THE penultimate round of the Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Men’s Premier League sets up an exciting end to the home and away season, with first place yet to be decided, three teams still vying for third spot, and two teams looking to avoid the wooden spoon.
Darwin Buffaloes 8.15 (63)
Tiwi Bombers 12.7 (79)
Darwin: A. Sambono 4, J. Stokes 2, D. Johnston, B. Culhane.
Tiwi: A. Wonaeamirri 4, R. Tungatalum 4, A. Tipungwuti 2, C. Burgess, H. Puruntatameri.
Darwin: P. Boles, C. Stokes, M. Corrie, K. Maroney, J. Anderson, A. Sambono
Tiwi: N. Djerrkura, J. Puruntatameri, R. Tungatalum, H. Puruntatameri, S. Dyke, R. Mungatopi
Tiwi handed Darwin its third straight loss in the opening game of the weekend, drawing level with the Buffs on points heading into the final regular season round. The Bombers could only manage a one-goal lead at the opening and main breaks, but ruthlessly broke the game open in the third term with 6.0 to establish a game-winning lead. The 20-point buffer proved a bridge too far for Darwin, going down by 16 points and adding to what reads as a concerning pre-finals form line. While the returning Adam Sambono (four goals) made it look easy in front of goal for the Buffaloes, his teammates had a more troublesome time of it – as the 8.15 scoreline would suggest – with Jarrod Stokes the only other to bag multiple goals. Patrick Boles was named best-on for the third-consecutive time, with consistent Buffs teammates Joe Anderson and Kevin Maroney also important in the losing effort. The clinical Bombers had no such issues inside 50 as Austin Wonaeamirri and Ross Tungatalum helped themselves to four goals apiece, while Adam Tipungwuti contributed two of his own. Ex-AFL player Nathan Djerrkura was again named amongst the best for the winners, with Jason Puruntatameri providing a solid hand as Tiwi look to be one of the bigger finals threats. While Darwin hold onto third place by a handy four per cent, both Tiwi and Round 18 opponents, Waratah could overtake them altogether and prevent consecutive bronze-placings if they lose another.
St Marys 8.8 (56)
Palmerston Magpies 11.13 (79)
St Marys: M. Liddy 2, B. Rioli 2, H. Moloney 2, C. Vigona-Ross, M. Jeffery.
Palmerston: K. Emery 3, S. Talbot 2, M. Perry, M. Dennis, J. Wunungmurra, E. Frank, J. Thompson, B. Church.
St Marys: A. Long, H. Moloney, B. Rioli, J. Long, G. Dhurrkay, B. Ah Mat
Palmerston: L. McDonald, S. Talbot, E. Frank, M. McMasters, M. Dennis, S. Daye
A last-ditch St Marys fightback was not enough to prevent Palmerston from keeping its near-impossible finals mission alive, as the Magpies earned a 23-point win to secure a minimum of sixth place. A steady start saw Palmerston push out to a three-goal lead by the half-time break, but four third-quarter goals saw the margin break to 37 . points heading into the last turn. The Saints made sure to make their opponents earn the four points with four goals in reply during the final stanza, but the winners steadied with two of their own to consolidate the final margin of almost four goals. Kyle Emery was again the focal point inside 50 for Palmerston with three goals, bringing his season total to 39, while Samuel Talbot chimed in with two as the only other multiple goal kicker. Matthew Dennis‘ remarkable season continued as he was named in the best alongside the likes of Talbot, Ezekiel Frank, and best afield, Liam McDonald. St Marys had three players boot two majors, with Heath Moloney and Ben Rioli among them to also be named amongst the best for their efforts. Anthony and Jack Long were also thereabouts in the losing effort, injecting a level of excitement to the game. While finals is out of the question, St Marys’ fate is not quite sealed, with the possibility of falling to last spot if Wanderers get up in Round 18 and the Saints lose. Meanwhile, Palmerston is clawing onto hope of a big win against Wanderers in the final round, while hoping that Darwin can beat fifth-place Waratah handsomely enough to level the percentage.
Waratah 10.3 (63)
Southern Districts 14.15 (99)
Waratah: H. Kerinaiua 3, S. Tatupu 2, D. Simpson, B. Carroll, E. McConnell, J. McKenzie, L. Davies
Southern Districts: J. Koopman 3, J. Farrer 3, E. Barlow 2, B. Vallance, M. Mummery, B. Rusca, D. Staunton, R. Tambling, S. Rusca
Waratah: Z. Westerberg, A. Ankers, B. Carroll, S. Flanegan, N. Gooch
Southern Districts: S. Guilhaus, M. Pemberton, S. Rusca, J. Farrer, J. Koopman, S. Stewart
Southern Districts remains a chance of snatching top spot in the final round, keeping a persistent Waratah side at bay to run-out 36-point victors. An even start did not deter the Crocs, but the fifth-place Warriors also made a game of it in the second a third terms with good efficiency, while also forcing the reigning premiers to work for each score. As has been the case for this season’s lowest scoring side, the Warriors just were not able to put a winning score on the board and match opposition firepower. Jess Koopman and Josiah Farrer each slotted three goals to lead the way for Southern Districts, with Ed Barlow pushing further forward in his two-goal effort. While the likes of Michael Mummery and Bradley Vallance also hit the scoreboard, it was Seb Guilhaus and Steve Rusca who were named amongst the best. Henry Kerinaiua matched the goalkicking efforts of Koopman and Farrer with his three, as Shem Tatupu joined him with multiple goals for the Warriors. As is often the case, Zach Westerberg and Abraham Ankers stood up for Waratah to be named in the best half-dozen, with Nicholas Gooch also influential. Despite the loss, Waratah plays off for third against Darwin and has all but sealed its finals spot, while Southern Districts sets up a play-off for top spot against Nightcliff to close out the season.
Nightcliff 10.12 (72)
Wanderers 9.2 (56)
Nightcliff: H. Drogemuller 3, P. Wills, M. Bricknell, D. Butcher, K. Niki, L. Holt-Fitz, S. Wilson, T. Melville
Wanderers: A. Motlop 3, S. Motlop 2, A. Weetra, B. O’Connell, J. Motlop, D. Ferreira
Nightcliff: S. Deery, H. Drogemuller, P. Wills, K. Riley, D. Butcher
Wanderers: J. Wilson, M. Totham, G. Marika, B. O’Connell, R. Fejo
The race for top spot is set to go down to the wire despite another regulation Nightcliff win, as the Tigers accounted for Wanderers in their top-verses-bottom clash to see out the round. A strong start proved the difference as a 20-point quarter time lead only narrowly eclipsed the 16-point final margin, with a five-goal second term the highlight for the Muks Muks. An even spread of eight individual goal scorers was capped by Hugo Drogemuller‘s bag of three for Nightcliff, but Simon Deery‘s efforts saw him named best for the table-toppers. Aaron Motlop matched Drogemuller’s haul, with Shannon Motlop claiming two and the returning Davin Ferreira also hitting the scoreboard. Joshua Wilson was named Wanderers’ best though in the gallant effort, marking his first appearance in the best this season after 14 games. While Nightcliff’s fate at one end of the table is up for grabs in Round 18, the Eagles face a similar situation as they play off to avoid last spot. They face a Palmerston side keen for a big win, while second-bottom St Marys play Tiwi in a fixture with strong finals ramifications.