Tag: ntfl preview

Weekend preview: 2020/21 NTFL Men’s Premier League – Round 4

THREE rounds of Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Men’s Premier League action are down for season 2020/21, seeing the competition roll on into Round 4 this weekend. In a first for the new season, four different venues will be used to hold each fixture, with two games played under lights on Friday night, and the remaining two on Saturday afternoon. All that, and more in our weekend preview.

Palmerston Magpies vs. Wanderers
Friday October 23, 7:30pm
Cazalys Arena

Two sides with perfectly opposite records meet as Palmerston takes on Wanderers to open Round 4 proceedings at Cazalys Arena. The 1-2 Magpies moved back into the negative after a loss to Darwin last week, but have shown some promise with a fresh raft of recruits seeming to come together nicely in patches. Wanderers sit pretty at 2-1, with the Muk Muks’ only loss coming by 10 points at the hands of undefeated reigning premier, Nightcliff.

Palmerston key forward Daniel Stafford is one of the moving parts coming into good form, fresh off a four-goal haul against his former side. Fellow ex-Buff Chris Williams has enjoyed a dazzling start to the season along with Eric Guthrie and reliable ruckman Matthew Dennis. The run and rebound of Michaelis McMasters and Tyrrell Lui has also been important thus far, while Nigel Lockyer Jnr will have to get back to scoring form this week to help overcome the promising Eagles.

Nichols Medallist Beau O’Connell looks like being a massive in for Wanderers, returning to the Premier League after appearing in Division 1. The likes of Simon Bates and Brett Eddy have already proven their scoring threat, with Victorian imports Shaun Mannagh and Brodie Newman looking to continue their high-level starts to life in the NTFL. Dane McFarlane and Michael Mummery bring some more potency having gotten some games under their belts, making for a dynamic Wanderers lineup.

St Mary’s vs. Nightcliff
Friday October 23, 7:30pm
TIO Stadium

A second 2019/20 Grand Final rematch is set to go down within the first month of the new season, as St Mary’s takes on Nightcliff at TIO Stadium. It has been business as usual for Nightcliff, who dispatched the Saints by 52 points in Round 1 en route to remaining undefeated to this point. The Saints have had it harder, losing their first two games before a much-needed drought breaking win came against Tiwi last week.

There have been some green shoots for St Mary’s, most significantly after Under 18 talent Beau Tedcastle kicked three goals on his senior debut last time out. Jackson Paine comes in off a six-goal haul, while the likes of Nate Paredes, Jacob Long, and Shaun Edwards are ticking along nicely. Kieren Parnell looms as a nice addition as the Saints continue to field some fresher faces, including Jeremy Goddard and Charlie Furphy from Victorian. They both have turned out this season, along with Jack and Dylan Landt, who have made an impact.

The Tigers could also blood some imported talent, namely Calder Cannons graduate Daniel Mott after his impressive Division 1 showings. In the top flight, Kyle Emery has justified his switch from Palmerston with 11 goals in the last two games, fronting up well with the likes of Brodie Filo, Daniel Bowles, and Phillip Wills delivering from further afield. Tom Boyd is another looking to continue his good form, with the reigning premiers looking strong as ever.

Tiwi Bombers vs. Southern Districts
Saturday October 24, 12:30pm
Wurrumiyanga Oval

Barring a draw, either Tiwi or Southern Districts will break their duck for season 2020/21 when they square off at Wurrumiyanga Oval on Saturday. While both sides are winless at 0-3, it is the Bombers who sit bottom of the ladder after three losses by over 50 points. The Crocs have shown signs of improvement and amid a tough draw, have had a couple of tight losses. Last week’s heartbreaker against Waratah should serve as adequate motivation.

Districts has a distinct Geelong feel about it this week, with former Nightcliff midfielder James Tsitas lining up alongside good mates Luke Kiel and Andrew Boseley. More recent Geelong Falcons graduates Jesse Clark and Jay Dahlhaus are also set to take the field, having already impressed in the top flight. Nikolaus Rokahr is another brilliant addition, fresh off a solid SANFL season for Norwood.

The Bombers look like banding together some of their favourites once again, with the likes of Cyril Rioli and Austin Wonaeamirri named in hopes of boosting their side’s form. Jack Monigatti also looms as a great inclusion, with the likes of Angus Byrne and Mason Dewit already staking their claims in the squad. Given Harley Puruntatameri, Henry Kerinaiua, and Adam Sambono have also been named, the Bombers look like posing their usual threats of speed and forward firepower.

Waratah vs. Darwin Buffaloes
Saturday October 24, 3:00pm
Gardens Oval

Darwin will once again put its perfect record on the line when it faces Waratah at Gardens Oval on Saturday, with both sides looking to continue their promising starts to the season. The Buffs are top of the table after three rounds, proving a bunch of doubters wrong under new coach Cameron Stokes. Waratah’s only blemish thus far was dealt by Nightcliff, with the Warriors looking a much more settled side in season 2020/21.

The Buffs boss looks to have named himself in the side this week, only adding to the experience and class of Matt Campbell and Jarrod Stokes. Jalen Clarke has been in ripping form for the Double Blues, while the likes of Brodie Foster and Ishmael Palmer will once again look to team up for bags of goals up forward. Isaac Seden-Kurnoth is another to keep an eye on, as well as Ryan Pendlebury down back.

Tahs have had some consistent performers too, with skipper Brodie Carroll coming off a game-winning effort and the likes of Callum Searle down back, Abe Ankers through the middle, and the Collis boys making for an even team spread. Jake Sutton and Jae McGrath are also dangerous up forward, and will be sure to make up a heap of goals in response to Darwin’s potency.

