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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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GOALS:

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

BEST:

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

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

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

GOALS:

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

BEST:

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

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

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

GOALS:

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

BEST:

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

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

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

GOALS:

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

BEST:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NTFL Men’s Premier League 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 preview: Round 14 – Top two clash headlines finals-refining weekend

FOR the second time in as many weeks, the Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Men’s Premier League’s top four sides will face off in a finals-defining round of action. This time, the top two square off while third and fourth do battle as the race for ascendancy among the top five heats up.

SOUTHERN DISTRICTS (4th, 7-5-1) vs. TIWI BOMBERS (3rd, 8-5)
Saturday January 18, 2:00pm
Norbuilt Oval

Southern Districts hosts Tiwi in the weekend’s first top four clash, with the Crocs hoping to reclaim the top three spot they have long held this season. But Tiwi has already proven to be stiff opposition for the Crocs, with a Round 7 meeting between the sides yielding a 35-point Bombers victory. But much has changed since that last outing, with Tiwi coming from outside the top five to cement itself in the top three as it stands and standing now as a much more formidable opponent. It was somewhat of a shock result in November, but the Bombers come in as favourites given their four-game win streak. It may not be that simple though, with their run-in to a month of football against the remaining top five coming after comparatively more comfortable fixtures.

Both sides come in relatively settled, with many of their big names enjoying a consistent run of game time. Jeff Garlett and Richard Tambling are two of those for Southern Districts, possessing the class going forward which can perfectly counteract the damaging Bombers. Add to that the competition’s leading goalkicker, Will Farrer and his midfield-forward brother, Josiah at the feet of Sam Barnett, and you have a dynamic side forward of centre. But the Bombers are one of the most dynamic sides across the park, able to damage opposition with their pace. While last week’s five goal hero Tom Bell is out of the side, along with Charlie Molyneux and Nick Riddle, Tiwi looks set to regain Ashton Hams in what is still very much a stacked line-up. As arguably the hottest side in the competition right now, the Bombers need to capitalise on their winning form ahead of a tough few weeks.

WARATAH (7th, 3-10) vs. PALMERSTON MAGPIES (8th, 1-12)
Saturday January 18, 2:30pm
TIO Stadium

Fresh off its maiden win for season 2019/20, Palmerston will fancy itself a real chance at going back-to-back when it faces fellow bottom three side, Waratah at TIO Stadium. The Magpies were terrific last time out in a win they were made to earn – 12 weeks in the making – and should come in with similar energy given the buoyancy a wins gives a team. On the other hand, Waratah has suffered two heavy losses to quality opposition since the mid-season break, seeing its finals aspirations dwindle even further. But a massive Round 7 win against the Magpies should give the Warriors great hope of snapping their three-game losing run with a fourth win, and there is nothing to lose at this point.

Waratah’s Kim Kantilla is a man in serious form at the moment, coming of a four goal haul in last round’s loss and booting half of his side’s majors the week before. He and Henry Kerinaiua have been the main source of inspiration inside attacking 50, and the two should get some good service with Brodie Carroll named on an extended bench alongside bigman, Alex Aurrichio. The quartet will be crucial with Abe Ankers‘ name left off the team sheet. Skipper Aaron Lonergan will lead his Magpies out alongside playing coach, Alwyn Davey, whose son (Alwyn Jnr) remains in the line-up. Up forward, spearhead Keiden Holt-Tubbs takes up his usual position, but will not be joined by fellow Round 13 three-goal hauler, Leigh Williams. Pride and bragging rights are the only thing left on the line for the two sides at this point, so the chance of adding to their slim winning tallies should make it a good contest.

DARWIN BUFFALOES (5th, 7-6) vs. WANDERERS (6th, 3-9-1)
Saturday January 18, 7:00pm
TIO Stadium

It is do or die for Wanderers in term of a finals berth as it prepares to face fifth-placed Darwin in a Saturday night showdown. The Eagles are well adrift from the finals pack, but still stand a mathematical chance of making the top five if they can pull off some remarkable wins. After going down to Palmerston last week to extend their losing run to seven games, the Muk Muks will be desperate to get one back over the side which started that streak all the way back in Round 7 – Darwin. The Buffs have had form troubles of their own, going down in three of their last four outings, but have faced the best opposition possible in the only four sides ahead of them. This fixture marks a much lighter run to the end of the home-and-away season and, hopefully for them, a return to form.

