Tag: jackson calder

2019/2020 NTFL Men’s Premier League team review: St Mary’s

THE next club under review in our club-by-club Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Men’s Premier League recap is St Mary’s, this season’s runners-up. Coming off a lacklustre 2018/19 campaign where the competition’s most revered and successful club placed last, the Saints very nearly pulled off a remarkable turnaround in 2019/20 by going one win short of snatching the premiership flag. Buoyed by some returning favourite sons, a batch of talented fly-ins, and a continual injection of youth, the Saints were a joy to watch this year on the way to rejoining the league’s elites. In one of the more impressive feats of its seasons, St Mary’s ended as the only side to defeat eventual premier, Nightcliff – twice – to prove the Saints’ true contender status.


ST MARY’S 2019/20 SEASON REVIEW

Record: 2nd, 14-4 (2-1 finals), 137%

Most games: Adam Parry, Jacob Long (21)

Most goals: Jackson Calder (33)

A nine-goal haul in Division 1 was more that enough to prove that Calder was destined for bigger and better, with the Victorian making an immediate impact for St Mary’s upon his Premier League debut in November. Calder averaged almost four goals per game in his first month for the Saints, which included a season-high haul of six. But arguably his best game was reserved for St Mary’s semi final triumph over Nightcliff, where the spearhead bagged five majors to follow on from four in the previous week and lead his side’s charge into the grand final.

MVP: Thomas Davies

Coming off a slightly interrupted 2018/19 campaign, Davies returned to the Saints this season and was arguably their most important figure across an ultra-consistent year. Featuring in all-bar one game, Davies was a rock in defence for St Mary’s, providing a cool head and doubling with his marking presence as one of the league’s premier key backs. Defenders are often overlooked for awards and acclaim, but Davies’ impact was internally recognised as he featured in the coaches’ votes 13 times this season.

Best Nichols Medal poller: Nate Paredes (15)

An absolute jet through the engine room and on the outside, Paredes has blossomed into one of the league’s leading midfielders since featuring in the Saints’ 2016/17 premiership side. The Victorian native again polled strongly in the votes, credit to his ability to find the goals from midfield and continually get his hands on the ball. Paredes hit the scoreboard in 14 of his 19 games this season, doing so in 12 consecutive outings at one point and booting two majors on eight occasions. It means he is a midfielder with a difference, and one of the first selected for the Saints week in, week out.

Young gun: Maurice Rioli Jnr

The latest in the rich history of Riolis to make his mark on the NTFL, Maurice Jnr lit up the big stage in his third year of Premier League football. Rioli Jnr is a potential Richmond father-son for this year’s draft, eligible via the 118 games his late father played in the yellow and black. As one of the few draft prospects to have gotten on the park in a delayed 2020 season, Rioli Jnr’s highlights will put him in good stead having averaged a goal per his nine games. A rising star nominee, Rioli Jnr captured the nation’s attention with his scintillating four-goal haul against Nightcliff in the Saint’s semi final win.

Best win: Semi Final – def. Nightcliff 16.7 (103) to 11.11 (77)

Goals: J. Calder 5, M. Rioli Jnr 4, R. Smith, J. Paine, J. Salmon, N. Yarran, S. Rioli, S. Edwards, H. Labastida.
Best: M. Rioli Jnr, L. Daly, R. Smith, J. Paine, J. Calder, T. Saunders

One of the more memorable Premier League results in recent years, this was the game that truly broke the bulletproof look of Nightcliff’s premiership defence. Having already become the only side to overcome the Tigers, St Mary’s did so again in just as impressive fashion and on the finals stage, no less. Fly-in Jackson Calder was terrific with five majors, but this match will be remembered for Maurice Rioli Jnr’s breakthrough four goals in a scintillating display. Lest we forget Liam Daly‘s tagging role on Nichols Medallist Brodie Filo, which was a key talking point come selection day in grand final week.