Featured Image: Brodie Newman in action for Wanderers | Credit: Celina Whan/AFLNT Media

Weekend preview: 2020/21 NTFL Men’s Premier League – Round 3

TWO rounds of Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Men’s Premier League action are down for season 2020/21, seeing the competition roll on into Round 3 this weekend. All four games are again set to be played on what shapes up as a super Saturday of football, headlined by a TIO Stadium triple-header. The first ball bounces down as St Mary’s takes on Tiwi, while Southern Districts is the only true host as it welcomes Waratah to Norbuilt Oval. All that, and more in our weekend preview.

St Mary’s vs. Tiwi Bombers
Saturday October 17, 2:30pm
TIO Stadium

Tiwi’s milestone men will hope to drag the Bombers off the bottom of the ladder when they face St Mary’s to open the round on Saturday afternoon. The two sides take to TIO Stadium with 0-2 records, as a mix of underperformance and stiff opposition has rendered them winless across the opening rounds. But that is all set to change come this weekend, barring a draw, as the two traditional rivals square off.

If their meetings from season 2019/20 are anything to go by, this bout should be a belter. Tiwi got the better of the Saints in the first two digs, but St Mary’s squared the ledger at 2-2 after solid wins in Round 17 and the qualifying final. The 37-goal Round 3 shootout was the most eye-catching result, making for sensational neutral viewing.

Tiwi 150-gamers Michael Dunn and Dion Munkara will hope all their flair and carry on the outer can propel the Bombers to victory. Fresh off a bag of goals, Harley Puruntatameri should also shine in that department, while prolific talent Adam Sambono is a chance to come into the side. Down back, Mason Dewit has been super on the rebound.

Under 18s wonderkid Beau Tedcastle looks set to make his senior debut for the Saints, a lively small forward who knows where the goals are. Former NAB Leaguer Jeremy Goddard is also poised to make his first Premier League appearance, and both should have terrific support in the form of mainstay figures Raphael Clarke, Nate Paredes, and Shaun Edwards, who have all been in good nick.

Southern Districts vs. Waratah
Saturday October 17, 4:00pm
Norbuilt Oval

The winless Southern Districts will be out to halt its skidding start to the season when Waratah comes to town on Saturday, with the two sides set to face off at Norbuilt Oval. 0-2 after the opening pair of rounds, Districts will have some young talent come in to bolster their squad. Meanwhile, Waratah sits at 1-1 after last week’s tight loss to Nightcliff, with plenty of positives to take out of its first two outings in season 2020/21. The Warriors side looks much more settled than in their last campaign.

AFL Draft prospect Brodie Lake looms as a big in for the Crocs, with the 18-year-old fresh off a terrific SANFL season with Central District. He promises to add some grunt through midfield or run from defence, on top of the obvious class he possesses. After being named in the best half-dozen players last week, former Geelong Falcons co-captain Jesse Clark looks like being joined in the side by fellow NAB League graduate Jay Dahlhaus. The latter is the cousin of Geelong’s Luke, and is likely to play a similar small forward role.

Sticking with the theme set by their opponents, the Warriors are also set to unleash a former NAB League talent. Murray Bushrangers standout Cam Wild looks like entering the Premier League fold after knocking down the door in Division 1, having also spent time in South Australia with Central District. Tahs boast a pretty solid spine, with the likes of Abe Ankers and Brodie Carroll holding down midfield, while Jae McGrath continues to spearhead the forwardline. Victorian Callum Searle has also proven a great addition in defence, giving Waratah balance on each line. It may prove too much for the Crocs to handle.

Darwin Buffaloes vs. Palmerston Magpies
Saturday October 17, 5:00pm
TIO Stadium

Darwin will put its perfect record is on the line when it meets the ever-improving Palmerston on Saturday evening, the second game of a TIO Stadium triple-header. Under new coach Cameron Stokes, the Buffs are sitting pretty atop the Premier League table despite a heavy offseason turnover. Meanwhile, the Magpies have already matched their wins tally from last season after victory in Round 2, and look like providing the Double Blues with their toughest assignment to date.

Young utility Tyrrell Lui is fresh off his Rising Star nomination, having provided terrific rebound from defence thus far. He is joined once again in the back six by Sandy Brock, while Chris Williams will look to run the show once again from midfield. He is one of a few ex-Darwin players looking to impress against their former side, with big forward Daniel Stafford another who will be keen to find some form. He will be joined up forward by Nigel Lockyer Jnr, who has been finding the big sticks with ease having booted nine goals in two games.

But Darwin boasts some firepower of its own, with Brodie Foster continuing to set the competition alight. The goalsneak boasts 11 majors across his first two outings, and while Ishmael Palmer may not be there in support once again, Isaac Seden-Kurnoth looms as a major factor inside 50. The experienced Matt Campbell also looks to be in hot form, with Ryan Pendlebury another to settle the side in his defensive duties. Darwin’s mainstays have started the season emphatically and will fancy a third-consecutive win here, but should take nothing for granted against the rising Magpies.

Wanderers vs. Nightcliff
Saturday October 17, 7:30pm
TIO Stadium

Someone’s ‘0’ will go when undefeated sides Wanderers and Nightcliff do battle at TIO Stadium, making for an exciting finish to a big round of action. The Muk Muks have again started the season well, knocking off two 2019/20 finalists en route to taking on the formidable reigning premier. Nightcliff has been ticking along strongly, too, taking out a Grand Final rematch in Round 1 and managing to halt Waratah’s head of steam last time out with ruthless efficiency.