The want for a win will only be compounded by the occasion, with much-loved skipper Jarrod Stokes running out for his 150th senior game in Buffs colours. He will be joined in the side by playing coach, Matt Campbell and Darwin spearhead Daniel Stafford in what should form a formidable full forward line at some point in the game. Wanderers’ typical show of young talent will again feature Mark White up forward, who will look to make up the Eagles’ own dangerous forward line alongside Joel Jeffrey and Beau O’Connell. But with Darwin’s side littered with seasoned vets and finals experience, it will prove a challenge for the Eagles to keep their legs and concentration throughout the entire contest.

NIGHTCLIFF (1st, 12-1) vs. ST MARY’S (2nd, 10-3)
Sunday January 19, 4:00pm
PSC BM Oval

Arguably the game of the round will receive a standalone Sunday slot, with Nightcliff hosting St Mary’s in a top-of-the-table blockbuster. A thorn in the reigning premiers’ side, St Mary’s is the only team to have beaten Nightcliff this season – in Round 7 – and sit just close enough to make the race for the minor premiership interesting. With eight points separating the two teams coming in, a win for the Saints would put the pressure right on Nightcliff, but a loss would all but put an end to their hopes of snatching first place come season’s end. Winning has clearly been no issue for either side to this point, with Nightcliff remaining undefeated in the seven games since its sole loss, while St Mary’s is on a five-game winning run.

The Tigers should be up for the occasion, looking to claim the final scalp in their 2019/20 season collection, and should have a some handy additions to lean on with John Butcher, James Tsitas, and Jayden Shaw all named on an extended bench. As one of the more dynamic and experienced sides, they should have all the tools to rectify Round 7’s result. But the Saints are no slouches, coming in with a spine consisting of Shaun Edwards, Jake Long, Maurice Rioli Jnr, and Jackson Paine, despite missing the likes of Davin Ferriera and Nick Yarran. With talent littered across the park and so much to play for, this looms as must-see viewing for all NTFL fans.

NTFL Men’s Premier League wrap: Round 13 – Magpies claim maiden win

PALMERSTON’S maiden win of the 2019/20 Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Men’s Premier League season headlined an otherwise straightforward round of action, with Tiwi rising to third and the top two sides separating from the trailing pack.

TIWI BOMBERS 6.2 | 10.4 | 15.6 | 23.9 (147)
WARATAH 5.2 | 6.7 | 9.10 | 13.12 (90)

GOALS:

Tiwi: T. Bell 5, H. Puruntatameri 5, S. Munkara 3, J. Best 2, J. Simon 2, A. Wonaeamirri 2, A. Darcy 2, C. Molyneux, N. Djerrkura
Waratah: K. Kantilla 4, H. Kerinaiua 3, A. Ankers 2, J. Schaper, M. Graham, K. McBean, M. Bordignon

BEST:

Tiwi: J. Monigatti, T. Bell, N. Djerrkura, C. Molyneux, H. Puruntatameri, N. Riddle
Waratah: N/A

Tiwi continued its rise up the NTFL ladder on Saturday, thumping Waratah by 57 points to jump two places into third spot. The Bombers were too slick on the outside, running away in the second half with a clinical 23.9 (147) to 13.12 (90) victory.

While four-goal hero Kim Kantilla posted the game’s first goal for Waratah, it was all Tiwi immediately after as an Austin Wonaeamirri double spurred the Bombers to the next six majors. Harley Puruntatameri also wreaked havoc inside forward 50 with two classy finishes of his own, but Waratah pegged the margin back late with four unanswered goals to trail by a sole goal at quarter time. A slower second term did not stop Tiwi from again kicking away with the final three majors of the stanza, before the Warriors mounted another comeback after the main break via some more Kantilla magic. The margin got back to within a goal, but Tiwi again had the legs to finish the term and doubled its 32-point three-quarter time lead to run out comfortable winners.

Tom Bell joined Puruntatameri with a bag of five goals come the final siren, and Tiwi’s best half dozen had a distinct Greensborough feel about it as Bell’s Northern Football League teammates Charlie Molyneux and Nick Riddle were also named. The likes of Molyneux were fed all day by bigman Jack Monigatti, with the pair combining for the South Australian’s first term stoppage goal. For Waratah, Kantilla’s solo efforts going forward were terrific alongside Henry Kerinaiua, who bagged three goals, while the returning Abe Ankers also made a difference moving forward. But the Warriors’ win over Tiwi in Round 6 seems a world away now, with the Bombers mounting a top two charge while Waratah battles to be the best of the rest.

