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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.

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 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.

NTFL Men’s Premier League wrap: Round 10 – Tiwi breaks clear in top five

THE Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Men’s Premier League top five is becoming clear after 10 rounds, with most teams looking settled heading into the mid-season break. Nightcliff stamped its authority as the competition’s best with a big win over its nearest rival, Tiwi managed a meaningful win at home, St Mary’s jumped into second, and Waratah got up in a bottom three clash.

TIWI BOMBERS 4.7 | 9.8 | 11.12 | 15.15 (105)
DARWIN BUFFALOES 3.3 | 7.6 | 8.9 | 13.13 (91)

GOALS:

Tiwi: A. Tipungwuti 2, M. Kantilla 2, R. Tungatalum 2, H. Puruntatameri 2, D. Munkara 2, A. Wonaeamirri 2, P. Heenan, B. Rioli, D. Daniels
Darwin: D. Stafford 6, A. McAdam 2, D. Shillabeer 2, J. Niki, C. Williams, B. Culhane

BEST:

Tiwi: A. Darcy, A. Hams, R. Baird, J. Puruntatameri, H. Puruntatameri, R. Farmer
Darwin: N/A

Tiwi earned some breathing space in the NTFL top five with a hard-earned win over Darwin at home, putting the Bombers six points clear of the bottom three. The home side’s transition running proved too much throughout, powering it to a 15.15 (105) to 13.13 (91) result.

The Bombers managed to stay just enough ahead at every break, opening up a 10-point gap in the first term and building on it with each passing stanza. A late surge from the Buffs proved too little, too late, with Tiwi holding on under pressure and Darwin left to rue some missed opportunities. An impressive six players booted two goals each for Tiwi, but it was Alastair Darcy, Ashton Hams, and Rodney Baird who were named best for their efforts further afield. Bomber Michael Kantilla was also recognised with a rising star nomination. For Darwin, key forward Daniel Stafford did most of the damage with six goals, with fellow bigman Darren Shillabeer managing two but both spurning some good chances. Christopher Williams was his usual self, while Aidan McAdam was lively up forward.

Heading into a crucial clash with St Mary’s, the Buffs will be without Shillabeer after he was offered a two-match ban for umpire abuse, while Donga Maymuru sustained a horror knee injury and is set for a long spell on the sidelines. With no such concerns, Tiwi will look to further cement its spot in the top five next when when it does battle with Wanderers at Tiwi Oval.

PALMERSTON MAGPIES 4.1 | 5.2 | 7.3 | 10.5 (65)
ST MARY’S 5.3 | 10.9 | 14.10 | 17.14 (116)

GOALS:

Palmerston: B. Church 3, A. Davey, M. Bunworth, W. Shadforth, A. Diamond, E. Frank, J. Patrick, J. Thompson
St Mary’s: D. Johnstone 4, J. Calder 4, S. Rioli 3, N. Paredes 2, J. Long, N. Yarran, L. Larson, J. Cheek

BEST:

Palmerston: A. Diamond, B. Church, J. Rhodes, J. Patrick, W. Shadforth, J. Berry
St Mary’s: J. Geary, R. Smith, D. Armitage, N. Paredes, J. Calder, B. Slater

St Mary’s pounced back into second spot with a comfortable 51-point win over the lowly Palmerston Magpies, keeping touch with Nightcliff in the process. The Saints were far too good in the 17.14 (116) to 10.5 (65) win, posing a host of attacking threats and maintaining a dour defence when it mattered.

After a competitive start, St Mary’s broke away in the second term with five goals to one, building a base for its winning margin and setting the tone for the rest of the game. Another one-sided term put the result all but beyond doubt, with Palmerston lacking answers to the scoreboard pressure. Dylan Johnstone and Jackson Calder shared almost half of the Saints’ goals with four apiece, backing up from big hauls last week. Shannon Rioli was also among the goals (three), but it was Jackson Geary and Ryan Smith who again went one and two in the best ahead of David Armitage. Broderick Church was the answer up forward for Palmerston as he notched three majors, leading a pack of eight individual goalkickers. Adam Diamond continued his good form to be named the Magpies’ best, with Jack Berry also featuring once again.

The Magpies’ search for a maiden win will not get any easier before the new year with Nightcliff next in their sights, making for a scary proposition. On the other hand, the Saints play off against a fellow finals-bound side next time out in the form of Darwin, just as the race for second hots up.

