Tag: NTFL

Draft Central Power Rankings: September 2020

THE VERDICT is in after another terrific month of football from the latest crop of budding AFL draftees. Victorian prospects remain starved of action, but the best and brightest from around the nation have been stamping their claims, making for some interesting movers and sliders. In Draft Central‘s third Power Rankings edition for 2020, we extend our list out to 25 names, with key adjustments made to our initial July and August analyses. A certain West Australian key forward continues to rise steeply, while the Northern Territory gains a representative in the extended cut. All that, and more in our September Power Rankings update.

Note, the list is ordered purely on our opinion and each players’ ability, not taking into account any AFL clubs’ lists or needs.

#1 Jamarra Ugle-Hagan
Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Country | Key Position Forward
4/04/2002 | 194cm | 84kg

Western Bulldogs fans may not entirely enjoy seeing Next Generation Academy (NGA) product, Ugle-Hagan perched atop the tree given the hefty price that comes with it, but should be buoyed by their club having first dibs on such a remarkable talent. The 194cm key position forward has been compared to champion goalkicker Lance Franklin for his athleticism and left-foot kick, but he plays a little differently. Ugle-Hagan’s pace off the lead and sticky hands overhead set him apart, while elite scores in each of the preseason testing events make him an irresistible prospect alone. He is the consensus number one choice at this point, having delivered on the hype as he moved to the Oakleigh region via a scholarship with Scotch College.

August Ranking: #1

Last Month: Inactive due to lack of NAB League and APS Football.

>> Q&A
>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup

#2 Elijah Hollands
Murray Bushrangers/Vic County | Forward/Midfielder
25/04/2002 | 188cm | 80kg

Hollands’ placing in these rankings will inevitably prove one of the hardest to call throughout the year, given he is set to sit out the entire 2020 season after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). At this point though, he has done more than enough to warrant top five status at the least, and finds a place in second spot once again. While his knack for producing game-defining periods has most significantly been achieved forward of centre, Hollands has the size and skill to warrant his goal of earning more midfield minutes. With clean hands, athleticism, and a booming boot which often finds the goals, Hollands is all you could ever want from a high-ceiling prospect. Not playing shouldn’t hurt his value too much, but it would have been nice to see him get an uninterrupted crack at NAB League level having finished his schooling at Caulfield Grammar.

August Ranking: #2

Last Month: Inactive due to lack of NAB League, and recovery from long-term knee injury.

>> Feature
>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup

#3 Logan McDonald
Perth/Western Australia | Key Position Forward
4/04/2002 | 196cm | 85kg

A dominant key position forward with terrific endurance is McDonald, who adds to the strong tall and West Australian representation on this list. The high-marking spearhead ran out for his state thrice during last year’s Under 18 National Championships, averaging a goal per game and impressing with his ability to clunk marks leading up the ground. He has terrific hands on the lead and usually has no trouble finding the big sticks, while his high-level endurance confirms his status as a true, modern-day centre half-forward. Having grown and filled out to a more conventional key position size, expect McDonald to better showcase his game-winning ability from forward of centre – something which earned him All-Australian honours as an Under 16s player.

August Ranking: #9

Last Month: McDonald has been arguably the most consistent key position performer of all the players on this list; at the highest possible level, no less. He now sits second in the WAFL League goalkicking charts, having booted 13 goals across his five August/September outings. He boasts 20 goals in seven games overall, and has not yet failed to kick multiple goals. Even if he is having a quiet patch, McDonald has been able to make an impact and take full toll with what the Perth midfielders deliver his way. He will continue to provide a focal point as the Demons push for finals, with his conversion from range, marking on the lead, and one-on-one work deep inside 50 all excellent for his age.

>> Draft Watch
>> Player Focus

#4 Denver Grainger-Barras
Swan Districts/Western Australia | Key Position Defender
14/04/2002 | 195cm | 78kg

Another tall amongst the top five, and a versatile one at that. While he is definitely most comfortable and renowned as a key position defender, the Swan Districts hopeful’s versatility lies in the varying roles he play inside defensive 50. Credit to his athleticism and slender frame, he is able to keep up with medium types at ground level, while also showing form as a lockdown type on the opposition’s best big forward, or as an intercept marking outlet. Grainger-Barras is a cool head in possession too, boasting a sound kick for his size and composure beyond his years. That same level-headedness and footballing IQ makes him a sound reader of the play from the back, and the leading option in his position.

August Ranking: #4

Last Month: Another consistent performer, Grainger-Barras is still capable of delivering some ‘wow’ moments. Most recently, he produced a starring second half against McDonald and the Perth Demons, bouncing back from a lacklustre opening half to help Swan Districts power to victory. While he is still quite light for a key position prospect, Grainger-Barras showed he is not afraid to wear contact on that day, leaping for some incredible intercept marks while directly opposed to his State Under 18s teammate. He may get knocked around a touch, but loves a bit of niggle and stands up against mature bodies. Over the past month, the 18-year-old averaged 11.6 disposals and 5.2 marks per his five games, good enough to hold his spot.

>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup
>> Player Focus

#5 Will Phillips
Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro | Balanced Midfielder
22/05/2002 | 179cm | 78kg

We all marvelled at how well Oakleigh graduates Matt Rowell and Noah Anderson have adapted to life in the AFL, and Phillips could be the next Charger in line to do just that having leant on the pair during his bottom-aged campaign. Like Rowell, Phillips is a sub-180cm prospect who consistently finds plenty of the ball and possesses great leadership qualities. He is a well-balanced midfielder too, having plied his trade at times on the outside for Oakleigh en route to premiership glory. Phillips seems to thrive on the inside though, with his hardness and ability to weave through traffic making him an invaluable stoppage asset. The Caulfield Grammar student was set to juggle APS football and NAB League duties in 2020, while standing as a clear leadership candidate for Vic Metro come national carnival time – all before the pandemic hit.

