Tag: kaine riley

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

THE first club under the microscope in our team-by-team series of Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Men’s Premier League reviews is Nightcliff, the 2019/20 premier. The Tigers were the competition benchmark throughout the season, and managed to pick up points against every opponent on their way to back-to-back premierships. Renowned for their fly-in recruits and envied for their ability to attract the biggest names from the NT and abroad, Nightcliff’s footballing program has rightly been recognised via premiership success once again. We take a look at their year in numbers, and highlight the key moments throughout.


NIGHTCLIFF 2019/20 SEASON REVIEW

Record: 1st, 17-1, 197%

Most games: Trent Melville, Daniel Bowles, Kyle Winter-Irving (21)

Most goals: Melville (51)

One of the many successful recruits to land at the Tigers’ den over the past three years, Melville capped off a terrific second year with Nightcliff in style; claiming his second-consecutive club leading goalkicker award, along with a second premiership medal, and the Chaney Medal for best afield in the grand final with five goals. A dangerous forward who is capable of winning games off his own boot, Melville proved as much with 10 hauls of over three goals across his 21 outings this season, while also showcasing his ability to impact the game further afield. He has hinted at perhaps ending his NTFL career on a high note, and while it would only be fitting, fans would love to catch another glimpse of the mercurial forward.

MVP: Kaine Riley (Best and Fairest)

A criminally underrated performer, Riley returned another sensationally consistent season from defence to be recognised as the Tigers’ best and fairest player. While Nightcliff boasts a number of highly touted fly-ins and some legendary NT names, it is the likes of Riley who help the Tigers remain in the hunt for each long season, with his rock-like work at the back near-unmatched across the league. A terrific reader of the play and astute user of the ball, Riley also stood up in the Tigers’ hard-fought grand final victory and very nearly snared best afield honours.

Best Nichols Medal poller: Brodie Filo (winner)

Regarded by many as the current best player in the league, Nightcliff’s midfield maestro took home his second Nichols Medal to cap off another remarkable year in the yellow and black. In adding to his 2015/16 nod, Filo also became the third Tiger in as many years to take home the award. The Victorian showed a happy knack for finding the goals, averaging one per his 15 games this season, but does his best work as a damaging part of Nightcliff’s engine room. Despite being held well in his first finals outing, Filo responded duly in the grand final with a performance befitting of his talent.

Young gun: Joel Budarick

A Big River Hawks junior, Budarick continued to make strides in his young Premier League career, adding 16 games to a promising maiden campaign last year. Part of the NT Thunder setup and a leader at Under 18s level, Budarick has proven his ability to make the step up to senior football with aplomb, and is now a two-time premiership player. Able to impact the play on each line, the youngster grew into a role on the outside and displayed a cool head when on the ball moving forward.

Best win: Grand Final – def. St Mary’s 10.13 (73) to 9.6 (60)

Goals: T. Melville 5, R. Mu 2, J. Butcher 2, M. Hagan.
Best: T. Melville, S. Wilson, D. Bowles, B. Filo, N. Brown, M. Hagan

Nightcliff truely and rightly cemented its status as the competition’s best side with a redemptive win in this year’s decider, knocking off the only side to lay claim to a win over the Tigers in 2019/20, St Mary’s. Melville’s five goals in a low-scoring and tense encounter were crucial, while the leadership of Shaun Wilson was huge, and the class of Filo rose to the top. The Tigers were made to earn the win too, pegged back each time they looked like breaking away in a bruising encounter against a worthy opponent. Relief, of course, not long after a worrying loss in semi final week.

Worst loss: Semi Final – def. by St Mary’s 11.11 (77) to 16.7 (103)

Goals: J. Tsitas 2, M. Hagan 2, T. Melville 2, L. Sharp 2, S. Wilson, J. Butcher, C. Ilett.
Best: N/A

Only the second loss of Nightcliff’s season, but it came to a familiar opponent in St Mary’s after previously going down to the Saints by 27 points in Round 7. It is hard to pick out of the two – yes, just two – losses given the similar scoreline, but this one takes the cake as it very nearly threw a spanner in the works of a near-unblemished season. The Tigers were made to take the long road to the grand final, with five goals from St Mary’s Jackson Calder, and a starring performance from Maurice Rioli Jnr causing headaches for the usually assured Tigers’ defence.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GOALS:

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

BEST:

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

Chaney Medal: Trent Melville (Nightcliff)

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

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


ST MARY’S vs. NIGHTCLIFF

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

KEY STATS

Records:

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

Leading goalkickers:

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

Grand final records:

St Mary’s – 32-17
Nightcliff – 4-8

Form:

St Mary’s – 5-0
Nightcliff – 4-1

2020 head-to-head:

St Mary’s 2-1 Nightcliff

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

Goals:

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

Best:

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

Talking points:

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

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

Goals:

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

Best:

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

Talking points:

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

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

Goals:

Nightcliff: J. Tsitas 2, M. Hagan 2, T. Melville 2, L. Sharp 2, S. Wilson, J. Butcher, C. Ilett.
St Mary’s: J. Calder 5, M. Rioli Jnr 4, R. Smith, J. Paine, J. Salmon, N. Yarran, S. Rioli, S. Edwards, H. Labastida.

Best:

Nightcliff: N/A
St Mary’s: M. Rioli Jnr, L. Daly, R. Smith, J. Paine, J. Calder, T. Saunders

Talking points:

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

KEY PLAYERS

St Mary’s:

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

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

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

Nightcliff:

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

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

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

TEAMS

St Mary’s:

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

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

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

Nightcliff:

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

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

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

NTFL Men’s Premier League wrap: Preliminary final – Tigers roar into second-straight decider

THE 2019/20 Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Men’s Premier League Grand Final has been decided after three enthralling post-season weeks, with reigning premier Nightcliff set to face off against St Mary’s after accounting for a brave Southern Districts outfit on Saturday night.

