Tag: ntfl mens premier league

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

THE final team under review in our club-by-club Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Men’s Premier League recap is Palmerston, who only managed to claim one victory in 2019/20 as wooden spooners, but boast a handful of high-level individuals among a developing squad. In a season where they suffered 10 losses by over 50 points, the Magpies showed a good amount of promise by getting within a goal of finalists, Tiwi and Darwin with over 80 players tried throughout their top flight campaign. Relive the highs and lows of Palmerston’s year, as we also highlight the key performers for the Magpies this time out.

PALMERSTON 2019/20 SEASON REVIEW

Record: 8th, 1-17, 50%

Most games: Aaron Lonergan, Sandy Brock (16)

Most goals: Keidan Holt-Tubbs (11)

Regaining a good level of consistency after suffering long-term injury setbacks, Holt-Tubbs continues to be one of Palmerston’s most valuable players. Plying his trade as a key forward for the most part, the Magpies’ bigman also showed marked confidence in his troublesome knee by returning to ruck duties in stints this season – which was especially important in easing the load on Jack Berry with Matthew Dennis missing large chunks of the year. He booted multiple goals thrice in a team which struggled for them, and looks primed for some more good years ahead if he can keep on the park.

MVP: Kyle Emery

Arguably Palmerston’s best and most important player over the last two seasons since switching from Nightcliff, Emery enjoyed a much more midfield-oriented role this year after finishing as the Magpies’ leading goalkicker in 2018/19. But Emery was still able to showcase his nous inside 50, finding the big sticks in six of his 12 games for the campaign, while also being named as one of his side’s best two players in five outings. He was particularly influential after the mid-season break despite his side’s losing form, and played his usual role in the Magpies’ sole win for the season with a goal.

Young gun: Sandy Brock

Brock came on leaps and bounds throughout his second season of NTFL Premier League football, locking down a key role for Palmerston down back. While he can be utilised at either end of the ground, Brock showed his best form in locking down some of the competition’s best key forwards at just 17 years of age, leaning on all of his natural athleticism and teachings from the NT Thunder Academy. The Thunder Under 18 representative is just as competitive in the air as he is on the ground, and did not looked deterred against more mature bodies despite being slightly raw when compared to a more traditional key defender size.

Surprise packet: Jack Berry

Already boasting one of the standout fly-in rucks in Matthew Dennis, few expected Palmerston to be able to unearth another as the bigman only managed four games this season, but the Magpies did exactly that through Jack Berry in 2019/20. Berry has VFL experience across two clubs, and proved all of his class as Palmerston’s premier tall when his side needed it most. He was named among the Magpies’ best players in nine of his 12 appearances, mixing well with his new teammates in his first crack at NTFL footy.

Best win: Round 14 – def. Wanderers 14.9 (93) to 13.7 (85)

Goals: K. Holt-Tubbs 3, L. Williams 3, C. Timms 2, W. Shadforth, K. Emery, A. Davey, J. Patrick, R. Stone, J. Berry.
Best: 
K. Holt-Tubbs, K. Emery, C. Timms, W. Shadforth, J. Berry, L. Williams

The first and only win of Palmerston’s season was a good one, spearheaded by some usual suspects. Keidan Holt-Tubbs notched three majors in a best afield performance, with Kyle Emery and Jack Berry not far behind. With one of the best sides they had put on paper throughout the season, Alwyn Davey’s Magpies were able to outlast their youthful opponents for a memorable win.

Worst loss: Round 7 – def. by Waratah 3.5 (23) to 17.10 (112)

Goals: J. Brauman, K. Emery, B. Church.
Best: 
J. Brauman, J. Berry, R. Mungatopi, S. Brock, M. Chester, A. Diamond

It may not have been the Magpies’ heaviest loss of the season, but an 89-point thrashing at the hands of a team that did not make finals does not bode well – and neither does the three-goal effort. There was still something to take out of the game though as Werribee VFL teammates Jack Berry and Jack Brauman made for an influential one-two punch, but the Magpies ultimately could not match Waratah’s speed in attack.

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

THE next team under review in our club-by-club Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Men’s Premier League recap is Wanderers, which boasts a squad packed with young talent, but could only muster up enough points for seventh place.

After a promising first six rounds saw the Muk Muks collect all of their 14 Premier League premiership points, the largely inexperienced team struggled to put together its best football for long enough to stay in games, and embarked on a 12-game losing run to end the year. Rubbing salt to the wound, Wanderers was also the only side this season to lose to wooden spooner, Palmerston.