August Ranking: #3

Last Month: Inactive due to lack of NAB League and APS Football.

>> Q&A
>> Draft Watch

#6 Riley Thilthorpe
West Adelaide/South Australia | Ruck/Key Position Forward
7/07/2002 | 200cm | 99kg

In a welcome change from last year’s crop, key position prospects will be in abundance at the top end. Thilthorpe is one of them, an athletic ruck/forward who possesses enormous running capacity and can dominate the airways. In his ruck duties, the 200cm West Adelaide product plays more like a fourth midfielder, able to follow up at ground level and cover the ground like a small. He has been utilised in a more forward-oriented role for the Bloods at SANFL League level though, with his goalkicking attributes and diverse skillset already making him a handful for senior players with more mature bodies. Ask any of the South Australian Under 18s who they are most looking forward to playing alongside in 2020, and Thilthorpe is among them. Jot the name down, he should be among those you are most looking forward to watching, too.

August Ranking: #5

Last Month: West Adelaide has managed Thilthorpe over the last two weeks as he nurses a groin complaint, bringing an end to his streak of nine-straight League appearances since Round 1. The bigman had been enjoying some time in a variety of roles; from his usual key forward post, to some added responsibility in the ruck rotation, and even venturing up onto a wing. In his four August outings, Thilthorpe was kept goalless thrice, averaging 11.8 disposals, four marks, and over 12 hitouts to be squeezed just outside of the top five. He still has runs on the board and hopefully gets back into the swing of things to finish off the SANFL season.

>> Feature
>> Draft Watch
>> Player Focus

#7 Braeden Campbell
Sydney Swans Academy/Allies | Balanced Midfielder/Forward
4/02/2002 | 181cm | 72kg

While he has again been squeezed out to number seven, Campbell is a player who could potentially sit among the top five come season’s end. Uncertainty lingers over how much exposure NSW/ACT athletes will be able to gain in 2020 given the NEAFL and NAB League scrappings, but one must only watch last year’s Under 17 Futures All-Star showcase to be reminded of Campbell’s talent. He was best-afield in that game, with electrifying speed, hardness at the ball, and a booming left-foot kick catching the eye of all who bore witness. The Swans Academy product is also apt in the short range as well, and has the invaluable ability to impact games in multiple positions. Whether it be on the inside, outside, or forward of centre, Campbell is a match-winner and should cost the Swans a pretty penny in terms of draft points.

August Ranking: #6

Last Month: Campbell returned to AFL Sydney Premier Division football this past weekend for Pennant Hills, booting a goal in the Demons’ 80-point victory over East Coast. That came after he turned out twice for the Sydney Swans Academy, helping his side claim Academy Series points over the GWS GIANTS Academy on both occasions. He looked a class above in those outings, able to win the ball at will through midfield, while showcasing his versatility and remaining a goalkicking threat going forward.

>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup
>> Player Focus

#8 Tanner Bruhn
Geelong Falcons/Vic Country | Inside Midfielder
27/05/2002 | 182cm | 73kg

Class with a capital ‘C’ is what Bruhn has been described as, despite his limited on-field opportunities of late. The Geelong Falcons midfielder burst onto the scene as Vic Country’s Under 16 MVP in 2018, but injuries have cruelled him since; having initially required knee surgery after a 2019 preseason incident, and undergone a follow-up procedure that would have had him in doubt to feature early this year. He still managed to add two NAB League outings to his resume towards the end of last season, showcasing his terrific stoppage craft with clean hands and wonderful movement around the ball. Should he eventually enjoy an extended run and put his best form on display, Bruhn could well push to be the premier midfielder of this year’s bunch.

August Ranking: #7

Last Month: Inactive due to lack of NAB League and APS Football.

>> Q&A
>> Draft Watch

#9 Nikolas Cox
Northern Knights/Vic Metro | Key Position Defender/Utility
15/01/2002 | 199cm | 82kg

A 199cm player who can run, kick on both sides, and play just about anywhere? It sounds too good to be true, but that is exactly what Cox brings to the table as his region’s most outstanding draft candidate. Cox cut his teeth as a tall wingman and key position swingman in 2019, juggling his time between school football, 10 NAB League outings, and a berth in the Under 18 Vic Metro squad as a bottom-ager. In 2020, the Northern Knights co-captain is set to develop as a centre-half back, with his athleticism and versatility in the role lending to the fact he has an enormous ceiling. He is also set to be a prime candidate to lead Vic Metro should the Vics get on the park, lauded for his professionalism and the example he sets via training standards.

August Ranking: #8

Last Month: Inactive due to lack of NAB League and AGSV Football.

>> Q&A
>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup

#10 Lachlan Jones
WWT Eagles/South Australia | General Defender
9/04/2002 | 185cm | 89kg

Yet another NGA prospect, Jones is tied to Port Adelaide and features quite highly on this list. His big frame has seen him adjust well to the rigours of SANFL League football, running out against mature bodies in all of the Eagles’ fixtures thus far. As a general defender, Jones possesses obvious hardness at the ball and can compete both aerially and at ground level, remaining relevant going both ways too. His skills are also a big asset, able to spear passes to high percentage options while also breaking games open with his long-range efforts. Jones may well be one to push further up the list as he progresses in 2020, with some solid traits which point to a quick transition into the next level.

August Ranking: #12

Last Month: Jones remains the sole South Australian Under 18 on this list to have turned out at League level for every round this season, as he goes from strength to strength. The Eagles are in the box seat to take out the minor premiership, with the Port Adelaide NGA prospect an established part of the side’s defence in a variety of roles. In his six outings since August 1, Jones has averaged 11.5 disposals, 3.5 marks, and four rebound 50s, returning to his best with 16 touches and eight rebounds against North Adelaide in Round 11. He has consistently been able to intercept, play both tall and small, and rebound effectively against mature bodies, bumping him up to #10.

