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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 13 – Top four do battle in bumper weekend

A ladder-defining round of Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Men’s Premier League football is set to take place on Saturday, with the top four sides tussling it out for ladder supremacy. With just six rounds left to play out, eight-point games like these will prove vital.

TIWI BOMBERS vs. WARATAH
Saturday January 11, 1:30pm
Tracy Village

The Tiwi Bombers will look to widen the gap to a fledgeling trailing pack when they take on Waratah at Tracy Village to open Round 13. A favourable draw after the mid-season break sees the Bombers take on a second-consecutive bottom three side, with a very handy 16-point buffer on their weekend opponent already fairly ominous. On the other hand, Waratah’s tough return from the break may only be compounded in this fixture after going down by 138 points to Nightcliff last week. Despite looming as a top five threat at their best, the Warriors have rarely been able to put it together this season and sit well behind in the finals race.

But some very handy inclusions could help the struggling Warriors bounce right back against a talented Bombers outfit, with ex-Melbourne forward Michael Newton named at full forward and Thunder captain Abe Ankers featuring on an extended bench. Kim Kantilla has been the main source of inspiration for Waratah forward of centre, so will again have to find the goals in the face of Tiwi’s overwhelming scoring prowess. A Bombers forward 50 spine of ex-AFL talent in Austin Wonaeamirri and Tom Bell looks promising, while Bell’s Greensborough teammates Nick Riddle and Charlie Molyneux take up respective spots in defence and midfield. It only adds to the Bomber’s already impressive depth, providing some stability among the pace and forward drive. Form puts these two sides at opposite ends of the ledger, but do not count the Warriors out if they can get it right.

ST MARY’S vs. SOUTHERN DISTRICTS
Saturday January 11, 2:30pm
TIO Stadium

The first top four clash of the weekend takes place in the opening game of a TIO Stadium triple-header, as St Mary’s does battle with Southern Districts. While the second placed Saints hit the ground running in 2020 with a big win over Wanderers, the third placed Crocs fell just short against Darwin in a thriller. Needless to say, a win is important for both sides as they play catch-up in the finals race. St Mary’s will be made to work to keep within striking distance of Nightcliff in first, while Southern Districts’ charge for second may come down to the wire as it faces the current bottom three sides to see out the regular season. With this the start of a tricky month for either team, dropping points is not an option.

St Mary’s will have to lean on its depth as Nate Paredes and Jackson Calder loom as key outs, but the inclusion of Shaun Edwards to a forward 50 already boasting Shannon Rioli, Maurice Rioli Jnr, and Leroy Larson is an exciting proposition. Up the other end, Jake Long and Kieren Parnell will combine to provide intercept marking and classy foot skills. For Southern Districts, an ex-AFL midfield trio of Richard Tambling, Jeff Garlett and Michael Barlow looks impressive on paper, with William Farrer and Sam Barnett great targets to kick to inside 50. With a more settled lineup of late, a win for the Crocs here could be the catalyst they need to push on and become a true premiership threat, having previously fallen short of fellow top three sides. With huge talent on each line for either side, this one could go either way.

WANDERERS vs. PALMERSTON MAGPIES
Saturday January 11, 5:00pm
TIO Stadium

It is a case of do-or-die for Wanderers as it faces Palmerston with its hopes of pushing for a finals spot fading fast. Sitting 14 points adrift of a rising Tiwi Bombers side in fifth, the Eagles have lost their last six outings after what was a promising start to the season. Their last win fittingly came over Palmerston all the way back in Round 6, with the chance to repeat the act key in keeping their finals aspirations alive. But the Magpies will come into the game with hope of bringing its winless run to an end, presented with perhaps their most feasible chance of doing so. The gap between either sides’ best and worst is sizeable, so the team that can pull it all together has a greater opportunity to pick up a rare set of four points.