But with a massive 65 players flowing through the top flight lineup and the shining light of Beau O’Connell claiming the Nichols Medal at just 18 years of age, there is plenty for Eagles fans to look forward to should its young core continue to thrive at the club. Relive the highs and lows of Wanderers’ 2019/20 season, and revel in some of the standout individual performers.


WANDERERS 2019/20 SEASON REVIEW

Record: 7th, 3-14-1, 71%

Most games: Brenton Motlop, Matthew Motlop (18)

Most goals: Joel Jeffrey (29)

Arguably the youngster garnering the most attention draft wise out of the entire NT talent pool is Joel Jeffrey, a high marking utility who staked his claim as a key forward this season for Wanderers. Possessing clean hands overhead and crafty skills at ground level, Jeffrey plays somewhat above his 189cm height in that forward role. While he would often be seen presenting an option further afield, the 18-year-old was the Muk Muks’ most productive asset closer to goal as well, booting 29 goals in 13 games. He was held goalless just once in those outings, and managed a season-high tally of five goals twice. With a ton of upside, hopefully Jeffrey can continue to progress.

MVP: Braedon McLean

Now considered one of the experienced heads in Wanderers’ engine room at just 25 years of age, Braedon McLean once again proved to be his side’s most important engine room cog across 17 Premier League games this season. McLean’s energy and driving work from midfield made him one of the more eye-catching players in the league this year, able to turn games in Wanderers’ favour with bursts of brilliance. His clearance work at just 178cm is terrific and clean, while his decision making brought poise to an inexperienced team most weeks. As he continues to become one of the competition’s premier midfielders, he will remain Wanderers’ most valuable player.

Best Nichols Medal poller: Beau O’Connell (20, winner)

Winning a senior league best and fairest at just 18 years old is no mean feat, and that is exactly what Beau O’Connell pulled off in a remarkable season of Premier League football. The diminutive midfielder stands out with his pace and class in possession, able to break the lines and wreak damage going forward with piercing kicks. O’Connell’s ability to find the big sticks also helped him to garner votes as he was clearly unharmed in that sense by Wanderers’ wealth of losses, consistently standing up as the Muk Muks’ best performer. He is a youngster who is confident in his ability and while he may seem quiet, is a real driver of standards in any group he joins. Having already represented the NT Thunder at Under 18 and senior level, the future is bright for O’Connell.

Young gun: Dray Thompson

There is an almost endless amount of correct answers for this slot among Wanderers’ squad – see Jeffrey, O’Connell, Tyrrell Lui, and co., but we’re going with Dray Thompson as the Muk Muks’ rising star. Another 18-year-old talent, Thompson is also a talented soccer player credit to his speed, and used just that in his role on the wing this year. Able to light up the field going both ways, the youngster earned a Round 16 Rising Star nomination this season, and was a key member of the Eagles’ team in 15 appearances with his defensive work impressive coaching staff at Wanderers. While others like Jeffrey and Lui may attract greater plaudits at times, Thompson has just as many runs on the board after a terrific season at senior level.

Best win: Round 4 – def. Tiwi Bombers 10.12 (72) to 8.10 (58)

Goals: S. Bates 2, M. Cooper 2, J. Jeffrey 2, M. Motlop, D. Thompson, J. Tipiloura, D. Weetra
Best: 
N/A

Wanderers was right among the top five early in the NTFL season, with this win over eventual finalist, Tiwi arguably the Eagles’ best out of their total three. Joel Jeffrey was among three Eagles to boot two goals, playing alongside brother Jai, while Braedon McLean shouldered the midfield load with Beau O’Connell absent. Running out the game strongly after trailing was also a good sign of character for the team, but is something it lacked in the back half of the year.

Worst loss: Round 13 – def. by Palmerston 13.7 (85) to 14.9 (93)

Goals: J. Jeffrey 4, B. O’Connell 3, S. Bates, W. Williams, E. Colley, A. Motlop, J. Jeffrey, T. Motlop
Best:
B. O’Connell, J. Jeffrey, A. Motlop, M. Motlop, D. Dos Santos

While this may not be the heaviest loss Wanderers suffered among its string of 12 to end the year, it stands as arguably the most disappointing given the opposition. The defeat saw the Eagles finish the season as the only team to have lost to Palmerston, although there were still some great positives to take out of the game, not the result. Joel Jeffrey again starred with four majors, while Beau O’Connell was best afield with his three majors. Making up the spine of the future, those two young guns had plenty to do on the day.

