Tag: harley puruntatameri

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.

NTFL Men’s Premier League wrap: Round 16 – Final five officially set

ROUND 16 of the Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Men’s Premier League threw up little in the way of surprises, with the minor premier, top five, and wooden spooner now officially set with two regular season rounds left to play.

PALMERSTON MAGPIES 3.1 | 3.5 | 5.6 | 6.7 (43)
DARWIN BUFFALOES 2.4 | 4.10 | 6.15 | 9.17 (71)

GOALS:

Palmerston: A. Davey 2, A. Lonergan, K. Emery, A. Johnson, D. Nichols
Darwin: I. Palmer 3, D. Shillabeer 2, M. Campbell, I. Seden-Kurnoth, B. Foster, C. Williams

BEST:

Palmerston: K. Emery, S. Brock, K. Holt-Tubbs, B. Bennett, A. Bennett, M. Mcmasters
Darwin: I. Seden-Kurnoth, I. Palmer, C. Stokes, R. Pendlebury, C. Williams

Darwin was made to work for a breakthrough win to get back on the winners list, downing Palmerston on Friday night to lock in the fate of both sides. The 9.17 (71) to 6.7 (43) result secures the Buffs’ safety in the top five and gives them an outside chance of snatching second chance qualification, while consigning Palmerston to a second wooden spoon in three seasons.

Let-offs were the theme of the first half for Darwin, with the Buffs posting a wasteful 4.10 to keep the Magpies in with a sniff heading into the main break, unable to properly capitalise on a territorial advantage. Credit to the Magpies’ defence, they kept a dangerous Buffs attack to no more than three goals per term throughout a contest where majors were hard to come by, with their teammates up the other end also lacking in potency. In the end, Darwin’s 26 scoring shots proved more than enough to build the eventual 28-point winning margin.

The scoreline may not suggest so, but there was plenty to like about Palmerston’s performance; with Keidan Holt-Tubbs moving well in his return to ruck duties, young Sandy Brock doing a phenomenal lockdown job on Darren Shillabeer to lead the back six alongside Michaelis McMasters, and Kyle Emery proving influential through midfield. For Darwin, Ishmael Palmer had a breakout game with three goals, while the returning Ryan Pendlebury was assured in defence and the pairing of Cameron Stokes and Chris Williams took up leadership duties in the absence of skipper, Jarrod Stokes. With notable talent still set to come back into the side, Darwin will hope to get on a winning run heading into finals with Waratah next on the agenda.

TIWI BOMBERS 3.2 | 7.5 | 10.10 | 12.13 (85)
NIGHTCLIFF 2.1 | 6.2 | 10.3 | 16.4 (100)

GOALS:

Tiwi: A. Wonaeamirri 3, H. Puruntatameri 3, R. Tungatalum 2, L. Howe, A. Darcy, A. Tipungwuti, N. Djerrkura
Nightcliff: L. Evans 6, L. Holt-Fitz 6, K. Winter-Irving, Z. Brain, B. Filo, T. Melville

BEST:

Tiwi: N. Djerrkura, D. Munkara, H. Puruntatameri, J. Puruntatameri, R. Tungatalum, A. Tipungwuti
Nightcliff: L. Holt-Fitz, C. Ilett, L. Evans, N. Brown, K. Winter-Irving, M. Hagan

Nightcliff kept the status quo as the competition benchmark, securing the minor premiership with a 15-point win over Tiwi to kick off Saturday’s proceedings. The Tigers were ruthlessly efficient forward of centre, making better use of five less scoring shots to run out 16.4 (100) to 12.13 (85) winners.

It was a case of leading at the right time for the reigning premier, which stormed ahead in a six-goal to two final term to overrun and outgun the typically potent Bombers. Earlier, Tiwi had maintained a one-to-two goal margin across most of the contest to lead at each of the first three breaks and set alarm bells ringing for Nightcliff. But it only served to kick the Tigers into action as they mounted their impressive final term surge to overcome Tiwi for a third time this season. While the Bombers fell short in a true test of their premiership credentials, they looked right up to the task in what was a cracking contest.

