WITH two rounds left to play in the Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Men’s Premier League, the ladder is finally taking shape. While the top and bottom two sides look all but cemented, the tussle for spots from third to sixth is only heating up.
WARATAH 12.13 (85)
TIWI BOMBERS 10.6 (66)
Waratah: S. Tatupu 4, B. Zobel, S. Godden, K. Kantilla, S. Weddell, A. Ankers, C. Barrett, B. Minkulk, S. Flanegan.
Tiwi: P. Puautjimi 3, P. Heenan 2, J. Simon, T. Tambling, R. Tungatalum, A. Wonaeamirri, H. Puruntatameri.
Waratah: A. Ankers, Z. Westerberg, S. Godden, S. Weddell, J. McCarthy
Tiwi: W. Puruntatameri, P. Heenan, J. Simon, H. Puruntatameri, N. Djerrkura, R. Mungatopi
Waratah reclaimed clear fourth spot with an important win over fellow finals contenders, Tiwi Bombers to open the round. Having dropped out of the top four for the first time since Round 1, the Warriors looked like winning throughout the match after booting 5.7 in a free-flowing first term. Despite a third quarter fightback from the in-form Bombers where the margin was cut to within two goals, Waratah held on in the eight-point affair and is a lock for a finals berth. Shem Tatupu was the star in front of goal for the winners with a game-high four goals as their only multiple goal kicker, but it was Abraham Ankers who claimed a second-straight best afield honour. Zach Westerberg was also thereabouts for Waratah, while Sam Godden and Samuel Weddell where also named amongst the best having hit the scoreboard. While usual suspects Ross Tungatalum and Austin Wonaeamirri were kept quiet with just two goals between them, Pio Puautjimi (three goals) stood up to lead the efficient Tiwi forward line, with Patrick Heenan also slotting two majors as second best in the losing effort. William Puruntatameri was named best for the Bombers, with youngster Jeffrey Simon also showing signs alongside the ex-AFL listed Nathan Djerrkura. Tiwi now slips back to fifth – a game and 30 per cent clear of Palmerston, but will be confident of pushing its weekend opponent for fourth given the Warriors tough draw to see out the regular season.
WANDERERS 11.2 (65)
DARWIN BUFFALOES 7.13 (55)
Wanderers: J. Jeffrey 2, J. Box 2, G. Marika 2, N. Mansell, T. Motlop, M. White, B. O’Connell, A. Weetra.
Darwin: J. Clarke, P. Boles, D. Shillabeer, J. Anderson, L. Philpott, M. Rosas, D. Paull.
Darwin: P. Boles, D. Johnston, J. Anderson, C. Atkinson, K. Maroney, C. Williams
Wanderers caused a massive upset in the second of Saturday’s TIO Stadium fixtures, storming out of the blocks to overcome a wasteful Darwin Buffaloes side. The Eagles set up a lead which proved unassailable in the first term with six goals to one, slotting only five more for the remainder of the game while doing their best to thwart a weakened Buffaloes attack. Wanderers’ 11.2 made Darwin’s 7.13 final score look particularly regretful, and it made all the difference on the day as the Muk Muks hung on for an unlikely 11-point victory. It was an even spread of goal kickers for the hosts, with teenage star Joel Jeffrey, Gabriel Marika and James Box all contributing two goals in a strong team effort. It was a different story for Darwin, with Patrick Boles and Joe Anderson the only players amongst seven individual goal kickers to also be named in the best. Another teen sensation, Malcolm Rosas also found the goals, but the missing flair of Adam Sambono and experience of Matthew Campbell to suspension was too much to cover for the Buffaloes. Wanderers still sit bottom despite claiming its second win in three rounds, while Darwin’s grip on third place has loosened as Waratah join them on 32 points to set up a mouthwatering Round 18 clash between the sides. Still, the Buffaloes’ strong percentage should guarantee them finals, while Wanderers would need a miracle to snatch fifth from this position.
NIGHTCLIFF 14.13 (97)
PALMERSTON MAGPIES 3.5 (23)
Nightcliff: T. Melville 3, P. Wills 2, S. Miles, N. Brown, J. Miles, S. Wilson, D. Butcher, R. Morris, J. Thrum, H. Drogemuller, L. Holt-Fitz.
Palmerston: K. Emery 3.
Nightcliff: P. Wills, B. Black, D. Butcher, J. Miles, J. Budarick, S. Deery
Palmerston: J. Rhodes, M. Dennis, N. Lockyer Jnr, J. Damaso, L. McDonald, R. Stone
Nightcliff looks set to storm to minor premier status as it chalked another comfortable win, and put a major dent in Palmerston’s finals hopes to see out Saturday’s triple-header. The ladder leaders held a steady lead of 28 points going into the main break, but sealed the game with two goals to nil in the third quarter, and put the cherry on top with another six majors in the final stanza to prop up the final margin to 74 points. The competition’s second-leading goal kicker, Kyle Emery played a lone hand for the Magpies with his side’s only goals (three), but missed out on being named in the best half-dozen players. James Rhodes was judged their best, with the ever-consistent Matthew Dennis and Nigel Lockyer Jnr also playing their parts in a disappointing losing effort. For the mighty Tigers, Trent Melville matched Emery’s haul to extend his lead to 15 atop the goalkicking charts, while Phillip Wills was the only other to snare multiple goals with two as he was named best afield. The Tigers will also be buoyed by the efforts of players outside their usual best, with Beau Black performing well in just his third game alongside Danny Butcher and Jonathon Miles. It may well come down to a final-round clash against Southern Districts that decides top spot, but Nightcliff look comfortable there with a four-point buffer, while Palmerston will need results to go its way if it is to snatch fifth spot.
SOUTHERN DISTRICTS 13.13 (91)
ST MARYS 7.3 (45)
Southern Districts: M. Mummery 3, J. Koopman 3, D. Staunton 3, B. Vallance 2, L. Ogden, J. Brennan.
St Marys: J. Long 3, T. Saunders 2, S. Rioli, L. Stapleton.
Southern Districts: M. Rosier, E. Barlow, D. Staunton, S. Martin, J. Koopman, M. Bowden
St Marys: B. Rioli, N. Yarran, J. Long, T. Frawley, A. Long, H. Moloney
A comfortable win has seen Southern Districts keep its minor premiership hopes alive, coming out 46-point winners over the lowly St Marys to remain just a game behind ladder-leaders, Nightcliff. While they grasped a second finals chance rounds ago, the Crocs still look hungry to claim top spot and are set to be led by a forward line close to running absolutely rampant. Leading goal kicker Jess Koopman bagged three goals alongside Michael Mummery and Dean Staunton, with Bradley Vallance (two goals) just falling short of the feat as the Crocs more than doubled St Marys’ score. The strength of Southern Districts’ forward 50 was only helped by the inclusion of ex-AFL star Ryan Griffen, who was reunited with former Bulldog teammate, Ed Barlow in the Crocs midfield. Matthew Rosier beat both of them out to be adjudged best afield, with Ben Rioli named the Saints’ most valuable player. Nick Yarran continued his rich vein of form, but it was Jacob Long (three goals) who stood up most inside the forward 50 as Tylah Saunders also slotted two majors. The Saints remain second bottom despite Wanderers’ win, with the slimmest of chances of making finals. Meanwhile, Southern Districts could well reclaim first place over the last two rounds, with a Round 18 clash with Nightcliff likely to decide the matter.