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

THE next team under review in our club-by-club Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Men’s Premier League recap is Waratah, the best of the rest having finished sixth in a turbulent 2019/20 campaign.

In a season where the Warriors struggled to maintain any real consistency despite flashes of their best footy, an incredible 56 players were tried in their top flight team, with much of the best Tahs’ talent missing games throughout the year. There were high hopes for Waratah coming into the year after a promising 2018/19 showing, but finals aspirations were not to be with the gap to the top five ending at a sizeable 20 points (five wins).

Relive the highs and lows of the Warriors’ season, with a special mention for the standouts and key individual performers among a squad stacked with promising home-grown talent, and one particularly renowned NT star.


WARATAH 2019/20 SEASON REVIEW

Record: 6th, 5-13, 74%

Most games: Aisea Raikiwasa, Daniel Simpson (17)

Most goals: Kim Kantilla (22)

In a season where consistency was hard to come by for Tahs, Kantilla proved a reliable outlet for his side moving forward of centre. While that consistency is not a trait often attributed to players of Kantilla’s dashing and X-factor-filled style, the small forward managed to set the Premier League alight with his highlight reel. His 22 goals across 16 games were important, with a mid-season run of three, six, and five-goal hauls arguably the shining light of an awesome individual year. Linking up with the likes of Henry Kerinaiua and Jae McGrath in the midfield-forward rotation, Kantilla made Waratah a fun team to watch at times.

MVP & best Nichols Medal poller: Abe Ankers (14)

One of the competition’s premier midfielders is Abe Ankers, who was nothing short of his impactful self during an interrupted seven-game season. The NT Thunder representative further proved his class in averaging over two goals and Nichols Medal votes per game, so it was no wonder to see how sorely missed his presence was for this Waratah side this year. Proving as much, Ankers featured in four of Tahs’ five wins and booted 10 goals across those games, while also adding a bag of five in the Warriors’ early-season loss to Wanderers. He is easily Waratah’s most valuable player, and it is no surprise to see him poll so well each year.

Young gun: Brendon Minkulk

The 18-year-old really came into his own this year in his first real tilt at a full season of senior football, accumulating 11 appearances in 2019/20. Coming off a year where he represented the NT Thunder at Under-18 level, Minkulk transitioned well into the Warriors’ Premier League side with a role on the half-forward line to create and apply pressure. While he only found the goals twice this year in seperate outings, the youngster impressed with his ability to shut down opposition rebounds and help keep the ball locked into Waratah’s forward half. Should turn into a mainstay with time.

Best win: Round 6 – def. Tiwi Bombers 21.15 (141) to 15.8 (98)

Goals: S. Stroobants 6, H. Kerinaiua 5, K. Kantilla 3, A. Ankers 3, J. Beugelaar 2, B. Carroll, B. Minkulk

In a high-scoring contest, the Warriors were at their absolute best against a side which proved more than capable of booting similarly big scores. This was not quite Waratah’s biggest total of the season, but it was a huge effort, albeit against an undermanned Tiwi, with a number of big names firing. Ex-VFL sharpshooter Steve Stroobants was the star with six goals, while regular suspects Henry Kerinaiua, Kim Kantilla, and Abe Ankers also all claimed multiple goals. This was the best of Waratah, and what fans would have expected more of coming into the season.

Worst loss: Round 9 – def. by St Mary’s 25.14 (164) to 6.5 (41)

Goals: H. Kerinaiua 2, A. Hodgson, T. Schmid, K. Kantilla, W. Gorman

There is no shame in falling to St Mary’s given its outstanding year, but this was a feeble showing from the outgunned Warriors, falling to their biggest defeat of the season just a fortnight after two massive consecutive wins – including the above. No surprise to see Henry Kerinaiua and Kim Kantilla again on the scoresheet, but the absence of Abe Ankers, Brodie Carroll, Nicholas Gooch, and Tim Mosquito proved telling. That was the story of much of Waratah’s campaign, headlined by this loss.

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

NTFL Men’s Premier League wrap: Semi finals – Saints book grand final spot

ST MARY’S defeated Nightcliff for the second time this season to become the first team to book its spot in the 2019/20 Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Men’s Premier League grand final, while traditional rival, Tiwi was bundled out in straight sets at the hands of Southern Districts.

TIWI BOMBERS 2.1 | 4.5 | 7.5 | 11.5 (71)
SOUTHERN DISTRICTS 4.5 | 7.8 | 10.11 | 16.15 (111)

GOALS:

Tiwi: A. Wonaeamirri 3, C. Jones 2, A. Hams 2, O. Henry, J. Simon, H. Puruntatameri, K. Dunn.
Southern Districts: E. Barlow 7, W. Farrer 2, J. Garlett 2, D. Staunton 2, M. Barlow, J. Watts, J. Farrer.