The returning Kyle Emery has added yet another dimension to the Tigers’ side, with his six-goal haul last week a warning shot for Wanderers defenders. Should 2019/20 Chaney Medal winner Trent Melville also take his spot in the side, this game looms as a must-watch. The likes of Cam Ilett and Daniel Bowles have been reliable as ever, while Phillip Wills is set to celebrate game 200. Victorian recruit Tom Boyd has been superb thus far, and the Tigers will hope former Calder Cannons standout, Daniel Mott can have a similar impact through midfield after strong Division 1 performances.

The Eagles are no slouches either though, with a bunch of high-end talent filling each line. Brett Eddy is fresh off a six-goal haul and has looked sharp up forward, while Braedon McLean has led steadily from defence. Newcomers Shaun Mannagh and Brodie Newman have given Wanderers an extra edge too, and Michael Mummery is one who could break the game open having gotten some game time under his belt last week. With a good amount of class scattered across either lineup, this should be a cracking contest.

Featured Image: Aaron Black/AFLNT Media

Weekend preview: 2020/21 NTFL Men’s Premier League – Round 2

AFTER an action-packed weekend to kick off the season, the 2020/21 Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Men’s Premier League rolls on into Round 2. All four games are set to be played on what shapes up as a super Saturday of football, headlined by a TIO Stadium triple-header. The first ball bounces down as Palmerston takes on Tiwi, while Nightcliff is the only true host as it welcomes Waratah to Nightcliff Oval.

Palmerston Magpies vs. Tiwi Bombers
Saturday October 10, 2:30pm
TIO Stadium

Both Palmerston and Tiwi will be out to rectify Round 1 losses, when they do battle at TIO Stadium in the weekend’s opening fixture. The Magpies were soundly trumped by Waratah last time out, while Tiwi was outlasted by Darwin in a high-scoring shootout. The combined losing margin between the teams in Round 1 was 133 points, so suffice to say, there is plenty of room for improvement either way.

Magpies recruit Daniel Stafford will hope for a far more fruitful outing this time around, having been held to three disposals and a goal against Waratah. Support comes from Nigel Lockyer Jnr, who is fresh off a four-goal haul, while bigman Matthew Dennis will again look to supply Chris Williams with a bunch of opportunities at the stoppages. The midfield battle will be key to any Palmerston success; taking some heat off young defenders in Sandy Brock and Tyrrell Lui, while also providing the dangerous Magpies forwards with quick and favourable entries.

Tiwi’s pace and fluent movement could cause some headaches in transition, with the Bombers’ losing score of 94 from last week still a better effort than what half the other teams managed. Victorian recruits Nathan Scagliarini and Angus Byrne have already shown they’ll be terrific additions to the side, while Mason Dewit was also handy down back in his NTFL debut. The likes of Harley Puruntatameri, Henry Kerinaiua, and John Tipiloura will all need to provide their usual spark going forward, with the Bombers’ wide range of goal sources somewhat depleted compared to last season.

Expect a close contest in this one, with both sides out to notch their first win of the season. Palmerston will understand the importance of getting on the board early, but may need some time to gel having taken in a number of key recruits. The Bombers stand as a fearsome test.

Nightcliff vs. Waratah
Saturday October 10, 4:00pm
Nightcliff Oval

Two-time reigning premier Nightcliff meets fellow Round 1 victor, Waratah on home turf this Saturday, as both sides look to carry on their winning form. As they often do, the Tigers sent a resounding statement to the rest of the competition in their defeat of St Mary’s in last week’s Grand Final rematch, with the usual suspects combining well alongside a range of fresh faces. Waratah also earned a stylish win in the season’s curtain-raiser, thumping Palmerston under the new Gardens Oval lights on Friday night.

The hardness and maturity of Nightcliff’s side continues to shine through, with the likes of Daniel Bowles, Cam Ilett, and Brodie Filo all finding plenty of the ball last week. Dominic Brew‘s 17 disposals, 13 tackles, and seven clearances were also mighty impressive, with the Tigers’ midfield depth and versatility a tough match for any team. Combine that with the sturdiness of Nathan Brown down back, and the goal threat of Liam Holt-Fitz, Kyle Emery, and Matthew Bricknell up forward, and you have a well-balanced unit which boasts a range of weapons.

Waratah’s Ned Stevens is coming off a performance which earned him a Rising Star nod, competing well against Dennis, Palmerston’s established ruckman. He’ll have more of a rotation to face this time out alongside Zach Westerberg. At their feet, the likes of Sam Godden, Dylan Collis, and Joshua Carmichael should provide good forward drive against stiff opposition, along with usual suspect, Abe Ankers. Jae McGrath has proven again that he is able to spearhead the attack, with Brodie Carroll, Tom Fields, and Kim Kantilla all capable of hitting the scoreboard, too.

After such a promising season initiation last week, a true test of Waratah’s credentials will come against the competition’s benchmark. Nightcliff seldom puts in a bad performance, so the Warriors will have to be at their best to outdo the reigning premiers and remain undefeated.

Darwin Buffaloes vs. Southern Districts
Saturday October 10, 5:00pm
TIO Stadium

Darwin proved many a doubter wrong in Round 1, and will look to continue that trend heading into its Saturday evening clash with Southern Districts. The Double Blues stormed away to a 64-point romping over Tiwi, while the Crocs slumped to a narrow four-point loss at the hands of Wanderers. The two sides last met in week one of last year’s finals series, with Districts getting the better of the Buffs on that occasion to the tune of 71 points. But a lot has changed since then and there will be a decent personnel turnover coming into this battle.