>> Draft Watch
>> Player Focus Round 3 | Round 8

#11 Nathan O’Driscoll 
Perth/Western Australia | Midfielder/Defender
17/05/2002 | 187cm | 76kg

One of Western Australia’s leading prospects is O’Driscoll, a hard-at-it inside midfielder who can also double as a damaging half-back or wingman. The 187cm Perth Demons product was a standout at Colts level last year, while also breaking through for three outings in the Black Ducks’ Under 18 National Championships campaign as a bottom-ager. Having learnt off the likes of former Perth teammate and Brisbane draftee, Deven Robertson, O’Driscoll is primed to become a permanent midfield fixture haven already proven his ball winning capabilities. His penetrating boot and speed-endurance mix make him a prospect with many desirable traits, not to mention his older sister, Emma is already plying her trade at AFLW level for Fremantle.

August Ranking: #13

Last Month: After his third and final Colts outing in early-August, O’Driscoll earned a Reserves berth in Round 5, before being immediately promoted to the League side. After a steady debut, O’Driscoll has racked up 20 and 15 disposals over the last fortnight, benefitting from being allowed an extended run through midfield. The 18-year-old has showcased his toughness and hard-running ability at senior level, leaving nothing left in the tank. He works hard for his possessions and is equally as relevant in his defensive duties for the most part. There has been some conjecture about his range, we feel his current form and future scope lands him just outside the top 10.

>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup
>> Player Focus

#12 Alex Davies
Gold Coast SUNS/Allies | Inside Midfielder
18/03/2002 | 191cm | 85kg

A second Northern Academy prospect and the first Queenslander on this list, Davies is one of the more highly touted big-bodied midfielders of his cohort. Standing at 191cm and filling out to 85kg, the SUNS Academy hopeful boasts the ideal size to not only dominate his junior competitors, but more importantly make an immediate impact at the next level. He has been his state’s prime ball winner for some time and thrives on racking up high contested numbers, but has also displayed terrific poise in traffic and adds releasing handballs to his thumping kicks away from the stoppages. He ran out for four of Gold Coast’s NAB League outings as a bottom-ager, and should prove a key figure among the Allies squad in 2020.

August Ranking: #10

Last Month: Davies was set to line up for the Gold Coast SUNS in August’s Academy Series, but suffered an elbow injury which ruled him out of action early in the month. He faces a race against the clock to return in time for Broadbeach’s upcoming QAFL finals campaign, which begins next week for the minor premiers.

>> Q&A
>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup

#13 Reef McInnes
Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro | Inside Midfielder
12/12/2002 | 192cm | 84kg

Sitting outside the top 10 due to others’ rises is another inside midfielder and a second NGA product from both the Scotch College and Oakleigh Chargers systems. Attached to Collingwood, McInnes is set to be yet another in the production line of academy and father-son prospects made available to the Magpies, and looms as a first round candidate. While he was pushed out to the forward line in Oakleigh’s stacked premiership side, McInnes is a bull on the inside who can dominate at stoppages. He is hardly the typical slow, strength-dependant type either, able to lean on his agility and awareness to effectively extract from midfield. The versatility he was made to learn as a bottom-ager adds another string to his bow, with goals a valuable part of his game in 2019.

August Ranking: #11

Last Month: Inactive due to lack of NAB League and APS Football.

>> Q&A
>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup

#14 Kaine Baldwin
Glenelg/South Australia | Key Position Forward
30/05/2002 | 193cm | 92kg

The news of Baldwin’s second ACL tear in as many years – albeit partial this time – was shattering. It means the promising 193cm forward will miss out on yet another season of football after earning All Australian honours at Under 16s level in 2018, and a crack at the SANFL Reserves grade as a bottom-ager. In our eyes, he remains a first round prospect on talent alone, and looked poised to really crack on in 2020 after his initial recovery. He was a handy preseason testing performer, with good returns in the vertical jumps and yo-yo test conveying Baldwin’s ability to crash packs and clunk big contested marks, while also harnessing that aerial dominance in his work up the ground.

August Ranking: #14

Last Month: Inactive due to recovery from long-term knee injury, but earned a National Combine invite for September 30.

>> Feature
>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup

#15 Zach Reid
Gippsland Power/Vic Country | Key Position Defender/Utility
2/03/2002 | 202cm | 82kg

A versatile tall who could push for top 10 status, Reid returned a consistent output during his bottom-age season as a key member of Gippsland’s spine. He was tried up either end and through the ruck across 15 NAB League outings, but looked most comfortable down back and should find a home there once again in 2020. At 202cm, Reid is filling out nicely and can utilise that added strength to compete better one-on-one against big key forwards. He is a terrific judge of the ball in flight and positions intelligently, not just relying on his height to compete aerially. Reid is also both a sound handler and user of the ball for his size, providing a cool head in rebounding transitions.

August Ranking: #15

Last Month: Inactive due to lack of NAB League and Gippsland Football League.

>> Q&A
>> Draft Watch

#16 Heath Chapman
West Perth/Western Australia | Key Position Defender
31/01/2002 | 193cm | 81kg

A player who has risen into top 20 calculations, Chapman is a key position defender with many points of difference. Having cut his teeth in the role during his bottom-age year, the 193cm prospect has been able to roll off as a third tall down back for West Perth in 2020, utilising his shrewd reading of the play and athleticism to provide dominant intercept marking prowess. His ability to open up the play in transition with long, rebounding kicks is Chapman’s other key strength, making him a versatile defensive outlet who finds plenty of the ball. Given his size and athletic attributes, that third tall prototype seems his most likely avenue to the elite level, though he is just as capable competing as a more traditional key position player.