NIGHTCLIFF 3.1 | 5.5 | 12.6 | 13.10 (88)
SOUTHERN DISTRICTS 2.1 | 5.3 | 7.3 | 8.3 (51)

GOALS:

Nightcliff: J. Butcher 5, T. Melville 3, M. Hagan 2, R. Mu, L. Holt-Fitz, C. Ilett.
Southern Districts: E. Barlow 2, N. Horbury 2, W. Farrer, J. Innes, J. Garlett, D. Barry.

BEST:

Nightcliff: N/A
Southern Districts: E. Barlow, N. Horbury, M. Barlow, L. Ogden, T. Holman, D. Staunton

Nightcliff has booked its place in the 2019/20 NTFL Men’s Premier League grand final after dispatching Southern Districts to the tune of 37 points in Saturday night’s preliminary final. The Tigers earned passage to their second-consecutive appearance in the big dance on the back of a second half blitz, scoring eight goals to three to round out an impressive 13.10 (88) to 8.3 (51) victory.

The first half proved a tighter affair but Nightcliff still managed to get on top and stay there, notching three goals to Districts’ two in the opening term before being pegged back to a two-point buffer at the main break. But as it goes, the third quarter is the premiership quarter and the long-time flag favourites proved as much by pouring on seven majors in a scintillating half hour of football. The 33-point margin upon the final break looked ominous for the Crocs, and they could not produce the magic required to enact a turnaround as both sides could only manage a goal each to round out the contest. In a game which was largely competitive, it seemed the Crocs’ string of knockout finals finally caught up with them as only a momentary falter was enough to see the Tigers run away with the game.

Revered for its recruiting and open chequebook, Nightcliff once again had a star ring-in front the winning effort, with ex-Port Adelaide forward John Butcher booting a game-high five goals. Club leading goalkicker Trent Melville was also on target with three majors of his own, while Michael Hagan (two) rounded out the Tigers’ multiple goalkickers in what was a typically sound all-round team performance. For the Crocs, Ed Barlow was again at the heart of their effort as he notched another two finals goals to be named best in a losing side, with Nathan Horbury not far behind on the back of his own two-goal effort. Michael Barlow finished a phenomenal back-end of the season off well, and consistent standout Thomas Holman was also thereabouts.

While somewhat of a rollercoaster season comes to a disappointing end for the Crocs, who looked to be in top form at just the right time, the Tigers have bounced back well and will look to go back-to-back. Standing in their way is St Mary’s, the only team to have beaten Nightcliff this year (twice) – including last fortnight’s semi final – in looking to go from wooden spooners to premiers. Best-and-fairest winner Kaine Riley will be sure to lead the effort alongside newly-crowned co-Nichols Medalist Brodie Filo, with all the finals experience of Cam Ilett also set to be important as Nightcliff hopes to ensure it can get one-back at St Mary’s at the ideal time. The 2019/20 NTFL Grand Final is set to go down on Saturday night at TIO Stadium, stay tuned for our comprehensive preview of the big game.

NTFL Men’s Premier League preview: Preliminary final – Crocs look to extend dream finals run

A PLACE in the 2020 Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Men’s Premier League grand final is up for grabs on Saturday night, as Nightcliff and Southern Districts set to play off for the chance to challenge St Mary’s in next week’s decider. With both sides set to head in close to full strength and boasting stars on each line, fans should be in for a treat as we near the crescendo of what has been an entertaining post-season to date. Check out the teams, head-to-head stats, and each team’s form in our comprehensive preview.

NIGHTCLIFF vs. SOUTHERN DISTRICTS
Preliminary Final
Saturday March 7, 7:00pm
TIO Stadium

2020 head-to-head:

Nightcliff 3 – 0 Southern Districts

Form:

Tigers:
4-1

Crocs:
5-0

Finals run:

Tigers:
Semi final: def. by St Mary’s 11.11 (77) to 16.7 (103)

Crocs:
Elimination final: def. Darwin 17.11 (113) to 5.12 (42)
Semi final: def. Tiwi 11.5 (71) to 16.15 (111)

Regular season:

Tigers:
1st, 17-1, 187%

Crocs:
4th, 10-7-1, 120%

Preview:

Nightcliff and Southern Districts are primed to do battle for a spot in the 2020 NTFL grand final on Saturday night, with fairytale team St Mary’s awaiting the winner in the big dance. Having played in last season’s decider, these two sides will be hungry to get back to the biggest of stages and come away with some silverware.

Reigning premiers and again minor premiers this season, Nightcliff enjoyed a stellar home-and-away campaign to notch a near-unblemished 17-1 record. The Tigers were the clear competition benchmark and are thus clear favourite to take out back-to-back flags, but will have to get past the in-form Crocs for a fourth time to even earn the chance. Given they are one of only two sides to have beaten every other competitor this season, the Tigers should be full of confidence heading into this knockout final bout. But a semi final loss to St Mary’s – their second loss to the Saints – may have put a slight dent in that seemingly bulletproof assuredness, serving as Nightcliff’s first defeat in 11 outings.

Southern Districts’ season has featured considerably more hiccups at 10-7-1 come regular season’s end, but the Crocs seem to be peaking at just the right time with backing from some very handy AFL-experienced players. Currently on a five-game winning streak, Districts has been able to back up well for consecutive elimination final scenarios and will have to do so another two times if they are to take out the flag. But the test that Nightcliff provides has proven too tough for the Crocs thus far in 2020; getting within nine points all the way back in Round 1, but going down by a combined 95 points in Rounds 10 and 15. Despite the home-and-away ledger sitting at an ominous 3-0 in favour of the Tigers, the Crocs are in arguably the better form and should push the flag fancies all the way.