ST MARY’S 1.1 | 5.3 | 8.6 | 10.10 (70)
SOUTHERN DISTRICTS 1.3 | 5.6 | 7.9 | 8.9 (57)

GOALS:

St Mary’s: J. Salmon 3, S. Edwards 3, J. Paine, M. Rioli Jnr, R. Jordon, L. Larson
Southern Districts: J. Farrer 4, J. Innes, S. Barnett, J. Clarke, D. Staunton

BEST:

St Mary’s: J. Salmon, T. Davies, J. Long, S. Edwards, A. Long, J. Paine
Southern Districts: N/A

St Mary’s picked up another scalp in its promising 2019/20 campaign, made to earn a vital 13-point win over Southern Districts in their top four clash. The 10.10 (70) to 8.9 (57) victory was the Saints’ fifth in a row, and sees them move eight points clear in second place with 10 wins.

The four points were gained amid some scrappy exchanges, most notably in the first term where the sides could only manage a goal apiece. Josh Innes‘ goal after the quarter time siren put the Crocs two points to the good, and the second quarter produced a similar story – albeit with more scoring. Just as quickly as the Saints got on a three-goal run, the Crocs bounced back with four of their own to again snatch the lead at the second break by under a goal. But it was the third term where the tide started to shift as St Mary’s got on top, only to be discounted by some energy from resting midfielder Josiah Farrer inside forward 50, which kept Southern Districts well within striking distance. It was tit-for-tat in the final term as a fourth Farrer snap kept the margin at five points at the midway point, but St Mary’s strength across the ground and superior legs got it over the line.

While his brother, William leads the Crocs’ goalkicking tally, Josiah Farrer was Southern Districts’ source of inspiration in front of the big sticks with four opportunistic goals. It was otherwise all single goalkickers for the Crocs, who could not make full use of Michael Barlow‘s ball winning prowess further afield. The Saints were led up forward by Joseph Salmon and ex-GWS utility Shaun Edwards, who booted three goals apiece while Jackson Paine and Jacob Long were also impressive. A chance to knock Nightcliff off for a second time looms for the Saints, who can make the minor premiership race interesting with the right result. Meanwhile, the Crocs continue a trying month with assignments against two top three sides next up as they slip down to fourth, as wins become paramount for finals positions.

WANDERERS 3.1 | 6.2 | 9.5 | 13.7 (85)
PALMERSTON 2.4 | 5.6 | 10.9 | 14.9 (93)

GOALS:

Wanderers: J. Jeffrey 4, B. O’Connell 3, S. Bates, W. Williams, E. Colley, A. Motlop, J. Jeffrey, T. Motlop
Palmerston: K. Holt-Tubbs 3, L. Williams 3, C. Timms 2, W. Shadforth, K. Emery, A. Davey, J. Patrick, R. Stone, J. Berry

BEST:

Wanderers: B. O’Connell, J. Jeffrey, A. Motlop, M. Motlop, D. Dos Santos
Palmerston: K. Holt-Tubbs, K. Emery, C. Timms, W. Shadforth, J. Berry, L. Williams

Palmerston broke through for a much-deserved maiden win of its 2019/20 campaign, outlasting Wanderers to come out eight-point winners. The Magpies were made to earn it too, trailing at the first two breaks before hitting the front when it mattered in the 14.9 (93) to 13.7 (85) result.

As has been the case for most of the Eagles’ season, they started brightly and found their way in front with three goals in each of the opening two terms. But the two-point half time margin was not nearly enough as they began to run out of legs, with Palmerston determined to earn its first set of four points. A nine-goal second half helped the Magpies to their highest score for the season, good enough for that elusive first win with another bottom three side next on the agenda.

There was somewhat of a family theme across both camps as three of Palmerston’s Daveys – Alwyn, Alwyn Jnr, and Russell lined up against Wanderers’ five Motlops and three Jeffrey brothers – Jordan, Joel, and Jai. AFL Academy member and Gold Coast SUNS trainee Joel Jeffrey was by far the pick of the bunch, booting a game-high four goals to lead the Muk Muks’ scoring effort alongside fellow youngster Beau O’Connell (three goals). The two were named their sides’ best players, with Keidan Holt-Tubbs claiming that honour for the Magpies on the back of another bag of three. Kyle Emery was another difference-maker as he returns to his best form further afield, while playing-coach Alwyn Davey was also influential. The Magpies will fancy themselves to make it two-consecutive wins against Waratah next time out, while Wanderers will have to face Darwin in hopes of snapping a seven-game losing run.

