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2020/21 NTFL Premier League season preview

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

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

CLUB-BY-CLUB:

Darwin:

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

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

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

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

Nightcliff:

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

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

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

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

Palmerston:

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

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

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

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

Southern Districts:

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

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

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

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

St Mary’s:

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

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

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

Tiwi Bombers:

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

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

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

Wanderers:

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

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

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

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

Waratah:

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

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

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

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

Finals semi-finals preview: NTFL Men’s Premier League – Tigers and Saints to battle for Grand Final spot

A DOUBLE-header at TIO Stadium sees the remaining four sides battle it out in search of keeping their premiership dreams alive. For Nightcliff and St Mary’s, they have a second chance locked in the bank, with a Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Men’s Premier League Grand Final spot on the line, with the loser through to the preliminary final. For Tiwi Bombers and Southern Districts, there is no turning back for the loser, in the do-or-die final. The winner heads to the preliminary final, while the loser bows out of the 2019/20 finals.

TIWI BOMBERS vs. SOUTHERN DISTRICTS
Saturday, February 29, 4.30pm
TIO Stadium

In the first game of the double-header, Tiwi Bombers will look to bounce back from a loss against St Mary’s last weekend to face Southern Districts who kept their finals dream alive with a win in the elimination final last round. These sides have met twice thus far, with the third placed Bombers getting up on both occasions. Back in Round 7 at TIO Stadium, Tiwi won by 35 points, before doubling it up with a 46-point victory at Norbuilt Oval showing a capacity to win on the road as well. Aside from two losses to St Mary’s and one to Nightcliff in the past four weeks, the Bombers had won six on the trot, and then finished the season with a 13-point victory over Wanderers. While their end to the season was disappointing, they did play the top two teams for three losses and they should be much better placed here. The Crocs on the other hand have run into form for the finals, winning the past four games and averaging 113 points per game while restricting their opponents to 52.5 points per game. The Puruntatameri‘s will loom as two of the danger players in the Bombers’ side, with Harley booting 21 goals – the third most of any Tiwi player – while Jason has been named in the best a remarkable 14 times from 17 matches. Rodney Baird and Adam Tipungwuti are always dangerous, while Austin Wonaeamirri (32 goals) and Ross Tungatalum (23 goals) are the ones likely to apply plenty of scoreboard pressure. In terms of goalkicking power, William Farrer is by far the standout in this game, slotting 49 goals from 17 games including a haul of eight. Thomas Holman has been the standout player and is arguably leading the Crocs’ best and fairest with 11 times named in the bests, while Josiah Farrer (19 goals) has also got amongst it, as has former AFL player, Ed Barlow. With young gun, Brodie Lake having a superb senior season, the Crocs have the depth and talent to get a win here. In saying that, the Bombers have won on both occasions against the Crocs and should be able to do it again.

NIGHTCLIFF vs. ST MARY’S
Saturday, February 29, 7.00pm
TIO Stadium

While the first game offers plenty to the neutral, the two best sides in the NTFL Men’s Premier League go at it in the night game with reigning premiers, Nightcliff tackling reigning wooden spooners St Mary’s. It has been a remarkable rise from the Saints who have risen from a disappointing season to get back to where they have been throughout their history as the most successful club in the competition. In saying that, it will be a tough ask for the Saints as Nightcliff has been the clear standout side and look likely to defend its title in 2019/20. The last time these teams played, Nightcliff won in a canter, 14.13 (97) to 4.8 (32) at home on PSC BM Oval, which reversed the result from a 27-point loss to the Saints on this very stadium at TIO. That loss turned out to be the only blemish in Nightcliff’s otherwise perfect season and it was the day that former Collingwood and Brisbane Lions forward, Jackson Paine booted five goals and led his side to victory. The Tigers have the most scoring options in the competition with Trent Melville (41 goals), Liam Holt-Fitz (30), Cameron Illett (24) and Lachlan Sharp (20) all booting more than 20 goals this season in the yellow and black. Kaine Riley has been a sensation for Nightcliff, named in the best 10 times from a possible 16 games, while Illett and Holt-Fitz will also be pushing for the best and fairest votes. With plenty of inclusions at different times, the likes of Brodie Filo and Michael Hagan have benefited, while VFL player James Tsitas has had an impact when on the park. Jackson Calder has been the dominant goalkicker for the Saints and would be a key player to stop in this final, slotting 28 goals from 11 games, while Shannon Rioli (25) has plenty of majors to his name. Nathaniel Paredes has once against been a force to be reckoned with, booting 22 goals and named among the best five times in a really consistent season. Helped by the inclusion of former AFL players, Paine, Jarrad Waite, Raphael Clarke and Shaun Edwards, they are always a threat to any opposition. However the Tigers should get up in this one because they have been the clear best team all season and are hungry for another flag.

NTFL Men’s Premier League wrap: Round 18 – Tiwi snatches third despite Crocs’ late lunge

THE fate of the final five was left to the last Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Men’s Premier League regular season round, with Tiwi snatching third spot back from Darwin as the Buffs went down to St Mary’s to cap a dramatic pair of fixtures. Elsewhere, Southern Districts and Nightcliff kept the status quo against bottom three opponents, taking winning form into the finals.

WANDERERS 3.4 | 6.7 | 8.11 | 12.14 (86)
TIWI BOMBERS 3.5 | 5.5 | 8.11 | 14.15 (99)

GOALS:

Wanderers: S. Thorne 2, R. Fejo 2, B. O’Connell 2, M. White 2, D. Braun, W. Williams, R. Howard, J. Jeffrey
Tiwi: G. Cunningham 4, R. Tungatalum 2, P. Heenan 2, K. Dunn, L. Howe, J. Simon, C. Jones, H. Puruntatameri, M. Kantilla

BEST:

Wanderers: B. O’Connell, D. Braun, T. Lui, A. Motlop, S. Thorne
Tiwi: L. Howe, R. Tungatalum, R. Farmer, M. Dunn, G. Cunningham, R. Baird

Tiwi arrested a two-game losing streak at the perfect time, outlasting Wanderers to qualify for a finals double-chance. The Bombers were made to work for it against a young Eagles side coming off 11-straight losses, finding themselves down at half time and only managing to draw level heading into the final turn. But with experience and some flair of their own at their disposal, the third-ranked Bombers ran home the stronger side to get up 14.15 (99) to 12.14 (86). Gerrard Cunningham collected his third bag of four goals for the season in an impactful display up forward, with Ross Tungatalum and Patrick Heenan snaring two each while Harley Puruntatameri‘s sole major was one for the highlight reel. Lachlan Howe was named the Bombers’ best despite the aforementioned efforts, with Wanderers gun Beau O’Connell again brilliant in a losing effort. The NT Thunder Academy graduate managed two goals, matched by fellow youngsters Ronald Fejo and Mark White, with Tyrell Lui named among the best alongside O’Connell. While the Muk Muks’ poor end to the season would leave a sour taste, this effort showed exactly what the promising squad is capable of. For Tiwi, its 11th set of four points sets up a qualifying final clash with St Mary’s – a game which is sure to attract a whole lot of attention.

ST MARY’S 2.2 | 3.6 | 8.8 | 13.10 (88)
DARWIN BUFFALOES 3.2 | 7.5 | 8.7 | 11.8 (74)

GOALS:

St Mary’s: D. Johnstone 3, J. Waite 3, S. Rioli 2, J. Cheek, N. Paredes, L. Ferreira, L. Larson, A. Parry
Darwin: D. Stafford 4, I. Palmer 2, P. Boles, T. Eldridge, M. Campbell, L. McKenzie, A. Sambono

BEST:

St Mary’s: J. Long, J. Long, J. Paine, T. Saunders, D. Johnstone, N. Paredes
Darwin: T. Eldridge, M. Coombes, C. Williams, D. Stafford, P. Boles, L. McKenzie

St Mary’s stepped up in the clutch moment to boot Darwin out of the top three, finishing strongly to edge the Buffs by 14 points. The Saints rallied after a lacklustre opening half, edging ahead at three-quarter time in a four-goal turnaround and eventually kicking away to the 13.10 (88) to 11.8 (74) victory. The win sets up a fourth clash with Tiwi in this weekend’s qualifying final, with the fate of third spot firmly in St Mary’s hands coming into the ultimate round of the regular season. The return of Jarrad Waite proved timely as the ex-Roo and Blue booted three goals alongside Dylan Johnstone to lead the attack, with Shannon Rioli the only other Saint to notch up multiple goals. In response, Daniel Stafford again carried the brunt of the scoring load with a game-high four majors, and Ishmael Palmer continued his good form with two. But much of the good work from either side was done slightly further afield, with Jake Long arguably St Mary’s best alongside Jackson Paine, while Timothy Eldridge and Christopher Williams had their say for the Buffs. With Darwin’s elimination final bout with Southern Districts now sealed, the Saints will take on Tiwi on the same weekend with a chance the two sides could meet again in week two of finals.

