Tag: richard tambling

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

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

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

2020 head-to-head:

Nightcliff 3 – 0 Southern Districts

Form:

Tigers:
4-1

Crocs:
5-0

Finals run:

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

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

Regular season:

Tigers:
1st, 17-1, 187%

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

Preview:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tip: Nightcliff by 10.

TEAMS:

Nightcliff 

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

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

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

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

GOALS:

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

BEST:

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

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

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

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

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

GOALS:

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

BEST:

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

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

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

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

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

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

REGULAR SEASON RECAPS:

NIGHTCLIFF – 1st, 17-1 (197%)

Leading goalkicker: Trent Melville (41 goals)

MVP: Kaine Riley

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

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

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

ST MARY’S – 2nd, 14-4 (137%)

Leading goalkicker: Jackson Calder & Leroy Larson (24)

MVP: Thomas Davies

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

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

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

TIWI BOMBERS – 3rd, 11-7 (102%)

Leading goalkicker: Austin Wonaeamirri (30)

MVP: Jason Puruntatameri

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

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

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

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

Leading goalkicker: Will Farrer (47)

MVP: Josiah Farrer

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

Worst result: Rd 2, drew with Wanderers

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

DARWIN BUFFALOES – 5th, 10-8 (118%)

Leading goalkicker: Daniel Stafford (39)

MVP: Christopher Williams

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

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

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

WEEK ONE PREVIEW:

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

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

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

FIXTURES:

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

Head-to-head: 1-1

Form: Crocs 3-2, Buffaloes 3-2

Tip: Crocs by 15

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

Head-to-head: 2-1 Bombers

Form: Saints 4-1, Bombers 3-2

Tip: Saints by 24

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NTFL Men’s Premier League 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 13 – Top four do battle in bumper weekend

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.