knack of getting on the board when resting forward, or bursting up the ground from midfield, made him one of the more impactful ball winners in the competition, with his versatility another showpiece of his well-rounded game.

Best Nichols Medal poller: Ed Barlow (11)

Not to be mistaken for his ‘twin’, Michael, Ed Barlow made a real impact in his 10 games across 2019/20, remarkably enough finishing as the Crocs’ second-highest goalkicker with 25. The ex-Sydney and Bulldogs utility often proved too big and strong for his opponents through midfield and up forward, showcased most significantly in his seven-goal effort against Tiwi to lead the Crocs’ semi final triumph. A big game player, Barlow was a prominent figure in Districts’ late-season charge, featuring among the coach’s best six players in their last four games – including three finals. Given the impact he can have, it is no wonder he polled so well this year.

Young gun: Brodie Lake

One of the NT’s brightest prospects is Brodie Lake, a two-time Thunder Under 16 representative and last year’s carnival MVP. The tall utility was employed mostly in the back six across his 15 games, locking down a spot in the Crocs’ squad throughout the latter half of the year as one of their more important figures. Capable of playing roles anywhere on the ground, Lake has earned plaudits for his coachability and is thriving as part of the Allies hub, training with the Gold Coast SUNS during their pre-season. Perhaps the top-end’s best draft prospect this year, Lake is certainly one to watch.

Best win: Semi-Final – def. Tiwi 16.15 (111) to 11.5 (71)

Goals: E. Barlow 7, W. Farrer 2, J. Garlett 2, D. Staunton 2, M. Barlow, J. Watts, J. Farrer.
Best: E. Barlow, C. McAdam, D. Staunton, K. Dingo, M. Barlow, J. Schofield

Perhaps the showpiece game of Districts’ season, their win over Tiwi was a great advertisement of the Crocs’ firepower. Ed Barlow led a brigade of four multiple goalkickers with his bag of seven, while the big names of Will Farrer, Josiah Farrer, Jeff Garlett, and Michael Barlow all also got on the board. Add to that the experience of Dean Staunton and Keegan Dingo to steady the ship, and it was a terrific all-round performance from the Crocs.

Worst result: Round 2 – drew w/ Wanderers 9.12 (66)

Goals: W. Farrer 3, J. Farrer 2, J. Clarke, B. Schwarze, I. Wyatt, B. Ngalkin.
Best: C. McAdam, M. Bowden, Z. Smith, J. Farrer, T. Holman, K. Dingo

No worst loss for the Crocs this season, but a worst result instead, in their Round 2 draw with Wanderers. This result ultimately cost Districts a top three berth and finals double chance, boasting the percentage required to snatch third if they had picked up the extra two points here. Nonetheless, the usual suspects were in play here, with Will and Josiah Farrer both booting multiple goals, while Thomas Holman and the ever-present Michael Bowden were also among the best.

NTFL Men’s Premier League wrap: Preliminary final – Tigers roar into second-straight decider

THE 2019/20 Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Men’s Premier League Grand Final has been decided after three enthralling post-season weeks, with reigning premier Nightcliff set to face off against St Mary’s after accounting for a brave Southern Districts outfit on Saturday night.

NIGHTCLIFF 3.1 | 5.5 | 12.6 | 13.10 (88)
SOUTHERN DISTRICTS 2.1 | 5.3 | 7.3 | 8.3 (51)

GOALS:

Nightcliff: J. Butcher 5, T. Melville 3, M. Hagan 2, R. Mu, L. Holt-Fitz, C. Ilett.
Southern Districts: E. Barlow 2, N. Horbury 2, W. Farrer, J. Innes, J. Garlett, D. Barry.

BEST:

Nightcliff: N/A
Southern Districts: E. Barlow, N. Horbury, M. Barlow, L. Ogden, T. Holman, D. Staunton

Nightcliff has booked its place in the 2019/20 NTFL Men’s Premier League grand final after dispatching Southern Districts to the tune of 37 points in Saturday night’s preliminary final. The Tigers earned passage to their second-consecutive appearance in the big dance on the back of a second half blitz, scoring eight goals to three to round out an impressive 13.10 (88) to 8.3 (51) victory.