SOUTHERN DISTRICTS 4.4 | 8.6 | 14.9 | 17.13 (115)
WARATAH 1.1 | 3.1 | 7.3 | 8.7 (55)

GOALS:

Southern Districts: J. Brennan 4, W. Farrer 3, E. Barlow 3, D. Barry 2, J. Farrer 2, J. Garlett, J. Watts, N. Horbury
Waratah: T. Mosquito 2, F. Kantilla 2, J. Smith, T. Toma, S. Godden, N. Gooch

BEST:

Southern Districts: E. Barlow, J. Brennan, B. Lake, T. Holman, P. Gallow, J. Watts
Waratah: N/A

Southern Districts did all it could to grab the last second-chance spot among the top five, but fell just short despite thumping Waratah by 60 points. The Crocs looked up for the hunt early, managing four goals in each of the opening two terms to set up a 35-point buffer heading into the main break. But the brunt of the damage was yet to come for Waratah as the Crocs went on to pour on another nine goals after half time to come away comfortable 17.13 (115) to 8.7 (55) winners. A near full-strength team aided the Crocs’ cause, spearheaded by former AFL utility Jared Brennan, who put through a game-high four goals on his NTFL return. Competition leading goalkicker Will Farrer was not far behind with three, while best afield Ed Barlow matched the effort. NT Thunder Under 18 Brodie Lake was also influential in a well-rounded team performance that will put the Crocs in good stead heading into finals. On the other hand, the Warriors end their indifferent season on another dour note, but positive cameos from the likes of Timothy Mosquito and Francis Kantilla came in handy in the losing effort. Districts now go on to face Darwin in the elimination final, ranked the better side but with the ledger even between the two sides.

PALMERSTON 1.0 | 1.1 | 3.3 | 5.4 (34)
NIGHTCLIFF 2.3 | 7.7 | 13.13 | 21.16 (142)

GOALS:

Palmerston: R. Davey 2, M. Chester, A. Lonergan, A. Davey
Nightcliff: D. Singh-Lippo 5, C. Ilett 4, T. Melville 3, J. Tsitas 2, B. Arnold 2, K. Riley, J. Peris, J. Kickett, L. Holt-Fitz, M. Hagan

BEST:

Palmerston: N/A
Nightcliff: J. Tsitas, C. Ilett, J. Miles, D. Butcher, S. Wilson, D. Singh-Lippo

Nightcliff and Palmerston finished their regular seasons with perfectly opposite records, as the reigning and minor premier notched its 17th win against the lowly Magpies to the tune of 108 points. The Tigers were dominant across the match, barring an even first term, and created a wealth of scoring opportunities to run out 21.16 (142) to 5.4 (34) winners. With at least six goals in each of the final three quarters, the Tigers overwhelmed Palmerston and did not let up despite the match being a dead rubber, with form vital given they now have a week off in the post-season. Nightcliff junior Declan Singh-Lippo had a breakout game with five goals, with veteran Cam Ilett moving forward for four of his own while club leading goalkicker Trent Melville managed three and best afield James Tsitas, two. There were far less contributors for the Magpies, but Russell Davey claimed a pair of majors as his side’s sole multiple goalkicker, with leaders Aaron Lonergan and Alwyn Davey also finding the big sticks. While a disappointing season for the wooden spooners comes to an end, the Tigers can look forward to a much shorter break of their own before taking on the winner of this week’s qualifying final between St Mary’s and Tiwi.

NTFL Men’s Premier League wrap: Round 17 – Third time lucky as Saints halt Tiwi train

THIRD time proved a charm for St Mary’s in its ongoing rivalry with Tiwi, securing second spot and blowing the race for third place wide open in the process. Elsewhere, the remaining finals-bound sides picked up wins over the bottom three, with just one round left to play in the Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Men’s Premier League.

DARWIN BUFFALOES 3.4 | 6.10 | 9.11 | 13.17 (95)
WARATAH 0.3 | 2.6 | 4.10 | 5.11 (41)

GOALS:

Darwin: D. Wunungmurra 4, I. Palmer 3, D. Stafford 3, N. Cooper 2, L. McKenzie.
Waratah: M. Graham 2, N. Gooch, W. Gorman, J. Schaper.

BEST:

Darwin: C. Atkinson, D. Wunungmurra, K. Kossack, N. Cooper, J. Anderson
Waratah: N/A

Darwin is in prime position to pounce on third place after getting the four points over Waratah for the third time this season, brushing the Warriors aside to the tune of 54 points. The Buffs showed they are every bit the finals contender in what was somewhat of a danger game coming in, coasting home to the 13.17 (95) to 5.11 (41) result. Darwin took advantage of the three-goal buffer it set up in the opening term, notching three majors in each of the next two quarters before a 4.6 to 1.1 final quarter truly extended the margin. Club leading goalkicker Daniel Stafford made a successful return to the Double Blues’ forward 50, booting three goals alongside Ishmael Palmer, while young gun Djamatjama Wunungmurra managed a bag of four on his Premier League debut. Despite their efforts in front of the big sticks, Christopher Atkinson was named the Buffs’ best with a good amount on strength still to return to the fold. For Waratah, Michael Graham was the lone multiple goalkicker with two majors in an undermanned Warriors side, with his side unable to match their opponent’s firepower and class across the ground. Set in the bottom three, Waratah is set to face Southern Districts in the final regular season round, while Darwin faces St Mary’s in its attempt to hold on to third place.

SOUTHERN DISTRICTS 4.3 | 9.4 | 12.9 | 19.9 (123)
PALMERSTON MAGPIES 3.4 | 5.5 | 6.8 | 7.9 (51)

GOALS:

Southern Districts: W. Farrer 8, J. Clarke 2, J. Garlett 2, B. Lake 2, D. McLachlan, M. Bowden, N. Horbury, R. Bull, M. Cannard.
Palmerston: C. Timms 2, J. Taylor, B. Church, J. Filo, M. Dennis, M. Filo.

BEST:

Southern Districts: J. Schofield, D. Staunton, W. Farrer, D. Wehrung, J. Clarke, M. Bowden
Palmerston: J. Filo, K. Emery, M. Dennis, W. Shadforth, S. Brock, R. Stone

Southern Districts remains a chance to jump two spots in the final round and snatch third after trouncing the lowly Palmerston Magpies by an even 12 goals. Spearheaded by competition leading goalkicker Will Farrer‘s eight goals, the Crocs were clinical inside 50 to make from an impressive 19.9 (123) to 7.9 (51) scoreline. After what was a tightly contested opener, the Crocs began to take over territory in the game and kick away, starting with five goals to two in the second term. It was all Districts after the main break too, with the hosts pouring on another 10 goals to two in the second half to pretty up the scoreboard and gain some valuable percentage heading into Round 18. Farrer was excellent throughout as chief destroyer, but compiled the misery late to make both his individual tally and the team margin more impressive. Three other Crocs booted multiple goals (three each), but it was Jayden Schofield who was named the winners’ best alongside Dean Staunton, with Michael Bowden also featuring in the best half-dozen for the third-straight match. In a similar vein, Kyle Emery and Sandy Brock were again influential in the losing Magpies side, but it was first-gamer Josh Filo who was named best afield, while returning bigman Matthew Dennis picked up right from where he left off. The wooden spooners’ disappointing campaign will come to an end next round against Nightcliff, with Waratah awaiting the Crocs as they look to snatch finals superiority.