BEST:

Tiwi: R. Baird, J. Monigatti, D. Kruse, A. Hams, O. Henry, C. Jones
Southern Districts: E. Barlow, C. McAdam, D. Staunton, K. Dingo, M. Barlow, J. Schofield

Tiwi unceremoniously exited the Premier League finals race in straight sets upon falling to Southern Districts in their knockout semi final bout, going down to the tune of 40 points at TIO Stadium. Seven goals from ex-AFL standout Ed Barlow did most of the damage in ending the Bombers’ promising season, with the third-ranked side outgunned by a peaking Districts unit. To the Crocs’ credit, they never rested on their laurels after opening up a 16-point quarter-time lead, constantly applying scoreboard pressure to keep the dangerous Bombers at bay. Six goals to four in a high-scoring final term capped off a successful effort in front of goal for the winners, with their 31 scoring shots working to overwhelm Tiwi – a rare feat this season. Barlow, and his ‘twin’, Michael were terrific for the Crocs, with mainstays Charlie McAdam and Dean Stanton accelerating their forward momentum. Competition leading goalkicker Will Farrer added two goals to his tally, with Jeff Garlett matching the feat to make up another of the four Districts multiple goalkickers. For the Bombers, Rodney Baird was again among the best in a heavily-pressured defence, while big man Jack Mongiatti and David Kruse capped off stellar seasons with solid shifts. Ashton Hams found the goals (two) for the third-straight game, with Austin Wonaeamirri (three goals) leading the attack. But it was ultimately in vein as the Bombers could not keep up with Districts’ scoring exploits, unable to breakthrough for the burst that would pry the game open. The Crocs’ third knockout final fixture comes as its biggest test thus far though, with a hungry Nightcliff side waiting in the wings.

Fallout:
Southern Districts – vs. Nightcliff, preliminary final
Tiwi Bombers – eliminated

NIGHTCLIFF 2.1 | 5.5 | 10.10 | 11.11 (77)
ST MARY’S 5.1 | 10.2 | 12.5 | 16.7 (103)

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

St Mary’s has gone one step further on the path to a complete turnaround from last year’s wooden spoon-winning campaign, becoming the first team to qualify for the 2019/20 grand final. The Saints had to knock off Nightcliff for a second time in the process, and did so by 26 points on Saturday night on the back of a clinical display in front of goal. On the other hand, Nightcliff was atypically wasteful inside forward 50 as it struggled to maintain its game of catch-up from the get-go, falling comfortably from just one less scoring shot. The signs were ominous as St Mary’s led by 27 points at the main break with double the amount of goals, but that buffer was cut considerably heading into the last turn. In true form of a champion team, the Saints kept their heads and ran out the better side to become the only team to beat Nightcliff twice in a season since 2017/18, with a number of standout performers coming to the fore. A game-high five goals from Saint, Jackson Calder took his finals tally to nine, but it was Maurice Rioli Jnr who impressed most with his bag of four as the two combined for over half of their side’s score. The pair were two of nine individual St Mary’s goalkickers, but the likes of Liam Daly and Tylah Saunders also made an impact without finding the big sticks. The scoring depth remained deep for Nightcliff despite a touch of inaccuracy, with four players notching two goals each. James Tsitas and Lachlan Sharp were among them, with leading goalkicker Trent Melville also managing the feat as a bunch of key Tigers found the big sticks. Luckily for the Tigers, they will have a second chance at grand final qualification this week against the Crocs, with redemption in the grand final now one of the main motivators.

Fallout:
Nightcliff – vs. Southern Districts, preliminary final
St Mary’s – vs. W of Southern Districts/Nightcliff, grand final

NTFL Men’s Premier League: Week 1 Finals – Crocs and Saints stay alive

DARWIN Buffaloes are the first team out of the 2019/20 Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Men’s Premier League finals race after going down to Southern Districts in the elimination final. The Crocs live to fight another day, and now face Tiwi Bombers, while St Mary’s moved a win closer to the grand final with victory over the Bombers in the qualifying final.

