Tag: shaun edwards

NTFL Men’s Premier League preview: Grand Final – Back-to-back, or fairytale turnaround?

AFTER 18 regular season rounds and three scintillating post-season weeks, we are down to the final two in the Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Men’s Premier League, with Nightcliff and St Mary’s set to do battle in this year’s decider on Saturday night. The greatest storyline coming into the clash will arguably be that of the difference in each clubs’ 2018/19 campaigns; with Nightcliff coming in as the reigning premier, while St Mary’s took out the unfortunate title of wooden spooner last year. In our comprehensive preview, we recap each 2019/20 meeting between the two sides so far, their overall records and form, and take a look at the key players among the final teams.


ST MARY’S vs. NIGHTCLIFF

2019/20 Grand Final
Saturday March 14, 7:15pm
TIO Stadium

KEY STATS

Records:

St Mary’s – 2nd, 14-4 (2-0 finals), 137%
Nightcliff – 1st, 17-1 (1-1), 197%

Leading goalkickers:

St Mary’s – Jackson Calder (33), Shannon Rioli (26), Leroy Larson (24)
Nightcliff – Trent Melville (46), Liam Holt-Fitz (31), Cam Ilett (24)

Grand final records:

St Mary’s – 32-17
Nightcliff – 4-8

Form:

St Mary’s – 5-0
Nightcliff – 4-1

2020 head-to-head:

St Mary’s 2-1 Nightcliff

ROUND 7 – St Mary’s 15.9 (99) def. Nightcliff 11.6 (72)

Goals:

St Mary’s: J. Paine 5, L. Larson 3, N. Paredes 2, J. Calder 2, J. Box, J. Cheek, J. Quinn
Nightcliff: T. Melville 3, M. Bricknell 2, D. Bowles, J. Butcher, L. Holt-Fitz, C. Ilett, K. Winter-Irving, D. Joyce

Best:

St Mary’s: L. Larson, R. Smith, S. Rioli, T. Davies, J. Paine, K. Parnell
Nightcliff: C. Holmes, K. Riley, S. Wilson, P. Wills, K. Winter-Irving, T. Melville

Talking points:

– St Mary’s becomes the first side to beat Nightcliff in 2019/20
– It was made even more remarkable given the Saints came in off a loss
– The loss was Nightcliff’s first since Round 15, 2018/19 (12 games)
– The Saints win despite having one less goalkicker
– Jackson Paine makes a splash in his first game with five goals

ROUND 14 – Nightcliff 14.13 (97) def. St Mary’s 4.8 (32)

Goals:

Nightcliff: L. Holt-Fitz 3, J. Butcher 2, K. Winter-Irving 2, B. Filo 2, S. Wilson 2, J. Tsitas, M. Hagan, T. Melville.
St Mary’s: N. Paredes 2, R. Jordon, S. Lampton.

Best:

Nightcliff: L. Holt-Fitz, K. Winter-Irving, J. Kickett, M. Hagan, S. Wilson, B. Arnold
St Mary’s: T. Davies, J. Long, S. Edwards, A. Long, R. Jordon, J. Long

Talking points:

– Nightcliff gets one back over the Saints in convincing fashion
– Liam Holt-Fitz continues his electric mid-season run of form with three goals
– The win meant Nightcliff had beaten every other team in 2019/20
– The 55-point loss still stands as St Mary’s heaviest for the season
– Some fans dismissed the result due to the inexperienced Saints lineup

SEMI FINAL – St Mary’s 16.7 (103) def. Nightcliff 11.11 (77)

Goals:

Nightcliff: J. Tsitas 2, M. Hagan 2, T. Melville 2, L. Sharp 2, S. Wilson, J. Butcher, C. Ilett.
St Mary’s: J. Calder 5, M. Rioli Jnr 4, R. Smith, J. Paine, J. Salmon, N. Yarran, S. Rioli, S. Edwards, H. Labastida.