August Ranking: NR

Last Month: Chapman is the only new player inside this month’s top 20, rising all the way up to #16 on the back of some impressive form. From Rounds 3 to 6 in the WAFL Colts, Chapman averaged a remarkable 25.8 disposals and 8.8 marks down back, enough to earn him a League debut this past weekend. The 18-year-old reeled in five marks among his 11 touches, making for a promising start to life at senior level. With the ability to mark and use the ball so efficiently for his size, Chapman is a player with plenty of desirable traits. West Perth is in the finals race, so hopefully Chapman can hold his League spot and impress under post-season pressure.

>> Draft Watch

#17 Oliver Henry
Geelong Falcons/Vic Country | Medium Utility
29/07/2002 | 187cm | 77kg

A brother-of who could eventually feature at the top end of this year’s rankings is Henry, the younger sibling of Geelong Cats defender, Jack. The Geelong Falcons product has top 10 potential, able to play up either end of the ground and pull down big marks. While he looks most comfortable up forward as a high-flying third tall type, Henry is just as capable down back where his aerial prowess translates to intercept value. At 187cm, he plays above his size through sheer athleticism and reading of the play, with the potential to also move up onto a wing. Should Victorian prospects finally be allowed back onto the park in 2020, expect Henry to be one who could rise quite steeply given his enormous upside and versatility.

August Ranking: #17

Last Month: Henry ran out for St Joseph’s all the way back in the first week of August, battling both with and against plenty of his Geelong Falcons teammates. The 187cm prospect booted two goals for Joey’s against Geelong College in a more forward-oriented role, and was also named among his side’s best players. He has since been inactive due to fixture cancellations and a lack of NAB League football.

>> Feature
>> Marquee Matchup

#18 Tom Powell
Sturt/South Australia | Midfielder
2/03/2002 | 180cm | 73kg

There are few more consistent ball winners than Powell, who has put an interrupted bottom-age season behind him to emerge as arguably Sturt’s most promising draft prospect. The Double Blues standout simply finds the ball at will, able to get his side going on the front foot from midfield with clever positioning, movement, and extraction. He may be a touch handball happy, but is an elite exponent of that tool and is beginning to mix in his kicking to have an even greater impact on games. At his best, Powell is nothing short of dominant, though goals and a greater run-and-carry game would make him a complete midfielder – think Lachie Neale‘s development.

August Ranking: #18

Last Month: Powell was teased with senior selection after amassing a whopping 47 disposals, 10 clearances, and two goals in Round 10, but continues to plug away at Under 18s level. It is there where the prolific midfielder has averaged nearly 36 disposals and nine clearances across his last five games, remaining atop the charts in both areas despite missing out in Round 9. The Double Blues maestro has also added goals to his game, booting seven from midfield in the last month. His numbers stack up as well as anyone in the draft pool, but whether he can maintain that output at senior level obviously remains to be seen.

>> Feature (April) | (September)
>> Draft Watch

#19 Zane Trew
Swan Districts/Western Australia | Inside Midfielder
26/04/2002 | 186cm | 78kg

Trew is one of many top-end prospects who have had to battle injury throughout their bottom-age seasons, but he looks primed to bounce back well in 2020. Hailing from the talent-stacked Swan Districts program, Trew is a classy inside midfielder who can rack up plenty of ball in style, backed by his 40-disposal effort in last year’s WAFL Colts competition. While he was limited to just three outings and missed Under 18 selection for WA, the 186cm prospect should not be forgotten in first round discussions. Trew is a handball-happy extractor, able to flick out releasing touches to his runners, but he is just as effective by foot with clean skills at short range and penetration when required. Should be a lock for the WA engine room this season with representative games ahead.

August Ranking: #16

Last Month: Another prospect who has flirted with senior promotion, Trew only really finds himself sliding down a few spots due to others’ promotions. Barring an injury-stricken outing at the start of August, the Swan Districts product has been at his ball winning best. Having returned from his lay-off due to concussion, Trew has averaged 27 disposals across his last three WAFL Colts outings. A senior berth may prove tough to crack given the Swans’ winning effort last time out, with only one more game in any grade possible due as the regular season comes to a close this week – Swan Districts have also not made finals in any competition. He did earn a National Combine invite though, and will have the opportunity to impress in Western Australia’s All-Star fixture pegged for October.

>> Draft Watch
>> Draft Diary 1 | 2
>> Marquee Matchup

#20 Archie Perkins
Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro | Forward/Midfielder
26/03/2002 | 186cm | 77kg

Perkins has all the makings of a special talent. Having caught the eye as a forward and outside midfielder in 2019, the Sandringham Dragons standout was poised to spend more time on the inside as a top-ager, with just the right size and some incredible athletic attributes to aid his transition. Perkins boasts a monster vertical leap, covers 20 metres in less than three seconds, and is brilliantly agile, making for an ideal athletic base. His finishing touch is an area he can refine, but the 186cm prospect is no stranger to finding the goals and can be a real game changer when required. Damage or impact is a key trait which is often hard to measure, but Perkins ranks highly in that department.

August Ranking: #19

Last Month: Inactive due to lack of NAB League and APS Football.

>> Q&A
>> Draft Watch
>> Marquee Matchup

#21 Finlay Macrae
Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro | Balanced Midfielder
13/03/2002 | 184cm | 75kg

You may recognise the name and yes, Finlay is the brother of Western Bulldogs midfielder, Jack. They are quite clearly cut from the same cloth, with the younger Macrae possessing a similar ball winning appetite and class on the ball to his established older sibling. The 184cm Charger also boasts a terrific balance in his traits, able to impact the play moving forward with sound decision making and precise execution via foot, on top of his obvious exploits in extraction. While he is not overly quick, Macrae’s evasiveness comes through agility and awareness, which would have been on full show as he prepared to feature prominently for Oakleigh, Xavier College, and Vic Metro in 2020.