NIGHTCLIFF 4.2 | 5.4 | 10.5 | 13.9 (87)
WANDERERS 0.2 | 0.2 | 2.4 | 4.5 (29)

GOALS:

Nightcliff: J. Tsitas 3, B. Filo 2, S. Wilson 2, D. Bowles, J. Peris, M. Bricknell, M. Hagan, T. Melville, L. Holt-Fitz.
Wanderers: B. O’Connell 2, W. Williams, D. Braun.

BEST:

Nightcliff: S. Wilson, J. Miles, J. Tsitas, D. Butcher, N. Brown, J. Peris
Wanderers: B. O’Connell, S. Bates, T. Lui, D. Thompson, A. Motlop

Nightcliff consigned Wanderers an eleventh-straight loss, dominating at both ends of the ground to come out 58-point winners on home turf. The Tigers managed to keep the Eagles goalless in a first half shutout, steadily adding to their lead to build to the 13.9 (87) to 4.5 (29) end result. The first half was not as free-flowing as the Tigers would have liked despite their dominance, only managing five goals of their own while denying the Muk Muks. While scoring was easier to come by in the second half as Nightcliff notched eight majors, Wanderers also proved more competitive as it broke through for four goals of its own. Plenty of Tigers got a solid hitout heading into finals, with James Tsitas (three goals) and Danny Butcher both making successful returns to the side, while mainstays Shaun Wilson, Nathan Brown and Jonathan Peris were also named among the best. For Wanderers, Beau O’Connell was again a standout, booting two goals from midfield while fellow youngsters Tyrrell Lui and Dray Thompson also showed promising signs. The Eagles’ last chance to break their losing streak comes against Tiwi, which will see the fixture as a must-win, while Nightcliff can ease into the post-season with a game against wooden spooner, Palmerston awaiting it.

TIWI BOMBERS 2.3 | 2.5 | 4.7 | 5.8 (38)
ST MARY’S 2.2 | 4.7 | 9.8 | 13.9 (87)

GOALS:

Tiwi: R. Tungatalum 2, A. Wonaeamirri, A. Darcy, P. Heenan
St Mary’s: J. Calder 3, S. Rioli 2, H. Labastida 2, L. Larson 2, N. Paredes, C. James Wilson, J. Paine, D. Johnstone

BEST:

Tiwi: C. Molyneux, R. Tungatalum, C. Jones, R. Baird, J. Puruntatameri, J. Simon
St Mary’s: S. Edwards, L. Larson, J. Paine, S. Rioli, T. Saunders, B. Ah Mat

St Mary’s finally got one back over Tiwi at the third time of asking this season, trumping the Bombers to the tune of 49 points in what could well be a post-season sighter. The Saints were brilliant across the ground, showing fluency on each line to wind up 13.9 (87) to 5.8 (38) winners and officially secure second spot. An even opening term saw the Bombers claim their only lead of the game, albeit by the slimmest of margins, before St Mary’s hit back to sneak in front at the main break while keeping the Bombers goalless. From there on, the Saints tripled the Bombers’ second half goal tally with nine to three in a dominant display, putting the result beyond much doubt with a quick surge after half time. The ex-AFL duo of Shaun Edwards and Jackson Paine showed their class to be two of St Mary’s best, while Jackson Calder booted a game-high three goals and Shannon Rioli, two. South Australian Charlie Molyneux was again best afield for the Bombers upon returning to the lineup, with Ross Tungatalum not far behind as Tiwi’s lone multiple goal kicker and Jason Puruntatameri continuing his good form. St Mary’s could again foil Tiwi’s top three plans if they fall to Darwin next time out, while Tiwi will need to overcome Wanderers if it is any chance to avoid an elimination final berth.

NTFL Men’s Premier League wrap: Round 16 – Final five officially set

ROUND 16 of the Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Men’s Premier League threw up little in the way of surprises, with the minor premier, top five, and wooden spooner now officially set with two regular season rounds left to play.

PALMERSTON MAGPIES 3.1 | 3.5 | 5.6 | 6.7 (43)
DARWIN BUFFALOES 2.4 | 4.10 | 6.15 | 9.17 (71)

GOALS:

Palmerston: A. Davey 2, A. Lonergan, K. Emery, A. Johnson, D. Nichols
Darwin: I. Palmer 3, D. Shillabeer 2, M. Campbell, I. Seden-Kurnoth, B. Foster, C. Williams

BEST:

Palmerston: K. Emery, S. Brock, K. Holt-Tubbs, B. Bennett, A. Bennett, M. Mcmasters
Darwin: I. Seden-Kurnoth, I. Palmer, C. Stokes, R. Pendlebury, C. Williams

Darwin was made to work for a breakthrough win to get back on the winners list, downing Palmerston on Friday night to lock in the fate of both sides. The 9.17 (71) to 6.7 (43) result secures the Buffs’ safety in the top five and gives them an outside chance of snatching second chance qualification, while consigning Palmerston to a second wooden spoon in three seasons.

Let-offs were the theme of the first half for Darwin, with the Buffs posting a wasteful 4.10 to keep the Magpies in with a sniff heading into the main break, unable to properly capitalise on a territorial advantage. Credit to the Magpies’ defence, they kept a dangerous Buffs attack to no more than three goals per term throughout a contest where majors were hard to come by, with their teammates up the other end also lacking in potency. In the end, Darwin’s 26 scoring shots proved more than enough to build the eventual 28-point winning margin.

The scoreline may not suggest so, but there was plenty to like about Palmerston’s performance; with Keidan Holt-Tubbs moving well in his return to ruck duties, young Sandy Brock doing a phenomenal lockdown job on Darren Shillabeer to lead the back six alongside Michaelis McMasters, and Kyle Emery proving influential through midfield. For Darwin, Ishmael Palmer had a breakout game with three goals, while the returning Ryan Pendlebury was assured in defence and the pairing of Cameron Stokes and Chris Williams took up leadership duties in the absence of skipper, Jarrod Stokes. With notable talent still set to come back into the side, Darwin will hope to get on a winning run heading into finals with Waratah next on the agenda.

TIWI BOMBERS 3.2 | 7.5 | 10.10 | 12.13 (85)
NIGHTCLIFF 2.1 | 6.2 | 10.3 | 16.4 (100)

GOALS:

Tiwi: A. Wonaeamirri 3, H. Puruntatameri 3, R. Tungatalum 2, L. Howe, A. Darcy, A. Tipungwuti, N. Djerrkura
Nightcliff: L. Evans 6, L. Holt-Fitz 6, K. Winter-Irving, Z. Brain, B. Filo, T. Melville

BEST:

Tiwi: N. Djerrkura, D. Munkara, H. Puruntatameri, J. Puruntatameri, R. Tungatalum, A. Tipungwuti
Nightcliff: L. Holt-Fitz, C. Ilett, L. Evans, N. Brown, K. Winter-Irving, M. Hagan

Nightcliff kept the status quo as the competition benchmark, securing the minor premiership with a 15-point win over Tiwi to kick off Saturday’s proceedings. The Tigers were ruthlessly efficient forward of centre, making better use of five less scoring shots to run out 16.4 (100) to 12.13 (85) winners.

It was a case of leading at the right time for the reigning premier, which stormed ahead in a six-goal to two final term to overrun and outgun the typically potent Bombers. Earlier, Tiwi had maintained a one-to-two goal margin across most of the contest to lead at each of the first three breaks and set alarm bells ringing for Nightcliff. But it only served to kick the Tigers into action as they mounted their impressive final term surge to overcome Tiwi for a third time this season. While the Bombers fell short in a true test of their premiership credentials, they looked right up to the task in what was a cracking contest.