NIGHTCLIFF 5.2 | 10.6 | 12.8 | 12.8 (80)
DARWIN BUFFALOES 1.1 | 5.2 | 7.5 | 7.5 (47)

GOALS:

Nightcliff: L. Holt-Fitz 3, T. Melville 3, L. Sharp 3, B. Arnold, C. Ilett, K. Winter-Irving
Darwin: D. Stafford 4, J. Stokes, C. Williams, L. McKenzie

BEST:

Nightcliff: B. Filo, L. Holt-Fitz, C. Ilett, M. Hagan, P. Wills, K. Winter-Irving
Darwin: N/A

An untimely power outage saw Nightcliff only have to work for a little over three quarters to earn its twelfth win of the season, downing Darwin by 33 points on Saturday night. But the Tigers were well on top as the lights went out on Darwin’s chances of a comeback with 17 minutes gone in the third term, gifting the 12.8 (80) to 7.5 (47) result to Nightcliff with play unable to resume and more than half the game having already been played out.

The Tigers looked ominous from the opening bounce, booting the first three goals of the game before Daniel Stafford chimed in with a much-needed major for the Buffs. But it did little to thwart the ladder leaders’ momentum as they quickly extended a 25-point quarter time lead to 37 early in the second stanza. Darwin simply could not string goals together as Nightcliff answered every challenge, maintaining that five-to-six goal buffer all the way to the main break. It proved match-defining, with the goal-for-goal trend continuing right until the game’s premature end.

Stafford proved Darwin’s only real form of resistance as he snagged four goals to edge closer to the top of the league’s goalkicking standings, joined for inspiration inside 50 by skipper Jarrod Stokes. The man at the top of those standings is Nightcliff’s Trent Melville, who added three goals to his tally alongside the electric Liam Holt-Fitz and consistent Lachlan Sharp, proving the winners’ superior firepower. But it was Brodie Filo who was named the Tigers’ best afield, with bigman Kyle Winter-Irving also impressive. Nightcliff will go on to face the only side it is yet to beat in St Mary’s, while Darwin will look to rebound against Wanderers with a leaner month ahead.

NTFL Men’s Premier League preview: Round 12 – Teams return from mid-season break

FOOTBALL is back in 2020 as the Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Men’s Premier League season resumes under Friday night lights ahead of a huge triple-header on Saturday. In the game of the round, Darwin and Southern Districts play off in an eight-pointer while the remaining top five sides meet opponents further off the pace.

ST MARY’S (2nd, 8-3) vs. WANDERERS (6th, 3-7-1)
Friday January 3, 7:00pm
TIO Stadium

St Mary’s will be looking to extend its three-game winning run into the new year when it faces Wanderers to open Round 12 under Friday night lights. The Saints did not dwell on a second loss to Tiwi in Round 8, bouncing back to claim three wins on the trot and go clear in second heading into the mid-season break. While St Mary’s’ form has been consistent, Wanderers’ path has been less linear as the young side battles to regain its early-season form. The Eagles are set for a big boost as Gold Coast SUNS trainee Joel Jeffrey looks primed to return to the lineup, and he may be used up both ends as Victorian twin towers Jackson Paine and Jackson Calder have been named inside forward 50 for the Saints. The AFL experience of recent weeks is not quite as prominent for St Mary’s, but Jake Long is set to feature alongside potential 2020 Richmond father-son, Maurice Rioli Jnr. Opportunities will be limited for Wanderers as it pushes to reclaim a top five spot, and the Saints should pose a tough test as one of the genuine premiership contenders. Expect St Mary’s experience to come into play as the four quarters wear on.