Nightcliff come into the clash with a slight blow to its forward 50 structure, as Victorian goal-getter Lachlan Sharp is set to miss due to a suspension picked up last week. But the Tigers still boast plenty of firepower with leading goalkicker Trent Melville named alongside livewire Liam Holt-Fitz and ex-Port forward John Butcher, while James Tsitas is another who can find the big sticks from midfield. Up the other end, best and fairest winner Kaine Riley heads the defence with the likes of Danny Butcher and Cam Ilett making up two more spots in a quality back six. It is hard to deny the Tigers’ dynamism too, with their rotation at either end and into the midfield highlighting their unmatchable depth.

But a department the Crocs should be able to draw level in is the range of scoring options, with competition leading goalkicker Will Farrer spearheading a dangerous attack which has breached 100 points in each of its last five outings. Ed Barlow has been named on an extended bench coming off his seven-goal haul, while Jeff Garlett and league MVP fancy Josiah Farrer are also capable of troubling the scorers. The midfield quality of Richard Tambling, Michael Barlow, and Charlie McAdam on the outside will also be important, while Thomas Holman‘s role across the backline becomes imperative given Nightcliff’s wealth of avenues to goal.

The time to strike is now for Districts, but neutrals should not forget the quality of Nightcliff’s season outside of two losses to the team already lined up in the grand final. The Tigers need only look back at the Crocs’ run to the decider last season after overcoming a finals loss, and will rightly come in as favourite despite Districts’ hot form and considerable class. Whether the Crocs can back up from back-to-back big efforts will be the big test, but winning form is always good form. It should be a cracker for neutrals, and St Mary’s will inevitably be looking on intently at the side it is set to face.

Tip: Nightcliff by 10.

TEAMS:

Nightcliff 

Full Back – 23. Brodie Filo, 10. Cameron Ilett, 22. Daniel Bowles
Half Back – 34. Danny Butcher, 16. Jayden Kickett, 12. Joel Budarick
Centre – 3. Jonathan Peris, 5. Kaine Riley, 8. Kyle Winter-Irving
Half Forward – 6. Liam Holt-Fitz, 2. Michael Hagan, 14. Nathan Brown
Full Forward – 15. Liam Evans, 9. Zac Brain, 30. John Butcher
Rucks – 20. Trent Melville, 33. Shaun Wilson, 19. James Tsitas
Interchange – 11. Phillip Wills, 32. Roger Morris, 1. Ryan Mu, 31. Hugo Drogemuller, 58. Declan Singh-Lippo, 25. Jasper Brain, 18. Harry Williams, 28. Jonathon Miles ,24. Tyson Kidney, 53. Brad Arnold, 26. Marley McGregor, 4. Matthew Bricknell
Southern Districts
Full Back – 34. Charles McAdam, 18. Tom Holman, 6. Brodie Lake
Half Back – 8. Michael Bowden, 11. Josiah Farrer, 22. Jayden Schofield
Centre – 10. Lionel Ogden, 2. Richard Tambling, 3. Nathan Horbury
Half Forward – 4. Dean Staunton, 27. William Farrer, 5. Dylan McLachlan
Full Forward – 30. Jayden Clarke, 26. Michael Barlow, 31. Dylan Barry
Rucks – 25. Patrick Gallow, 9. Jeff Garlett, 17. Rory O’Brien
Interchange – 24. Dan Wehrung, 32. Josh Innes, 15. Keegan Dingo, 1. Jaeden Watts, 13. Damian Williams, 21. Desmond Corbett, 20. Ed Barlow, 12. Matthew Duffy, 14. Beau Schwarze, 16. Zac Smith

Finals preview: NTFL Men’s Premier League – Tigers primed for premiership defence

EIGHTEEN rounds of Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Men’s Premier League football have come and gone, leaving a final five which was clearly ahead of the rest. Reigning premier, Nightcliff will come into the post-season as favourite to defend its crown, but challengers in the form of St Mary’s – the only team to beat them in season 2019/20 – and Tiwi are not far behind. That is not to mention elimination finalists Southern Districts and Darwin, who will both be looking to shake up what is set to be a hotly contested finals series.

REGULAR SEASON RECAPS:

NIGHTCLIFF – 1st, 17-1 (197%)

Leading goalkicker: Trent Melville (41 goals)

MVP: Kaine Riley

Best win: Rd 14, def. St Mary’s by 65 points

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

The Tigers will be unbackable favourites to go back-to-back this year, which would provide a fitting end to their 17-1 regular season – defeating every side on their way to a near-perfect record. The only blemish on said record was a Round 7 loss to second-ranked side, St Mary’s, but was redeemed just seven games later as the Tigers toppled the Saints by a whopping 65 points. Tiwi was the only other side to get within a goal of Nightcliff, with the minor premier taking on each challenge from finals contenders while also proving ruthless against bottom three opponents. Three players; Daniel Bowles, Kyle Winter-Irving, and Trent Melville played every home-and-away game, with Melville returning another massive goal tally (41) to lead the club in that area. Seventeen-game players Liam Holt-Fitz (30 goals) and Cam Ilett (24) also had no trouble finding the big sticks, while bit-parters Lachlan Sharp and John Butcher combined for 36 majors over just six outings each. Kaine Riley deservedly took out the club’s best and fairest award, named in the best half-dozen in 10 of his 17 games. With plenty of experience and stars on each line, it is not hard to see why Nightcliff has so comprehensively become the competition’s benchmark, but the Tigers will need to stay motivated to claim that deserved flag.