The Tigers put their usually deep scoring spread on hold for this task, instead leaning on a pair of six-goal hauls from Liam Evans and Liam Holt-Fitz, while competition leading goalkicker Trent Melville could only manage one major. The reliable Cam Ilett and Nathan Brown both featured among the best for Nightcliff, while bigman Kyle Winter-Irving also worked hard. For Tiwi, Austin Wonaeamirri (three goals) led the scoring charge, with fellow multiple goalkickers Harley Puruntatameri (three) and Ross Tungatalum (two) named among the best for their efforts behind midfielder, Nathan Djerrkura. The tests do not let up for Tiwi as another meeting with St Mary’s is up next, while Nightcliff will look to compound the misery on Wanderers.

WARATAH 4.1 | 4.2 | 7.5 | 9.6 (60)
ST MARY’S 2.2 | 9.6 | 11.7 | 13.10 (88)

GOALS:

Waratah: J. McGrath 3, H. Kerinaiua 2, K. McBean 2, T. Mosquito, J. Schaper
St Mary’s: J. Calder 4, S. Rioli 3, L. Larson 3, J. Salmon, L. Ferreira, H. Labastida

BEST:

Waratah: N/A
St Mary’s: S. Edwards, R. Jordon, T. Davies, J. Long, T. Saunders, L. Daly

St Mary’s all-but officially secured second spot with a 28-point win over Waratah on the road, overcoming a slow start for the second-straight week to come out comfortable winners. A second-term lapse proved the Warriors’ downfall in the 13.10 (88) to 9.6 (60) loss, dashing their thin finals hopes in a flash.

A promising opener which saw Waratah earn an early 11-point buffer was soon discounted by St Mary’s seven-goal to nil second stanza blitz, stamping their authority to set up the eventual winning margin. The Saints’ scoring steadied after half time, but their lead proved unassailable in the second half as Waratah could not quite muster up the points required despite outscoring its finals-bound opponent over that time.

St Mary’s recruit Jackson Calder booted a game-high four goals to lead his side’s scoring effort alongside usual suspects Shannon Rioli and Leroy Larson (both three goals), but none of the six Saints goalkickers featured among the best. Shaun Edwards and Jake Long’s AFL experience boded well as they had a big impact, while Rhett Jordan and Thomas Davies continued their impactful runs of form. For Waratah, Jae McGrath boosted his fortnight tally to eight goals with a team-high bag of three, while Henry Kerinaiua also found the big sticks with usual spark Kim Kantilla kept goalless. Both sides will move on next week to top five opponents, with St Mary’s anticipating a grudge match with Tiwi while Waratah resumes its own rivalry with Darwin on Friday night.

WANDERERS 1.2 | 2.4 | 5.4 | 9.8 (62)
SOUTHERN DISTRICTS 6.1 | 11.3 | 16.5 | 16.5 (101)

GOALS:

Wanderers: S. Bates 3, W. Williams 2, J. Jeffrey, M. Cooper, S. Thorne, D. Braun
Southern Districts: W. Farrer 4, E. Barlow 3, D. Barry 2, D. McLachlan, M. Barlow, J. Farrer, J. Garlett, M. Duffy, R. O’Brien, J. Clarke

BEST:

Wanderers: S. Thorne, B. Motlop, S. Bates, D. Thompson, M. Motlop
Southern Districts: J. Schofield, M. Bowden, M. Barlow, R. O’Brien, W. Farrer, M. Duffy

Southern Districts wrapped up the top five race with a comfortable 39-point win over Wanderers, handing the Eagles a tenth-consecutive loss. The Crocs dined out forward of centre, returning to their typically resourceful best to post a 16.5 (101) winning score to Wanderers’ 9.8 (62).

The signs looked ominous from the get-go as Southern Districts stormed out of the gates to post 11 goals to two in a game-breaking opening half, taking the contest away from Wanderers in an instant. Given the Eagles’ run of lacklustre second halves, they would need something of a miracle to make a game of it and while that did not eventuate, the young side still managed to outscore the Crocs after half time and keep them scoreless in the final term.

Will Farrer bounced back from a rare goalless outing to boot a game-high four goals, backed by the the returning Ed Barlow (three goals) and supplied well by another returnee, Michael Barlow from midfield. For the Muk Muks, ex-Croc Shane Thorne was named best for his one-goal effort, with Simon Bates also featuring among the best for his three majors. While the Eagles simply did not have enough for the potent Crocs, their ability to not get completely blown away after a shoddy start should put them in good stead. The going will only get tougher for Wanderers in Round 17 though as Nightcliff is next on the fixture list, while Southern Districts will hope to continue its winning form heading into finals in a match-up with Palmerston.

Mid-season review: NTFL Men’s Premier League

THE mid-season break is in full swing for all Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Men’s Premier League clubs and fans alike, with the top five already looking set. We recap how each team has gone thus far in order of the current ladder; highlighting the big wins, losses, and outstanding players.

NIGHTCLIFF (1st, 10-1, 169%)

Best win: def. Tiwi Bombers by six points, Round 9

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

MVP: Kaine Riley

Most goals: Trent Melville (26)

In a premiership defence with just one blemish thus far, Nightcliff has proven it remains the team to beat. Barring a 27-point loss to St Mary’s in Round 7, the Tigers have beaten every side put before them – including fellow top five contenders Southern Districts and Tiwi twice each – constantly outlasting their opponents and finding a way to win. The reigning premier has had four players feature in every game, with Kaine Riley and Trent Melville two of them. Riley has been among the best in eight of those outings, while Melville has booted 26 majors to sit second in the league goalkicking tally. NT veteran Cam Ilett has proven instrumental with his versatility and leadership, with Joel Budarick coming on well and Liam Holt-Fitz forming a dangerous partnership with Melville inside 50. John Butcher has again been a handy recruit, with former-Williamstown VFL pair Leigh Masters and Willie Wheeler also enjoying decent cameos. With a settled lineup and class across the park, the Tigers will be tough to beat in the second half of the season.

ST MARY’S (2nd, 8-3, 138%)

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

Worst loss: def. by Tiwi Bombers by 34 points, Round 8

MVP: Thomas Davies

Most goals: Jackson Calder, Shannon Rioli (15)

It has been a stark contrast to last season’s effort for St Mary’s, with the iconic NTFL club working its way back to the top end of the ladder. A Round 7 win over the otherwise undefeated Nightcliff was a clear season highlight, with a combined 174-point winning margin in Rounds 9 and 10 also right up there. With the highs came a couple of lows with shock losses to traditional rival, Tiwi and another at the hands of Southern Districts momentarily halting the Saints’ train. While regular fixtures Thomas Davies, Shannon Rioli, Nathaniel Paredes, and Leroy Larson have all been instrumental, the injection of AFL experience has also been telling. Jarrad Waite, David Armitage, Will Hams, Jackson Calder, Jackson Paine, and Michael Manteit have all had influential stints, while favourite sons Raphael Clarke, Shaun Edwards, and Jake Long also impacted on their returns. On their day and with a full-strength lineup, St Mary’s is one of the most formidable sides in the league, and could well be the one to dethrone Nightcliff come season’s end.

SOUTHERN DISTRICTS (3rd, 7-3-1, 129%)

Best win: def. Darwin Buffaloes by three points, Round 5

Worst loss: def. by Tiwi Bombers by 35 points, Round 7

MVP: Josiah Farrer

Most goals: William Farrer (27)

After an indifferent start to the season, Southern Districts has bounced back to put itself firmly in the premiership frame with a record good enough for third place. A 93-point drubbing of Palmerston kickstarted the Crocs’ season, going on to make it four wins in a row by toppling Darwin and St Mary’s back-to-back. Nightcliff continues to be the thorn in Southern Districts’ side though, going down to the Tigers twice while also dropping points to Tiwi in disappointing fashion. But the positives have been there for the Crocs, boasting the league’s leading goalkicker in William Farrer among a talented forward 50. The likes of Josiah Farrer and Beau Schwarze have rotated well through there, while South Australian Sam Barnett has provided a great focal point. The big names came through late in the piece as Michael Barlow, Ed Barlow, Richard Tambling, and Jeff Garlett all featured, only adding to the Crocs’ ferocity. With a dynamic front half and some experienced difference-makers, Southern Districts is a team capable of plenty on its day, but needs to put it together more consistently now.