DARWIN BUFFALOES (4th, 6-5) vs. SOUTHERN DISTRICTS (3rd, 7-3-1)
Saturday January 4, 2:30pm
TIO Stadium

Arguably the game of the round opens a huge Saturday triple-header at TIO Stadium, with Darwin and Southern Districts battling it out for top five supremacy. The Buffs have only defeated one of the current top five sides – Tiwi, all the way back in Round 1 – and come in having gone down to two of them right before the break. The Crocs fared slightly better in the build up to 2020, albeit having gone down comfortably to Nightcliff, but should take confidence in having already beaten the Buffaloes in Round 5. Both sides come in well stacked, with Southern Districts naming the likes of Michael Barlow, Ed Barlow, Jeff Garlett, and Richard Tambling, not to mention a forward line boasting the competition’s leading goalkicker in Will Farrer. Matt Campbell will lead his side in response, with the prolific Adam Sambono poised to return, Brodie Foster another likely inclusion, and Joe Anderson set to feature up forward alongside Daniel Stafford. While the Crocs’ side jumps off the page and their form has been telling at times, Darwin can beat anyone at its absolute best. The Buffs will need to bring exactly that if they are to stay in the top two hunt.

NIGHTCLIFF (1st, 10-1) vs. WARATAH (7th, 3-8)
Saturday January 4, 5:00pm
TIO Stadium

League leaders Nightcliff will aim to pick up where it left off in 2019, with bottom three opponent Waratah first on the agenda in the new year. The Tigers have been near-perfect in their premiership defence thus far, only going down to the second-ranked side and beating every other opponent through 11 rounds. While they will be looking for more of the same, a change of fortunes will be what Waratah is after as it looks to latch onto the heels of the top five. There has been a sizeable gap between the Warriors’ best and worse, with the absence of key players proving telling – and it could well be the case in this game. With Abe Ankers and Brodie Carroll not named in the squad, spearhead Kim Kantilla looks set for some added midfield time having been named as ruck rover. There should be no such issues for the versatile and deep Nightcliff side, with most of the key Tigers players set to feature. Trent Melville will look to push into top spot in the goalkicking charts on the back of a potential percentage booster, while Kaine Riley is one of many who will hope to continue their great form. The Tigers are always formidable, and will prove another tough ask for the Warriors in this fixture.

PALMERSTON MAGPIES (8th, 0-11) vs. TIWI BOMBERS (5th, 6-5)
Saturday January 4, 7:30pm
TIO Stadium

Palmerston’s new year resolutions will be clear heading into its first match of 2020, with the Tiwi Bombers first on the agenda in Round 12’s final fixture. While they have gone close a couple of times, the Magpies have mostly been well off the pace this season and sit bottom of the league as the only side yet to crack a win. Meanwhile, the Bombers have flown up into the top five after an indifferent start to their campaign, maintaining a positive record and now looking to extend the gap to sixth. This matchup could provide a great opportunity to do so given Wanderers and Waratah’s difficult assignments, but Palmerston’s lineup suggests it will be up for the fight. Alwyn Davey will lead his side on-field alongside brother, Aaron and son, Alwyn Jnr, while Kyle Emery and Misha Perry Jnr will also look to make an impact going forward. Tiwi’s side is stacked as usual, featuring the AFL experience of Tom Bell, Nathan Djerrkura, and Ashton Hams to go with their formidable list of usual suspects. While it looks a mismatch on paper, anything can happen after the break and the Magpies will be hungry to rectify a disappointing 2019.

Mid-season review: NTFL Men’s Premier League

THE mid-season break is in full swing for all Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Men’s Premier League clubs and fans alike, with the top five already looking set. We recap how each team has gone thus far in order of the current ladder; highlighting the big wins, losses, and outstanding players.

NIGHTCLIFF (1st, 10-1, 169%)

Best win: def. Tiwi Bombers by six points, Round 9

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

MVP: Kaine Riley

Most goals: Trent Melville (26)

In a premiership defence with just one blemish thus far, Nightcliff has proven it remains the team to beat. Barring a 27-point loss to St Mary’s in Round 7, the Tigers have beaten every side put before them – including fellow top five contenders Southern Districts and Tiwi twice each – constantly outlasting their opponents and finding a way to win. The reigning premier has had four players feature in every game, with Kaine Riley and Trent Melville two of them. Riley has been among the best in eight of those outings, while Melville has booted 26 majors to sit second in the league goalkicking tally. NT veteran Cam Ilett has proven instrumental with his versatility and leadership, with Joel Budarick coming on well and Liam Holt-Fitz forming a dangerous partnership with Melville inside 50. John Butcher has again been a handy recruit, with former-Williamstown VFL pair Leigh Masters and Willie Wheeler also enjoying decent cameos. With a settled lineup and class across the park, the Tigers will be tough to beat in the second half of the season.