Experienced heads in Jarrod Stokes and Matt Campbell continue to serve their Darwin side well along with the returning figure of Brodie Foster, who comes in fresh off a six-goal haul. Ishmael Palmer and Joey Collinson were others to showcase Darwin’s scoring prowess in last week’s effort, with good potential to carry on such form agains the Crocs. Districts have lost some of that firepower and only managed six goals last week, but can rely on the likes of Lionel Ogden and Dean Staunton to drive standards. Billy Rolfe also snared half of his side’s total goals in Round 1, so will have a big role to play once again.

It’d be easy to turn on the Crocs after a disappointing Round 1 result, though Wanderers look a much-improved side and only just got the better of them. Darwin has been a notoriously hot started over the last few seasons, so will hope that trend continues here in what should be a cracking contest.

St Mary’s vs. Wanderers
Saturday October 10, 7:30pm
TIO Stadium

Season 2019/20 Grand Finalist St Mary’s readies for battle with Wanderers, looking to get on the board in the new campaign. The Saints were again outdone by Nightcliff in their opening game, while a revamped Wanderers snuck home by four points over Southern Districts. A perfect start to 2020/21 is up for grabs for the Muk Muks given the stiff opposition they’ve faced, with St Mary’s hoping it doesn’t fall too far behind the leading pack early on.

Star Victorian recruits Shaun Mannagh and Brodie Newman were terrific last time out for Wanderers, while familiar faces in Braedon McLean and Brett Eddy will hope to continue their leading of the side. Goals were hard to come by against Districts, but the likes of Brayden Culhane and Shane Thorne should again be thereabouts for the Eagles. The Saints were another side to only manage six goals in Round 1, with the likes of Nate Paredes and Shaun Edwards having to contribute from midfield. The returning Jackson Paine started strongly, while fellow bigman Brandyn Grenfell will again look to impact.

Wanderers is a side on the rise and will have to work hard to get the most out of a couple of tough early-season assignments. St Mary’s will be hungry to hit back hard after last week and have the cattle to do so, led by some experienced campaigners.

Featured Image: Action from the Round 1 Darwin vs. Tiwi clash | Credit: Celina Whan/AFLNT Media

2020/21 NTFL Premier League season preview

THE 2020/21 Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Men’s Premier League season is set to bounce down tonight, as Waratah takes on Palmerston at Gardens Oval. After an off-season which saw the points and fly-in rules adjusted, but a raft of players putting pen to paper across all eight clubs, this year’s instalment promises to raise plenty of intrigue and produce even more quality.

In our club-by-club season preview, we take a look at how each side may stack up for the upcoming campaign, touching on the potential new signings and important factors for each team, while also serving a reminder of where they each left off.

CLUB-BY-CLUB:

Darwin:

2019/20 finish: 5th, 10-8 – lost elimination final to Southern Districts by 71
Round 1 fixture: vs. Tiwi Bombers @ Gardens Oval, Saturday 4:00pm

After an up and down 2019/20 season, the Darwin Buffaloes will hope to hold onto the finals place it managed to secure last time out. The Double Blues stormed out of the gates, but struggled to find the required consistency later in the season and exited the finals with barely a whimper against Southern Districts.

Consistency may well be a difficult feat to manage once again, with a coaching change and max exodus of players putting the Buffs in a tough position. While interstaters Brodie Foster and Ryan Pendlebury have recommitted, with outgoing coach Matt Campbell also set to remain onboard in a playing capacity, Darwin has lost a series of big names. New coach Cameron Stokes will have to plug gaps left by last year’s leading goalkicker Daniel Stafford, best and fairest winner Chris Williams, and utility Zak Stephenson, who have all switched to Palmerston.

Exciting goalkickers Brayden Culhane (Wanderers) and Adam Sambono (Tiwi) have also moved through the exit door, leaving a big shoes for new recruits to fill. Much will also be expected of young gun Antonio James, who is fresh off a starring South Australian school football season with Westminster. Fellow youngster Isaac Seden-Kurnoth will also garner plenty of attention, providing the green shoots Darwin may be after during a transitional period along with Ishmael Palmer and Tim Eldridge.

Nightcliff:

2019/20 finish: 1st, 17-1 – won Grand Final over St Mary’s by 13
Round 1 fixture: vs. St Mary’s @ TIO Stadium, Saturday 7:30pm

Nightcliff begins its back-to-back premiership defence with a 2019/20 Grand Final rematch against St Mary’s, which should serve as a good measuring stick for the Tigers’ motivation and team cohesion after another big off-season. Premiership hero Trent Melville may have played his final NTFL game in last year’s decider, but the reigning premiers have a bunch of regulars and new recruits to cover any potential losses.

The Tigers’ notoriously deep pockets have lured a number of big-name VFL players, along with a host of Victorians from prominent local/regional leagues, and even the NAB League. Fresh off a strong WAFL season with Claremont which could yet end in premiership glory, Nightcliff junior Ryan Nyhuis would prove the cherry on top of the Tigers’ numerous recruits, along with former Palmerston gun, Kyle Emery.

Homegrown talent remains too, with the likes of Ryan Mu, and Liam Holt-Fitz enjoying steep rises, while Cam Ilett goes around for his 21st season, and Nichols Medalist Brodie Filo lines up once again. It is hard to see the Tigers falling off given the scary depth they possess once again, and it should be a cracking season for fans of the yellow and black.