August Ranking: #20

Last Month: Inactive due to lack of NAB League and APS Football.

>> Q&A
>> Draft Watch

#22 Jack Carroll
East Fremantle/Western Australia | Midfielder/Defender
20/12/2002 | 188cm | 79kg

Another entirely fresh face on our list, Carroll’s name is unearthed due to our expansion to an order of 25. That is not to say that he would not have featured otherwise, with the East Fremantle product a player who has plenty of first round suitors. Coming into his top-age season, Carroll was pegged as a classy outside midfielder or half-back who moved well and used the ball efficiently by foot. But after nearly a full season of WAFL Colts football through midfield, the 188cm prospect has also shown his worth inside the engine room. Carroll measures up at a good height and while he may be a touch light around the contest, he uses his high-level agility and poise to weave through traffic before effectively disposing of the ball. A versatile talent with good upside, Carroll is destined to rise even further.

August Ranking: NR

Last Month: This week will serve as Carroll’s last chance to earn senior selection before finals, though East Fremantle is only really in that frame across the Reserves and Colts grades. He would inevitably come into consideration after an outstanding performance against Claremont in Round 7, collecting 31 disposals and booting two goals as the Sharks knocked off their highly-fancied opponents. In five games over the past month, Carroll has averaged 23.4 disposals to put himself right among the top 20 mix. For us, he remains just outside it for now at #22, but has all the class to move on up.

>> Draft Watch

#23 Caleb Poulter
WWT Eagles/South Australia | Midfielder/Forward
12/10/2002 | 190cm | 79kg

One of this year’s brightest bolters, Poulter has rocketed up draft boards after an eye-catching start to his top-age season. The big-bodied midfielder brings a serious presence through midfield, able to win plenty of the ball himself while also hunting the opposition with tackling pressure. Add to his midfield craft the ability to take big marks overhead, hit the scoreboard with his penetrating left boot, and utilise his terrific athletic base, and you have a prospect who can wreak absolute havoc at his best. With some senior football also under his belt in 2020, Poulter has stood up and been noticed quickly. It has been a steep rise since his Under 16 carnival in South Australia colours last year.

August Ranking: NR

Last Month: Poulter earned a call-up to the Eagles’ Reserves side in Round 10, booting a goal on debut and retaining his spot in the latest weekend of action. The League side will be tough to crack given its success this season, but the 190cm prospect will be keen to join fellow top-age gun, Lachlan Jones in the lineup. Prior to his promotion, Poulter averaged a tick under 28 disposals in his four Under 18s outings across August, generating plenty of forward momentum and hitting the scoreboard in two of those games. In that time, Poulter gained a big tick for his consistency and has found the ball in all areas of the ground, highlighting his versatility in production.

>> Feature
>> Draft Watch

#24 Brandon Walker
East Fremantle/Western Australia | Half-Back
17/10/2002 | 184cm | 75kg

Introducing one of the smoothest movers of the potential 2020 AFL draft cohort, who is tied to Fremantle’s NGA. Dockers fans will be desperate to downplay Walker’s potential, with elite speed, agility, and vertical leaps combined with clean skills to make up the East Fremantle prospect’s game. He looks a damaging outlet off half-back with his line-breaking ability and precision via foot, while also providing solid defensive cover credit to eye-catching aerial feats and reading of the play. Walker can also move through midfield, adding another string to his bow as he develops. His twin brother, Chris joins him at East Fremantle and in the Dockers Academy.

August Ranking: NR

Last Month: Walker returns to our rankings as we expand the list, and has produced a solid month of football. The Dockers NGA hopeful has averaged bang-on 20 touches and over six marks across five games in August/September, with 74 per cent of his disposals in that time released via foot. These numbers are quite good for a prospect of his type, who pops up rather than accumulates. His marking ability, combined with speed and poise across the ground makes him a dual-pronged defensive outlet with plenty of weapons. While he is able to impact further afield and even find the goals, we feel Walker has showcased his best form at half-back.

>> Draft Watch

#25 Joel Jeffrey
NT Thunder/Allies | Utility
12/03/2002 | 192cm | 78kg

The sole representative from the Northern Territory in our top 25, Jeffrey is arguably the region’s most promising draft prospect this year. Having grown to 192cm, Jeffrey is a true swingman who can dominate aerially up either end. His reading of the ball in flight is exceptional, and his sticky hands do the rest of the work as he pulls down big marks. The son of NT legend Russell Jeffrey, Joel comes from good pedigree and is terrifically athletic for his size; boasting speed to burn, a sizeable leap, and clean hands at ground level. Having gained senior football experience with Wanderers in the NTFL, Jeffrey was set to move to Queensland this year given his ties to the Gold Coast SUNS via their access to the Darwin zone. The move was ultimately put on hold due to the current pandemic, but Jeffrey looks likely to end up in the Sunshine State come season’s end.

August Ranking: NR

Last Month: After a long waiting period since his last NTFL outing in February, Jeffrey returned to action with the Gold Coast SUNS as part of August’s Academy Series. He took part in game two against the Brisbane Lions Academy, and built into the contest well after a steady start. Having initially lined up down back, where he looks a touch more impactful as he drifts across to intercept, Jeffrey was swung forward in the second half and booted a goal. He looked lively with his turn of speed and athleticism, despite some scratchy moments early on.

>> Draft Watch

IN THE MIX:

It is no secret now that South Australian Brayden Cook is bolting into top 25 calculations, as the South Adelaide wingman/forward continues to impress at Under 18s level. He remains just outside our rankings as others have more runs on the board, but another month of similar form would make him hard to ignore.