DARWIN BUFFALOES (4th, 6-5, 126%)

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

Worst loss: def. by St Mary’s by 14 points, Round 11

MVP: Christopher Williams

Most goals: Daniel Stafford (17)

Darwin’s season to this point has been somewhat of a rollercoaster, but the Buffs have can still boast a positive record and safety in their top five spot. The Double Blues kicked off their season with a bang, trouncing Tiwi by over 100 points as Adam Sambono bagged an incredible haul of 12 goals. Looking a real flag threat, they improved to 3-0 after a controversial overturned win against Waratah, but were shortly reigned back by consecutive defeats at the hands of the current top three. But in overcoming the opposition they should, the Buffs are well placed heading into the new year. Key forward Daniel Stafford has only been held goalless once to lead his side’s goalkicking with 17 majors, followed by the enigmatic Brayden Culhane (16) and Sambono (13). Now less reliant on Joe Anderson and playing-coach Matt Campbell, Darwin’s leaders in Christopher Williams and Jarrod Stokes have stood up. Patrick Boles has been a great inclusion through midfield, while former-VFL stars Brodie Foster, Ryan Pendlebury and Stephen Tahana have had decent cameos. With their best names on the park, the Buffs look damaging, but there is a gap to bridge between that and their worst. Could be a big riser or faller in the second half of the season.

TIWI BOMBERS (5th, 6-5, 89%)

Best win: def. St Mary’s by 14 points, Round 3

Worst loss: def. by Darwin by 113 points, Round 1

MVP: Adam Tipungwuti

Most goals: Dion Munkara (16)

Rounding out the top five is Tiwi Bombers, another team to have enjoyed some terrific highs and disappointing lows. With a talent-stacked and exciting squad, the Bombers are hard to stop in full flight – just ask St Mary’s, who were on the receiving end in Round 3 as Tiwi got up in an absolute shoot-out. Boasting four wins over fellow finals-bond opponents is no mean feat, but is somewhat dampened by two losses to bottom three candidates, and near misses against Palmerston and Wanderers. Nonetheless, the dashing dare of Adam Tipungwuti, Dion Munkara, and Harley Puruntatameri has excited onlookers, with the reliability of Jason Puruntatameri, Rodney Baird, and Ross Tungatalum making Tiwi a well-rounded unit. Munkara leads an even goalkicking tally, from Austin Wonaeamirri, with features from former AFL midfielders Ashton Hams and Nathan Djerrkura proving handy along with the one-game cameo of Cyril Rioli. Victorian trio Charlie Molyneux, Nick Riddle and Liam Wale-Buxton also hit the ground running to feature in the best at least once each. The potential is there for Tiwi and the names would suggest so, with inconsistency the only issue to iron out as the Bombers mount a finals charge.

WANDERERS (6th, 3-7-1, 79%)

Best win: def. Tiwi Bombers by 14 points, Round 4

Worst loss: def. by Nightcliff by 73 points, Round 8

MVP: Braedon McLean

Most goals: Joel Jeffrey (19)

Wanderers slipped out of the finals spots on the back of five consecutive defeats after a promising start, with the mid-season break coming at an ideal time for the young side. A win over Tiwi and draw to Southern Districts in the first four rounds highlighted the Muk Muks’ potential, but a second heavy loss to Nightcliff to go with ones to Waratah and Tiwi means the gap to fifth place is 10 points. The exuberance of youth was clear to see as Joel Jeffrey, Beau O’Connell, Ronald Fejo, and Mark White all impressed in the forward half, with Jeffrey’s absence in the last month proving costly. Jordan Jeffrey, Braedon McLean, and Keelan Fejo have been serviceable, while stints from Liam Jurrah, Brett Eddy, Marlon Motlop, and Davin Ferreira are exactly what the young squad needs. The drop-off was steep, but with a break and time to refresh, Wanderers could be a team to challenge for the top five.

WARATAH (7th, 3-8, 75%)

Best win: def. Tiwi Bombers by 43 points, Round 6

Worst loss: def. by 123 points by St Mary’s, Round 9

MVP: Abe Ankers

Most goals: Kim Kantilla (20)

Waratah proved one of the more unlucky sides at the start of the season, searching for a win in the first five rounds before finally breaking through against Tiwi. Points against Darwin were overturned in Round 3 due to a team sheet error, and the Warriors have struggled against top four opposition since. The difference Abe Ankers makes to the side is profound, with the midfield ace booting 16 goals having only played in around half of his side’s games. Kim Kantilla has been terrific up forward with hauls as high as six, teaming up with Henry Kerinaiua and former VFL forward Steven Stroobants to good effect. Midfielder Brodie Carroll has also been reliable, but his side has been less so over the course of 11 rounds. Michael Newton has been one of the few big fish to land at Waratah this year but has not had the same impact as previous seasons, with the Warriors’ home grown talent leading their charge. With some classy players who can break games open, Waratah again looms as a late-season threat to the top five, but is well adrift at 12 points behind fifth.

PALMERSTON (8th, 0-11, 49%)

Best win: Nil

Worst loss: def. by Waratah by 89 points, Round 7

MVP: Jack Berry

Most goals: Broderick Church, Nigel Lockyer Jnr (7)

Stuck at the base of the ladder is Palmerston, still winless after 11 games following a disappointing campaign in 2018/19. While the Magpies have understandably suffered heavy defeats to top-end competition, they have fallen short from winning positions against Tiwi and Darwin in promising displays. A big loss to fellow bottom three side, Waratah in a clash between seventh and eighth compounded the misery, with few highlights to this point. Essendon trainee Nigel Lockyer Jnr was one of them before suffering an ankle injury, while the pair of Broderick Church and Keidan Holt-Tubbs has held up inside forward 50. The debuts of coach Alwyn Davey‘s sons, Alwyn Jnr and Jayden were much-hyped, while Victorian recruit Jack Berry has played a key hand in the part-time absence of Matthew Dennis. Through midfield, Adam Diamond and Aaron Lonergan have been solid with Sandy Brock another consistent contributor. While a win has looked far away at times, there is enough in this Palmerston unit to improve a heap in the second half of the season – the only way is up after all.

NTFL Men’s Premier League wrap: Round 11 – Tigers head into break on top

THE mid-season break is among us after 11 rounds of Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Men’s Premier League action, as the top five sides sitting pretty with a 10-point gap to those out of finals spots. There were two great comebacks and a couple of blowouts in a mixed weekend, with plenty of highlights as per usual.

TIWI BOMBERS 4.3 | 5.4 | 5.4 | 9.11 (65)
WANDERERS 2.2 | 4.7 | 8.12 | 8.13 (61)

GOALS:

Tiwi: D. Munkara 2, R. Tungatalum 2, A. Wonaeamirri 2, M. Kantilla, J. Simon, J. Monigatti
Wanderers: C. Haley 3, R. Fejo 2, L. Patrick, M. White, B. O’Connell

BEST:

Tiwi: J. Monigatti, D. Kruse, H. Puruntatameri, J. Puruntatameri, N. Riddle, P. Heenan
Wanderers: D. Thompson, B. O’Connell, C. Haley, M. Motlop, E. Colley

Tiwi pulled off a monumental comeback in a game of momentum swings to move 10 points clear of weekend opponent, Wanderers with a four-point win. The young Eagles side fell away once again at the crucial moment, falling short in the 9.11 (65) to 8.13 (61) result with both sides proving inaccurate.

The Bombers were ahead at two of the four breaks with the sides drawing level at half time, but that did not tell the true story of the game, with Wanderers looking good for the four points after adding 4.5 to nil in a dominant third quarter. But a goalless term of their own to follow up brought all the hard work undone as Tiwi again managed a great escape to end the year. It was a case of the usual suspects pulling through for both sides, as the likes of Dray Thompson and Beau O’Connell contributed for the Muk Muks, while Charlie Haley had his best game for the year with three goals. A slightly subdued Tiwi scoring effort was led by Dion Munkara, Ross Tungatalum, and Austin Wonaeamirri‘s two majors apiece, but Jack Mongiatti, David Kruse, and Nick Riddle were recognised as the best Bombers.