Worst loss: Round 8 – def. by Tiwi Bombers 7.8 (50) to 12.12 (84)

Goals: S. Rioli 2, N. Paredes, J. Geary, L. Larson, T. Saunders, J. Cheek.
Best: B. Rioli, L. Larson, T. Davies, L. Daly, J. Geary, J. Cheek

Hardly an embarrassment as far as defeats go, but arguably the worst among a group of only five for the Saints in 2019/20. Having already fallen to its traditional rival in a Round 3 shootout, St Mary’s looked poised to get one back on the Bombers just a week removed from a remarkable win over Nightcliff. But that was not to be, as the Saints were shut out incredibly well by Tiwi, with the Bombers’ running game working wonders going the other way as they enjoyed 24 scoring shots to St Mary’s 15. Leader Shannon Rioli did his bit with two goals, while the likes of Leroy Larson and Jackson Geary also snuck into the best dozen.

NTFL Men’s Premier League wrap – Melville boots Tigers to back-to-back flags

NIGHTCLIFF claimed a second consecutive Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Men’s Premier League premiership on Saturday night, defeating St Mary’s in a tense decider on the back of Trent Melville‘s five-goal haul. Melville took out the Chaney Medal for the player adjudged best afield, notching half of his side’s majors in the 10.13 (73) to 9.6 (60) triumph. The victory sees Nightcliff go from enduring 54 years without premiership success, to tasting it in back-to-back campaigns.

In a game described as an intense, four-quarter battle by Melville post-match, the Tigers were reigned in each time they looked to extend the lead and made to work for each goal while being tested in defence throughout. It came as no surprise given St Mary’s had beaten Nightcliff twice before this season – the only side to do so – and boast one of the best fly-in lists in the competition. Those recruits and some returning home grown talent helped the Saints soar from bottom in 2018/19 to runners-up this season, falling just short of what would have been an epic turnaround for the NT’s winningest club.

Coming in off a week off, the Saints were somewhat jumped by a hungry Tigers team, conceding the first two goals of the game but still managing to keep touch in a bruising finals initiation. But one of the Saints’ four Under 18s afield, Maurice Rioli Jnr hit back late in the first term to get the ball rolling for his side, and the game opened up slightly. It only lead to Nightcliff again winning the short battle with a four-goal to three second term, building a handy 17-point lead at the main break to put the Tigers in good stead.

Then it was St Mary’s turn to take over as the Saints doubled their goal tally in what looked like a game-saving third term, pouring on four majors to Nightcliff’s one to edge to within a goal at three-quarter time. The aerial presence of Jarrad Waite inside 50 proved crucial, with Jackson Calder the beneficiary of some of his smarts heading towards goal as both players hit the scoreboard. Needing to arrest the momentum, Nightcliff would see itself battle down to the wire to earn the flag its 17-1 regular season deserved.

In an exciting crescendo to the season, the Tigers rallied with three goals to one in the form of a true champion team, with all its recent NTFL finals experience shining through against the younger Saints side. The impact of those youngsters on both sides was still profound, with Rioli Jnr providing a spark and Braxton Ah Mat justifying his spot in the side for St Mary’s, while Ryan Mu booted two goals in an electric display in yellow and black. All the usual suspects stood up for Nightcliff too, with the criminally underrated Kaine Riley, James Tsitas, and Shaun Wilson all putting in shifts worth of best-on-ground recognition. We were promised a corker, and the two talent-rich sides well and truly delivered.

ST MARY’S 1.1 | 4.3 | 8.4 | 9.6 (60)
NIGHTCLIFF 2.3 | 6.8 | 7.12 | 10.13 (73)

GOALS:

St Mary’s: J. Calder 2, N. Paredes 2, J. Waite 2, S. Rioli, M. Rioli Jnr, J. Long.
Nightcliff: T. Melville 5, R. Mu 2, J. Butcher 2, M. Hagan.

BEST:

St Mary’s: N/A
Nightcliff: T. Melville, S. Wilson, D. Bowles, B. Filo, N. Brown, M. Hagan

Chaney Medal: Trent Melville (Nightcliff)

NTFL Men’s Premier League preview: Grand Final – Back-to-back, or fairytale turnaround?

AFTER 18 regular season rounds and three scintillating post-season weeks, we are down to the final two in the Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Men’s Premier League, with Nightcliff and St Mary’s set to do battle in this year’s decider on Saturday night. The greatest storyline coming into the clash will arguably be that of the difference in each clubs’ 2018/19 campaigns; with Nightcliff coming in as the reigning premier, while St Mary’s took out the unfortunate title of wooden spooner last year. In our comprehensive preview, we recap each 2019/20 meeting between the two sides so far, their overall records and form, and take a look at the key players among the final teams.