Wanderers’ spine of Jordan Jeffrey, Braedon McLean, and Joel Jeffrey has worked well, and played a big part in keeping last week’s outing against St Mary’s a competitive one for over half of the game. But the Eagles’ youthful side has often run out of legs, so will need to produce a four quarter effort to return to the winners list here. Palmerston’s lineup is starting to get back to full strength, with Alwyn Davey stringing games together alongside the likes of Kyle Emery, Misha Perry, and recruit Jack Berry. But Adam Diamond looms as a key out, with the engine room building as a key area as a heap of talent lines up at the bookends. Clashes between sixth and eighth are not always ones to attract the eye, but this could well be the closest bout of the round.

NIGHTCLIFF vs. DARWIN BUFFALOES
Saturday January 11, 7:30pm
TIO Stadium

First plays fourth in the round’s second top four clash as Nightcliff looks to knock off Darwin for the second time this season. The two sides met back in Round 6 as the Tigers ran out 23-point winners, hardly putting a foot wrong in their premiership defence to date with just one scalp evading them. The Buffs have had a slightly more turbulent time of it over the course of 12 rounds, only just extending its positive record with a key win over Southern Districts following two-straight defeats. While Nightcliff has been a figure of consistency throughout and will inevitably be favourite to defend its crown, it is a matter of peaking at the right time for Darwin, and a win here would do wonders for that.

The Buffs will go in with a typically settled lineup, spearheaded by Daniel Stafford and made even more dangerous with Joe Anderson and Jarrod Stokes alongside him inside forward 50. Brodie Foster is a key out from last week’s side, but the Tigers will be without their own goalkicking hero from Round 12 in John Butcher. The likes of Trent Melville and Liam Holt-Fitz nonetheless possess great forward craft, so will go a long way to ensuring Darwin’s defence has its hands full. The versatility of Nightcliff’s lineup and multiple scoring avenues constantly prove too much for its opposition, and may well get the Tigers over the line once again. But with the stakes so high and Darwin looking like turning the corner, anything can happen.

Mid-season review: NTFL Men’s Premier League

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

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

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

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

MVP: Kaine Riley

Most goals: Trent Melville (26)

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

ST MARY’S (2nd, 8-3, 138%)

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

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

MVP: Thomas Davies

Most goals: Jackson Calder, Shannon Rioli (15)

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

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

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

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

MVP: Josiah Farrer

Most goals: William Farrer (27)

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

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

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

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

MVP: Christopher Williams

Most goals: Daniel Stafford (17)

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

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

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

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

MVP: Adam Tipungwuti

Most goals: Dion Munkara (16)

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

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

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

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

MVP: Braedon McLean

Most goals: Joel Jeffrey (19)

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

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

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

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

MVP: Abe Ankers

Most goals: Kim Kantilla (20)

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

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

Best win: Nil

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

MVP: Jack Berry

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

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

NTFL Men’s Premier League preview: Round 4 – Saints and Buffs headline TIO triple-header

FINALS contenders St Mary’s and Darwin are set to provide the sole top five clash in Round 4 of the Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Men’s Premier League. The game headlines what will be a big day of action at TIO Stadium as a triple-header awaits.

SOUTHERN DISTRICTS vs. WARATAH
Saturday October 26, 2:30pm
TIO Stadium

Waratah will again look to secure its first official win of the season, but it will prove a tough ask against a Southern Districts side finding its groove. While the Warriors soundly beat Darwin on-field last week, they were stripped of the four points and relegated back down to seventh mid-week after fielding a player not included on the team sheet. The now 0-3 start puts plenty of pressure on the 2018/19 preliminary finalists, with those kinds of deficits hard to overcome as other teams rise. Southern Districts has endured a similarly subdued start to the season, only really clicking into gear last week with a big win over the hapless Palmerston Magpies. Feasting on another winless side will be the goal once again, with some ex-AFL experience set to help out. Former Docker and Sun Michael Barlow joins Ed Barlow on the team sheet, likely to provide for South Australian big-man Sam Barnett up forward. Kicking a winning score should not be an issue for the Crocs, with Barnett’s fellow six-goal hero from last week, Jayden Clarke also named. For Waratah, the player in question last week – Brodie Carroll – slots into the starting 18 to remove all doubt, while Abe Ankers is at the heart of midfield and former Coburg VFL forward Steve Stroobants lines up in a dangerous forwardline. It is hard to look past the Crocs after a great showing last time out, but the Warriors were equally impressive and should make it a good contest.