After a real eight-pointer in terms of filling out the top five, Tiwi find themselves well clear with a 10-point gap in fifth to the sliding Eagles as the ladder starts to take shape. The Bombers will look to resume their season in style when they face Palmerston next month, while Wanderers takes on St Mary’s in the new year with the break coming at an ideal time.

DARWIN BUFFALOES 4.1 | 6.3 | 6.6 | 6.9 (45)
ST MARY’S 0.4 | 4.4 | 6.6 | 8.11 (59)

GOALS:

Darwin: D. Stafford 3, M. Campbell 2, K. Campbell
St Mary’s: L. Larson 3, A. Parry, R. Jordon, J. Waite, S. Rioli, R. Miller

BEST:

Darwin: D. Stafford, T. Eldridge, K. Maroney, I. Seden-Kurnoth, B. Stokes
St Mary’s: J. Geary, T. Davies, R. Jordon, J. Salmon, S. Edwards, A. Long

An incredible second half turnaround helped see St Mary’s trump fellow finals hopeful Darwin in the round’s other tight contest. The Saints’ top-end class proved too much for the Buffs over time, carrying the winners to an 8.11 (59) to 6.9 (45) win.

The Buffs looked on early, with four goals in the opening term, all while keeping their opponents without a major until after the first break. But the Saints moved within striking distance at half time and would draw level heading into the last turn, completing a lockout second half to move ahead by the eventual 15-point margin. Leroy Larson bagged his second three-goal haul for the season at the ideal time to lead the Saints inside 50, but it was the efforts of Jackson Geary, Thomas Davies, and Shaun Edwards further afield which made all the difference once again. Darwin’s defence did well to keep Jarrad Waite and Jackson Calder to one goal between them, while their own big forward, Daniel Stafford booted three of his own and coach Matt Campbell added two. Kevin Maroney and Bradley Stokes were also back among the best in a tight losing effort.

The crucial win sees St Mary’s end the year in second, now two games clear of Darwin but the same distance away from Nightcliff in first. The going will be just as tough for the Buffs in the new year as they face Southern Districts straight off the bat, while St Mary’s has a dangerous Wanderers to content with come January.

WARATAH 2.2 | 5.4 | 6.6 | 7.9 (51)
SOUTHERN DISTRICTS 2.2 | 6.5 | 10.7 | 16.9 (105)

GOALS:

Waratah: H. Kerinaiua 2, D. Simpson, K. Kantilla, A. Raikiwasa, D. Collis, R. Bulluss
Southern Districts: W. Farrer 4, L. Stanbrook 3, J. Garlett 2, B. Rusca 2, D. Barry, J. Farrer, R. Tambling, D. Corbett, D. Staunton

BEST:

Waratah: N/A
Southern Districts: D. Staunton, T. Holman, C. McAdam, R. Tambling, B. Rusca, M. Barlow

A stacked Southern Districts side lived up to the billing with an impressive second half romping of Waratah at Gardens Oval. The Crocs simply had too much firepower for their bottom three opponent, kicking away to the 16.9 (105) to 7.9 (51) result.

The Warriors were gallant for a good half of the game, sharing the spoils to quarter time and falling just one goal short heading into the main break. But the floodgates began to open after that as Southern Districts turned it on going both ways, piling on ten goals while keeping the Warriors to just two in a one-sided end to the contest. Will Farrer continued his ominous goalkicking form with another bag of four goals – besting his season average of three per game. He was backed well by Luke Stanbrook (three goals) and Jeff Garlett (two), with Garlett’s ex-AFL Crocs teammates Richard Tambling and Michael Barlow featuring among the best. Henry Kerinaiua was again prominent inside 50 for the losing side, with fellow goalsneak Kim Kantilla finding the goals and former Bendigo Pioneer Laine Fitzgerald proving a welcome addition.

Southern Districts is ten points off the top but safe in the finals zone, with a clash against Darwin after the break one which will have real implications on the finals race. Speaking of, finals is a quest which is slowly slipping away from Waratah, with a big effort needed in the new year if the Warriors are to recover the three-game deficit to fifth – starting with Nightcliff in January.

NIGHTCLIFF 4.2 | 9.5 | 11.11 | 13.13 (91)
PALMERSTON MAGPIES 1.0 | 2.1 | 2.1 | 2.4 (16)

GOALS:

Nightcliff: T. Melville 6, L. Holt-Fitz 2, P. Wills 2, R. Mu, C. Ilett, Z. Brain
Palmerston: N/A

BEST:

Nightcliff: B. Filo, M. McGregor, C. Ilett, L. Holt-Fitz, P. Wills, Z. Brain
Palmerston: N/A

The gap from first to last proved vast as Nightcliff trounced Palmerston to the tune of 75 points to see out the round and year of football. With the result beyond reasonable doubt as early as at half time, the Tigers made a statement in the 13.13 (91) to 2.4 (16) result.

Nightcliff opened its account steadily with four goals to one in the first term, but soon overwhelmed the Magpies with another five goals to enter the main break 46 points to the good. The mix of tight defensive efforts and overpowering attack proved the story of the day, with Palmerston running out of answers quickly. Trent Melville was back to his best with six goals as the main avenue up forward, aided once again by Liam Holt-Fitz, while Brodie Filo was named best afield for his efforts. It was a tough day out for the Magpies with just two goals kicked and no points on the board heading into the new year, but spurts of competitive action should put them in good stead for an improved second half of the season.

Tiwi is first up for Palmerston as the Magpies look to start afresh in 2020, with a tight contest in the reverse fixture something to find confidence in. The Tigers will restart against another bottom three opponent in Waratah, with a near-flawless start to the season making them the clear best team thus far.

NTFL Men’s Premier League preview: Round 10 – Top of the table clash headlines bumper weekend

A TOP of the table clash headlines a big weekend of Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Men’s Premier League action, with Southern Districts looking to close the gap on Nightcliff. St Mary’s and Darwin could benefit from the result of that game and jump into second with wins, while Tiwi will hope to continue its push for finals as Wanderers trail closely.

TIWI BOMBERS vs. DARWIN BUFFALOES
Saturday December 7, 1:30pm
Tiwi Oval

A fixture with implications on both sides’ finals hopes takes place as Tiwi Bombers host Darwin Buffaloes at Tiwi Oval on Saturday afternoon. The Bombers have thrown themselves into the mix and are in good form of late, going down by just six points to Nightcliff last time out but managing to hold on to fifth place. On the other hand, Darwin snatched a close win over Palmerston in Round 9 to put them up into third on the back of three consecutive victories. With Tiwi hoping to hang onto its top five spot and Darwin looking to break into the top two, there is plenty on the line either way.

The Bombers come in once again with a great lineup on paper, with the likes of Adam Tipungwuti, Brayden Rioli, and Ross Tungatalum resigned to the bench, but they look like being without ex-Cat Nathan Djerrkura for this clash in a blow to their midfield stocks, with Ashton Hams perhaps one to cover. The Buffs have bolstered their line-up with the signing of Ryan Pendlebury, the brother of Scott and an ex-VFL Team of the Year member. He should add value in the back half, adding to the experience of Cameron Stokes and Chris Williams further afield as Matt Campbell and Joe Anderson come out of the side.

While Darwin’s three wins on the trot and ladder position puts them in the category of favourite, Tiwi looks to be in slightly better form going off last week’s effort and should pose plenty of questions to the Buffs defence. It looms as a battle of the Bombers’ speed against some of the Buffs’ strength.

PALMERSTON MAGPIES vs. ST MARY’S
Saturday December 7, 2:30pm
TIO Stadium

St Mary’s will look to compound the misery of a bottom three side for the second straight week when it takes on Palmerston in the first game of a TIO Stadium double-header. The Saints have slipped to fourth, but could climb as high as second with results pending and will look to put their best foot forward with a top of the table clash following theirs. Given how St Mary’s handled Waratah last week, the winless Magpies could be in for another long day. But Palmerston’s form last week exceeded its current record, and a couple of close losses would have the Magpies eager to prove their worth.