The first half proved a tighter affair but Nightcliff still managed to get on top and stay there, notching three goals to Districts’ two in the opening term before being pegged back to a two-point buffer at the main break. But as it goes, the third quarter is the premiership quarter and the long-time flag favourites proved as much by pouring on seven majors in a scintillating half hour of football. The 33-point margin upon the final break looked ominous for the Crocs, and they could not produce the magic required to enact a turnaround as both sides could only manage a goal each to round out the contest. In a game which was largely competitive, it seemed the Crocs’ string of knockout finals finally caught up with them as only a momentary falter was enough to see the Tigers run away with the game.

Revered for its recruiting and open chequebook, Nightcliff once again had a star ring-in front the winning effort, with ex-Port Adelaide forward John Butcher booting a game-high five goals. Club leading goalkicker Trent Melville was also on target with three majors of his own, while Michael Hagan (two) rounded out the Tigers’ multiple goalkickers in what was a typically sound all-round team performance. For the Crocs, Ed Barlow was again at the heart of their effort as he notched another two finals goals to be named best in a losing side, with Nathan Horbury not far behind on the back of his own two-goal effort. Michael Barlow finished a phenomenal back-end of the season off well, and consistent standout Thomas Holman was also thereabouts.

While somewhat of a rollercoaster season comes to a disappointing end for the Crocs, who looked to be in top form at just the right time, the Tigers have bounced back well and will look to go back-to-back. Standing in their way is St Mary’s, the only team to have beaten Nightcliff this year (twice) – including last fortnight’s semi final – in looking to go from wooden spooners to premiers. Best-and-fairest winner Kaine Riley will be sure to lead the effort alongside newly-crowned co-Nichols Medalist Brodie Filo, with all the finals experience of Cam Ilett also set to be important as Nightcliff hopes to ensure it can get one-back at St Mary’s at the ideal time. The 2019/20 NTFL Grand Final is set to go down on Saturday night at TIO Stadium, stay tuned for our comprehensive preview of the big game.

NTFL Men’s Premier League preview: Preliminary final – Crocs look to extend dream finals run

A PLACE in the 2020 Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Men’s Premier League grand final is up for grabs on Saturday night, as Nightcliff and Southern Districts set to play off for the chance to challenge St Mary’s in next week’s decider. With both sides set to head in close to full strength and boasting stars on each line, fans should be in for a treat as we near the crescendo of what has been an entertaining post-season to date. Check out the teams, head-to-head stats, and each team’s form in our comprehensive preview.

NIGHTCLIFF vs. SOUTHERN DISTRICTS
Preliminary Final
Saturday March 7, 7:00pm
TIO Stadium

2020 head-to-head:

Nightcliff 3 – 0 Southern Districts

Form:

Tigers:
4-1

Crocs:
5-0

Finals run:

Tigers:
Semi final: def. by St Mary’s 11.11 (77) to 16.7 (103)

Crocs:
Elimination final: def. Darwin 17.11 (113) to 5.12 (42)
Semi final: def. Tiwi 11.5 (71) to 16.15 (111)

Regular season:

Tigers:
1st, 17-1, 187%

Crocs:
4th, 10-7-1, 120%

Preview:

Nightcliff and Southern Districts are primed to do battle for a spot in the 2020 NTFL grand final on Saturday night, with fairytale team St Mary’s awaiting the winner in the big dance. Having played in last season’s decider, these two sides will be hungry to get back to the biggest of stages and come away with some silverware.

Reigning premiers and again minor premiers this season, Nightcliff enjoyed a stellar home-and-away campaign to notch a near-unblemished 17-1 record. The Tigers were the clear competition benchmark and are thus clear favourite to take out back-to-back flags, but will have to get past the in-form Crocs for a fourth time to even earn the chance. Given they are one of only two sides to have beaten every other competitor this season, the Tigers should be full of confidence heading into this knockout final bout. But a semi final loss to St Mary’s – their second loss to the Saints – may have put a slight dent in that seemingly bulletproof assuredness, serving as Nightcliff’s first defeat in 11 outings.