ST MARY’S vs. NIGHTCLIFF

2019/20 Grand Final
Saturday March 14, 7:15pm
TIO Stadium

KEY STATS

Records:

St Mary’s – 2nd, 14-4 (2-0 finals), 137%
Nightcliff – 1st, 17-1 (1-1), 197%

Leading goalkickers:

St Mary’s – Jackson Calder (33), Shannon Rioli (26), Leroy Larson (24)
Nightcliff – Trent Melville (46), Liam Holt-Fitz (31), Cam Ilett (24)

Grand final records:

St Mary’s – 32-17
Nightcliff – 4-8

Form:

St Mary’s – 5-0
Nightcliff – 4-1

2020 head-to-head:

St Mary’s 2-1 Nightcliff

ROUND 7 – St Mary’s 15.9 (99) def. Nightcliff 11.6 (72)

Goals:

St Mary’s: J. Paine 5, L. Larson 3, N. Paredes 2, J. Calder 2, J. Box, J. Cheek, J. Quinn
Nightcliff: T. Melville 3, M. Bricknell 2, D. Bowles, J. Butcher, L. Holt-Fitz, C. Ilett, K. Winter-Irving, D. Joyce

Best:

St Mary’s: L. Larson, R. Smith, S. Rioli, T. Davies, J. Paine, K. Parnell
Nightcliff: C. Holmes, K. Riley, S. Wilson, P. Wills, K. Winter-Irving, T. Melville

Talking points:

– St Mary’s becomes the first side to beat Nightcliff in 2019/20
– It was made even more remarkable given the Saints came in off a loss
– The loss was Nightcliff’s first since Round 15, 2018/19 (12 games)
– The Saints win despite having one less goalkicker
– Jackson Paine makes a splash in his first game with five goals

ROUND 14 – Nightcliff 14.13 (97) def. St Mary’s 4.8 (32)

Goals:

Nightcliff: L. Holt-Fitz 3, J. Butcher 2, K. Winter-Irving 2, B. Filo 2, S. Wilson 2, J. Tsitas, M. Hagan, T. Melville.
St Mary’s: N. Paredes 2, R. Jordon, S. Lampton.

Best:

Nightcliff: L. Holt-Fitz, K. Winter-Irving, J. Kickett, M. Hagan, S. Wilson, B. Arnold
St Mary’s: T. Davies, J. Long, S. Edwards, A. Long, R. Jordon, J. Long

Talking points:

– Nightcliff gets one back over the Saints in convincing fashion
– Liam Holt-Fitz continues his electric mid-season run of form with three goals
– The win meant Nightcliff had beaten every other team in 2019/20
– The 55-point loss still stands as St Mary’s heaviest for the season
– Some fans dismissed the result due to the inexperienced Saints lineup

SEMI FINAL – St Mary’s 16.7 (103) def. Nightcliff 11.11 (77)

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

Talking points:

– St Mary’s knocks over Nightcliff for a second time, ending the Tigers’ 11-game winning run
– Maurice Rioli Jnr kicks four brilliant goals to capture the nation’s attention
– Jackson Calder’s five goals takes his finals tally to nine
– Liam Daly’s tagging job on Brodie Filo proves vital
– Four Nightcliff multiple goalkickers not enough for the potent Tigers

KEY PLAYERS

St Mary’s:

Shannon Rioli – A brilliant servant of the Saints over the past few years, and played almost every game this season on the way to 26 goals and a handful of appearances in the best. The Saints will once again look to Rioli for goals and leadership up forward, with his nous inside 50 set to be a factor at the feet of a trio of dangerous talls.

Jacob Long – One of the brightest young stars in the NTFL, Long has flourished this season at senior level with his class and speed on the outside. As one of only two Saints to have played in every game this season, Long has cemented his spot as a must-pick home-grown talent and looks primed for a big top-age season as he pushes into AFL draft contention. Expect him to play a key role again off half-back.

Tom Davies – A rock at the back for St Mary’s this season who was named in the best 13 times in 19 outings, backing up a solid 2018/19 campaign. Expect Davies to have his hands full with a couple of high-end Nightcliff forwards, with his cool head likely to be an important factor amid the typically frantic grand final pace and atmosphere.