ST MARY’S (2nd, 8-3, 138%)

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

Worst loss: def. by Tiwi Bombers by 34 points, Round 8

MVP: Thomas Davies

Most goals: Jackson Calder, Shannon Rioli (15)

It has been a stark contrast to last season’s effort for St Mary’s, with the iconic NTFL club working its way back to the top end of the ladder. A Round 7 win over the otherwise undefeated Nightcliff was a clear season highlight, with a combined 174-point winning margin in Rounds 9 and 10 also right up there. With the highs came a couple of lows with shock losses to traditional rival, Tiwi and another at the hands of Southern Districts momentarily halting the Saints’ train. While regular fixtures Thomas Davies, Shannon Rioli, Nathaniel Paredes, and Leroy Larson have all been instrumental, the injection of AFL experience has also been telling. Jarrad Waite, David Armitage, Will Hams, Jackson Calder, Jackson Paine, and Michael Manteit have all had influential stints, while favourite sons Raphael Clarke, Shaun Edwards, and Jake Long also impacted on their returns. On their day and with a full-strength lineup, St Mary’s is one of the most formidable sides in the league, and could well be the one to dethrone Nightcliff come season’s end.

SOUTHERN DISTRICTS (3rd, 7-3-1, 129%)

Best win: def. Darwin Buffaloes by three points, Round 5

Worst loss: def. by Tiwi Bombers by 35 points, Round 7

MVP: Josiah Farrer

Most goals: William Farrer (27)

After an indifferent start to the season, Southern Districts has bounced back to put itself firmly in the premiership frame with a record good enough for third place. A 93-point drubbing of Palmerston kickstarted the Crocs’ season, going on to make it four wins in a row by toppling Darwin and St Mary’s back-to-back. Nightcliff continues to be the thorn in Southern Districts’ side though, going down to the Tigers twice while also dropping points to Tiwi in disappointing fashion. But the positives have been there for the Crocs, boasting the league’s leading goalkicker in William Farrer among a talented forward 50. The likes of Josiah Farrer and Beau Schwarze have rotated well through there, while South Australian Sam Barnett has provided a great focal point. The big names came through late in the piece as Michael Barlow, Ed Barlow, Richard Tambling, and Jeff Garlett all featured, only adding to the Crocs’ ferocity. With a dynamic front half and some experienced difference-makers, Southern Districts is a team capable of plenty on its day, but needs to put it together more consistently now.

DARWIN BUFFALOES (4th, 6-5, 126%)

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

Worst loss: def. by St Mary’s by 14 points, Round 11

MVP: Christopher Williams

Most goals: Daniel Stafford (17)

Darwin’s season to this point has been somewhat of a rollercoaster, but the Buffs have can still boast a positive record and safety in their top five spot. The Double Blues kicked off their season with a bang, trouncing Tiwi by over 100 points as Adam Sambono bagged an incredible haul of 12 goals. Looking a real flag threat, they improved to 3-0 after a controversial overturned win against Waratah, but were shortly reigned back by consecutive defeats at the hands of the current top three. But in overcoming the opposition they should, the Buffs are well placed heading into the new year. Key forward Daniel Stafford has only been held goalless once to lead his side’s goalkicking with 17 majors, followed by the enigmatic Brayden Culhane (16) and Sambono (13). Now less reliant on Joe Anderson and playing-coach Matt Campbell, Darwin’s leaders in Christopher Williams and Jarrod Stokes have stood up. Patrick Boles has been a great inclusion through midfield, while former-VFL stars Brodie Foster, Ryan Pendlebury and Stephen Tahana have had decent cameos. With their best names on the park, the Buffs look damaging, but there is a gap to bridge between that and their worst. Could be a big riser or faller in the second half of the season.

