THE first club under the microscope in our team-by-team series of Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Men’s Premier League reviews is Nightcliff, the 2019/20 premier. The Tigers were the competition benchmark throughout the season, and managed to pick up points against every opponent on their way to back-to-back premierships. Renowned for their fly-in recruits and envied for their ability to attract the biggest names from the NT and abroad, Nightcliff’s footballing program has rightly been recognised via premiership success once again. We take a look at their year in numbers, and highlight the key moments throughout.
NIGHTCLIFF 2019/20 SEASON REVIEW
Record: 1st, 17-1, 197%
Most games: Trent Melville, Daniel Bowles, Kyle Winter-Irving (21)
Most goals: Melville (51)
One of the many successful recruits to land at the Tigers’ den over the past three years, Melville capped off a terrific second year with Nightcliff in style; claiming his second-consecutive club leading goalkicker award, along with a second premiership medal, and the Chaney Medal for best afield in the grand final with five goals. A dangerous forward who is capable of winning games off his own boot, Melville proved as much with 10 hauls of over three goals across his 21 outings this season, while also showcasing his ability to impact the game further afield. He has hinted at perhaps ending his NTFL career on a high note, and while it would only be fitting, fans would love to catch another glimpse of the mercurial forward.
MVP: Kaine Riley (Best and Fairest)
A criminally underrated performer, Riley returned another sensationally consistent season from defence to be recognised as the Tigers’ best and fairest player. While Nightcliff boasts a number of highly touted fly-ins and some legendary NT names, it is the likes of Riley who help the Tigers remain in the hunt for each long season, with his rock-like work at the back near-unmatched across the league. A terrific reader of the play and astute user of the ball, Riley also stood up in the Tigers’ hard-fought grand final victory and very nearly snared best afield honours.
Best Nichols Medal poller: Brodie Filo (winner)
Regarded by many as the current best player in the league, Nightcliff’s midfield maestro took home his second Nichols Medal to cap off another remarkable year in the yellow and black. In adding to his 2015/16 nod, Filo also became the third Tiger in as many years to take home the award. The Victorian showed a happy knack for finding the goals, averaging one per his 15 games this season, but does his best work as a damaging part of Nightcliff’s engine room. Despite being held well in his first finals outing, Filo responded duly in the grand final with a performance befitting of his talent.
Young gun: Joel Budarick
A Big River Hawks junior, Budarick continued to make strides in his young Premier League career, adding 16 games to a promising maiden campaign last year. Part of the NT Thunder setup and a leader at Under 18s level, Budarick has proven his ability to make the step up to senior football with aplomb, and is now a two-time premiership player. Able to impact the play on each line, the youngster grew into a role on the outside and displayed a cool head when on the ball moving forward.
Best win: Grand Final – def. St Mary’s 10.13 (73) to 9.6 (60)
Goals: T. Melville 5, R. Mu 2, J. Butcher 2, M. Hagan.
Best: T. Melville, S. Wilson, D. Bowles, B. Filo, N. Brown, M. Hagan
Nightcliff truely and rightly cemented its status as the competition’s best side with a redemptive win in this year’s decider, knocking off the only side to lay claim to a win over the Tigers in 2019/20, St Mary’s. Melville’s five goals in a low-scoring and tense encounter were crucial, while the leadership of Shaun Wilson was huge, and the class of Filo rose to the top. The Tigers were made to earn the win too, pegged back each time they looked like breaking away in a bruising encounter against a worthy opponent. Relief, of course, not long after a worrying loss in semi final week.
Worst loss: Semi Final – def. by St Mary’s 11.11 (77) to 16.7 (103)
Goals: J. Tsitas 2, M. Hagan 2, T. Melville 2, L. Sharp 2, S. Wilson, J. Butcher, C. Ilett.
Only the second loss of Nightcliff’s season, but it came to a familiar opponent in St Mary’s after previously going down to the Saints by 27 points in Round 7. It is hard to pick out of the two – yes, just two – losses given the similar scoreline, but this one takes the cake as it very nearly threw a spanner in the works of a near-unblemished season. The Tigers were made to take the long road to the grand final, with five goals from St Mary’s Jackson Calder, and a starring performance from Maurice Rioli Jnr causing headaches for the usually assured Tigers’ defence.