The Tigers put their usually deep scoring spread on hold for this task, instead leaning on a pair of six-goal hauls from Liam Evans and Liam Holt-Fitz, while competition leading goalkicker Trent Melville could only manage one major. The reliable Cam Ilett and Nathan Brown both featured among the best for Nightcliff, while bigman Kyle Winter-Irving also worked hard. For Tiwi, Austin Wonaeamirri (three goals) led the scoring charge, with fellow multiple goalkickers Harley Puruntatameri (three) and Ross Tungatalum (two) named among the best for their efforts behind midfielder, Nathan Djerrkura. The tests do not let up for Tiwi as another meeting with St Mary’s is up next, while Nightcliff will look to compound the misery on Wanderers.

WARATAH 4.1 | 4.2 | 7.5 | 9.6 (60)
ST MARY’S 2.2 | 9.6 | 11.7 | 13.10 (88)

GOALS:

Waratah: J. McGrath 3, H. Kerinaiua 2, K. McBean 2, T. Mosquito, J. Schaper
St Mary’s: J. Calder 4, S. Rioli 3, L. Larson 3, J. Salmon, L. Ferreira, H. Labastida

BEST:

Waratah: N/A
St Mary’s: S. Edwards, R. Jordon, T. Davies, J. Long, T. Saunders, L. Daly

St Mary’s all-but officially secured second spot with a 28-point win over Waratah on the road, overcoming a slow start for the second-straight week to come out comfortable winners. A second-term lapse proved the Warriors’ downfall in the 13.10 (88) to 9.6 (60) loss, dashing their thin finals hopes in a flash.

A promising opener which saw Waratah earn an early 11-point buffer was soon discounted by St Mary’s seven-goal to nil second stanza blitz, stamping their authority to set up the eventual winning margin. The Saints’ scoring steadied after half time, but their lead proved unassailable in the second half as Waratah could not quite muster up the points required despite outscoring its finals-bound opponent over that time.

St Mary’s recruit Jackson Calder booted a game-high four goals to lead his side’s scoring effort alongside usual suspects Shannon Rioli and Leroy Larson (both three goals), but none of the six Saints goalkickers featured among the best. Shaun Edwards and Jake Long’s AFL experience boded well as they had a big impact, while Rhett Jordan and Thomas Davies continued their impactful runs of form. For Waratah, Jae McGrath boosted his fortnight tally to eight goals with a team-high bag of three, while Henry Kerinaiua also found the big sticks with usual spark Kim Kantilla kept goalless. Both sides will move on next week to top five opponents, with St Mary’s anticipating a grudge match with Tiwi while Waratah resumes its own rivalry with Darwin on Friday night.

WANDERERS 1.2 | 2.4 | 5.4 | 9.8 (62)
SOUTHERN DISTRICTS 6.1 | 11.3 | 16.5 | 16.5 (101)

GOALS:

Wanderers: S. Bates 3, W. Williams 2, J. Jeffrey, M. Cooper, S. Thorne, D. Braun
Southern Districts: W. Farrer 4, E. Barlow 3, D. Barry 2, D. McLachlan, M. Barlow, J. Farrer, J. Garlett, M. Duffy, R. O’Brien, J. Clarke

BEST:

Wanderers: S. Thorne, B. Motlop, S. Bates, D. Thompson, M. Motlop
Southern Districts: J. Schofield, M. Bowden, M. Barlow, R. O’Brien, W. Farrer, M. Duffy

Southern Districts wrapped up the top five race with a comfortable 39-point win over Wanderers, handing the Eagles a tenth-consecutive loss. The Crocs dined out forward of centre, returning to their typically resourceful best to post a 16.5 (101) winning score to Wanderers’ 9.8 (62).

The signs looked ominous from the get-go as Southern Districts stormed out of the gates to post 11 goals to two in a game-breaking opening half, taking the contest away from Wanderers in an instant. Given the Eagles’ run of lacklustre second halves, they would need something of a miracle to make a game of it and while that did not eventuate, the young side still managed to outscore the Crocs after half time and keep them scoreless in the final term.

Will Farrer bounced back from a rare goalless outing to boot a game-high four goals, backed by the the returning Ed Barlow (three goals) and supplied well by another returnee, Michael Barlow from midfield. For the Muk Muks, ex-Croc Shane Thorne was named best for his one-goal effort, with Simon Bates also featuring among the best for his three majors. While the Eagles simply did not have enough for the potent Crocs, their ability to not get completely blown away after a shoddy start should put them in good stead. The going will only get tougher for Wanderers in Round 17 though as Nightcliff is next on the fixture list, while Southern Districts will hope to continue its winning form heading into finals in a match-up with Palmerston.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 wrap: Round 9 – Tigers, Buffs get up in thrillers

WHILE St Mary’s won big in Round 9 of the Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Men’s Premier League, Nightcliff and Darwin narrowly edged bottom four sides in an action-packed weekend of NT football. In the round’s other game, Southern Districts kicked away to return to the winners list after a tight three quarters.