Best:

Nightcliff: N/A
St Mary’s: M. Rioli Jnr, L. Daly, R. Smith, J. Paine, J. Calder, T. Saunders

Talking points:

– St Mary’s knocks over Nightcliff for a second time, ending the Tigers’ 11-game winning run
– Maurice Rioli Jnr kicks four brilliant goals to capture the nation’s attention
– Jackson Calder’s five goals takes his finals tally to nine
– Liam Daly’s tagging job on Brodie Filo proves vital
– Four Nightcliff multiple goalkickers not enough for the potent Tigers

KEY PLAYERS

St Mary’s:

Shannon Rioli – A brilliant servant of the Saints over the past few years, and played almost every game this season on the way to 26 goals and a handful of appearances in the best. The Saints will once again look to Rioli for goals and leadership up forward, with his nous inside 50 set to be a factor at the feet of a trio of dangerous talls.

Jacob Long – One of the brightest young stars in the NTFL, Long has flourished this season at senior level with his class and speed on the outside. As one of only two Saints to have played in every game this season, Long has cemented his spot as a must-pick home-grown talent and looks primed for a big top-age season as he pushes into AFL draft contention. Expect him to play a key role again off half-back.

Tom Davies – A rock at the back for St Mary’s this season who was named in the best 13 times in 19 outings, backing up a solid 2018/19 campaign. Expect Davies to have his hands full with a couple of high-end Nightcliff forwards, with his cool head likely to be an important factor amid the typically frantic grand final pace and atmosphere.

Nightcliff:

Brodie Filo – The recently crowned two-time Nichols medalist is one of the league’s premier players, and will be keen to make good on a few down weeks – including being nullified in the semi final clash between these two sides. He may be breathing a sigh of relief with tagger Liam Daly left out of the Saints’ team, but has the class to focus on his own game. His goals from midfield are set to be vital.

Kaine Riley – The Tigers’ best and fairest has been a phenomenon down back this season, consistently putting in shifts in a more unheralded role among a host of Nightcliff stars. Featuring in the best in over half of his 18 games, Riley’s role has not gone unnoticed by those who matter at the minor premiers, and he will again be important given the formidable list of experienced St Mary’s forwards.

Trent Melville – A standout over the last two seasons for the near-unbeatable Tigers, Melville has a knack for notching big bags of goals and making some special plays. He ended the regular season as Nightcliff’s leading goalkicker and has averaged two goals per game against the Saints this year, with his role in the midfield-forward rotation as important as anyones.

TEAMS

St Mary’s:

Full Back – 7. Tylah Saunders, 21. Braxton Ah Mat, 35. Adam Parry
Half Back – 13. Jake Long, 14. Tom Davies, 1. Jacob Long
Centre – 39. Kieren Parnell, 27. Nate Paredes, 11. Nick Yarran
Half Forward – 3. Maurice Rioli Jnr, 8. Raphael Clarke, 9. Shaun Edwards
Full Forward – 30. Jarrad Waite, 10. Shannon Rioli, 24. Jackson Calder
Rucks – 20. Ryan Smith, 28. Rhett Jordon, 23. Jackson Paine
Interchange – 38. Josh Cheek, 15. Jack Long, 22. Joseph Salmon, 5. Henry Labastida, 16. Liam Daly, 2. Jack Geary, 18. Dylan Johnstone, 42. James Quinn, 32. Matt Wilkinson, 36. Aidan Hill, 4. Anthony Long, 12. Leonard Ferreira