ST MARY’S vs. DARWIN BUFFALOES
Saturday October 26, 5:00pm
TIO Stadium

The sole top five clash of the round sees Darwin looking to maintain its perfect record against the revitalised St Mary’s side. Both sides should sit at 2-1 after both suffering defeats in Round 3, but Darwin’s unbeaten record was reinstated after Waratah was controversially made to forfeit its win due to an incorrect team sheet. Meanwhile, the Saints recovered from a nine-goal quarter time deficit to sneak ahead of Tiwi last week, but were ultimately outgunned in the thrilling rivalry clash. Both sides look like being contenders when their best 22 is on the park, and should provide plenty of highlights in this clash. The long-awaited return of promising Saints youngster Keiren Parnell headlines the inclusions, with recently delisted St Kilda midfielder David Armitage set to debut. He slots into a forwardline led by fellow former-AFL players Raphael Clarke and Jarrad Waite, who have plenty of goals in them. Goals are not usually hard to come by for Darwin but proved just that last week, and the Buffs may struggle for inspiration again with Joe Anderson and Adam Sambono still absent. A midfield anchored by Patrick Boles is still strong though, and Brayden Culhane is one who has already shown his goalkicking exploits with a bag of six. The Buffs may find it hard again here after a hot opening two rounds, especially against such a strong St Mary’s lineup this week.

WANDERERS vs. TIWI BOMBERS
Saturday October 26, 7:30pm
TIO Stadium

Fifth spot is up for grabs as current holder Wanderers faces sixth-place Tiwi to round out the TIO Stadium triple-header. The Eagles are unlucky not to have two wins on the board after a promising start to the year, instead settling for six points after drawing with Southern Districts. The Bombers find themselves just behind the Muk Muks after opening their account last week in a high-scoring win over traditional rival, St Mary’s. There are big names and excitement machines on each line for Tiwi, with speedy NT Under-16 representative Preyben Tipiloura set to make his highly-anticipated debut. Ex-Cat Nathan Djerrkura looks like slotting back into the side, giving the Bombers’ raft of goalkicking options even more to look forward to in terms of delivery from midfield. For Wanderers, the bookend pairing of Joel and Jordan Jeffrey has been named once again, with the young talents of Ronald Fejo and Tyrell Lui also set to light up TIO Stadium once again. While Wanderers has made inroads early compared to last season’s effort, the Bombers look to be finding that high-scoring rhythm and will be as dangerous as any side when at full strength – as they almost are here.

NIGHTCLIFF vs. PALMERSTON
Sunday October 27, 4:10pm
PSC BM Oval

The winningest does battle with the winless in Sunday’s sole fixture at PSC BM Oval as Nightcliff plays host to Palmerston to see off Round 4. The Tigers have been near-faultless in their premiership defence thus far, recording three relatively comfortable wins to sit pretty in second spot. Amid a complete opposite run of form, Palmerston sits bottom at 0-3, taking it to teams at times over each defeat but hardly looking like prizing a win. This task will be the toughest of the lot, and could spell trouble for the struggling Magpies. Arresting the skid will be made even more difficult with consistent ruckman Matthew Dennis left unnamed, replaced by Broderick Church. Alwyn Davey‘s likely inclusion should steady the lineup, which will be tested by a very strong Tigers outfit. A dynamic spine of Cam Ilett, Joel Budarick and Liam Holt-Fitz forms the base of a fearsome Nightcliff side which has had little trouble scoring of late. It looks like being a one-sided contest on paper, but do not count Palmerston out of making it competitive once again.