PALMERSTON MAGPIES 2.1 | 8.4 | 10.5 | 11.5 (71)
DARWIN BUFFALOES 2.4 | 3.5 | 5.9 | 10.15 (75)

GOALS:

Palmerston: E. Frank 3, K. Holt-Tubbs 2, D. Gaykamangu, A. Diamond, M. Perry, D. Cox, J. Rhodes.
Darwin: B. Foster 4, J. Clarke 2, C. Williams, M. Quinn, B. Hogan, D. Shillabeer.

BEST:

Palmerston: E. Frank, A. Diamond, C. Williams, J. Berry, W. Shadforth, S. Brock
Darwin: L. McKenzie, J. Stokes, B. Foster, C. Williams, D. Lines

It took a final quarter comeback for the ages for Darwin to sneak over the top of Palmerston on the road and hold onto third place. The heartbreaking loss sees Palmerston remain winless, unable to deny the Buffs despite their efficiency in the 11.5 (71) to 10.15 (75) result.

A tight opening term was followed by Palmerston’s best quarter of footy for a long time, seeing the Magpies break out to a 29-point half-time lead on the back of six goals to one. But the Buffs chipped away after the main break to remain within striking distance, pouncing in the final term with 5.6 to one straight goal to snatch victory from the jaws of what would have been a very disappointing defeat.

Brodie Foster proved a handy addition to the Buffs’ forward 50, booting a game-high four majors to lead the line from usual goalsneak Jalen Clarke (two goals). But it was Lachlan McKenzie who was named Darwin’s best, with consistent features Jarrod Stokes and Christopher Williams also influential. Ezekiel Frank and Keidan Holt-Tubbs led the way in an improved scoring effort for the Magpies, with the former named his side’s best player. Adam Diamond, Jack Berry, and Sandy Brock were also named in the best half-dozen for the third game running, with Palmerston starting to form a more settled unit.

The win sees Darwin holt onto third place among what is becoming tight battle for second, with a tough assignment against Tiwi next in its sights. Meanwhile, Palmerston’s search for a win carries on into another round as St Mary’s awaits.

NIGHTCLIFF 2.5 | 3.8 | 8.10 | 11.12 (78)
TIWI BOMBERS 2.0 | 7.2 | 9.4 | 11.6 (72)

GOALS:

Nightcliff: M. Hagan 3, C. Ilett 2, T. Melville 2, L. Holt-Fitz, D. Bowles, L. Masters, K. Winter-Irving.
Tiwi: A. Darcy 3, H. Puruntatameri 2, A. Wonaeamirri 2, A. Tipungwuti 2, C. Molyneux, D. Munkara.

BEST:

Nightcliff: K. Riley, D. Bowles, J. Kickett, M. Hagan, N. Brown, J. Peris
Tiwi: J. Puruntatameri, A. Tipungwuti, C. Molyneux, A. Darcy, R. Baird, H. Puruntatameri

Nightcliff narrowly accounted for a plucky and more efficient Tiwi side to maintain its gap at the top, scraping over the line by six points. The Tigers pulled away when it mattered in the 11.12 (78) to 11.6 (72) result, proving their status as the NTFL’s best.

In what was a game of momentum swings, Nightcliff was able to pull ahead at the ideal time with the two sides level going into the final term. Earlier, the Tigers found themselves three goals adrift at the main break despite managing two more scoring shots for the half, before hitting back with 5.2 to even the ledger. In a tense closer, the reigning premiers managed to hold on to their one-goal buffer after creating enough opportunities to kick away more comfortably.

Both sides managed an even goalkicking spread, with Michael Hagan and Alastair Darcy booting a game-high three goals for their respective teams. Hagan was the only Nightcliff goalkicker to also be named among the best, with Kaine Riley leading the way from Daniel Bowles and Jayden Kickett. It was a slightly different story for the Bombers as Harley Puruntatameri (two goals), Adam Tipungwuti (two) and Charlie Molyneux (one) each troubled the scorers and were impactful overall, while Rodney Baird was solid up the ground.