In: K. Parnell, J. Waite, R. Jordon
Out: L. Ferreira, D. Johnstone, L. Daly

St Mary’s made the tough call of leaving out Liam Daly, the man who kept Nichols medalist Brodie Filo quiet in the Saint’s semi final win, while also omitting Dylan Johnstone and Leonard Ferreira with some serious talent coming the other way. Homegrown star Kieren Parnell (wing) returns alongside Rhett Jordon (follower) and Jarrad Waite (full forward), with the latter completing a stacked Saints forward line alongside the likes of Jackson Calder, Shannon Rioli, Shaun Edwards, and Raphael Clarke. Young guns Maurice Rioli Jnr and Jacob Long take up flank spots at either end of the field, looking to generate some run and flair on the outside to match the likes of Nate Paredes and Nick Yarran through midfield. Tom Davies and Jake Long will be the rocks in defence, finishing off a formidable spine for the Saints. Not many teams have been able to match the Tigers for starpower over the last three seasons, but St Mary’s is set to do just that with this full-strength lineup.

Nightcliff:

Full Back – 14. Nathan Brown, 26. Marley McGregor, 2. Michael Hagan
Half Back – 10. Cameron Ilett, 22. Daniel Bowles, 5. Kaine Riley
Centre – 3. Jonathan Peris, 33. Shaun Wilson, 12. Joel Budarick
Half Forward – 19. James Tsitas, 20. Trent Melville, 23. Brodie Filo
Full Forward – 6. Liam Holt-Fitz, 30. John Butcher, 17. Lachlan Sharp
Rucks – 8. Kyle Winter-Irving, 11. Phillip Wills, 9. Zac Brain
Interchange – 1. Ryan Mu, 34. Danny Butcher, 31. Hugo Drogemuller, 32. Roger Morris, 53. Brad Arnold, 24. Tyson Kidney, 28. Jonathon Miles, 15. Liam Evans, 4. Matthew Bricknell, 18. Harry Williams, 57. Christos Gikas, 25. Jasper Brain

In: M. McGregor, L. Sharp
Out: J. Kickett, L. Evans

Lachlan Sharp‘s inclusion headlines the two changes made by reigning premier, Nightcliff in its title defence, with the Victorian goalkicking ace returning from suspension alongside Marley McGregor – who slots in down the other end. The heartbreak story lies with Jayden Kickett this year, who misses through injury after 15 games while Liam Evans the other unlucky Tiger to make way – squeezed out of a talented forward line. Leading goalkicker Trent Melville will lead the line at centre half-forward, with Sharp, Brodie Filo, James Tsitas, John Butcher, and Liam Holt-Fitz making up arguably the Tigers’ best front six for the year. Almost every member of that half-dozen will be able to also rotate through the midfield under the ruck craft of Kyle Winter-Irving, with Phillip Wills and Zac Brain the current followers. Down back, mainstays Daniel Bowles, Nathan Brown, and Michael Hagan retain their spots, with veteran Cam Ilett suiting up for yet another premier league grand final, and Danny Butcher set to join him among that back six. The points squeeze has obviously had an impact on both sides, and the Tigers are set to be truly tested man-for-man despite having such a talented lot available.

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.

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 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: 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 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.

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 wrap: Round 15 – Tigers wrap up minor premiership

BARRING an unprecedented turnaround, Nightcliff has secured its second-consecutive Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Men’s Premier League minor premiership after claiming its fourteenth win for the season on Saturday. The final five is also all-but set, with Waratah’s current winning run the only thing keeping Southern Districts sweating in fifth place. With just three weeks of regular season action left, points are at a premium.

TIWI BOMBERS 3.3 | 7.7 | 11.10 | 14.14 (98)
DARWIN BUFFALOES 1.2 | 3.6 | 4.8 | 8.12 (60)

GOALS:

Tiwi: A. Hams 4, A. Wonaeamirri 3, A. Tipungwuti 2, B. Rioli, C. Molyneux, R. Baird, K. Dunn, P. Heenan.
Darwin: D. Shillabeer 5, C. Atkinson, B. Foster, L. Mununggurr.