Nightcliff:

Brodie Filo – The recently crowned two-time Nichols medalist is one of the league’s premier players, and will be keen to make good on a few down weeks – including being nullified in the semi final clash between these two sides. He may be breathing a sigh of relief with tagger Liam Daly left out of the Saints’ team, but has the class to focus on his own game. His goals from midfield are set to be vital.

Kaine Riley – The Tigers’ best and fairest has been a phenomenon down back this season, consistently putting in shifts in a more unheralded role among a host of Nightcliff stars. Featuring in the best in over half of his 18 games, Riley’s role has not gone unnoticed by those who matter at the minor premiers, and he will again be important given the formidable list of experienced St Mary’s forwards.

Trent Melville – A standout over the last two seasons for the near-unbeatable Tigers, Melville has a knack for notching big bags of goals and making some special plays. He ended the regular season as Nightcliff’s leading goalkicker and has averaged two goals per game against the Saints this year, with his role in the midfield-forward rotation as important as anyones.

TEAMS

St Mary’s:

Full Back – 7. Tylah Saunders, 21. Braxton Ah Mat, 35. Adam Parry
Half Back – 13. Jake Long, 14. Tom Davies, 1. Jacob Long
Centre – 39. Kieren Parnell, 27. Nate Paredes, 11. Nick Yarran
Half Forward – 3. Maurice Rioli Jnr, 8. Raphael Clarke, 9. Shaun Edwards
Full Forward – 30. Jarrad Waite, 10. Shannon Rioli, 24. Jackson Calder
Rucks – 20. Ryan Smith, 28. Rhett Jordon, 23. Jackson Paine
Interchange – 38. Josh Cheek, 15. Jack Long, 22. Joseph Salmon, 5. Henry Labastida, 16. Liam Daly, 2. Jack Geary, 18. Dylan Johnstone, 42. James Quinn, 32. Matt Wilkinson, 36. Aidan Hill, 4. Anthony Long, 12. Leonard Ferreira

In: K. Parnell, J. Waite, R. Jordon
Out: L. Ferreira, D. Johnstone, L. Daly

St Mary’s made the tough call of leaving out Liam Daly, the man who kept Nichols medalist Brodie Filo quiet in the Saint’s semi final win, while also omitting Dylan Johnstone and Leonard Ferreira with some serious talent coming the other way. Homegrown star Kieren Parnell (wing) returns alongside Rhett Jordon (follower) and Jarrad Waite (full forward), with the latter completing a stacked Saints forward line alongside the likes of Jackson Calder, Shannon Rioli, Shaun Edwards, and Raphael Clarke. Young guns Maurice Rioli Jnr and Jacob Long take up flank spots at either end of the field, looking to generate some run and flair on the outside to match the likes of Nate Paredes and Nick Yarran through midfield. Tom Davies and Jake Long will be the rocks in defence, finishing off a formidable spine for the Saints. Not many teams have been able to match the Tigers for starpower over the last three seasons, but St Mary’s is set to do just that with this full-strength lineup.

Nightcliff:

Full Back – 14. Nathan Brown, 26. Marley McGregor, 2. Michael Hagan
Half Back – 10. Cameron Ilett, 22. Daniel Bowles, 5. Kaine Riley
Centre – 3. Jonathan Peris, 33. Shaun Wilson, 12. Joel Budarick
Half Forward – 19. James Tsitas, 20. Trent Melville, 23. Brodie Filo
Full Forward – 6. Liam Holt-Fitz, 30. John Butcher, 17. Lachlan Sharp
Rucks – 8. Kyle Winter-Irving, 11. Phillip Wills, 9. Zac Brain
Interchange – 1. Ryan Mu, 34. Danny Butcher, 31. Hugo Drogemuller, 32. Roger Morris, 53. Brad Arnold, 24. Tyson Kidney, 28. Jonathon Miles, 15. Liam Evans, 4. Matthew Bricknell, 18. Harry Williams, 57. Christos Gikas, 25. Jasper Brain