SOUTHERN DISTRICTS 3.1 | 4.4 | 5.7 | 8.7 (55)
NIGHTCLIFF 3.1 | 6.4 | 11.5 | 14.9 (93)

GOALS:

Southern Districts: W. Farrer 3, R. O’Brien 2, J. Farrer, B. Schwarze, D. Williams
Nightcliff: M. Hagan 3, T. Melville 2, L. Holt-Fitz 2, C. Ilett 2, B. Grewar, S. Wilson, M. Bricknell, J. Butcher, D. Bowles

BEST:

Southern Districts: R. O’Brien, B. Schwarze, T. Holman, J. Farrer, D. McLachlan
Nightcliff: C. Ilett, B. Grewar, L. Masters, D. Bowles, Z. Brain, L. Holt-Fitz

Nightcliff put its foot down as the team to beat, trumping Southern Districts by 38 points in a top of the table clash. The Tigers were ultra-impressive going both ways, sealing the 14.9 (93) to 8.7 (55) result in style to go eight points clear on top.

A stalemate first term and close second stanza saw the Crocs remain within striking distance at two goals adrift as Nightcliff’s defence held strong, but a five-goal to one third term broke the game open for the winners. It was elementary to finish off, with Southern Districts unable to chew into the lead far enough as the Tigers remained on the pulse. Nine individual goal kickers were led by Michael Hagan‘s bag of three for Nightcliff, teaming well with the likes of Liam Holt-Fitz. Cam Ilett also troubled the scorers and was named best afield, with ex-Williamstown forward Leigh Masters also among the action. Will Farrer produced a couple of highlights on his way to nabbing three goals for Southern Districts, with fellow goalkickers Rory O’Brien, Josiah Farrer and Beau Schwarze also influential.

With the result putting them in third, the Crocs will look to bounce back against Waratah next time out, but may have their work cut out for them with the Warriors coming off an impressive win despite their bottom three status. Meanwhile, Nightcliff will look to finish its year on a high when it faces bottom side, Palmerston on Sunday night.

WARATAH 3.3 | 4.8 | 12.11 | 14.14 (98)
WANDERERS 0.4 | 4.5 | 6.7 | 9.12 (66)

GOALS:

Waratah: A. Ankers 4, K. McBean 2, K. Kantilla 2, H. Kerinaiua, S. Godden, D. Collis, B. Zobel, D. Booth, W. Gorman
Wanderers: W. Williams 3, S. Tipiloura 3, D. Thompson, S. Motlop, K. Fejo

BEST:

Waratah: N/A
Wanderers: W. Williams, B. McLean, W. Yunupingu, E. Colley, D. Thompson

Waratah kept its thin finals hopes alive with a win over fellow bottom three side, Wanderers to the tune of 32 points. The Warriors answered each Muk Muks charge, coming out comfortable 14.14 (98) to 9.12 (66) winners in the end.

In a game with heavy momentum swings, Wanderers hit back after a goalless opening term to head into the main break just three points behind. But another big quarter from Waratah, with eight goals to two, put it 40 points to the good with time running out for the Muk Muks. It proved a bridge too far, with a spread of nine goalkickers helping Waratah boot the winning score. Abe Ankers led the way once again with four majors, while dangerous smalls Kim Kantilla and Henry Kerinaiua also found the big sticks. It was less of an even spread for the Eagles, with three goals apiece from Warwick Williams and Stanley Tipiloura very useful nonetheless. Braedon McLean was again influential, but the very young Eagles side just could not perform consistently enough over the four quarters.

Drawing within two points of Wanderers with the win, Waratah next faces Southern Districts in a tough assignment, while the Eagles have the equally tough task of taking on Tiwi as they look to steady their season and break back into the top five.

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 3 – Wanderers face Nightcliff in lone top five clash

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NTFL Men’s Premier League: Round 2 preview – Round 1 winners face opening weekend losers

IN a satisfying set of events for the neutral, each 1-0 team is set to face off with a 0-1 side in Round 2 of the Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Men’s Premier League. Given last week’s mixed bag of results, finalists from last year will be looking to get on the board, while other will be hoping to continue on their upward trends.

TIWI BOMBERS vs. NIGHTCLIFF
Saturday October 12, 2:30pm
TIO Stadium

Nightcliff will hope to continue its ideal premiership defence when it faces heavy Round 1 loser Tiwi Bombers to open the weekend’s play.