ST MARY’S – 2nd, 14-4 (137%)

Leading goalkicker: Jackson Calder & Leroy Larson (24)

MVP: Thomas Davies

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

Worst loss: Rd 3, def. by Tiwi Bombers by 14 points

St Mary’s looms as the biggest challenger to Nightcliff’s throne after a 14-4 regular season which saw it finish three games clear in second. During a much-improved season, the 2018/19 wooden spooners were the only side to beat Nightcliff, while only going down to the finals-bound Tigers, Crocs, and Bombers (twice). Despite those thorns in their side, the Saints were just one of two teams to beat every other NTFL club this season, making them the clear best of the rest. Thomas Davies held down the fort for much of the year to be named among the best 12 times across 17 games, while Leroy Larson and Jackson Calder led the goalkicking with 24 apiece. Calder’s average of 2.4 goals per game was superior, with ex-Roo and Blue Jarrad Waite and Dylan Johnstone also proving handy when available, while mainstays Shannon Rioli and Nate Paredes each booted over 20 majors. The returns of Kieren Parnell, Jake Long, Shaun Edwards, and Jackson Geary all lifted Saints’ spirits, while cameos from even more former-AFL players ensured St Mary’s maintained its level of form. That form is good enough to trump any side and given its already formidable resume, St Mary’s is a genuine premiership contender.

TIWI BOMBERS – 3rd, 11-7 (102%)

Leading goalkicker: Austin Wonaeamirri (30)

MVP: Jason Puruntatameri

Best win: Rd 3, def. Tiwi Bombers by 14 points

Worst loss: Rd 1, def. by Darwin Buffaloes by 113 points

Tiwi recaptured the late 2018/19 form which saw it earn a preliminary final berth, overcoming a shaky start to finish the 2019/20 season in third place. The Bombers left it late too, losing in Rounds 16 and 17 to slide to fourth, but regaining third spot with a tight win over Wanderers. Early signs were shown as the Bombers outgunned St Mary’s in a Round 3 shootout, and their true credentials came to the fore between Rounds 7 and 10, where they went 3-1 against the then top four. It was smoother sailing from then, onwards, with Tiwi one of the more exciting teams to watch. Austin Wonaeamirri led the goalkicking with a season of 30, while a group of nine players littered with mainstays all notched up over 10 majors. Jason and Harley Puruntatameri were instrumental throughout the season alongside North Melbourne VFL signing Adam Tipungwuti, with cameos from Charlie Molyneux, Nathan Djerrkura, Jake Best, and Ashton Hams among the best throughout a top season – not to mention Cyril Rioli‘s Round 5 homecoming. With only the best sides left to face, Tiwi will have to find an extra gear to overcome the top two teams, and have the strength to do so.

SOUTHERN DISTRICTS – 4th, 10-7-1 (120%)

Leading goalkicker: Will Farrer (47)

MVP: Josiah Farrer

Best win: Rd 6, def. St Mary’s by 12 points

Worst result: Rd 2, drew with Wanderers

Southern Districts were half a game away from creeping into third place after an indifferent 2019/20 campaign, with a Round 2 draw with Wanderers ultimately costing the Crocs a finals second chance. A rocky start was soon rectified by four-consecutive wins, with Districts able to demolish the teams below them for the most part, but eventually struggling against the rest of the top five. Spearhead Will Farrer ended a stellar season as the competition’s leading goalkicker, bagging a high of eight goals while being held goalless just twice in 16 games. Thomas Holman and Josiah Farrer will be among the leading best and fairest candidates, with the latter the only Croc to play all 18 games. Young guns Brodie Lake, Brandon Rusca, and Beau Schwarze all showed promising signs, with the ex-AFL experience of Ed Barlow, Michael Barlow, Richard Tambling, and Jeff Garlett aiding them. At full strength, the Crocs can match it with anyone, but finding peak form has been an issue for the 2018/19 grand finalists. Three comfortable wins coming in will bode well for Districts, but four-straight defeats before that run will not.

DARWIN BUFFALOES – 5th, 10-8 (118%)

Leading goalkicker: Daniel Stafford (39)

MVP: Christopher Williams

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

Worst result: Rd 3, def. by Waratah (overturned)

The unluckiest side out of Round 18’s results, Darwin will enter the finals series having fallen just one win short of a top three berth. The story of the Buffs’ early season was one of streaks, building short winning runs to go two steps forward, before dropping a step back with consecutive losses. Their second half of the season proved just as inconsistent, but the Double Blues still managed to maintain a positive record a remain one of the teams to beat – dropping 0 points to the eventual bottom three. Daniel Stafford was central to the Buffs’ scoring efforts, booting 39 goals in 12 games with just one goalless outing. Arguable best and fairest favourite Christopher Williams was the only Buffalo to play every game, with Darwin’s forward half its biggest strength. The likes of Darren Shillabeer, Brayden Culhane, and skipper Jarrod Stokes all enjoyed strong seasons, while Brodie Foster and Ishmael Palmer added value in patches. Should all those cogs click in the clutch, Darwin could inflict a couple of post-season upsets, but the Buffs will have to be flawless given their elimination slot.

WEEK ONE PREVIEW:

Southern Districts and Darwin Buffaloes put it all on the line in their elimination final clash to open the post-season, while St Mary’s and Tiwi play off for the chance to face Nightcliff next week in a bumper first round of finals.

The Crocs and Buffs have clashed twice before in season 2019/20, each claiming a win by a combined eight points. Darwin’s victory in their most recent clash effectively proved the difference as Districts missed out on third, adding a little extra spice to this contest with no margin for error in their current situation. Watch for a potential shootout between mercurial forwards Farrer and Stafford, with the outside run and class of Districts potentially granting them more avenues for goal, while the seasoned veterans of Darwin will need to stand up across the ground.

In the featured final bout between St Mary’s and Tiwi, another chapter will be written in the league’s leading traditional rivalry. The two sides have met three times already this season, with the Bombers proving the thorn in St Mary’s side early on, but eventually dropping points in their Round 17 meeting. Tiwi’s firepower has tested the usually well-structured Saints defence before, but the inclusion of Jake Long went a long way to rectifying that last time out. Expect the Saints to back themselves to match Tiwi in that department should they be at full strength, but more likely look to slow the game down and control the tempo. Tiwi’s pace and outside run can match that of any team, but St Mary’s has become renowned for its spread of class on each line.