Palmerston:

2019/20 finish: 8th, 1-17
Round 1 fixture: vs. Waratah @ Gardens Oval, Friday 6:30pm

Alwyn Davey‘s Palmerston outfit is poised to bounce back strongly from a season which saw them finish last in 2019/20. Strong inter-league recruiting sees them well placed to potentially make a run for finals, with the back-end of the competition evening up this year. A trio of Buffaloes; Daniel Stafford, Chris Williams, and Zak Stephenson should add to the Magpies’ spine, along with returning junior Tyrrell Lui.

Young talent should be in good shape too, with Lui joined by Nigel Lockyer Jnr and Sandy Brock as pillars up either end, while Jonty Patrick returns from SANFL Under 18s duties with Central Districts. The Davey family connection of Alwyn, Russell, and potentially Aaron adds experience, along with mainstay ruckman Matthew Dennis, who has recommitted to the Magpies. That’s not to mention Alywn’s twin sons, who should also run through the Premier League side.

A steady start against Waratah in the season opener should put them in good stead, serving as a decent test of where the side will be at in 2020/21.

Southern Districts:

2019/20 finish: 3rd (4th), 10-7-1 – lost preliminary final to Nightcliff by 37
Round 1 fixture: vs. Wanderers @ TIO Stadium, Saturday 5:00pm

Southern Districts will hope the momentum of a spirited finals charge will carry on into season 2020/21, with quite a steady squad remaining in tact for Matt Cannard‘s first year at the helm. Other sides may fancy themselves to move past the Crocs given their relatively quiet off-season, though a strong core and some handy fly-ins should keep Districts within the finals hunt.

The news of Josiah Farrer‘s ACL tear is a big blow to the Crocs’ premiership hopes, though Will Farrer remains as a goalkicking midfielder, while Charlie McAdam and Dean Staunton are other mainstays who can steady the ship. Young outside bolter Brandon Rusca looked primed for a big year after spending some time with the Gold Coast SUNS, while Brodie Lake may sneak some game time in before the AFL Draft. Fellow youngsters Jesse Clark and Jay Dahlhaus have also moved up from Victoria, with Clark a solid defender who captained the Geelong Falcons last year, while Dahlhaus is cut from the same cloth as cousin, Luke.

With a couple more relocating coups, Southern Districts should be able to enjoy some good form throughout the year. Having made a name as one of the competition’s premier teams across the last few years, the Crocs will be hungry not to fall out of the leading pack.

St Mary’s:

2019/20 finish: 2nd, 14-4 – lost Grand Final to Nightcliff by 13
Round 1 fixture: vs. Nightcliff @ TIO Stadium, Saturday 7:30pm

After a heartbreaking Grand Final defeat to Nightcliff, St Mary’s will look to go one-better in season 2020/21 after staying busy in the off-season. A number of big names remain, including Shaun Edwards, Jackson Calder, and Jackson Paine, and Nate Paredes, with Raphael Clarke also set to feature. Ben Long will be a handy addition once his WAFL campaign ends, while returning stars Ross Tungatalum and Anthony Davis promise to add a new dimension to the Saints’ side. Will Hams is another experienced head set to enter the fold, boasting AFL experience.

Add to that recruits of former VFL, NAB League, and Geelong Football League players, and St Mary’s should again prove to be a force in this year’s competition. The recommitment of many stars who helped the club climb off a bottom-place finish in 2018/19 is great to see, with the depth of the squad now right up there with Nightcliff ahead of what should be an exciting season for Saints fans. Having come from a long way back last year, they should start right at the forefront, especially if they can knock the Tigers off in Round 1.

Tiwi Bombers:

2019/20 finish: 4th (3rd), 11-7 – lost semi final to Southern Districts by 40
Round 1 fixture: vs. Darwin @ Gardens Oval, Saturday 4:00pm

One of last year’s most exciting teams, the Tiwi Bombers will be out to make good on their straight-sets finals exit in 2019/20, starting with a Round 1 grudge match against Darwin. The Bombers have added some handy interstate quality, while also managing to secure the services of prolific goalkicker Adam Sambono from the Buffaloes. A major out, though, will be former AFL midfielder Nathan Djerrkura, who moves to Wanderers.

The Bombers’ speed and ease of transition will again put them in good stead this year, with the likes of Harley Puruntatameri and Henry Kerinaiua running the lines, while Jeffrey Simon adds class through the middle or up either end. Tiwi’s mainstays are always important too, and should help secure their side a finals spot once again in 2020/21, but it’ll be tight. Fans will also hope to see a bit more of Cyril Rioli too, after his successful cameo last time around.

Wanderers:

2019/20 finish: 7th 3-14-1
Round 1 fixture: vs. Southern Districts @ TIO Stadium, Saturday 5:00pm

Wanderers will look to address and improve on a massive drop-off in form towards the end of last season, as the Muk Muks begin a fresh campaign against Southern Districts tomorrow night. The Eagles’ stocks see them primed for a finals tilt, with the likes of Nathan Djerrkura and Brayden Culhane coming in from rival clubs, while Josh Cubillo and Marlon Motlop are set to feature more prominently as Jonas Niki and Clifford Jamahl make their returns.

In terms of interstate recruits, the Eagles have also dipped into the Victorian pool with a mix of experienced and young players entering the fold, set to line up as soon as in Round 1. The Eagles also lay claim to 2019/20 Nichols Medalist Beau O’Connell, who formed a strong midfield partnership with Braedon McLean, but the hole Joel Jeffrey will leave come AFL Draft time is a big one to fill.

