WITH the finals race getting tighter as each week passes, the mid-table bottleneck looks certain to be shaken up this week with sides itching to get back into form and build a run heading into the back end of the season.
TIWI BOMBERS v. SOUTHERN DISTRICTS
Round 10 – Saturday December 8, 2pm
Southern Districts will hope to put a sizeable dent in Tiwi Bombers’ top four hopes with another emphatic win to open the round away from home. The Bombers were previously on a three-game win streak after opening their account in Round 6, but were brought to a halt at the hands of a fearsome Nightcliff side. The Crocs meanwhile look to have regained the early-season form that saw them break multiple games clear at the top, with four points and a handsome percentage acting as their buffer as things stand. An 111-point thumping of Palmerston last time out puts them in good stead against an in-form team here, as the Bombers remain a dangerous opponent. With arguably its best side forming in the last two weeks, Southern Districts will look to the former-AFL class of Richard Tambling (five goals in Round 9) and Jared Brennan to star once again alongside regulars Michael Mummery and Bradley Vallance forward of centre. There are plenty of moving parts in the Crocs lineup, with the likes of Jess Koopman coming off a bag of six goals and Seb Guilhaus showing consistent form alongside Dean Staunton. As has been the story all year, the firepower of the Crocs needs to be matched, and Bomber forwards Dion Munkara, Ross Tungatalum and Austin Wonaeamirri will have to be the ones to stand up if the Bombers are to steer away from falling short as they did against Nightcliff. Jason and Harley Puruntatameri will also have to have big games further up the field to help Tiwi’s cause in an important match-up that has implications on the Bombers’ finals spot.
ST MARYS v. WANDERERS
Round 10 – Saturday December 8, 5pm
Wanderers will be hoping to join St Marys in the race for fifth spot when they open TIO Stadium’s Saturday evening double-header. The wasteful Saints missed a trick last time out as they fell just short of the stumbling Darwin Buffaloes, but will have a good amount confidence coming up against the bottom side given they are not entirely out of form. Meanwhile, the Eagles will be disappointed with their Round 9 showing given they finally broke through for their second win of the season in the previous week, and they have the chance to scrape off the bottom of the ladder with a win here. With Davin Ferreira in irresistible form after five goals last week, anything is possible for the Muk Muks. Add the recent form of Thomas Motlop and John Tipiloura to the mix and Wanderers have the potential to put up a fight. The Saints have proven to be no easy-beats in recent weeks though, even picking up two wins in their last five games to hold firm in the NTFL ladder’s middle ground. Mathias Liddy will need to be good in front of goal again this week, while the likes of Ben Rioli and Nathaniel Paredes in midfield should provide great consistency alongside the flair of young gun Maurice Rioli jnr. With wavering scoring form on both parts, this clash could well either provide a shootout or a low-scoring affair – but the side that takes its chances will undoubtedly come out on top in what looks like a close one.
DARWIN BUFFALOES v. PALMERSTON MAGPIES
Round 10 – Saturday December 8, 7:30pm
A return to form is in the midst for both Darwin Buffaloes and Palmerston Magpies as they do battle to round out Saturday’s action. The Buffaloes breathed a collective sigh of relief as they narrowly got over the line against St Marys last week on account of accurate goalkicking, returning to the win column after two straight defeats. Meanwhile, Palmerston have lost three consecutive games and despite putting up a competitive effort against in-form side Nightcliff, were beaten comprehensively at the hands of a rejuvenated Southern Districts last time out. With both outfits keen to break clear of deadlocks with rival sides on the ladder, expect the kitchen sink to be thrown in an attempt to get over the line. With young star Malcolm Rosas spending time at Gold Coast and Brisbane, Adam Sambono will need to step up and provide that X-factor, with the likes of Matthew Campbell and Javadd Anderson in good form, while Joe Anderson looks to slot back into the side. For Palmerston, the same core group of players have provided unwavering consistency throughout the year, with Matthew Dennis holding his ruck spot down and Rodney Baird and Samuel Talbot solid year-round. Kyle Emery will hope to step up after drawing a blank last week, while Samuel Autio should provide good fold for him as he has done over the last two weeks. It may not be pretty, but a win for either side would serve as a nice confidence booster going into the back half of the season as finals spots become hotly contested.
NIGHTCLIFF v. WARATAH
Round 10 – Sunday December 9, 4pm
PSC BM Oval
Third-placed Waratah will be looking to close the gap on weekend opponents Nightcliff when they clash at PSC BM Oval to close out the round in what as shaping as a thriller. The Tigers had it tough in Round 9 as they clawed over the line against Tiwi, but hold the most consistent run of form out of all sides having won three consecutive games. Waratah have done well to hang with the top four sides, benefitting from a Darwin slump to move to third and close within striking distance of the established top two. With plenty of experience in the form of Cam Ilett and ex-AFL listed forward John Butcher heading the side in recent weeks, while Liam Holt-Fitz has provided good spark alongside Shaun Wilson. Spearhead Trent Melville will have to step up this week after going goalless last time out, with Waratah forward Cameron Barrett coming off a round-high six goals. The addition of Kim Kantilla has been handy, and the impact of Raven Jolliffe will be key this week, too. American big-man Alex Aurrichio has also come into form of late, and should provide some sturdiness in the ruck or defence against a dangerous Tigers line-up. Despite second being poised against third, Nightcliff will be confident coming into this one, and it will be a key game in keeping touch with Southern Districts. Waratah will also want to avoid dropping points and falling behind Darwin once again, so expect some desperate footy.