FIXTURES:

Elimination Final – Southern Districts vs. Darwin Buffaloes
Saturday January 22, 4:30pm @ TIO Stadium

Head-to-head: 1-1

Form: Crocs 3-2, Buffaloes 3-2

Tip: Crocs by 15

Qualifying Final – St Mary’s vs. Tiwi Bombers
Saturday January 22, 7:00pm @ TIO Stadium

Head-to-head: 2-1 Bombers

Form: Saints 4-1, Bombers 3-2

Tip: Saints by 24

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NTFL Men’s Premier League wrap: Round 15 – Tigers wrap up minor premiership

BARRING an unprecedented turnaround, Nightcliff has secured its second-consecutive Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Men’s Premier League minor premiership after claiming its fourteenth win for the season on Saturday. The final five is also all-but set, with Waratah’s current winning run the only thing keeping Southern Districts sweating in fifth place. With just three weeks of regular season action left, points are at a premium.

TIWI BOMBERS 3.3 | 7.7 | 11.10 | 14.14 (98)
DARWIN BUFFALOES 1.2 | 3.6 | 4.8 | 8.12 (60)

GOALS:

Tiwi: A. Hams 4, A. Wonaeamirri 3, A. Tipungwuti 2, B. Rioli, C. Molyneux, R. Baird, K. Dunn, P. Heenan.
Darwin: D. Shillabeer 5, C. Atkinson, B. Foster, L. Mununggurr.

BEST:

Tiwi: C. Molyneux, A. Hams, J. Monigatti, J. Puruntatameri, R. Baird, O. Henry
Darwin: I. Seden-Kurnoth, D. Lines, D. Shillabeer, P. Campbell, M. Coombes, C. Williams

Tiwi surged two games clear in third with a crucial 38-point win over fellow finals contender, Darwin on home turf. The 14.14 (98) to 8.12 (60) result also keeps the Bombers in the hunt for a top two berth, while Darwin will remain in the top five barring three-straight losses and a large percentage deficit. The consistent scoring power on Tiwi’s end proved too much across the contest for Darwin, which struggled for inspiration without spearhead Daniel Stafford. A lead was built steadily by the Bombers, booting no more than four goals per term and no less that three to eventually extend out to a handy final margin. The second and third terms proved vital, with Tiwi notching eight goals to three in what was a game-defining period. Adopted Bomber Ashton Hams was terrific with four goals to lead his side’s effort, but Charlie Molyneux beat him out for best-afield honours. Austin Wonaeamirri and Adam Tipungwuti provided good support going forward with a combined five goals as the Bombers’ depth of scoring options proved much greater than that of the Buffs. Darren Shillabeer fronted the Darwin response with a bag of five majors, with Isaac Seden-Kurnoth judged to be the Buffs’ best in a losing effort along with Devin Lines. With premiership points all-important in the final regular season month, Darwin’s hopes of bouncing back will be boosted by a fixture against Palmerston, while Tiwi faces the biggest test of its premiership credentials yet in a clash with Nightcliff in Round 16.

NIGHTCLIFF 0.7 | 7.7 | 11.9 | 16.13 (109)
SOUTHERN DISTRICTS 2.3 | 4.7 | 7.10 | 7.10 (52)

GOALS:

Nightcliff: L. Sharp 5, R. Mu 2, Z. Brain 2, T. Melville 2, B. Grewar, H. Drogemuller, C. Ilett, L. Holt-Fitz, K. Winter-Irving.
Southern Districts: J. Garlett 3, D. Barry, J. Clarke, J. Watts, L. Stanbrook.

BEST:

Nightcliff: N. Brown, B. Grewar, C. Ilett, K. Riley, L. Sharp, Z. Brain
Southern Districts: T. Holman, M. Bowden, D. McLachlan, D. Staunton, J. Watts

Nightcliff’s premiership defence is in ideal shape as the Tigers all-but-officially wrapped up the 2019/20 minor premiership with a comprehensive 57-point win over Southern Districts at TIO Stadium. The reigning premiers clicked into gear after an indifferent start, mixing irresistible attack with immovable defence to come out 16.13 (109) to 7.10 (52) winners. Though 0.7 was Nightcliff’s tally at the first break, the 7.0 in the second term more than made up for the eight-point deficit conceded early on. There was no looking back from that point for the dominant Tigers, as they continued to apply scoreboard pressure while completely shutting out their opponents in the final term in a statement-making display. Victorian sharpshooter Lachlan Sharp bettered his three-goal-per-game average with a bag of five to lead Nightcliff inside 50, while three others notched multiples among a raft of nine individual goalkickers. But credit to the Tigers’ work further afield, the likes of Nathan Brown, Cam Ilett and Kaine Riley were all named among the best ahead of Sharp. For Southern Districts, Jeff Garlett got on the board again after a couple of goalless games to find the big sticks three times as the Crocs’ sole multiple goalkicker, with Will Farrer kept without a major. But Thomas Holman was their best for a second-straight week, while Dean Staunton and Dylan McLachlan also featured in the best again. The Crocs run home gets a little lighter with Wanderers up next in a game which could sew up the final five, while Nightcliff is set to face Tiwi in what looms as a potential finals preview match-up.

PALMERSTON 3.1 | 6.2 | 7.2 | 8.4 (52)
ST MARY’S 0.3 | 3.7 | 10.10 | 14.15 (99)

GOALS:

Palmerston: D. Gaykamangu 2, D. Nichols 2, B. Booth, R. Davey, A. Lonergan, K. Emery.
St Mary’s: J. Long 3, L. Larson 2, N. Paredes 2, J. Calder 2, J. Salmon 2, J. Waite 2, R. Jordon.