Alwyn Davey Jnr joins his father in the Palmerston side, with Senior set to line up in midfield under Ezekiel Frank while Adam Diamond shifts to the forward half. They will have their work cut out for them, with the Saints naming David Armitage, Shaun Edwards, and Jackson Paine in midfield, while Jackson Calder is set to team up with the returning Jarrad Waite up forward. It all but guarantees plenty of goals, and plenty of excitement at the least.

On paper, it seems this clash could get ugly given the experience and firepower of the Saints, but do not discount the effort of Palmerston on its better days. Fans can look forward to seeing a heap of ex-AFL players either way, with a few favourite sons taking the field for both teams.

SOUTHERN DISTRICTS vs. NIGHTCLIFF
Saturday December 7, 7:00pm
TIO Stadium

The game of the round earns a prime time slot on Saturday night as Southern Districts look to get one back on Nightcliff and tighten the minor premiership race. The Crocs started their season with a loss to last season’s grand final foes, but have since steadied the ship and sit six points adrift in second. Such has been Nightcliff’s dominance, the Southern Districts is only one of a couple of sides to have truly challenged the reigning premiers, and will look to go a step further this time around. And with both sides coming in off consecutive wins, it seems an ideal time to do battle.

A couple of very handy ex-AFL players come into the Crocs side, with Jeff Garlett and Jared Brennan named. Garlett should team up nicely with the likes of Will Farrer and Beau Schwarze up forward, while Brennan may slot in up the other end in a key position post. There are no ex-AFL inclusions for the Tigers, who will be without Willie Wheeler, but a forward 50 featuring his ex-Williamstown teammate Leigh Masters alongside Trent Melville and Liam Holt-Fitz has been working a treat. Add the impact of John Butcher, Kaine Riley, and Cam Ilett across the ground, and you have a settled lineup ready for any challenge.

The Tigers will need to be at their best to quell the Crocs, which are snapping at their heels, but should have great confidence having aced all but one test put to them this year. Southern Districts will be hungry for a win with dual-meaning, getting one back while keeping touch at the top.

WARATAH vs. WANDERERS
Sunday December 8, 4:00pm
Gardens Oval

Wanderers will hope to re-enter the finals fold when it clashes with fellow bottom three side, Waratah in Sunday’s lone fixture. Both sides come in off disappointing losses, with Waratah’s 123-point thumping at the hands of St Mary’s a clear lowlight for the season. Wanderers has strayed after a promising start, looking to rectify a run of three-straight losses. With both teams somewhat underperforming at this stage and the mid-season break coming up, expect them to throw everything at getting a result here.

Abe Ankers is a very welcome addition to the Warriors side which looks like heading in without Brodie Carroll, while Michael Newton is set to resume a dangerous forward trio with Kim Kantilla and Henry Kerinaiua at the fall of his aerial contests. Joel Jeffrey is a big out for Wanderers as he takes up training with the Gold Coast Suns, but the Muk Muks still boast dangerous youngsters in the form of Mark White, Beau O’Connell and Ronald Fejo, with all three able to play across every line.

There looks to be a good amount of talent spread across both sides, with plenty of excitement in either attacking 50. Expect some neat highlights and a competitive game between two teams looking to do better than their ladder position would suggest.

NTFL Men’s Premier League preview: Round 9 – Race for fifth hots up on super Saturday

ROUND 9 of the Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Men’s Premier League bounces down under Friday night lights, before a super Saturday poises top five teams Nightcliff and Tiwi against each other in what shapes as the game of the weekend.

PALMERSTON MAGPIES vs. DARWIN BUFFALOES
Friday November 29, 7:00pm
Palmerston Oval

The Darwin Buffaloes will look to press on with their top two charge when they travel to take on the winless Palmerston Magpies under Friday night lights. A big win over Waratah last time out means Darwin comes into this clash with consecutive victories, eyeing off a top two berth as just eight points split second and sixth. With Palmerston languishing in last and without a win to this point, this is the kind of game the Buffs’ simply must win if they are to remain a premiership contender. Joe Anderson is one of the only movers in a settled Darwin line-up, named in defence as the likes of Darren Shillabeer, Brodie Foster, and Matt Campbell take up forward 50 spots. Speaking of, Alwyn Davey sneaks into Palmerston’s forward pocket, hoping to add class on the full forward line alongside Ezekiel Frank and Keidan Holt-Tubbs, while Nigel Lockyer Jnr has been named on the bench. The Magpies will be hoping to rectify some poor previous form in front of a home crowd, but the Buffs are always tough opposition and have found a rhythm once again.

NIGHTCLIFF vs. TIWI BOMBERS
Saturday November 30, 2:00pm
PSC BM Oval

Two of the NTFL’s form sides meet on Saturday afternoon as Nightcliff and Tiwi do battle at PSC BM Oval, with finals implications in play. The Tigers continue to set the competition benchmark despite slipping up a couple of weeks ago against St Mary’s, and inadvertently helped Tiwi jump into fifth place with a big win over Wanderers in Round 8. The Bombers claimed a handy win of their own in the same weekend, trumping the Saints for a second time this season to make for an interesting equation of football maths in this fixture. Something that needs no working out is that Nightcliff’s side is omnipotent, with former-Williamstown duo Willie Wheeler and Leigh Masters continuing their NTFL stint, adding to the goal threat posed by Cam Ilett, Trent Melville, and Liam Holt-Fitz. The Bombers will hope to outgun their opponents though, naming Adam Tipungwuti up forward alongside Austin Wonaeamirri and Ross Tungatalum, while still possessing plenty of drive up the field. It shapes as being the game of the round, and a win for Tiwi would keep the minor premiership race interesting.

ST MARY’S vs. WARATAH
Saturday November 30, 2:30pm
TIO Stadium

The opportunity to bounce back from disappointing respective losses is up for grabs for both St Mary’s and Waratah as they meet at TIO Stadium on Saturday afternoon. The Saints endured a second upset defeat at the hands of traditional rival, Tiwi last time out, but remain in the top two hunt on the back of a much-improved start to the season. Waratah’s year to date has been a touch more hit-and-miss, and the Warriors were outclassed by Darwin after a couple of strong showings helped them break through for consecutive wins – their only ones for the season. Maurice Rioli Jnr is the most exciting inclusion among a star-studded Saints line-up, named on the bench while David Armitage and Michael Manteit make up the ex-AFL numbers. Meanwhile, Steven Stroobants is a handy addition for the Warriors to add to the firepower Kim Kantilla brings, but they look like going in without Abe Ankers in a huge blow to their chances. St Mary’s has looked formidable on paper all season, and that is no different this week as they look to prey on a bottom three opponent.

SOUTHERN DISTRICTS vs. WANDERERS
Saturday November 30, 7:00pm
TIO Stadium

Wanderers will hope to snap a two-game losing run when it closes out the round against Southern Districts on Saturday night at TIO Stadium. Both sides have endured wild momentum swings in their seasons thus far, but the Crocs have found a way to win more often and sit pretty in second spot. They would be even closer to the top had it not been for a draw in the first meeting between these two teams, with the result also a factor in Wanderers’ position just outside of the top five. With Tiwi on the up and the top four relatively settled, a win is crucial for the young Muk Muks line-up. They will have to perform without star swingman Joel Jeffrey this week, with NT Under-16 Mark White coming into the forward line to join Beau O’Connell and Davin Ferreira. The Crocs will back in their own forward firepower, with Ed Barlow named inside 50 alongside Beau Schwarze and Will Farrer, while Richard Tambling is also set to go around again. Those names make Southern Districts hard to pass up, but Wanderers can cause plenty of headaches.

NTFL Men’s Premier League wrap: Round 7 – Saints hand Tigers first loss

NIGHTCLIFF’s perfect record is no longer after St Mary’s handed the Tigers their first loss of the 2019/20 Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Men’s Premier League season. Darwin got one back on Wanderers in the round’s other top five clash, while Waratah won big and Tiwi nabbed an upset win over Southern Districts. It was an historic weekend too, with the NTFL hosting its inaugural Indigenous Round with great success.