While four points have been coming in aplenty for the Tigers, the win keeps the chasing pack at bay – eight points adrift – with a top two clash up next. Tiwi’s spot in the top five is at risk next week as the Bombers do battle with another finals-bound side in Darwin, heating up the finals race.

ST MARY’S 6.5 | 12.8 | 19.9 | 25.14 (164)
WARATAH 2.1 | 4.3 | 4.5 | 6.5 (41)

GOALS:

St Mary’s: A. Wilson 6, J. Calder 6, M. Rioli Jnr 3, T. Saunders 2, S. Rioli 2, J. Long, B. Rioli, P. Macfarlane, R. Smith, N. Paredes, J. Cheek.
Waratah: H. Kerinaiua 2, A. Hodgson, T. Schmid, K. Kantilla, W. Gorman.

BEST:

St Mary’s: J. Geary, R. Smith, M. Rioli Jnr, B. Rioli, D. Armitage, J. Calder
Waratah: N/A

A comprehensive 123-point drubbing of Waratah was not quite enough to see St Mary’s jump back into third on percentage, but the Saints well and truly sounded a warning to their competition on Saturday. A stacked Saints lineup looked ominous heading into the clash, and lived up to the bill with a 25.14 (164) to 6.5 (41) result.

After a six goals to two opener, the game was all but put to bed at the main break as the Saints led by 53 points, kicking on with another 13 goals to two in the second half to more than double that margin – managing no less than six goals across each quarter in a consistently ruthless performance. With Abe Ankers missing, the Warriors simply struggled for answers throughout, void of midfield grunt while also being shut down well up forward.

Anthony Wilson and Jackson Calder were the stars inside 50 with six goals each, joined by Maurice Rioli Jnr (three goals) as multiple goalkickers to also feature in the best. Jackson Geary was also again among the Saints’ best, joined by ex-St Kilda midfielder David Armitage. Henry Kerinaiua stood up in a losing effort for Waratah with two majors, but his forward partners in Steven Stroobants and Kim Kantilla were unable to truly break the shackles.

While positions have not changed, the result has a big bearing on the top end of the ladder with St Mary’s gaining some much-needed percentage and keeping entrenched in the top four. Another bottom three opponent in Palmerston is up next for the Saints, while Waratah will next face Wanderers as both sides’ finals hopes start to get desperate.

SOUTHERN DISTRICTS 2.6 | 8.6 | 8.9 | 13.13 (91)
WANDERERS 1.1 | 2.3 | 7.4 | 9.5 (59)

GOALS:

Southern Districts: W. Farrer 3, B. Schwarze 3, E. Barlow 2, J. Farrer, D. Williams, D. Hall, R. Tambling, N. Horbury.
Wanderers: M. White 3, L. Jurrah 2, D. Thompson, K. Stephens, B. O’Connell, M. Derrick.

BEST:

Southern Districts: J. Farrer, E. Barlow, T. Holman, D. Williams, D. McLachlan, M. Pemberton
Wanderers: L. Dyer, N. Sedgwick, B. O’Connell, D. Thompson, J. Priest

A strong final term helped Southern Districts keep clear in second, outlasting a young Wanderers side to come away 32-point winners. The Crocs were made to withstand a strong Eagles fightback, putting a winning 13.13 (91) to 9.5 (59) score on the board.

A tense opening term saw the Crocs edge in front, but a six goals to one second stanza broke the game open and proved the defining period of play. But the Muk Muks fought back to show all the finals credentials they had in previous weeks, trailing by just 10 points heading into the final turn. That was where the momentum stopped however, as the Crocs stormed home with 4.4 to 2.1 to claim a fighting win.

Will Farrer and Beau Schwarze resumed their forward 50 partnership for the Crocs with three goals apiece, joined by ex-AFL midfielder Ed Barlow (two goals) as multiple goalkickers. Both Farrer and Barlow were also among the winners’ best alongside Thomas Holman and Damian Williams, while Luke Dyer was named Wanderers’ best ahead of Nicholas Sedgwick. Goalsneak Beau O’Connell was also dangerous in the losing effort, while fellow small forward Mark White booted three goals in his second game for the year.

The Eagles will have to turn a losing skid around if they are to climb back into a finals spot, with Waratah next on the agenda after its heavy defeat. Meanwhile, the Crocs are poised for a top of the table clash against Nightcliff next time out in what is set to be a belter.

NTFL Men’s Premier League preview: Round 8 – Traditional rivals square off

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.