BEST:

Palmerston: B. Booth, K. Emery, B. Bennett, M. Perry (Jnr), D. Gaykamangu , J. Thompson
St Mary’s: T. Davies, J. Long, R. Jordon, S. Edwards, A. Long, J. Waite

St Mary’s maintained its standing in second spot with a trying win against Palmerston on the road, made to earn every bit of the 14.15 (99) to 8.4 (52) victory. The Magpies were much better starters, making the most of their opportunities to boot three majors in each of the opening two terms and bolt out to a shock 13-point half time lead. But with an upset brewing, the Saints were slammed at the main break and came out firing in response, notching seven goals to one in a more characteristic third term. The trend continued as St Mary’s saw out a more comfortable-looking win, adding four goals to one in the final term to pretty up what was previously a concerning scoreline for the finals bound side. The Saints had an impressive six multiple goalkickers among their seven overall, with Jacob Long bagging a game-high three while Jarrad Waite was among five Saints to notch two. In what was a rallying team effort by game’s end, Thomas Davies was recognised as best afield while Rhett Jordon, Anthony Long and Shaun Edwards also had their usual impact. Ben Booth was Palmerston’s best in his maiden game for the year, with goalgetters Kyle Emery and Djamangi Gaykamangu also named among the best as Dane Nichols booted two majors for a second-straight outing. But the Magpies simply did not have enough to match St Mary’s for long enough, which has proven to be a downfall for much of their 2019/20 campaign. They will begin to wind down with Darwin next on the agenda, while St Mary’s push to secure second place heads to Waratah next time out, with the Warriors in a decent run of form of late.

WARATAH 5.2 | 7.4 | 16.7 | 23.7 (145)
WANDERERS 4.1 | 7.6 | 9.6 | 10.10 (70)

GOALS:

Waratah: J. McGrath 5, M. O’Donnell 4, M. Newton 3, H. Kerinaiua 2, K. McBean 2, M. Blake, J. Stevens, B. Minkulk, J. Wilkins, A. Aurrichio, C. Barrett, W. Gorman.
Wanderers: D. Brown 2, J. Jeffrey 2, B. O’Connell 2, S. Bates, D. Weetra, D. Braun, A. Motlop.

BEST:

Waratah: N/A
Wanderers: N/A

Waratah notched up consecutive wins for the second time in season 2019/20, pulling away to trump fellow bottom three side, Wanderers by 75 points in Sunday’s lone fixture. The win keeps the Warriors in with a mathematical chance of slotting into the top five should they continue their winning streak, pending some unlikely other results. A hot start saw both sides get into a scoring grove, each clocking up seven goals to the main break in a closely contested half. Waratah constantly looked like pulling away, but Wanderers kept finding a way to keep in touch and even snuck ahead by over a goal in the third term without totally capitalising on their territory. But some wasteful use forward of centre eventually caught up with the Eagles, with Waratah pouring on a massive string of unanswered goals to open up an unassailable lead. The 16-goal to three second half was fitting of the Muk Muks’ seasonal trend, but there were still strong glimpses in between. Joel Jeffrey was terrific again as the primary target inside 50, booting two goals while Dillen Brown looked lively in his own two-goal effort, which was also matched by the exceptional Beau O’Connell from midfield. A trio of inclusions combined well in attack for Waratah, with Jae McGrath, Mitchell O’Donnell, and Michael Newton combining for 12 goals among a dozen Warriors goalkickers. Kim Kantilla was also lively in a more advanced role, thriving as the goalkicking pressure was eased on him. Waratah’s last-ditch finals effort continues at home next week against St Mary’s in a tough match-up, while Wanderers will hope for some consolation premiership points in a clash with Southern Districts next time out.

NTFL Men’s Premier League preview: Round 15 – Four separate venues host defining round

FOUR separate venues host what is set to be the first round in a finals-defining last month of the regular season, with four of the top five sides again going head-to-head amid heavy jostling for position. St Mary’s, currently sitting second, could be the main benefactor as it readies to face current wooden-spooner Palmerston, but there is plenty to play out in Round 15 of the Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Men’s Premier League.

TIWI BOMBERS (3rd, 9-5) vs. DARWIN BUFFALOES (4th, 8-6)
Saturday January 25, 2:00pm
Tracy Village

Third spot is up for grabs as Tiwi Bombers and Darwin Buffaloes do battle at Tracy Village, with the Buffs looking to arrest a two-game losing skid. The game also marks the end of a tough month of fixtures for the travelling side, and another set of four points here could even keep Darwin in the hunt for second spot. With jostling for position among the top five becoming much more intense, the Buffs look to be going all out for their third meeting with the Bombers. Joe Anderson and Brodie Foster come back into the side to push Jarrod Stokes into midfield under the ruckmanship of Stephen Tahana, while Adam Sambono looms as another possible inclusion having been named on the extended bench. But Tiwi is seldom short of their own big names, and the Bombers’ bench alone is one to behold. Former AFL midfielders Ashton Hams and Nathan Djerrkura feature alongside Greensborough pair Charlie Molyneux and Nick Riddle, while Collingwood VFL star Lachlan Howe could also come into the already stacked side. This could be an all-out shootout judging by the line-ups, and with plenty of big names scattered across the field, is a must-watch for neutrals. Tiwi will come in as favourite given its form, but should be wary of the Buffs – who can beat any side on their day.