Southern Districts’ season has featured considerably more hiccups at 10-7-1 come regular season’s end, but the Crocs seem to be peaking at just the right time with backing from some very handy AFL-experienced players. Currently on a five-game winning streak, Districts has been able to back up well for consecutive elimination final scenarios and will have to do so another two times if they are to take out the flag. But the test that Nightcliff provides has proven too tough for the Crocs thus far in 2020; getting within nine points all the way back in Round 1, but going down by a combined 95 points in Rounds 10 and 15. Despite the home-and-away ledger sitting at an ominous 3-0 in favour of the Tigers, the Crocs are in arguably the better form and should push the flag fancies all the way.

Nightcliff come into the clash with a slight blow to its forward 50 structure, as Victorian goal-getter Lachlan Sharp is set to miss due to a suspension picked up last week. But the Tigers still boast plenty of firepower with leading goalkicker Trent Melville named alongside livewire Liam Holt-Fitz and ex-Port forward John Butcher, while James Tsitas is another who can find the big sticks from midfield. Up the other end, best and fairest winner Kaine Riley heads the defence with the likes of Danny Butcher and Cam Ilett making up two more spots in a quality back six. It is hard to deny the Tigers’ dynamism too, with their rotation at either end and into the midfield highlighting their unmatchable depth.

But a department the Crocs should be able to draw level in is the range of scoring options, with competition leading goalkicker Will Farrer spearheading a dangerous attack which has breached 100 points in each of its last five outings. Ed Barlow has been named on an extended bench coming off his seven-goal haul, while Jeff Garlett and league MVP fancy Josiah Farrer are also capable of troubling the scorers. The midfield quality of Richard Tambling, Michael Barlow, and Charlie McAdam on the outside will also be important, while Thomas Holman‘s role across the backline becomes imperative given Nightcliff’s wealth of avenues to goal.

The time to strike is now for Districts, but neutrals should not forget the quality of Nightcliff’s season outside of two losses to the team already lined up in the grand final. The Tigers need only look back at the Crocs’ run to the decider last season after overcoming a finals loss, and will rightly come in as favourite despite Districts’ hot form and considerable class. Whether the Crocs can back up from back-to-back big efforts will be the big test, but winning form is always good form. It should be a cracker for neutrals, and St Mary’s will inevitably be looking on intently at the side it is set to face.

Tip: Nightcliff by 10.

TEAMS:

Nightcliff 

Full Back – 23. Brodie Filo, 10. Cameron Ilett, 22. Daniel Bowles
Half Back – 34. Danny Butcher, 16. Jayden Kickett, 12. Joel Budarick
Centre – 3. Jonathan Peris, 5. Kaine Riley, 8. Kyle Winter-Irving
Half Forward – 6. Liam Holt-Fitz, 2. Michael Hagan, 14. Nathan Brown
Full Forward – 15. Liam Evans, 9. Zac Brain, 30. John Butcher
Rucks – 20. Trent Melville, 33. Shaun Wilson, 19. James Tsitas
Interchange – 11. Phillip Wills, 32. Roger Morris, 1. Ryan Mu, 31. Hugo Drogemuller, 58. Declan Singh-Lippo, 25. Jasper Brain, 18. Harry Williams, 28. Jonathon Miles ,24. Tyson Kidney, 53. Brad Arnold, 26. Marley McGregor, 4. Matthew Bricknell
Southern Districts
Full Back – 34. Charles McAdam, 18. Tom Holman, 6. Brodie Lake
Half Back – 8. Michael Bowden, 11. Josiah Farrer, 22. Jayden Schofield
Centre – 10. Lionel Ogden, 2. Richard Tambling, 3. Nathan Horbury
Half Forward – 4. Dean Staunton, 27. William Farrer, 5. Dylan McLachlan
Full Forward – 30. Jayden Clarke, 26. Michael Barlow, 31. Dylan Barry
Rucks – 25. Patrick Gallow, 9. Jeff Garlett, 17. Rory O’Brien
Interchange – 24. Dan Wehrung, 32. Josh Innes, 15. Keegan Dingo, 1. Jaeden Watts, 13. Damian Williams, 21. Desmond Corbett, 20. Ed Barlow, 12. Matthew Duffy, 14. Beau Schwarze, 16. Zac Smith