The Tigers were made to earn their opening win last time out in a grand final rematch, overcoming Southern Districts by nine points to compile to Crocs’ misery. On the other hand, Tiwi’s first outing for season 2019/20 did not quite go to plan as the Bombers conceded 24 goals in a 113-point loss to Darwin.

The Tigers’ ruthlessness inside 50 and wealth of options when it counted made the difference in last week’s win, while helping to heap misery on their lesser-ranked opponents last year. Tiwi will hope to not fall into that hole and be easily overcome for the second-straight week, with plenty of class remaining in its side and the coup of Palmerston junior Rodney Baird set to bolster the defence. The likes of Michael Mummery, Brayden Rioli, and Jeffrey Simon hardly got going for the Bombers in Round 1, but what is just as ominous is the fact that Nightcliff has Wade Derksen, Joel Budarick and Matthew Bricknell who can all make the same kind of greater impact this week.

There is plenty of firepower on either side and the experience of both midfields also makes for an interesting battle. The Tigers will come in as unbackable favourites, but Tiwi has plenty to offer and will be dangerous in full flight.

SOUTHERN DISTRICTS vs. WANDERERS
Saturday October 12, 4:00pm
Norbuilt Oval

Southern Districts will look to avoid a rare 0-2 start when it hosts a rejuvenated Wanderers side in the round’s sole fixture away from TIO Stadium.

The Crocs went close to making good on last year’s grand final loss in a Round 1 rematch against Nightcliff, but went down by under two goals in a game where they enjoyed spurts of success. Winners in Round 1, the Eagles found themselves on the better end of the momentum game against 2018/19 preliminary finalist Waratah, with young gun Joel Jeffrey running the show up forward.

The x-factor of Jeffrey, rising star Ronald Fejo Jnr, and class of Davin Ferreira will do well to match the more experienced forward might of Nightcliff, which will inevitably create a wealth of scoring opportunities. Beau Schwarze and Brandon Rusca are sure to get going, while Will Farrer has already reminded us of his nous in front of goal. The two sides are arguably at different stages of their team development, but Wanderers’ mix of exuberance and experience in the front half should pose some problems for the highly-fancied Crocs.

Expect last year’s grand finalists to come out hard, with their pressure set to pose questions to the Muk Muks’ finishing inside 50, which luckily did not trouble them last week.

PALMERSTON MAGPIES vs. DARWIN BUFFALOES
Saturday October 12, 5:00pm
TIO Stadium

First comes up against second-last when an ominous looking Darwin Buffaloes faces Palmerston on Saturday evening.

The Buffs kicked off their season in style with a thumping win over the much-hyped Tiwi Bombers, with Adam Sambono notching a remarkable 12 goals. On the other hand, Palmerston looks destined for another slow start after going down to last season’s wooden spooner St Mary’s in Round 1.

Darwin’s depth of experience will strike fear into any side, but will be particularly tricky for Palmerston given the Magpies’ lack of major ex-AFL class. Alwyn Davey leads that field though and will hope to have another strong outing alongside his twin sons Alywn Jnr and Jayden, while state combine attendee Nigel Lockyer Jnr will have to shoulder a heap of responsibility going forward. For the Buffs, Sambono leads the way from Joe Anderson, Jarrod Stokes and Christopher Williams, providing a wealth of scoring options from further afield.

The depth of Darwin looks like being too much for the Magpies at this stage of the season, but write any team off in this league at your own peril.

WARATAH vs. ST MARY’S
Saturday October 12, 7:30pm
TIO Stadium

In the final game of the round, St Mary’s will seek to continue its resurgence when it does battle with Waratah under the TIO Stadium lights.

The Saints were terrific in Round 1, earning a comfortable victory over fellow 2018/19 bottom-three side Palmerston. The return of Jackson Geary has proven a handy one already, with a more filled-out squad led brilliantly by Raphael Clarke. They have the famous names; Shannon Rioli, Jack Long, Jacob Long and Nick Yarran to go with the electric Nathaniel Paredes and Braxton Ah Mat, ensuring Clarke and co have improved service and support going forward.

For Waratah, the emergence of home grown talent is said to be what will take them further this year after a preliminary final berth, but a Round 1 stumbling block came in the form of Wanderers. Not to be deterred, Abe Ankers should lead the side well again after a five-goal haul, with TAC Cup graduate Laine Fitzgerald and Sam Godden providing support. The Warriors will be leaning on the heavy momentum shifts this league can bring to get the edge in this game, with their consistent side looking for that first win.