SOUTHERN DISTRICTS 4.2 | 7.7 | 11.10 | 17.11 (113)
DARWIN BUFFALOES 0.4 | 2.8 | 3.11 | 5.12 (42)

GOALS:

Southern Districts: J. Garlett 4, D. Barry 3, W. Farrer 2, E. Barlow 2, J. Farrer 2, B. Lake, J. Clarke, L. Ogden, M. Bowden.
Darwin Buffaloes: D. Stafford 2, D. Wunungmurra, D. Shillabear, B. Foster.

BEST:

Southern Districts: R. Tambling, D. Barry, D. Staunton, J. Farrer, E. Barlow, T. Holman
Darwin Buffaloes: N/A

Impressive performances by former AFL players, Jeff Garlett and Richard Tambling have propelled Southern Districts into the semi-finals following a 71-point smashing of Darwin. The Crocs were far too good throughout the four quarters, putting the foot down early with four goals to zero, making more of their opportunities inside 50 as the Buffaloes could only manage the four behinds. Darwin got on the board in the second term with two majors, but again missed a number of chances, heading into half-time with a 29-point deficit as the higher ranked side held them at bay. A four goal to one third term all but ended the contest, with Southern Districts kicking on and blowing the margin out to an impressive 47 points by the final break. With the game done and dusted, it was party time for Southern Districts as the Crocs piled on six goals to two to run away with the 17.11 (113) to 5.12 (42) victory at TIO Stadium.

Garlett booted four goals, while Tambling was named best on for his work through the middle, while Ed Barlow also contributed in the victory, named among the best and booted a couple of goals. Dylan Barry converted three majors and was one of five players to boot multiple goals, while Dean Staunton and Josiah Farrer (two goals) were also named among the best for the winners. For the Buffaloes, Daniel Stafford booted two goals in the second half, but the highlights were few and far between for an understrength side that could not match it with the eventual winners. Teenage talent Djamatjama Wunungmurra opened the Buffs’ account, and he along with Darren Shillabear in the second and Brodie Foster in the last also got their names on the scoresheet.

While Darwin’s season comes to a close, Southern Districts progress on to a semi-final where they face third placed Tiwi Bombers in another do-or-die clash following the Bombers’ defeat to St Mary’s in the later game.

ST MARY’S 4.2 | 5.6 | 6.10 | 11.12 (78)
TIWI BOMBERS 1.2 | 3.3 | 5.3 | 7.5 (47)

GOALS:

St Mary’s: J. Calder 4, S. Rioli 3, J. Long, S. Edwards, H. Labastida, R. Jordon.
Tiwi: S. Munkara 3, A. Wonaeamirri 2, H. Puruntatameri, C. Jones.

BEST:

St Mary’s: J. Long, T. Davies, K. Parnell, S. Rioli, J. Salmon, R. Jordon
Tiwi: C. Jones, L. Howe, D. Kruse, R. Baird, J. Puruntatameri, S. Munkara

St Mary’s are one win away from returning the the NTFL Men’s Premier League’s greatest stage after defeating Tiwi Bombers in the qualifying final. Last year’s wooden spooners made a remarkable rise up the ladder, finishing second overall and living up to the expectations set by that top two finish with a comfortable 31-point win over Tiwi. The Saints opened their account with a strong first term, booting four goals to one and leading by a handy 18 points at the early break. Neither team would have too much time or space as the Bombers hit back with two goals to one in the second term and cut the deficit slightly to 15 points. St Mary’s accuracy went a little awry in the second term with 1.4 and that continued into the third with an identical output to see the Saints sitting on 6.10 (46) to 5.3 (33), as the Bombers again made the most of fewer chances with 2.0 to their name. Sensing they needed a big last quarter, St Mary’s piled on five goals to two and ran away with a comfortable 11.12 (78) to 7.5 (47) victory in what was a superb performance to stay alive in the competition.

Jackson Calder (four goals) and Shannon Rioli (three) combined for seven goals in the win to be the key difference up forward for the Saints, while four others combined for singles. Jake Long was named best on ground for his efforts on the day, while Thomas Davies and Kieren Parnell were also impressive. Helped by former AFL players, Shaun Edwards and Raphael Clarke, St Mary’s depth was a bit too much for the third placed Bombers who fought for the majority of three quarters during the match. Simon Munkara booted three goals in the loss, while former Melbourne forward, Austin Wonaeamirri slotted two majors. Chris Jones booted a goal and was the best on the losing side, while Lachlan Howe and David Kruse were also impressive despite their team going down and were named among the top players on the Bombers’ side.

St Mary’s takes on Nightcliff next week for the right to play in the 2019/20 NTFL Men’s Premier League Grand Final, while Tiwi activates its second chance with a do-or-die semi-final against Southern Districts.

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