BEST:

Tiwi: C. Molyneux, A. Hams, J. Monigatti, J. Puruntatameri, R. Baird, O. Henry
Darwin: I. Seden-Kurnoth, D. Lines, D. Shillabeer, P. Campbell, M. Coombes, C. Williams

Tiwi surged two games clear in third with a crucial 38-point win over fellow finals contender, Darwin on home turf. The 14.14 (98) to 8.12 (60) result also keeps the Bombers in the hunt for a top two berth, while Darwin will remain in the top five barring three-straight losses and a large percentage deficit. The consistent scoring power on Tiwi’s end proved too much across the contest for Darwin, which struggled for inspiration without spearhead Daniel Stafford. A lead was built steadily by the Bombers, booting no more than four goals per term and no less that three to eventually extend out to a handy final margin. The second and third terms proved vital, with Tiwi notching eight goals to three in what was a game-defining period. Adopted Bomber Ashton Hams was terrific with four goals to lead his side’s effort, but Charlie Molyneux beat him out for best-afield honours. Austin Wonaeamirri and Adam Tipungwuti provided good support going forward with a combined five goals as the Bombers’ depth of scoring options proved much greater than that of the Buffs. Darren Shillabeer fronted the Darwin response with a bag of five majors, with Isaac Seden-Kurnoth judged to be the Buffs’ best in a losing effort along with Devin Lines. With premiership points all-important in the final regular season month, Darwin’s hopes of bouncing back will be boosted by a fixture against Palmerston, while Tiwi faces the biggest test of its premiership credentials yet in a clash with Nightcliff in Round 16.

NIGHTCLIFF 0.7 | 7.7 | 11.9 | 16.13 (109)
SOUTHERN DISTRICTS 2.3 | 4.7 | 7.10 | 7.10 (52)

GOALS:

Nightcliff: L. Sharp 5, R. Mu 2, Z. Brain 2, T. Melville 2, B. Grewar, H. Drogemuller, C. Ilett, L. Holt-Fitz, K. Winter-Irving.
Southern Districts: J. Garlett 3, D. Barry, J. Clarke, J. Watts, L. Stanbrook.

BEST:

Nightcliff: N. Brown, B. Grewar, C. Ilett, K. Riley, L. Sharp, Z. Brain
Southern Districts: T. Holman, M. Bowden, D. McLachlan, D. Staunton, J. Watts

Nightcliff’s premiership defence is in ideal shape as the Tigers all-but-officially wrapped up the 2019/20 minor premiership with a comprehensive 57-point win over Southern Districts at TIO Stadium. The reigning premiers clicked into gear after an indifferent start, mixing irresistible attack with immovable defence to come out 16.13 (109) to 7.10 (52) winners. Though 0.7 was Nightcliff’s tally at the first break, the 7.0 in the second term more than made up for the eight-point deficit conceded early on. There was no looking back from that point for the dominant Tigers, as they continued to apply scoreboard pressure while completely shutting out their opponents in the final term in a statement-making display. Victorian sharpshooter Lachlan Sharp bettered his three-goal-per-game average with a bag of five to lead Nightcliff inside 50, while three others notched multiples among a raft of nine individual goalkickers. But credit to the Tigers’ work further afield, the likes of Nathan Brown, Cam Ilett and Kaine Riley were all named among the best ahead of Sharp. For Southern Districts, Jeff Garlett got on the board again after a couple of goalless games to find the big sticks three times as the Crocs’ sole multiple goalkicker, with Will Farrer kept without a major. But Thomas Holman was their best for a second-straight week, while Dean Staunton and Dylan McLachlan also featured in the best again. The Crocs run home gets a little lighter with Wanderers up next in a game which could sew up the final five, while Nightcliff is set to face Tiwi in what looms as a potential finals preview match-up.

PALMERSTON 3.1 | 6.2 | 7.2 | 8.4 (52)
ST MARY’S 0.3 | 3.7 | 10.10 | 14.15 (99)

GOALS:

Palmerston: D. Gaykamangu 2, D. Nichols 2, B. Booth, R. Davey, A. Lonergan, K. Emery.
St Mary’s: J. Long 3, L. Larson 2, N. Paredes 2, J. Calder 2, J. Salmon 2, J. Waite 2, R. Jordon.