Waratah has more proven products on paper over time, but the experience and added depth of St Mary’s should cause a few headaches all the same.

NTFL Men’s Premier League weekly wrap: Round 1 – Sambono boots 12 in Buffs’ Tiwi romp

THE 2019/20 Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) season got underway on the weekend and produced a truly mixed bag of results. While Southern Districts was unable to make good on its grand final loss in a rematch against Nightcliff, the Darwin Buffaloes put their dour end to last season behind them, while Waratah and St Mary’s also picked up confidence-inducing wins.

DARWIN BUFFALOES 2.2 | 11.5 | 19.7 | 24.13 (157)
TIWI BOMBERS 3.3 | 3.3 | 4.7 | 6.8 (44)

GOALS:

Darwin: A. Sambono 12, J. Anderson 3, C. Williams 3, B. Corey Culhane 2, J. Anderson, J. Stokes, J. Clarke, D Miles.
Tiwi: L. Wale-Buxton 2, P. Heenan, C. Abala, M. Kantilla, A. Wonaeamirri.

BEST:

Darwin: B. Stokes, K. Williams, A. Sambono, J. Anderson, C. Williams, P. Boles
Tiwi: D. Kruse, A. Tipungwuti, L. Wale-Buxton, R. Pupangamirri, N. Djerrkura, R. Tungatalum

A remarkable 12-goal haul from Adam Sambono propelled Darwin Buffaloes to a resounding 113-point opening round win over the highly-touted Tiwi Bombers. The Buffs look to have ironed out the issues that saw them go down by a similar margin in last year’s finals series, with Sambono booting half of his side’s 24 goals in the 24.13 (157) to 6.8 (44) romp.

Joe Anderson joined Sambono as the other Darwin leader to stand up with three majors of his own, matched by Christopher Williams and rounded out by Brayden Corey Culhane’s two. Despite their efforts, it was Bradley Stokes and Kelvin Williams who were recognised as the Buffs’ best, while David Kruse claimed the same plaudits from the Bombers’ camp. Usual suspects Adam Tipungwuti, Nathan Djerrkura, and Ross Tungatalum also provided good ball-winning value in the heavy loss, while Casey Demon Liam Wale-Buxton was Tiwi’s only multiple goal kicker with two.

Remiss of the final scoreline, Tiwi led at the first break by seven points, with Darwin’s combined 17 goals to one in the second and third terms setting up the big win. The result was well beyond doubt heading into the final term, but the ruthless Buffs poured on a further five goals to Tiwi’s two to finish off ensure they breached the 100-point margin mark.

Bouncing back will be a tough ask for the Bombers as they prepare to face reigning premier Nightcliff in Round 2, while Darwin will be in the hunt for consecutive wins when it faces Round 1 losers Palmerston next time out.

NIGHTCLIFF 6.1 | 7.3 | 11.5 | 13.10 (88)
SOUTHERN DISTRICTS 6.2 | 9.3 | 10.7 | 12.7 (79)

GOALS:

Nightcliff: L. Sharp 4, J. Butcher 3, B. Filo 2, K. Niki, C. Ilett, P. Wills, B. Bell
Southern Districts: W. Farrer 4, S. Barnett 2, T. Brook 2, J. Clarke 2, J. Farrer, J Innes

BEST:

Nightcliff: B. Filo, R. Morris, L. Sharp, K. Winter-Irving, B. Bell
Southern Districts: D. Williams, T. Brook, W. Farrer, Z. Bin Busu, J. Farrer

It was a case of déjà vu in the grand final rematch as Nightcliff got its title defence off to a winning start to the tune of nine points against Southern Districts. The Tigers overcame deficits at the first two breaks to close better in the 13.10 (88) to 12.7 (79) result.

A high-scoring opener saw the sides share twelve goals evenly, with the Crocs finding a bit of breathing space at half time on the back of three goals to one in the following term. But the Tigers managed to chip away in the third quarter and match Southern Districts’ efficiency in front of goal before less-clinical final term saw them edge over the line and truly pick up from where they left off in the 2018/19 season.

Lachlan Sharp (four goals), ex-Port Adelaide forward John Butcher (three), and Brodie Filo (two) were all effective around goal for Nightcliff, with Filo named best afield along with Roger Morris. The Crocs had one more multiple goal kicker than the Tigers but could not match their depth of contributors, with Will Farrer (four goals), Sam Barnett (two), Timothy Brook (two), and Jayden Clarke (two) all getting on the board. Damian Williams was named best for them, with Zorran Bin Busu the only other non-goal kicker to also be named among the best dozen.