WARATAH 3.2 | 8.4 | 13.7 | 17.10 (112)
PALMERSTON 0.0 | 0.2 | 1.5 | 3.5 (23)

GOALS:

Waratah: K. Kantilla 6, A. Ankers 3, T. Schmid 2, S. Godden 2, H. Kerinaiua, T. Mosquito, M. Blake, J. Schaper
Palmerston: J. Brauman, K. Emery, B. Church

BEST:

Waratah: K. Kantilla, A. Ankers, T. Mosquito, H. Kerinaiua, B. Minkulk
Palmerston: J. Brauman, J. Berry, R. Mungatopi, S. Brock, M. Chester, A. Diamond

Waratah won convincingly in the first ever NTFL Indigenous Round fixture, thumping Palmerston by 89 points at TIO Stadium under Friday night lights. The win is the Warrior’s second in as many weeks, consigning fellow bottom two battler Palmerston to its seventh defeat via a 17.10 (122) to 3.5 (23) scoreline.

A goalless first half from the Magpies meant there was no answer for Waratah’s physicality and nous around goal, with the Warriors piling on eight unanswered majors to head into the main break 50 points to the good. It was smooth sailing from there as the Warriors put on another nine goals to finish the game, with Palmerston finally getting on the board in the third term and finishing just shy of a four-goal total – its lowest for the season. Kim Kantilla lead the onslaught with six goals, followed by Abe Ankers‘ three to be joined in the best by the likes of Timothy Mosquito, Henry Kerinaiua, and Brendon Minkulk. Jack Brauman was Palmerston’s best as one of the Magpies’ three goalkickers, with the winless side unable to find the inspiration forward of centre to match Waratah’s firepower on the day.

With two wins under their belts, the Warriors will be looking to build a top five charge when they face Darwin next time out after having a Round 3 win against the Buffs revoked for a team sheet mishap. Meanwhile, Palmerston’s search for a maiden win continues into Round 8 as it hosts Southern Districts on Saturday evening.

TIWI BOMBERS 4.1 | 7.5 | 10.8 | 14.11 (95)
SOUTHERN DISTRICTS 0.6 | 2.9 | 4.10 | 8.12 (60)

GOALS:

Tiwi: D. Munkara 4, A. Darcy 2, A. Tipungwuti 2, R. Tungatalum 2, T. Bell, P. Heenan, L. Howe, B. Puruntatameri
Southern Districts: W. Farrer 3, S. Barnett 2, N. Rokahr, B. Schwarze, D. Williams

BEST:

Tiwi: A. Tipungwuti, J. Puruntatameri, M. Dunn, D. Munkara, J. Mullins, D. McLinden
Southern Districts: M. Bowden, N. Rokahr, D. Williams, T. Holman, J. Farrer, B. Lake

Tiwi pulled off the upset of the season thus far with a big win over strong finals hopeful Southern Districts on Saturday afternoon. The Bombers made better of their chances compared to the wasteful Crocs, kicking away early on the way to a 14.11 (95) to 8.12 (60) win.

The hosts found themselves in the lead at quarter time despite managing one less scoring shot as the Crocs went goalless, and zipped out to a 26-point buffer at the main break with just one more scoring shot. It was elementary from there-on, with Tiwi’s consistent scoreboard pressure proving too much for last year’s grand finalists as they tried to mount any form of a comeback. A high-scoring final term did little to pretty up the scoreboard, with Tiwi consolidating the 35-point final margin.

Dion Munkara booted four goals to lead the Bombers’ charge, joined in the best by fellow multiple goalkicker Adam Tipungwuti. Ross Tungatalum continued his consistent run of goalkicking form with another two majors, while Jason Puruntatameri was again among Tiwi’s best. Will Farrer (three goals) and Sam Barnett (two) did their best to fire up forward for the Crocs to no real avail, while Michael Bowden was named their best in the loss along with the likes of Nikolaus Rokahr, Thomas Holman and promising youngster Brodie Lake.

The win sees Tiwi keep pace with the finals pack, just half a game away from Wanderers in fifth. A meeting with traditional rival St Mary’s is up next, with the Bombers already boasting a win over the Saints. Southern Districts will look to bounce back when it travels to face the winless Palmerston, hoping to remain firmly in the rear-view mirror of the top two sides.

DARWIN BUFFALOES 3.2 | 5.7 | 10.9 | 15.12 (102)
WANDERERS 2.2 | 4.5 | 6.8 | 11.11 (77)

GOALS:

Darwin: D. Shillabeer 5, D. Stafford 3, C. Williams 2, I. Seden-Kurnoth, J. Stokes, B. Foster, P. Boles, B. Culhane
Wanderers: J. Jeffrey 5, L. Jurrah 4, K. Fejo, M. Motlop

BEST:

Darwin: I. Seden-Kurnoth, D. Shillabeer, D. Stafford, K. Maroney, T. Fleay
Wanderers: B. O’Connell, L. Patrick, J. Jeffrey, W. Yunupingu

Darwin snapped a three-game losing run in style, bettering Wanderers by 25 points to reclaim fourth place in a true eight-pointer. The Buffs pulled away in the second half to come out 15.12 (102) to 11.11 (77) winners, saluting for the fourth time this season.

A close-fought first half saw the Eagles keep within striking distance at around a goal adrift, but the floodgates began to open in the premiership quarter as Darwin kicked away with five goals to two. It proved a defining period of play, but the Buffs made sure of the result by piling on another five majors to see out the game as Wanderers kept on finding avenues to goal in reply.

There were plenty of outstanding efforts in front of goal, headlined by Darren Shillabeer‘s five majors – his first bag of multiple goals for the season. Daniel Stafford (three goals) and Christopher Williams (two) rounded out the Buffs’ multiple goalkickers with the latter named among the best alongside Isaac Seden-Kurnoth and Kevin Maroney. AFL Academy member Joel Jeffrey matched Shillabeer’s five-goal haul as the Eagles’ primary outlet, followed by ex-Dee Liam Jurrah in his return to the side. Fellow returnee Marlon Motlop also found the goals, but all three were beaten out to best-afield honours by Beau O’Connell and Liam Patrick, with Winston Yunupingu also featuring.

With fourth place again theirs, the Buffs will look to break into top two contention with Waratah up next – the side they controversially claimed four points against in Round 3. Wanderers risk dropping out of the finals places next week as it faces Nightcliff, but should come in looking to strike after the Tigers suffered their first loss in the same weekend.

ST MARY’S 2.2 | 5.4 | 8.6 | 15.9 (99)
NIGHTCLIFF 4.4 | 4.4 | 9.6 | 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

St Mary’s stamped its authority as a genuine premiership threat with a decisive 27-point win over the previously undefeated reigning premiers, Nightcliff. The 15.9 (99) to 11.6 (72) victory was done without Raphael Clarke as a couple of Victorian recruits spearheaded a stacked Saints lineup in his place.

Nightcliff started the stronger of the two sides with four goals to two in the opening term, but were held scoreless in the following stanza as the Saints helped themselves to a slim half time lead. They were made to earn the four points though as the Tigers immediately hit back to reclaim the ascendancy heading into the final term, but seven goals to two to close out the game proved telling in a game of momentum swings.

Former-Pie and Lion forward Jackson Paine booted five goals in a dream debut, while Leroy Larson again found form to be named the Saints’ best for the second week running on the back of three goals. Ryan Smith and Shannon Rioli were others to feature in the best for the second time in as many games, as Paine’s fellow forward addition Jackson Calder also chimed in with two goals. Trent Melville booted three goals to lead Nightcliff’s charge inside 50, but it was Clayton Holmes who was named their best ahead of Kaine Riley – who has been in ripping form of late.

With top spot in their sights, the Saints will also look for redemption in Round 8 as they take on the Tiwi Bombers for the second time this season, while the Tigers are set to do battle with Wanderers and will hope to maintain their gap at the top.