TIWI BOMBERS (5th, 6-5, 89%)

Best win: def. St Mary’s by 14 points, Round 3

Worst loss: def. by Darwin by 113 points, Round 1

MVP: Adam Tipungwuti

Most goals: Dion Munkara (16)

Rounding out the top five is Tiwi Bombers, another team to have enjoyed some terrific highs and disappointing lows. With a talent-stacked and exciting squad, the Bombers are hard to stop in full flight – just ask St Mary’s, who were on the receiving end in Round 3 as Tiwi got up in an absolute shoot-out. Boasting four wins over fellow finals-bond opponents is no mean feat, but is somewhat dampened by two losses to bottom three candidates, and near misses against Palmerston and Wanderers. Nonetheless, the dashing dare of Adam Tipungwuti, Dion Munkara, and Harley Puruntatameri has excited onlookers, with the reliability of Jason Puruntatameri, Rodney Baird, and Ross Tungatalum making Tiwi a well-rounded unit. Munkara leads an even goalkicking tally, from Austin Wonaeamirri, with features from former AFL midfielders Ashton Hams and Nathan Djerrkura proving handy along with the one-game cameo of Cyril Rioli. Victorian trio Charlie Molyneux, Nick Riddle and Liam Wale-Buxton also hit the ground running to feature in the best at least once each. The potential is there for Tiwi and the names would suggest so, with inconsistency the only issue to iron out as the Bombers mount a finals charge.

WANDERERS (6th, 3-7-1, 79%)

Best win: def. Tiwi Bombers by 14 points, Round 4

Worst loss: def. by Nightcliff by 73 points, Round 8

MVP: Braedon McLean

Most goals: Joel Jeffrey (19)

Wanderers slipped out of the finals spots on the back of five consecutive defeats after a promising start, with the mid-season break coming at an ideal time for the young side. A win over Tiwi and draw to Southern Districts in the first four rounds highlighted the Muk Muks’ potential, but a second heavy loss to Nightcliff to go with ones to Waratah and Tiwi means the gap to fifth place is 10 points. The exuberance of youth was clear to see as Joel Jeffrey, Beau O’Connell, Ronald Fejo, and Mark White all impressed in the forward half, with Jeffrey’s absence in the last month proving costly. Jordan Jeffrey, Braedon McLean, and Keelan Fejo have been serviceable, while stints from Liam Jurrah, Brett Eddy, Marlon Motlop, and Davin Ferreira are exactly what the young squad needs. The drop-off was steep, but with a break and time to refresh, Wanderers could be a team to challenge for the top five.

WARATAH (7th, 3-8, 75%)

Best win: def. Tiwi Bombers by 43 points, Round 6

Worst loss: def. by 123 points by St Mary’s, Round 9

MVP: Abe Ankers

Most goals: Kim Kantilla (20)

Waratah proved one of the more unlucky sides at the start of the season, searching for a win in the first five rounds before finally breaking through against Tiwi. Points against Darwin were overturned in Round 3 due to a team sheet error, and the Warriors have struggled against top four opposition since. The difference Abe Ankers makes to the side is profound, with the midfield ace booting 16 goals having only played in around half of his side’s games. Kim Kantilla has been terrific up forward with hauls as high as six, teaming up with Henry Kerinaiua and former VFL forward Steven Stroobants to good effect. Midfielder Brodie Carroll has also been reliable, but his side has been less so over the course of 11 rounds. Michael Newton has been one of the few big fish to land at Waratah this year but has not had the same impact as previous seasons, with the Warriors’ home grown talent leading their charge. With some classy players who can break games open, Waratah again looms as a late-season threat to the top five, but is well adrift at 12 points behind fifth.

PALMERSTON (8th, 0-11, 49%)

Best win: Nil

Worst loss: def. by Waratah by 89 points, Round 7

MVP: Jack Berry

Most goals: Broderick Church, Nigel Lockyer Jnr (7)

Stuck at the base of the ladder is Palmerston, still winless after 11 games following a disappointing campaign in 2018/19. While the Magpies have understandably suffered heavy defeats to top-end competition, they have fallen short from winning positions against Tiwi and Darwin in promising displays. A big loss to fellow bottom three side, Waratah in a clash between seventh and eighth compounded the misery, with few highlights to this point. Essendon trainee Nigel Lockyer Jnr was one of them before suffering an ankle injury, while the pair of Broderick Church and Keidan Holt-Tubbs has held up inside forward 50. The debuts of coach Alwyn Davey‘s sons, Alwyn Jnr and Jayden were much-hyped, while Victorian recruit Jack Berry has played a key hand in the part-time absence of Matthew Dennis. Through midfield, Adam Diamond and Aaron Lonergan have been solid with Sandy Brock another consistent contributor. While a win has looked far away at times, there is enough in this Palmerston unit to improve a heap in the second half of the season – the only way is up after all.