BEST:

Palmerston: B. Booth, K. Emery, B. Bennett, M. Perry (Jnr), D. Gaykamangu , J. Thompson
St Mary’s: T. Davies, J. Long, R. Jordon, S. Edwards, A. Long, J. Waite

St Mary’s maintained its standing in second spot with a trying win against Palmerston on the road, made to earn every bit of the 14.15 (99) to 8.4 (52) victory. The Magpies were much better starters, making the most of their opportunities to boot three majors in each of the opening two terms and bolt out to a shock 13-point half time lead. But with an upset brewing, the Saints were slammed at the main break and came out firing in response, notching seven goals to one in a more characteristic third term. The trend continued as St Mary’s saw out a more comfortable-looking win, adding four goals to one in the final term to pretty up what was previously a concerning scoreline for the finals bound side. The Saints had an impressive six multiple goalkickers among their seven overall, with Jacob Long bagging a game-high three while Jarrad Waite was among five Saints to notch two. In what was a rallying team effort by game’s end, Thomas Davies was recognised as best afield while Rhett Jordon, Anthony Long and Shaun Edwards also had their usual impact. Ben Booth was Palmerston’s best in his maiden game for the year, with goalgetters Kyle Emery and Djamangi Gaykamangu also named among the best as Dane Nichols booted two majors for a second-straight outing. But the Magpies simply did not have enough to match St Mary’s for long enough, which has proven to be a downfall for much of their 2019/20 campaign. They will begin to wind down with Darwin next on the agenda, while St Mary’s push to secure second place heads to Waratah next time out, with the Warriors in a decent run of form of late.

WARATAH 5.2 | 7.4 | 16.7 | 23.7 (145)
WANDERERS 4.1 | 7.6 | 9.6 | 10.10 (70)

GOALS:

Waratah: J. McGrath 5, M. O’Donnell 4, M. Newton 3, H. Kerinaiua 2, K. McBean 2, M. Blake, J. Stevens, B. Minkulk, J. Wilkins, A. Aurrichio, C. Barrett, W. Gorman.
Wanderers: D. Brown 2, J. Jeffrey 2, B. O’Connell 2, S. Bates, D. Weetra, D. Braun, A. Motlop.

BEST:

Waratah: N/A
Wanderers: N/A

Waratah notched up consecutive wins for the second time in season 2019/20, pulling away to trump fellow bottom three side, Wanderers by 75 points in Sunday’s lone fixture. The win keeps the Warriors in with a mathematical chance of slotting into the top five should they continue their winning streak, pending some unlikely other results. A hot start saw both sides get into a scoring grove, each clocking up seven goals to the main break in a closely contested half. Waratah constantly looked like pulling away, but Wanderers kept finding a way to keep in touch and even snuck ahead by over a goal in the third term without totally capitalising on their territory. But some wasteful use forward of centre eventually caught up with the Eagles, with Waratah pouring on a massive string of unanswered goals to open up an unassailable lead. The 16-goal to three second half was fitting of the Muk Muks’ seasonal trend, but there were still strong glimpses in between. Joel Jeffrey was terrific again as the primary target inside 50, booting two goals while Dillen Brown looked lively in his own two-goal effort, which was also matched by the exceptional Beau O’Connell from midfield. A trio of inclusions combined well in attack for Waratah, with Jae McGrath, Mitchell O’Donnell, and Michael Newton combining for 12 goals among a dozen Warriors goalkickers. Kim Kantilla was also lively in a more advanced role, thriving as the goalkicking pressure was eased on him. Waratah’s last-ditch finals effort continues at home next week against St Mary’s in a tough match-up, while Wanderers will hope for some consolation premiership points in a clash with Southern Districts next time out.

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.