Errol Gulden has been in serious form in the AFL Sydney Premier Division, with 10 goals in his last three games – including a bag of six – putting him in the mix. West Australians Joel Western (Fremantle NGA) and Isiah Winder have also caught the eye, as the former made his return from injury, while the latter again earned a spot at League level for Peel Thunder.

Of the most unlucky Victorians to miss due to a lack of action, Bailey Laurie has previously featured in our top 20, while Hawthorn NGA prospect and Eastern Ranges captain Connor Downie is also one to consider. Sandringham Dragons bigman Max Heath is a ruck prospect who lingers around the mark, along with Essendon NGA defender Cody Brand. Jake Bowey and Eddie Ford also boast top 25 potential.

Back across in South Australia, small forward Corey Durdin made a short lived return from injury this week at SANFL League level, while Luke Edwards got back on the park in the Reserves. Zac Dumesny is still recovering from an ankle complaint, and all three are around the 30-35 range in our eyes.

All four Tasmania Academy hub members earned National Combine invites. Jackson Callow has been unleashed in a slightly different role down back, increasing his stocks of late in the TSL, with Oliver Davis proving consistent, and Patrick Walker continuing to show promising upside across half-back and on the wing.

AFL Draft Watch: Joel Jeffrey (NT Thunder/Allies)

IN the midst of football’s long-awaited return, Draft Central takes a look at some of this year’s brightest names who have already represented their state in some capacity leading into 2020. While plenty has changed between now and then, we will provide a bit of an insight into players, how they performed at pre-season testing, and some of our scouting notes on them from last year.

Next under the microscope in our AFL Draft watch is Northern Territory native Joel Jeffrey, an athletic utility with enormous upside. The son of former St Kilda and Brisbane player, Russell Jeffrey, Joel is tied to the Gold Coast SUNS through their access to the Darwin zone. The 192cm prospect has played senior football for Wanderers in the NTFL, and was set to move across to Queensland before the pandemic hit. Able to play either forward or in defence, Jeffrey is a magnificent reader of the ball in flight, and doubles his impact with some serious speed across the ground. He brings terrific x-factor to the table, as demonstrated during his appearances in the 2019 Under 18 National Championships, Under 17 Futures All Star game, and this year’s Northern Academy Series. He looms as a top 25 prospect and has been invited to this year’s National Combine.

PLAYER PAGE:

Joel Jeffrey
NT Thunder/Allies

DOB: March 12, 2002

Height: 192cm
Weight: 78kg

Position: Utility

Strengths: Athleticism, versatility, aerial marking, x-factor
Improvements: Consistency

2019 NAB League averages: 3 games | 21.7 disposals | 6.7 marks | 2.7 tackles | 1.0 clearances | 1.0 inside 50s | 7.0 rebound 50s | 0.3 goals (1)
2019 U18 National Championships averages: 3 games | 9.7 disposals | 3.0 marks | 1.7 tackles | 0.6 clearances | 0.6 inside 50s | 2.6 rebound 50s

PRESEASON TESTING RESULTS:

N/A.

>> Full Testing Results:
Jumps
20m Sprint
Agility
Yo-yo

SCOUTING NOTES:

2019 Under 17 Futures All Stars

By: Michael Alvaro

Jeffrey is an excitement machine up either end with his marking and running abilities, and proved as much in this game. He started down back and positioned well behind the ball to snap up much of what came his way. Jeffrey’s one-on-one marking was sound too, which is a handy addition to his eye-catching intercept play. While his forward run and long kicks helped him impact the play past the wing, Jeffrey was moved up the other end more permanently to good effect with two goals in the second half. The Wanderers product snuck out the back well on both occasions, marking inside 50 and slotting home with a lovely set shot action.

2019 Under 18 National Championships vs. Vic Metro

By: Michael Alvaro

The bottom-aged NT utility is capable of playing up either end, but looks really useful down back as a good reader of the ball in flight. Jeffrey leapt really well under high balls towards his own defensive 50 and stood strong as packs formed in his area, showing he wasn’t afraid of the inevitable contact. He looked better as the game went on and proved solid in the second half as Metro looked to charge with some one-on-one wins.

2019 NAB League Round 5 vs. GWV Rebels

By: Peter Williams

Definitely an eye-catching player at half-back. His kicking was hit or miss at times, with his vision and decision making good, but his execution just a bit iffy. His vertical leap one-on-one was outstanding and he is a terrific intercept mark. He does not panic when under pressure and seems to shrug off opponents with ease. He’s a long kick of the football and someone who found plenty of it coming out of defence. Jeffrey reads the ball in flight well and has a nice marking action. Took a huge intercept mark in the third term rising above all others to cleanly grab it in the third term, and then saved a goal with a great running mark back with the flight. Overall a super game in a defence that was under siege for the most part.

Featured Image: RF Photography

>> 2020 Allies U18s Squad Prediction
>> Positional Analysis: Utilities
>> August 2020 Power Rankings
>> July 2020 Power Rankings

>> CATCH UP ON OUR DRAFT WATCH SERIES

Allies:
Tahj Abberley
Charlie Byrne
Jackson Callow
Blake Coleman
Braeden Campbell
Alex Davies
Oliver Davis
Errol Gulden
Patrick Walker

South Australia:
Kaine Baldwin
Bailey Chamberlain
Zac Dumesny
Corey Durdin
Luke Edwards
Lachlan Jones
Tariek Newchurch
Caleb Poulter
Tom Powell
Taj Schofield
Riley Thilthorpe

Vic Country:
Sam Berry
Tanner Bruhn
Jack Ginnivan
Oliver Henry
Elijah Hollands
Zach Reid
Nick Stevens
Jamarra Ugle-Hagan

Vic Metro:
Jake Bowey
Jackson Cardillo
Nikolas Cox
Connor Downie
Eddie Ford
Bailey Laurie
Finlay Macrae
Reef McInnes
Archie Perkins
Will Phillips

Western Australia:
Jack Carroll
Heath Chapman
Denver Grainger-Barras
Logan McDonald
Nathan O’Driscoll
Zane Trew
Brandon Walker
Joel Western
Isiah Winder

Two from two – NT gun Brodie Lake helps Centrals break through

SIX rounds into the 2020 SANFL Under 18s season, Central Districts sat seventh at 1-5. To that point, the Bulldogs had only bettered winless cellar dweller West Adelaide in Round 2. Over the past fortnight, they’ve improved to 3-5 and remain just one game off the top four.