Still, the Muk Muks will fancy themselves to improve greatly after showing some great promise early last year, and face a very good test first up against the Crocs.

Waratah:

2019/20 finish: 6th 5-13
Round 1 fixture: vs. Palmerston @ Gardens Oval, Friday 6:30pm

After an inconsistent season saw them finish best of the rest in sixth, the Warriors have plenty to prove in their 2020/21 campaign. Along with Nightcliff, Waratah has been one of the busiest clubs during the off-season, luring a mass amount of players from all kinds of leagues and levels in Victoria. Young key forward Ned Stevens also returns as a big coup, taking some of the goalkicking pressure of zippy midfielder/forward Kim Kantilla.

The likes of state leaguers Brodie Carroll and Callum Searle also line up for the Warriors, with Jae McGrath another important player to commit to the cause. As usual, Abe Ankers will be the key man, and all involved will hope he can run out more frequently this time around. Expectations will be high for a healthy rise this season considering Waratah’s various coups, but making the next step is always tough, especially with others improving around them.

Featured Image: Nightcliff celebrates its 2019/20 premiership | Credit: AFLNT

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 Women’s Premier League preview: Round 17 – Top of the table clash headlines penultimate route

WARATAH and Darwin are set to go head-to-head in a top of the table clash to round out a big weekend of Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Women’s Premier League action, with finals spots still to be determined. The round kicks off tonight under lights, with three Saturday fixtures capping off the weekend.

PALMERSTON MAGPIES vs. ST MARY’S
Friday February 7, 7:00pm
Cazalys Arena

Palmerston hosts the opening fixture of Round 17 under Friday night lights, set to face off against St Mary’s in a game which could propel the Magpies into the top three. After hitting the ground running again following a bye, the Magpies are well placed to climb even further among the final six having already secured post-season security. The Saints’ fate is also all-but sealed, with a finals berth looking unlikely given they have to win in their last two games and hope both Wanderers and Pint cannot pick up another set of points – whether four or two. But a two-pronged Magpies attack featuring Arthurina Moreen (32 goals) and Freda Puruntatameri (16) is in good form of late, and should cause plenty of headaches for the St Mary’s defence which has conceded the second-most points of the nine remaining sides. Given Palmerston’s current standing and form, they should be able to officially end the Saints’ season here with a big win.

NIGHTCLIFF vs. SOUTHERN DISTRICTS
Saturday February 8, 2:00pm
PSC BM Oval

Two finals-bound sides lock horns at PSC BM Oval as Nightcliff plays host to Southern Districts in the first of three Saturday fixtures. The Tigers’ four-game winning run was comprehensively brought to an end last time out at the hands of Palmerston, another top six side, but Nighcliff’s form heading into the back end of the year suggests it can still make an impact come finals time. Safe in the top six, Nightcliff can throw caution to the wind in this clash against a more fancied opponent, with the potential to even draw level on points with the Crocs on offer. But Southern Districts will come in fresh off a bye and ready to resume its strong season, with its scoring prowess making it primed to blow any side out of the water. Led by competition leading goalkicker Ebony Miller (47 goals) and Tahlia Holtze, the Crocs should fancy themselves to grab a third-straight win, but will have to be weary of post-bye blues.

WANDERERS vs. TRACY VILLAGE
Saturday February 8, 3:00pm
TIO Oval No. 2

Wanderers will look to go a step closer to securing safety in the top six when it faces cellar dweller, Tracy Village in the first of a TIO Oval double-header. The Eagles have slid slightly of late on the back of three-straight losses, going dangerously close to being overtaken by Pint, which beat them in that streak. But Tracy Village is in the midst of a similar trend, losing in its last four outings and 12 of its last 13 – only managing to topple the now-folded Big River Hawks. The Razorbacks have struggled for goals throughout a lowly campaign, but the Muk Muks have hardly blown sides away with its percentage sitting at just 76. Morgan Johnston and Shekeine De Satge will have to again lead the Eagles with finals security on the line, and some time to turn their form around.

DARWIN BUFFETTES vs. WARATAH
Saturday February 8, 5:00pm
TIO Oval No. 2

A top-of-the-table clash is left til last in Round 19 as Darwin and Waratah do battle on Saturday evening. After suffering just their second loss for the season over a month ago, the Warriors are proving it to be a mere speed-hump with four-consecutive wins following the surprise result. The Buffs also experienced a similar result in the last month – incidentally against the same opponent, Nightcliff – but boast three wins in their last four outings as the clear second-best side in the competition. This fixture will ultimately serve as not much more than a finals preview given Waratah has already wrapped up the minor premiership, but should be a corker given the talent in either squad. Lauren O’Shea, Jenna Singh, and Lisa Roberts have all been influential for the Warriors in finding the big sticks, while Tayla Hart-Aluni has been terrific for the Buffs across 15 games along with Kylie Duggan and Dominique Carbone. That is only a slither of the potential talent on show, with significant bragging rights up for grabs.

Bye: Pint

NTFL Men’s Premier League: Round 17 – Bombers look for three-peat over Saints

THE penultimate Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Men’s Premier League round features just one fixture between two top five sides, but it promises to be a cracker nonetheless with the bottom three teams looking to play the cat among the pigeons against finals-bound opponents. The minor premiership, wooden spooner, and final five might already be wrapped up, but there is still plenty to play for over another weekend of NTFL action.