NTFL Men’s Premier League wrap: Semi finals – Saints book grand final spot

ST MARY’S defeated Nightcliff for the second time this season to become the first team to book its spot in the 2019/20 Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Men’s Premier League grand final, while traditional rival, Tiwi was bundled out in straight sets at the hands of Southern Districts.

TIWI BOMBERS 2.1 | 4.5 | 7.5 | 11.5 (71)
SOUTHERN DISTRICTS 4.5 | 7.8 | 10.11 | 16.15 (111)

GOALS:

Tiwi: A. Wonaeamirri 3, C. Jones 2, A. Hams 2, O. Henry, J. Simon, H. Puruntatameri, K. Dunn.
Southern Districts: E. Barlow 7, W. Farrer 2, J. Garlett 2, D. Staunton 2, M. Barlow, J. Watts, J. Farrer.

BEST:

Tiwi: R. Baird, J. Monigatti, D. Kruse, A. Hams, O. Henry, C. Jones
Southern Districts: E. Barlow, C. McAdam, D. Staunton, K. Dingo, M. Barlow, J. Schofield

Tiwi unceremoniously exited the Premier League finals race in straight sets upon falling to Southern Districts in their knockout semi final bout, going down to the tune of 40 points at TIO Stadium. Seven goals from ex-AFL standout Ed Barlow did most of the damage in ending the Bombers’ promising season, with the third-ranked side outgunned by a peaking Districts unit. To the Crocs’ credit, they never rested on their laurels after opening up a 16-point quarter-time lead, constantly applying scoreboard pressure to keep the dangerous Bombers at bay. Six goals to four in a high-scoring final term capped off a successful effort in front of goal for the winners, with their 31 scoring shots working to overwhelm Tiwi – a rare feat this season. Barlow, and his ‘twin’, Michael were terrific for the Crocs, with mainstays Charlie McAdam and Dean Stanton accelerating their forward momentum. Competition leading goalkicker Will Farrer added two goals to his tally, with Jeff Garlett matching the feat to make up another of the four Districts multiple goalkickers. For the Bombers, Rodney Baird was again among the best in a heavily-pressured defence, while big man Jack Mongiatti and David Kruse capped off stellar seasons with solid shifts. Ashton Hams found the goals (two) for the third-straight game, with Austin Wonaeamirri (three goals) leading the attack. But it was ultimately in vein as the Bombers could not keep up with Districts’ scoring exploits, unable to breakthrough for the burst that would pry the game open. The Crocs’ third knockout final fixture comes as its biggest test thus far though, with a hungry Nightcliff side waiting in the wings.

Fallout:
Southern Districts – vs. Nightcliff, preliminary final
Tiwi Bombers – eliminated

NIGHTCLIFF 2.1 | 5.5 | 10.10 | 11.11 (77)
ST MARY’S 5.1 | 10.2 | 12.5 | 16.7 (103)

GOALS:

Nightcliff: J. Tsitas 2, M. Hagan 2, T. Melville 2, L. Sharp 2, S. Wilson, J. Butcher, C. Ilett.
St Mary’s: J. Calder 5, M. Rioli Jnr 4, R. Smith, J. Paine, J. Salmon, N. Yarran, S. Rioli, S. Edwards, H. Labastida.