In: M. McGregor, L. Sharp
Out: J. Kickett, L. Evans

Lachlan Sharp‘s inclusion headlines the two changes made by reigning premier, Nightcliff in its title defence, with the Victorian goalkicking ace returning from suspension alongside Marley McGregor – who slots in down the other end. The heartbreak story lies with Jayden Kickett this year, who misses through injury after 15 games while Liam Evans the other unlucky Tiger to make way – squeezed out of a talented forward line. Leading goalkicker Trent Melville will lead the line at centre half-forward, with Sharp, Brodie Filo, James Tsitas, John Butcher, and Liam Holt-Fitz making up arguably the Tigers’ best front six for the year. Almost every member of that half-dozen will be able to also rotate through the midfield under the ruck craft of Kyle Winter-Irving, with Phillip Wills and Zac Brain the current followers. Down back, mainstays Daniel Bowles, Nathan Brown, and Michael Hagan retain their spots, with veteran Cam Ilett suiting up for yet another premier league grand final, and Danny Butcher set to join him among that back six. The points squeeze has obviously had an impact on both sides, and the Tigers are set to be truly tested man-for-man despite having such a talented lot available.

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.

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 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 wrap: Round 17 – Third time lucky as Saints halt Tiwi train

THIRD time proved a charm for St Mary’s in its ongoing rivalry with Tiwi, securing second spot and blowing the race for third place wide open in the process. Elsewhere, the remaining finals-bound sides picked up wins over the bottom three, with just one round left to play in the Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Men’s Premier League.

DARWIN BUFFALOES 3.4 | 6.10 | 9.11 | 13.17 (95)
WARATAH 0.3 | 2.6 | 4.10 | 5.11 (41)

GOALS:

Darwin: D. Wunungmurra 4, I. Palmer 3, D. Stafford 3, N. Cooper 2, L. McKenzie.
Waratah: M. Graham 2, N. Gooch, W. Gorman, J. Schaper.

BEST:

Darwin: C. Atkinson, D. Wunungmurra, K. Kossack, N. Cooper, J. Anderson
Waratah: N/A

Darwin is in prime position to pounce on third place after getting the four points over Waratah for the third time this season, brushing the Warriors aside to the tune of 54 points. The Buffs showed they are every bit the finals contender in what was somewhat of a danger game coming in, coasting home to the 13.17 (95) to 5.11 (41) result. Darwin took advantage of the three-goal buffer it set up in the opening term, notching three majors in each of the next two quarters before a 4.6 to 1.1 final quarter truly extended the margin. Club leading goalkicker Daniel Stafford made a successful return to the Double Blues’ forward 50, booting three goals alongside Ishmael Palmer, while young gun Djamatjama Wunungmurra managed a bag of four on his Premier League debut. Despite their efforts in front of the big sticks, Christopher Atkinson was named the Buffs’ best with a good amount on strength still to return to the fold. For Waratah, Michael Graham was the lone multiple goalkicker with two majors in an undermanned Warriors side, with his side unable to match their opponent’s firepower and class across the ground. Set in the bottom three, Waratah is set to face Southern Districts in the final regular season round, while Darwin faces St Mary’s in its attempt to hold on to third place.

SOUTHERN DISTRICTS 4.3 | 9.4 | 12.9 | 19.9 (123)
PALMERSTON MAGPIES 3.4 | 5.5 | 6.8 | 7.9 (51)

GOALS:

Southern Districts: W. Farrer 8, J. Clarke 2, J. Garlett 2, B. Lake 2, D. McLachlan, M. Bowden, N. Horbury, R. Bull, M. Cannard.
Palmerston: C. Timms 2, J. Taylor, B. Church, J. Filo, M. Dennis, M. Filo.

BEST:

Southern Districts: J. Schofield, D. Staunton, W. Farrer, D. Wehrung, J. Clarke, M. Bowden
Palmerston: J. Filo, K. Emery, M. Dennis, W. Shadforth, S. Brock, R. Stone

Southern Districts remains a chance to jump two spots in the final round and snatch third after trouncing the lowly Palmerston Magpies by an even 12 goals. Spearheaded by competition leading goalkicker Will Farrer‘s eight goals, the Crocs were clinical inside 50 to make from an impressive 19.9 (123) to 7.9 (51) scoreline. After what was a tightly contested opener, the Crocs began to take over territory in the game and kick away, starting with five goals to two in the second term. It was all Districts after the main break too, with the hosts pouring on another 10 goals to two in the second half to pretty up the scoreboard and gain some valuable percentage heading into Round 18. Farrer was excellent throughout as chief destroyer, but compiled the misery late to make both his individual tally and the team margin more impressive. Three other Crocs booted multiple goals (three each), but it was Jayden Schofield who was named the winners’ best alongside Dean Staunton, with Michael Bowden also featuring in the best half-dozen for the third-straight match. In a similar vein, Kyle Emery and Sandy Brock were again influential in the losing Magpies side, but it was first-gamer Josh Filo who was named best afield, while returning bigman Matthew Dennis picked up right from where he left off. The wooden spooners’ disappointing campaign will come to an end next round against Nightcliff, with Waratah awaiting the Crocs as they look to snatch finals superiority.