DARWIN BUFFALOES vs. WARATAH
Friday February 7, 7:00pm
TIO Stadium

Darwin and Waratah resume their mini-rivalry under Friday night lights at TIO Stadium, with the Buffs continuing their push for top three qualification. The fourth-placed Buffaloes have not been able to string consecutive victories together since Rounds 7 and 8, going 4-4 in their eight matches since amid a tricky late-season draw. Meanwhile, the Warriors were only officially ruled out of finals contention last week in their loss to St Mary’s, ending a two-game winning run in the process. While the records show the ledger between these sides to be 2-0 in favour of Darwin, the Warriors were controversially stripped of a Round 3 win over the Buffs due to a team sheet error. So with the actual scales showing even, this should be an entertaining grudge match as Waratah looks to foil Darwin’s post-season plans for a second season running. But Daniel Stafford‘s inclusion for the higher-ranked side is a timely one with both Brodie Foster and Darren Shillabeer absent, set to link up with the in-form Ishmael Palmer and Isaac Seden-Kunoth inside 50. Darwin skipper Jarrod Stokes is again set to miss, easing the pressure on Waratah’s back six a touch. But the Warriors will also come in slightly undermanned, with Henry Kerinaiua, Brodie Carroll, and Abe Ankers all among the absentees. It could still prove to be a danger game for the Buffs, who should take nothing for granted heading into the finals with winning form always the best form.

SOUTHERN DISTRICTS vs. PALMERSTON MAGPIES
Saturday February 8, 2:30pm
TIO Stadium

Southern Districts’ slim hopes of cracking the top three lie mostly in other results, but the Crocs still have to get past Palmerston this weekend to keep them alive with a finals spot already sewn up. A horror run of form ended last week for Districts as it comfortably accounted for Wanderers, with its lighter run to the post-season against the bottom three continuing here. Palmerston’s short-lived success in Round 13 has been quickly forgotten amid another string of losses, confirming the Magpies’ second wooden spoon in three seasons with a couple of rounds still to play out. Despite there being little to lose for either side, both come in with reasonably strong line-ups as opportunities on to impress run thin. The Crocs have been settled across the last few weeks at the selection table aside from sweating on Michael and Ed Barlow‘s availability, and come in with a typically deadly midfield-forward rotation boasting Richard Tambling, Jeff Garlett, and Josiah Farrer. For Palmerston, Keidan Holt-Tubbs is a key out but will be replaced in the ruck by returning bigman Matthew Dennis, while Aaron Davey replaces his suspended brother and coach, Alwyn Davey, and Kyle Emery remains at the heart of midfield. While many would consider this clash a foregone conclusion given the combined 152-point discrepancy between the two sides in their clashes this season, there is enough class in the Magpies team to test Southern Districts should all go to plan.

NIGHTCLIFF vs. WANDERERS
Saturday February 8, 4:00pm
PSC BM Oval

Nightcliff will be out to maintain its strong momentum heading into finals when it hosts Wanderers at PSC BM Oval on Saturday. The formlines of these two sides could hardly be more opposite, with the Tigers excelling in their flag defence to notch up nine consecutive wins and the minor premiership to boot, while the Muk Muks have lost in 10-consecutive outings to sit a lowly seventh. The two previous meetings between these sides have gone as expected too, with the Tigers clocking up a combined 137-point winning margin in Round 3 and 8 triumphs to only further consolidate their status as clear favourite. While the young and exuberant Wanderers side will come in near full strength and on the hunt for an upset, the Tigers have maintained their starting side in hopes of getting a solid run into the post-season. Under-18 standout Joel Jeffrey could spend some time in the midfield having been named in the centre, with Shannon Motlop a handy inclusion to add to the likes of Beau O’Connell and Braedon McLean in the engine room rotation. Danny Butcher and James Tsitas are the most notable inclusions for Nightcliff with much of its core remaining, and competition leading goalkicker Trent Melville also set to feature. This game could go one of two ways; if Nightcliff want to continue to make statements as the competition benchmark, it will, but if Wanderers come out and throw caution to the wind, it could really bring it to the table-toppers.

TIWI BOMBERS vs. ST MARY’S
Saturday February 8, 7:00pm
TIO Stadium

Arguably the game of the round is again left til last as traditional rivals and premiership contenders Tiwi and St Mary’s go head-to-head on Saturday night. With Tiwi two games off the Saints in third place, a win would keep the Bombers in with a sniff of snatching second spot in Round 18, while a loss could also see them fall back out of the top three and into the elimination final zone. As one of the form sides of the competition, the Bombers have only gone down to Nightcliff – twice – in their last 10 outings, storming up the ladder and within striking distance of the Saints. Having already toppled their rival twice in a couple of unlikely results, much of the momentum is with the red and blacks. But the much-improved Saints are no easy-beats, triumphing in seven of their last eight games to have second spot all-but wrapped up. Despite a superior standing, St Mary’s could well be considered the underdog in a third clash between the sides, coming in with a slightly weaker side. While the core of Shaun Edwards, Jake Long, Jackson Paine, Jackson Calder, and Tom Davies remains, there is still a bit of strength to come back into the Saints line-up in the lead-up to finals. On the other hand, the Bombers have strengthened their side with the inclusions of Greensborough pair Tom Bell and Charlie Molyneux, while its attacking 50 boasts the likes of Adam Tipungwuti, Harley Puruntatameri, and Austin Wonaeamirri – all of whom have been finding the big sticks of late. The clash needs little sprucing, and should provide plenty of highlights if recent history is anything to go by.