BEST:

Nightcliff: N/A
St Mary’s: M. Rioli Jnr, L. Daly, R. Smith, J. Paine, J. Calder, T. Saunders

St Mary’s has gone one step further on the path to a complete turnaround from last year’s wooden spoon-winning campaign, becoming the first team to qualify for the 2019/20 grand final. The Saints had to knock off Nightcliff for a second time in the process, and did so by 26 points on Saturday night on the back of a clinical display in front of goal. On the other hand, Nightcliff was atypically wasteful inside forward 50 as it struggled to maintain its game of catch-up from the get-go, falling comfortably from just one less scoring shot. The signs were ominous as St Mary’s led by 27 points at the main break with double the amount of goals, but that buffer was cut considerably heading into the last turn. In true form of a champion team, the Saints kept their heads and ran out the better side to become the only team to beat Nightcliff twice in a season since 2017/18, with a number of standout performers coming to the fore. A game-high five goals from Saint, Jackson Calder took his finals tally to nine, but it was Maurice Rioli Jnr who impressed most with his bag of four as the two combined for over half of their side’s score. The pair were two of nine individual St Mary’s goalkickers, but the likes of Liam Daly and Tylah Saunders also made an impact without finding the big sticks. The scoring depth remained deep for Nightcliff despite a touch of inaccuracy, with four players notching two goals each. James Tsitas and Lachlan Sharp were among them, with leading goalkicker Trent Melville also managing the feat as a bunch of key Tigers found the big sticks. Luckily for the Tigers, they will have a second chance at grand final qualification this week against the Crocs, with redemption in the grand final now one of the main motivators.

Fallout:
Nightcliff – vs. Southern Districts, preliminary final
St Mary’s – vs. W of Southern Districts/Nightcliff, grand final

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

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

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

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

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

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

NTFL Men’s Premier League: Week 1 Finals – Crocs and Saints stay alive

DARWIN Buffaloes are the first team out of the 2019/20 Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Men’s Premier League finals race after going down to Southern Districts in the elimination final. The Crocs live to fight another day, and now face Tiwi Bombers, while St Mary’s moved a win closer to the grand final with victory over the Bombers in the qualifying final.

SOUTHERN DISTRICTS 4.2 | 7.7 | 11.10 | 17.11 (113)
DARWIN BUFFALOES 0.4 | 2.8 | 3.11 | 5.12 (42)

GOALS:

Southern Districts: J. Garlett 4, D. Barry 3, W. Farrer 2, E. Barlow 2, J. Farrer 2, B. Lake, J. Clarke, L. Ogden, M. Bowden.
Darwin Buffaloes: D. Stafford 2, D. Wunungmurra, D. Shillabear, B. Foster.

BEST:

Southern Districts: R. Tambling, D. Barry, D. Staunton, J. Farrer, E. Barlow, T. Holman
Darwin Buffaloes: N/A

Impressive performances by former AFL players, Jeff Garlett and Richard Tambling have propelled Southern Districts into the semi-finals following a 71-point smashing of Darwin. The Crocs were far too good throughout the four quarters, putting the foot down early with four goals to zero, making more of their opportunities inside 50 as the Buffaloes could only manage the four behinds. Darwin got on the board in the second term with two majors, but again missed a number of chances, heading into half-time with a 29-point deficit as the higher ranked side held them at bay. A four goal to one third term all but ended the contest, with Southern Districts kicking on and blowing the margin out to an impressive 47 points by the final break. With the game done and dusted, it was party time for Southern Districts as the Crocs piled on six goals to two to run away with the 17.11 (113) to 5.12 (42) victory at TIO Stadium.

Garlett booted four goals, while Tambling was named best on for his work through the middle, while Ed Barlow also contributed in the victory, named among the best and booted a couple of goals. Dylan Barry converted three majors and was one of five players to boot multiple goals, while Dean Staunton and Josiah Farrer (two goals) were also named among the best for the winners. For the Buffaloes, Daniel Stafford booted two goals in the second half, but the highlights were few and far between for an understrength side that could not match it with the eventual winners. Teenage talent Djamatjama Wunungmurra opened the Buffs’ account, and he along with Darren Shillabear in the second and Brodie Foster in the last also got their names on the scoresheet.