NIGHTCLIFF 4.2 | 5.4 | 10.5 | 13.9 (87)
WANDERERS 0.2 | 0.2 | 2.4 | 4.5 (29)

GOALS:

Nightcliff: J. Tsitas 3, B. Filo 2, S. Wilson 2, D. Bowles, J. Peris, M. Bricknell, M. Hagan, T. Melville, L. Holt-Fitz.
Wanderers: B. O’Connell 2, W. Williams, D. Braun.

BEST:

Nightcliff: S. Wilson, J. Miles, J. Tsitas, D. Butcher, N. Brown, J. Peris
Wanderers: B. O’Connell, S. Bates, T. Lui, D. Thompson, A. Motlop

Nightcliff consigned Wanderers an eleventh-straight loss, dominating at both ends of the ground to come out 58-point winners on home turf. The Tigers managed to keep the Eagles goalless in a first half shutout, steadily adding to their lead to build to the 13.9 (87) to 4.5 (29) end result. The first half was not as free-flowing as the Tigers would have liked despite their dominance, only managing five goals of their own while denying the Muk Muks. While scoring was easier to come by in the second half as Nightcliff notched eight majors, Wanderers also proved more competitive as it broke through for four goals of its own. Plenty of Tigers got a solid hitout heading into finals, with James Tsitas (three goals) and Danny Butcher both making successful returns to the side, while mainstays Shaun Wilson, Nathan Brown and Jonathan Peris were also named among the best. For Wanderers, Beau O’Connell was again a standout, booting two goals from midfield while fellow youngsters Tyrrell Lui and Dray Thompson also showed promising signs. The Eagles’ last chance to break their losing streak comes against Tiwi, which will see the fixture as a must-win, while Nightcliff can ease into the post-season with a game against wooden spooner, Palmerston awaiting it.

TIWI BOMBERS 2.3 | 2.5 | 4.7 | 5.8 (38)
ST MARY’S 2.2 | 4.7 | 9.8 | 13.9 (87)

GOALS:

Tiwi: R. Tungatalum 2, A. Wonaeamirri, A. Darcy, P. Heenan
St Mary’s: J. Calder 3, S. Rioli 2, H. Labastida 2, L. Larson 2, N. Paredes, C. James Wilson, J. Paine, D. Johnstone

BEST:

Tiwi: C. Molyneux, R. Tungatalum, C. Jones, R. Baird, J. Puruntatameri, J. Simon
St Mary’s: S. Edwards, L. Larson, J. Paine, S. Rioli, T. Saunders, B. Ah Mat

St Mary’s finally got one back over Tiwi at the third time of asking this season, trumping the Bombers to the tune of 49 points in what could well be a post-season sighter. The Saints were brilliant across the ground, showing fluency on each line to wind up 13.9 (87) to 5.8 (38) winners and officially secure second spot. An even opening term saw the Bombers claim their only lead of the game, albeit by the slimmest of margins, before St Mary’s hit back to sneak in front at the main break while keeping the Bombers goalless. From there on, the Saints tripled the Bombers’ second half goal tally with nine to three in a dominant display, putting the result beyond much doubt with a quick surge after half time. The ex-AFL duo of Shaun Edwards and Jackson Paine showed their class to be two of St Mary’s best, while Jackson Calder booted a game-high three goals and Shannon Rioli, two. South Australian Charlie Molyneux was again best afield for the Bombers upon returning to the lineup, with Ross Tungatalum not far behind as Tiwi’s lone multiple goal kicker and Jason Puruntatameri continuing his good form. St Mary’s could again foil Tiwi’s top three plans if they fall to Darwin next time out, while Tiwi will need to overcome Wanderers if it is any chance to avoid an elimination final berth.

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.