NTFL Men’s Premier League preview: Round 16 – Danger games await final five

WITH the Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Men’s Premier League finalists all-but decided, each of the final five will be hoping to avoid any slip-ups on their way to the post-season. Just one Round 16 fixture is set to be played out between finals-bound sides, making this weekend one with a bunch of danger games.

PALMERSTON MAGPIES (8th, 1-14) vs. DARWIN BUFFALOES (4th, 8-7)
Friday January 31, 7:00pm
TIO Stadium

It is now or never for Darwin in its last-ditch attempt to snatch a top three spot, with cellar dweller Palmerston standing in the way of a much-needed set of four points. The Buffs have not been able to string together consecutive wins since completing a streak of three against the Magpies in Round 9, and have struggled to match it against fellow top five opponents. But Matt Campbell‘s side has fared much better against the current bottom three, going 6-0 so far and looking to add to that record here. Palmerston’s season has not produced many highlights, but a heartbreakingly narrow loss to the Buffs in that Round 9 meeting should provide a boost in confidence for the 1-14 Magpies. The class of Alwyn Davey, Aaron Davey, and Kyle Emery from on and behind the ball will be key to Palmerston’s success, with skipper and focal point Aaron Lonergan awaiting their delivery at full forward. He may find himself marked by the returning Ryan Pendlebury, who comes in to buff Darwin’s back six, while the likes of Campbell and Joe Anderson will have added responsibility with captain Jarrod Stokes missing from the team sheet. While the Buffs may see this as an opportunity to boost their percentage and keep touch with Tiwi, they should take nothing for granted in a game they simply must win.

TIWI BOMBERS (3rd, 10-5) vs. NIGHTCLIFF (1st, 14-1)
Saturday February 1, 2:30pm
TIO Stadium

Arguably the game of the round kicks off a super Saturday of NTFL football, with three of the four weekend fixtures to be played across the afternoon and evening. Two of the league’s hottest sides in Tiwi and Nightcliff do battle, with the Bombers looking to sew up a top three berth and the Tigers out to officially wrap up the minor premiership. This will be a real test of Tiwi’s premiership credentials with six-straight wins under its belt, but Nightcliff remains the only side the Bombers are yet to overcome, falling to the all-conquering Tigers in Rounds 2 and 9. While the Bombers are set to come in a touch undermanned in terms of interstate starpower, mainstays in the form of Adam Tipungwuti, Dion Munkara, and Harley Puruntatameri should provide that typical Tiwi dash and dare going forward, while Nathan Djerrkura remains at the heart of midfield. Tiwi’s starting forward line looks formidable on paper, but Nightcliff’s defence is as stingy as any, while also possessing the firepower to score big. Competition leading goalkicker Trent Melville is one who can help match Tiwi’s forward threat alongside Liam Holt-Fitz in the absence of John Butcher and Lachlan Sharp, while a raft of experienced heads steady the ship further afield. It is set to be a hot contest, and a good test for either side just a few weeks out from finals.

WARATAH (6th, 5-10) vs. ST MARY’S (2nd, 11-4)
Saturday February 1, 4:00pm
Gardens Oval

Waratah faces a tough ask in maintaining its unlikely turnaround towards finals, set to clash with the second-ranked St Mary’s on home turf. Consecutive wins have mathematically kept the Warriors in the hunt for fifth spot, but it all depends on whether they can win their three remaining games, and if Southern Districts lose all three of theirs. The Saints come in having only gone down to Nightcliff in their last seven outings, looking like a genuine premiership contender to sit safe in a double chance spot. While top three qualification is very nearly sewn up, a win would officially do it for last year’s wooden spooners. Much of the Saints’ strength will lie in their midfield this week, boasting the likes of David Armitage, Will Hams, Shaun Edwards, Jackson Geary, and Nate Paredes, while Maurice Rioli Jnr could also roll through there in the forward rotation. With Brodie Carroll and Abe Ankers set to miss, Waratah will hope to outgun the Saints through the likes of Jae McGrath and Mitchell O’Donnell inside 50, while Kim Kantilla and Henry Kerinaiua provide the creativity moving forward. It may seem a foregone conclusion on paper, but the Warriors’ form suggests they could prove tricky for the Saints to handle.

WANDERERS (7th, 3-11-1) vs. SOUTHERN DISTRICTS (5th, 7-7-1)
Saturday February 1, 7:00pm
TIO Stadium

Southern Districts will look to put any doubt over its top five spot to rest and get back to a positive record when it faces Wanderers to see out Round 16. The Crocs have had a tough time of it of late, going down in all of their last four outings – albeit against the top four sides – sliding down to fifth and almost out of top three contention. But with three games against the bottom sides to see out the regular season, starting here, the Crocs could seal an unlikely spring out of the elimination final slots. A team in an even worse rut at the moment is Wanderers, out to snap a nine-game losing run dating back to Round 6, having previously looked like a finals contender. The young Muk Muks have been lively in patches and have some terrific talent, but have not been able to stay in games for long enough. That should play into the hands of Southern Districts, with the experienced Ed Barlow and Michael Barlow set to join Richard Tambling through midfield, while their own prodigy in Brodie Lake should also make a difference. Wanderers engine room partnership of Braedon McLean and Beau O’Connell is set to resume, but will be tested greatly at the coalface. In a boost to the Eagles’ forward line, ex-Croc Shane Thorne makes his Premier League return to support the goalkicking prowess of Joel Jeffrey. Wanderers have nothing to lose, and should go at the Crocs with freedom given winning form is everything to Southern Districts heading into finals.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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