While Darwin’s season comes to a close, Southern Districts progress on to a semi-final where they face third placed Tiwi Bombers in another do-or-die clash following the Bombers’ defeat to St Mary’s in the later game.

ST MARY’S 4.2 | 5.6 | 6.10 | 11.12 (78)
TIWI BOMBERS 1.2 | 3.3 | 5.3 | 7.5 (47)

GOALS:

St Mary’s: J. Calder 4, S. Rioli 3, J. Long, S. Edwards, H. Labastida, R. Jordon.
Tiwi: S. Munkara 3, A. Wonaeamirri 2, H. Puruntatameri, C. Jones.

BEST:

St Mary’s: J. Long, T. Davies, K. Parnell, S. Rioli, J. Salmon, R. Jordon
Tiwi: C. Jones, L. Howe, D. Kruse, R. Baird, J. Puruntatameri, S. Munkara

St Mary’s are one win away from returning the the NTFL Men’s Premier League’s greatest stage after defeating Tiwi Bombers in the qualifying final. Last year’s wooden spooners made a remarkable rise up the ladder, finishing second overall and living up to the expectations set by that top two finish with a comfortable 31-point win over Tiwi. The Saints opened their account with a strong first term, booting four goals to one and leading by a handy 18 points at the early break. Neither team would have too much time or space as the Bombers hit back with two goals to one in the second term and cut the deficit slightly to 15 points. St Mary’s accuracy went a little awry in the second term with 1.4 and that continued into the third with an identical output to see the Saints sitting on 6.10 (46) to 5.3 (33), as the Bombers again made the most of fewer chances with 2.0 to their name. Sensing they needed a big last quarter, St Mary’s piled on five goals to two and ran away with a comfortable 11.12 (78) to 7.5 (47) victory in what was a superb performance to stay alive in the competition.

Jackson Calder (four goals) and Shannon Rioli (three) combined for seven goals in the win to be the key difference up forward for the Saints, while four others combined for singles. Jake Long was named best on ground for his efforts on the day, while Thomas Davies and Kieren Parnell were also impressive. Helped by former AFL players, Shaun Edwards and Raphael Clarke, St Mary’s depth was a bit too much for the third placed Bombers who fought for the majority of three quarters during the match. Simon Munkara booted three goals in the loss, while former Melbourne forward, Austin Wonaeamirri slotted two majors. Chris Jones booted a goal and was the best on the losing side, while Lachlan Howe and David Kruse were also impressive despite their team going down and were named among the top players on the Bombers’ side.

St Mary’s takes on Nightcliff next week for the right to play in the 2019/20 NTFL Men’s Premier League Grand Final, while Tiwi activates its second chance with a do-or-die semi-final against Southern Districts.

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

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

REGULAR SEASON RECAPS:

NIGHTCLIFF – 1st, 17-1 (197%)

Leading goalkicker: Trent Melville (41 goals)

MVP: Kaine Riley

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

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

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

ST MARY’S – 2nd, 14-4 (137%)

Leading goalkicker: Jackson Calder & Leroy Larson (24)

MVP: Thomas Davies

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

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

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

TIWI BOMBERS – 3rd, 11-7 (102%)

Leading goalkicker: Austin Wonaeamirri (30)

MVP: Jason Puruntatameri

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

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

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

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

Leading goalkicker: Will Farrer (47)

MVP: Josiah Farrer

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

Worst result: Rd 2, drew with Wanderers

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

DARWIN BUFFALOES – 5th, 10-8 (118%)

Leading goalkicker: Daniel Stafford (39)

MVP: Christopher Williams

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

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

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

WEEK ONE PREVIEW:

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

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

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

FIXTURES:

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

Head-to-head: 1-1

Form: Crocs 3-2, Buffaloes 3-2

Tip: Crocs by 15

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

Head-to-head: 2-1 Bombers

Form: Saints 4-1, Bombers 3-2

Tip: Saints by 24

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

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

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

GOALS:

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

BEST:

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

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

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

GOALS:

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

BEST:

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

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

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

GOALS:

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

BEST:

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

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

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

GOALS:

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

BEST:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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