NIGHTCLIFF (1st, 13-1) vs. SOUTHERN DISTRICTS (5th, 7-6-1)
Saturday January 25, 4:00pm
TIO Stadium

An out-of-form Southern Districts faces the toughest of tasks in regaining its mojo, with reining premier Nightcliff next on the agenda. The Crocs come in having lost three-consecutive games and four of their last five, all against top five opposition in an ominous omen for this clash. Two previous losses to Nightcliff in this campaign bode no better for Southern Districts, with its slide to fifth spot perhaps the product of a tough draw. But this should be the Crocs’ final regular season hurdle with three bottom sides awaiting, and there should be plenty of class at their disposal despite the absence of Michael and Ed Barlow. Richard Tambling retains his spot in the heart of midfield, set to link up with Josiah Farrer in the engine room. The forward rotation will also be important for Districts, with Jeff Garlett, Dean Staunton, and Beau Schwarze set to move through there alongside spearheads, Will Farrer and Sam Barnett. With such firepower, this looms as a danger game for the somewhat undermanned Tigers, who lose John Butcher and James Tsitas for this match. But there is plenty of class remaining, with Liam Holt-Fitz‘s form leading the likes of Trent Melville and Kaine Riley among a host of other consistent performers. While the Tigers have earned favouritism for every game this season having beaten every team in the league, the Crocs could well pull off a remarkable return to form.

PALMERSTON MAGPIES (8th, 1-13) vs. ST MARY’S (2nd, 10-4)
Saturday January 25, 5:00pm
Cazalys Arena

A better-stocked St Mary’s will hope to return to the winners list in its clash with the lowly Palmerston Magpies on the road, with second spot the Saints’ to lose at this point. Coming off a crushing loss to league-leader, Nightcliff, the Saints look poised to bring in some serious talent in hopes of recapturing the form which saw them string together five-straight wins. With Jack Long and Shaun Edwards remaining a key part of St Mary’s spine, ex-Blue and ‘Roo Jarrad Waite looks set to join Jackson Calder inside forward 50 while Nate Paredes and Nick Yarran return on the outside. Those inclusions make the proposition a whole lot harder for Palmerston, but the Magpies have been able to turn to some ex-AFL experience of their own with Aaron Davey joining brother and coach, Alwyn in the side. Alwyn Davey Jnr also remains in the starting line-up, with Russell Davey again making it a true family affair. But it remains quite a one-sided contest on paper, and St Mary’s hunger should be heightened given its disappointing outing last time out against Nightcliff. It could be over early, which would be ideal for the Saints as they look to maintain a percentage advantage with second spot looming as tough to hold on to.

WARATAH (6th, 4-10) vs. WANDERERS (7th, 3-10-1)
Sunday January 26, 4:00pm
Gardens Oval

Two bottom three sides get a standalone Sunday slot as Waratah and Wanderers clash for the third time this season, with the ledger sitting at one win apiece. The Warriors’ Round 14 win over Palmerston will have them licking their lips at the opportunity to snare another set of four points, especially given Wanderers’ current eight-game losing streak. But much of this fixture’s outcome relies on the crop available to either side, with Waratah looking a top five side at its best, and Wanderers needing all the pieces to be put together to stay on top. The Warriors could well field a very strong line-up, with Abe Ankers, Michael Newton, Brodie Carroll, and Kim Kantilla all named – albeit with a heavily extended bench. In response, the Muk Muks have included Braedon McLean, Davin Ferreira, Joel Jeffrey, Beau O’Connell, and five of the Motlop clan to make up a near-full strength side and put some intrigue into this clash. It should be a close one despite the wavering form of either team, with pride still on the line despite finals hopes being firmly out of the question. The winner could finish as the best of the rest.

NTFL Men’s Premier League review: Round 12 – Buffs prevail in dramatic eight-pointer

THE new year tossed up some predictable results in Round 12 of the Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Men’s Premier League, but Darwin and Southern Districts played out a cracker in the weekend’s sole top five clash. While the Buffs closed the gap on their weekend opponents in the race for a top three spot, the remaining finals-bound sides went about solidifying their standing in the top five.

ST MARY’S 1.4 | 6.10 | 9.12 | 14.17 (101)
WANDERERS 1.3 | 2.4 | 5.7 | 5.8 (38)

GOALS:

St Mary’s: J. Salmon 3, N. Paredes 2, L. Larson 2, J. Long, R. Jordon, M. Rioli Jnr, N. Yarran, R. Smith, B. Slater, R. Miller
Wanderers: J. Jeffrey 2, M. Cooper, T. Motlop, B. McLean

BEST:

St Mary’s: R. Smith, T. Davies, R. Jordon, N. Yarran, J. Salmon, N. Paredes
Wanderers: N/A

It was business as usual for St Mary’s as it trounced Wanderers by 63 points to open Round 12 on Friday night. In a contest that was largely competitive until midway through the third term, the Saints kicked away against a tiring Eagles side to cap the 14.17 (101) to 5.8 (38) result.

After a tight opener, the Saints looked to be pulling away to a straightforward victory after jumping out to a five-goal half time lead. But the Muk Muks gave their all to mount a short-lived comeback after the main break, booting the first three goals of the term to draw back within four points of the finals-bound Saints. Unfortunately, the Eagles spent all their fuel tickets on the fightback, leaving nothing left to edge in front as St Mary’s ruthlessly pulled away with five goals to nil in the final quarter. There were still positives to be drawn from the loss for Wanderers, with the returning Joel Jeffrey showing off all of his talent in the air and at ground level to go with two classy goals, while Braedon McLean’s energy in the middle was terrific in the third term. For the winners, 10 individual goal kickers were led by Joseph Salmon‘s three majors, but it was Ryan Smith who was named best afield as the likes of Thomas Davies and Nick Yarran also contributed.

Winning form is good form for the Saints, especially with two of its fellow top three sides immediately ahead on the fixture list and other sides closing in on second place. For Wanderers, the last chance finals saloon opens with a game against the winless Palmerston, which is now a must-win with Tiwi 14 points adrift in fifth.