Across that very same two-week period, Northern Territory (NT) native Brodie Lake has settled into the side having moved south to pursue a greater wealth of opportunities in his top-age AFL draft year. It may be a coincidence that Centrals are two from two with Lake in the lineup, but it’s clear the Top End talent is making his mark.

Having arrived in South Australia on the first Monday of August, Lake was able to get straight into training and make his debut for the Bulldogs just five days later.

“This is my second week here. Our season is not on (back home) and NT Thunder got cancelled with the NAB League so I made the decision to come down, get my name out there and play some games,” Lake told Draft Central this week.

“I didn’t have to quarantine coming from Darwin but I had to get a test just to make sure. It was good to get straight into training and playing. I had training on Wednesday and Thursday, and then played on the weekend and got the win.”

Central Districts’ Brodie Lake celebrates a goal with teammates | Picture credit: Hannah Howard/SANFL

The daunting factor of living away from home at just 18 years of age is somewhat aided by the fact he has experienced it all before. Lake lived with a host family in Western Australia while representing Peel Thunder during last year’s WAFL Colts competition, making eight appearances. While he has the distraction of football and is currently rooming with older brother, Keenan in South Australia, the youngster still leans on his prior travels to push through.

“(Moving to WA last year) definitely made it a lot easier, knowing I can live away from Mum and Dad… I’m living here with my brother so that’s good.

“For the first couple of months I don’t find it hard because I’m doing stuff and training, but towards the end when the season is about to finish I start missing home a little bit more.

“Mum, Dad and my brother are big helps. They just push me and encourage me to do stuff and they say ‘It’s up to you, it’s your dream, but we’ll help you and support you through it.'”

That dream of playing AFL football has been at the forefront of Lake’s mind since first representing the Thunder at Under 16s level in 2018. He did so once again in 2019, earning his side’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) award for his efforts across the three-game Division 2 carnival.

“I started getting serious about it at Under 16s, my first year (with NT). I was like ‘Yeah, this is something I want to do.’

“I enjoyed playing with the boys back home, getting into the state side with them and getting to know them a bit more. It was good, especially to get All Australian, I was pretty happy with that.”

Congratulations to Brodie Lake who topped off his family affair during the NAB AFL Under 16 Championships by being named…

Posted by AFL Northern Territory on Friday, July 12, 2019

 

Having grown up in the Darwin zone, Lake is tied to the Gold Coast SUNS, though opted to continue his southern venture rather than represent the Queensland-based program in the current Academy Series.

“I went down (to Queensland) and trained with them for two weeks in the off-season with Joel Jeffrey, Brandon Rusca, and Tyrell Lui. I enjoyed it, they’re a great bunch of boys.

“I haven’t heard much lately because of the virus obviously, but a couple of the boys are down there training with the academy now. I didn’t end up going because I talked to ‘Roey’ (NT Thunder Academy coach, Jason Roe) and Dad, we had a chat and they reckon it’s better for me to stay down here and get some game time.”

The medium-sized utility has had plenty of mentors to aid him as he traverses a path less travelled by, as well as teammates who have made each transition as smooth as possible. Lake played senior football alongside former AFL midfielders Ed and Michael Barlow at Southern Districts in the 2019/20 NTFL season, with senior coach Matt Cannard also playing a hand in his development as a midfielder.

Through the Palmerston Under 12s and the NT system, he played both with and against Jeffrey, and also got to know a bunch of other AFL draft hopefuls when selected in last year’s Under 17 Futures All Star showcase. One of them was current Centrals League gun Corey Durdin, while fellow Bulldogs Austin McDonald and Kobe Wilson have partnered him well through midfield at Under 18s level. Another Palmerston product, Jonty Patrick, who was set to join the Calder Cannons this season, has also made the trip down with him.

While there are a bunch of great minds and players alike to feed off, Lake also takes inspiration from GWS GIANTS midfielder Lachie Whitfield, who he models his game on. The similarities are there; the ability to accumulate on the spread, play on either side of midfield or off half-back, and run all day. Lake enjoys watching Whitfield so much, he even jumped ship from supporting Carlton to embrace the ‘Big Big Sound’ in Western Sydney.

As he blazes his own trail, the 18-year-old sees himself slotting in at half-back among an AFL side, with a good bunch of traits to help stamp his case as a genuine draft chance.

“(I’d fit in) at half-back I reckon… with my running off the backline, I use the ball well and read the play,” he said.

“I enjoy playing inside mid or outside, I love midfield.”

Of his strengths, Lake listed speed, agility, marking, and tackle pressure, while he is looking to improve on his timing and getting to as many contests as possible.

There have been many adjustments to be made too, from the cooler weather, to playing a different brand of football than he’s used to.

“It’s freezing. I just warm up in a jumper, and warm up extra obviously because my muscles are a bit colder… on-field here there’s more structure and (it’s played) in-close with bigger bodies. They move the ball faster too by hand and foot.”

As he further acclimatises across the second half of the SANFL season, Lake is looking to move up the grades and simply put his best foot forward in hopes of realising his ultimate dream. Should it fail to come to fruition in 2020, Lake says he is committed to putting in a full campaign down south next year in between duties with Southern Districts. With his current online Year 12 studies in tow, there is always a Plan B, too.