Nightcliff will look to build an early unbeaten streak next week when it faces Tiwi in Round 2, with the Bombers coming off a loss in excess of 100 points. On the other hand, the Crocs will have their hands full with Round 1 winner Wanderers next time out, looking to prove their credentials with four points.

WARATAH 1.2 | 8.4 | 10.7 | 13.8 (86)
WANDERERS 3.7 | 7.9 | 11.12 | 15.14 (104)

GOALS:

Waratah: A. Ankers 5, J. McGrath 3, A. Aurrichio 2, K. Kantilla, L. Davies, L. Fitzgerald,
Wanderers: J. Jeffrey 5, D. Ferreira 2, L. Patrick 2, T. Motlop, L. Dyer, R. Fejo, J. Arratta, S. Bates, S. Thorne

BEST:

Waratah: N/A
Wanderers: N/A

Wanderers overcame some early inaccuracy to outlast 2018/19 preliminary finalist Waratah and open its season with an uplifting 18-point win. Both sides enjoyed spurts of momentum throughout, but the Muk Muks’ firepower inside 50 proved too much as they pulled away to finish 15.14 (104) to 13.8 (86) victors.

The Warriors looked to have overcome a slow start as they took a one-point lead into half time with goals coming thick and fast, but it would be the only break they could do so in as the Eagles hit back to immediately. The momentum switched again as they notched 4.3 to Waratah’s 2.3 in what was a match-defining third term, but the Warriors still had a sniff heading into the final stanza. That hope was quashed despite Waratah getting the better of the final stages overall, with Wanderers doing just enough to keep their consistent opponents at bay.

Two men did most of the damage in terms of goals – one coming from each side. Prodigious talent Joel Jeffrey continued the form that saw him star on the MCG in the Under-17 Futures game with a dynamic five-goal haul, matched by Waratah powerhouse Abe Ankers. Jae McGrath (three) and Alex Aurrichio (two) also bagged multiples for the Warriors, while Davin Ferreira kicked two classy goals alongside ex-Sun Liam Patrick. Wanderers’ Ronald Fejo Jnr also earned the Round 1 Rising Star nomination.

The Eagles will have to quell a Southern Districts side breathing fire in Round 2 to maintain their perfect record, while Waratah will hope to get on the board when it faces Round 1 winner St Mary’s on Saturday night.

ST MARY’S 1.4 | 2.8 | 6.12 | 10.15 (75)
PALMERSTON 0.3 | 3.4 | 3.7 | 6.9 (45)

GOALS:

St Mary’s: R. Clarke 2, D. Johnstone 2, J. Geary, S. Rioli, R. Smith, B. Ah Mat, J. Cooper, J. Quinn
Palmerston: N. Lockyer Jnr 3, A. Lonergan, D. Marshall, J. Davey

BEST:

St Mary’s: R. Clarke, J. Geary, T. Davies, N. Paredes, J. Salmon, J. Long
Palmerston: N/A

2018/19 wooden spooner St Mary’s began its quest to climb from the bottom in ideal fashion, downing Palmerston by 30 points to round out the weekend. The Saints overcame inaccuracy throughout the match to solidify the 10.15 (75) to 6.9 (45) final score, and the margin clearly could have been much more.

As was a similar theme throughout two of the weekend’s other games, Palmerston managed to get on top in at least one quarter of play, but could not maintain the effort as they tired in the second half and struggled to score. There were no such issues for the Saints as they managed to boot eight majors in a match-winning second half performance.

St Mary’s leader Raphael Clarke was best afield with his two majors, matched in the goal stakes by teammate Dylan Johnstone. Jackson Geary and Nathaniel Paredes were others to contribute well, with the former also hitting the scoreboard for the winners. It proved a busy couple of days for state combine invitee Nigel Lockyer Jnr, who managed to snare three goals just a day after his fitness testing in Melbourne. Debutant and future Essendon father-son prospect Jayden Davey also found the goals as one of three Magpies to do so in the final term after Lockyer’s big first half.

Palmerston faces the daunting task of taking on a rampant Darwin side in Round 2 to rectify its form, while the Saints will look to go 2-0 when they clash with Waratah at TIO Stadium.