DARWIN BUFFALOES 3.2 | 8.4 | 11.6 | 13.9 (87)
SOUTHERN DISTRICTS 2.2 | 5.4 | 6.7 | 12.10 (82)

GOALS:

Darwin: D. Stafford 5, B. Foster 3, K. Campbell 2, J. Stokes 2, D. Miles
Southern Districts: D. Hall 3, W. Farrer 2, J. Farrer 2, D. McLachlan, R. O’Brien, B. Schwarze, D. Corbett, M. Barlow

BEST:

Darwin: N/A
Southern Districts: N/A

Southern Districts has been made to rue a miss after the siren in its dramatic five-point loss to Darwin Buffaloes in a top five eight-pointer. Rory O’Brien pulled his set shot to level the scores after marking a Michael Barlow kick 25 metres from goal, sealing the unfortunate 13.9 (87) to 12.10 (82) loss.

The result looked dead and buried as David Miles kicked truly into an open goal late in the third term, punishing the Crocs for their inability to convert up the other end. A fifth goal to Daniel Stafford in the final term to push the margin back out to 11 points with under 10 minutes left looked to again have sealed the result, but it did not deter the Crocs as they doubled their goal tally in a single stanza. It proved futile in the end as O’Brien failed to convert and snatch the draw, but made for great viewing on the neutral end. Earlier, Stafford and Brodie Foster combined for seven of the Buffs’ eight first half goals, with skipper Jarrod Stokes also extending his influence to the scoreboard. Davin Hall led the response for Southern Districts with three majors in just his fourth game for the season, while Josiah and William Farrer also chimed in with two apiece as Barlow found plenty of the ball to very nearly prove a game winner.

Three more top five opponents lie ahead for Southern Districts, with each result massive in deciding positions three to five. Meanwhile, the next few weeks will be a mixed bag for Darwin, set to test its premiership credentials against the competition’s benchmark next week, while also facing two bottom three opponents in the following rounds.

NIGHTCLIFF 4.4 | 13.5 | 19.7 | 25.11 (161)
WARATAH 1.0 | 1.2 | 1.5 | 3.5 (23)

GOALS:

Nightcliff: J. Butcher 6, R. Mu 3, T. Melville 3, M. Bricknell 2, L. Holt-Fitz 2, C. Ilett 2, M. Hagan 2, J. Budarick, N. Brown, B. Arnold, D. Bowles, S. Wilson
Waratah: K. Kantilla 2, D. Simpson

BEST:

Nightcliff: S. Wilson, K. Riley, R. Mu, J. Butcher, P. Wills
Waratah: N/A

The mid-season break only heightened Nightcliff’s hunger for goals as the reigning premier put on a scoring masterclass against Waratah, winning to the tune of 138 points. 12 Tigers found the goals in the 25.11 (161) to 3.5 (23) romp as the ladder leaders dominated across the ground.

A four-goal opening term was Nightcliff’s lowest-scoring period, following it up with nine majors and six in each quarter after half time to see out the huge victory. While their ruthlessly precise finishing inside 50 was ultra-impressive, the Tigers were just as good further afield as they kept the Warriors goalless across the second and third terms, while only conceding a high of two in the final period of play. Waratah had to wait until seven minutes into the fourth quarter for its second six-pointer, ending a massive period of unanswered goals. John Butcher was the Tigers’ chief destroyer with his half-dozen majors, but two non-scoring players – Kaine Riley and Phillip Wills – made their impact felt up the ground to be named in the best behind Shaun Wilson. Kim Kantilla again proved hot to handle as one of the few Warriors to stand tall, booting two of his side’s three majors in the absence of some of their prime movers. Daniel Simpson also found room for a celebration after finding the big sticks in the final term despite the massive margin.

It does not get any easier for Waratah with Tiwi next on the agenda, but respite should come with consecutive fixtures against fellow bottom three sides to round out January. Up the other end of the ladder, a month of competing against top five opponents could dislodge Nightcliff from first place, but the Tigers have already proven their worth against the best of the rest.

PALMERSTON 2.1 | 4.3 | 5.7 | 7.10 (52)
TIWI BOMBERS 3.3 | 9.7 | 10.10 | 16.17 (113)

GOALS:

Palmerston: K. Emery, K. Holt-Tubbs, L. Roberts, L. Williams, R. Warfe, D. Nichols, C. Timms
Tiwi: A. Wonaeamirri 3, H. Puruntatameri 3, D. Munkara 2, R. Tungatalum 2, C. Abala 2, P. Heenan, A. Tipungwuti, A. Darcy, N. Riddle

BEST:

Palmerston: K. Emery, D. Gordon, J. Berry, J. Rhodes, M. Perry (Jnr), J. Damaso
Tiwi: D. Munkara, H. Puruntatameri, N. Riddle, D. McLinden, J. Puruntatameri, J. Monigatti

Tiwi was quick to shake off Palmerston in Round 12’s final fixture, overpowering the Magpies to come out 61-point winners. Both sides had trouble converting at times, but the Bombers’ wealth of opportunities proved far too much for the struggling Magpies in the 7.10 (52) to 16.17 (113) loss.

After very nearly overcoming the Bombers in Round 5, Palmerston looked like providing a good challenge to its opponent once again, keeping touch for just over a quarter. But Tiwi soon clicked into gear with six goals to two to set up the win, consolidating with another half-dozen majors in the final term to pretty up the scoreboard. Both sides had at least seven individual goalkickers, but it was the Bombers’ five multiple goalkickers which proved the difference as no Magpie managed to trouble the scorers more than once. Austin Wonaeamirri and Harley Puruntatameri each booted a game-high three goals, but it was Dion Munkara who was judged best afield for the winners. Kyle Emery impressed for the Magpies, but he was unable to provide the goals needed alongside usual goal-getter Keidan Holt-Tubbs as the Bombers well and truly outgunned them with speed and class across the ground.

A twelfth loss sees Palmerston still 12 points adrift of seventh, but the opportunity to grab a breakthrough win may come knocking with two bottom three match-ups set for the Eagles upcoming fortnight. Waratah is next up for Tiwi, but the tough month following that fixture makes it a must-win for the Bombers as hopes dwindle among the bottom three.