For now, it’s full steam ahead with exposure and time on the park paramount to his chances of reaching the elite level.

Lake sought to thank his parents, brother, Nan and Pop, aunties, uncles, and cousins, for all their support during his journey.

Club legend takes reign as coach at Crocs

SOUTHERN Districts has appointed club legend and Under 18s coach, Matt Cannard to lead its Men’s Premier League side in the 2020/21 Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) season. The premiership player and Nichols Medalist (league best and fairest) takes over from another club stalwart in Shannon Rusca as Crocs’ coach after nine years at the helm.

The announcement was made yesterday with 36-year-old Cannard the standout choice in many people’s eyes after donning the red, white and black for 245 games over 15 years. The midfielder played a key role in the 2006-07 premiership, and took out the Nichols Medal after a sensational 2009-10 season. Such is his durability, Cannard played as recently as last season in the Premier League, stepping up in five games for the Crocs after mostly playing at Division 1 level in the twilight of his playing career.

Cannard has already coached success at junior level, leading the Under 18s side to a 2016-17 title alongside a number of finals appearances. He has also been a key assistant under Rusca over the past decade and told the NT News he was keen to get going.

“Obviously I’m looking forward to the challenge knowing I’ve got some big shoes to fill with Shannon having a lot of success and Mago (Michael McLean) as well,’’ Cannard said. “I’m pretty fortunate Shannon has left the club in a very good position on and off the field and hopefully I can continue the good work he has done. “There won’t be a lot of changes in the club’s methods, I want to keep the people at the club who have brought us a lot of success in the last five or six years.’’

Last season the Crocs made it all the way from fifth on the table to a preliminary final, only to go down to reigning and eventual back-to-back premiers, Nightcliff in the penultimate match. The season is expected to kick off in the first weekend of October, dependent on the state of the COVID-19 global pandemic.

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 Women’s Premier League wrap: Semi-finals – Top two advance to big dance

THE top two-ranked Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Women’s Premier League regular season sides won through to the grand final on the weekend, with reigning premier Waratah set to once again do battle with Southern Districts in the decider. Both sides were made to earn their spot in semi finals decided by a combined 14 points, as each challenger proved worthy in the 2019/20 post-season.

WARATAH 4.2 | 4.4 | 5.6 | 5.7 (37)
PINT 0.1 | 2.4 | 2.5 | 4.5 (29)

GOALS:

Waratah: S. Nalder 2, M. Yarran, L. O’Shea, J. Singh.
Pint: J. Baumer 2, R. Fecht , E. Pechey.

BEST:

Waratah: N/A
Pint: N/A

Benchmark side, Waratah qualified for an incredible eighth-straight grand final after holding on to beat a pesky Pint outfit by eight points at TIO Stadium. The Warriors managed to pick up the pieces from their qualifying final loss to Southern Districts in the previous week, storming out of the blocks to set up the win and a deserved shot at the premiership cup. Four goals to nil in the opening term ensured the reigning premiers looked ominous against the sixth-ranked Queenants, but to the underdogs’ credit, they were not going to fold that easily. Pint enacted the first momentum shift with a two-goal to nil second quarter to keep touch with the ‘Tahs, before the winners again turned the tide after half-time to extend their advantage. In the last chance saloon, Pint only just fell short of a remarkable turnaround, with its two-goal final term not enough to trim the 19-point three-quarter time margin. All of the key Waratah goalkickers made an impact, with Sue Nalder booting an equal game-high two majors to lead Lauren O’Shea, Madison Yarran, and Calder Cannons listed Jenna Singh on the scoresheet. Pint leading goalkicker Jessie Baumer claimed two of her own to end her season on a positive note, with Rhiannon Fecht and Erin Pechey also getting among the scoring action. Getting so close to the long-time competition champion is no mean feat for Pint, and the Queenants edged closer and closer to the Warriors with each game against them this season – which should put them in good stead for 2020-21. For Waratah, the chance to again go back-to-back-to-back looms, but a well-poised Southern Districts stands in its way for the second time in as many years.

SOUTHERN DISTRICTS 2.0 | 4.1 | 5.2 | 6.4 (40)
DARWIN BUFFETTES 2.0 | 2.3 | 3.4 | 5.4 (34)

GOALS:

Southern Districts: G. Mulvahil 2, E. Miller, B. Clarke, A. Lewis, S. Hoogeveen-Hill.
Darwin: M. Ellis 2, D. Ah Wang 2, K. Duggan.

BEST:

Southern Districts: B. Clarke, M. Moussa, G. Stiles, E. Miller, G. Mulvahil
Darwin: N/A

Southern Districts earned a chance at redemption for last year’s grand final loss with its six-point semi final win over Darwin in a TIO Stadium thriller. Much like Waratah was made to do in its semi final triumph, the Crocs had to work to withstand a late flurry from their lower-ranked opponent. Earlier, Districts shook off the persistent Buffs after the two sides entered the first break level at two goals apiece, opening up a handy 10-point buffer at the main break. Another even term followed, with the Buffettes at bay but still just within touch of Districts heading into the final quarter. Again, in the same vein as the first semi final, Darwin’s two-goal term could only set them just short of an unlikely comeback but provided great drama for the neutral. Goals from Delsey Ah Wang helped keep the Buffettes within striking distance early, but the Crocs’ depth of scoring options proved overwhelming in the end. Grace Mulvahil was Districts’ sole multiple goal kicker, providing good fold for competition leading goalkicker Ebony Miller, who was held to just one major. Bella Clarke was the other player named among the best to have also found the big sticks, with Darwin’s prime movers unable to have the same impact in front of goal. The win sees Southern Districts get a second crack at Waratah, and the Crocs have already beaten their main rival this finals series so should come in with serious confidence. For Darwin, a promising season fell off toward the end but provided a bunch of highlights from some seriously talented individuals across the field.

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