Footy Fanatics – weekly updates by Jackson Clark

By Jackson | Tuesday, 29 January | No Comment

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Jackson Clark is on Twitter: @JClark182

 Young Territory Players in the AFL

With a few Northern Territory AFL players reaching the end of their careers at the top level, what better time to look at the new crop of young Territorians that were introduced to the system this year.

Pocket-rocket Jake Neade burst onto the scene and has exceeded expectations in his first season of AFL football. The man from Elliot, 700km from Darwin, has impressed Port Adelaide with his frenetic work-rate, defensive pressure, and bursts of speed. The “Elliot Express” has played 16 games this season for the Power and received a NAB Rising Star nomination in Round 13. Despite being one of the smallest players in the AFL, Neade regularly takes down bigger opponents with his ferocious tackling.

Jed Anderson has often been used as the substitute for Hawthorn this season but has provided plenty of excitement and enthusiasm when brought onto the ground. Anderson had a tough introduction to AFL football when he had the job of running with Joel Selwood in Round One. Two weeks later he would receive an NAB Rising Star nomination for a 16-disposal game against Collingwood. A few injury issues during the middle stages of the season halted his progress but after a five-goal effort for Hawthorn’s VFL affiliate Box Hill, the midfielder/forward was promoted to the senior side at the right time of the season. After playing in the last two games of the minor rounds, Anderson held his spot to be named as the sub in the Qualifying Final against Sydney. He was injected into the game in the last quarter and took little time to make an impact with a big contested mark and goal. It will be tough gig to hold his spot in the side that is premiership-favourites but the fact that he is in strong contention at this stage of the season is testament to his efforts.

After being recruited to Melbourne, Dom Barry has spent this season developing his football with VFL affiliate Casey Scorpions. Barry has played 14 games with the Scorpions and will be hoping for a big preseason to push claims for AFL selection in 2014. He had a consistent season at VFL level which was highlighted by a season best 23 disposals and a goal against Werribee in Round 13. He is a silky smooth mover with nice skills by foot.

By Jackson Clark

 School Sport Australian Football Champs

The country’s most talented young footballers were on display with the School Sport Australia Combined Australian Football Championships at TIO Stadium in Darwin last week. The week long carnival showcased the best U12 and U15 talent with players from all states and territories competing, expect for Tasmania.

South Australia claimed its first title in 34 years in the U15s division after defeating Western Australia by nine points in the final on Saturday. The win capped off a perfect carnival as the South Australians went through undefeated. The Crow-eaters were led by North Adelaide junior Lee Minervini who was the joint winner of the J.L. Williams Medal for the player of the carnival. Another familiar name in the side was that of Ben Jarman, the son of former Hawthorn and Adelaide superstar Darren. The young Jarman is slightly built and played as a small forward but had an effective carnival and bobbed up for a few goals. Western Australia and Victoria Country finished in second and third place while on the other end of the spectrum, Victoria Metro had a disappointing carnival by its lofty standards. Metro looked solid in its first game of the carnival against SA but struggled to find form after that. ACT provided the upset of the carnival after defeating Vic Metro in the second round by 14 points. Northern Territory struggled badly with a number of heavy defeats across the week. Captain Lachlan McKenzie was a shining light for the Territory and was rewarded with selection in the All-Australian team.

The U12s division was won by a dominant Victoria side in what was its 11th title win in 12 years. They received stiff competition from a gallant Northern Territory side which finished the carnival in second place with four wins and one loss. The Territory was able to field up to 12 overage players for the carnival, which helped with the side’s overall size and strength. There was also a Northern Territory Invitational team that participated in the carnival. The invitational team was made up of mostly boys from remote Territory communities. Although the side finished the carnival without a win, it would have been a memorable experience for them.

The carnival also showed the best upcoming football talent women’s football with the Girls 16 and Under Championships. The final was won by Western Australia in a close encounter against Victoria.

By Jackson Clark

NT Thunder v. Aspley

Northern Territory Thunder’s 2013 season is over after failing to qualify for the NEAFL finals. It was disappointing season and the Territory side suffered a 17.12 (114) to 13.10 (88) loss to Aspley on Saturday in its final game.

After Labrador failed to beat Morningside earlier in the day, any hope of the Thunder making the finals was gone. The attention turned to spearhead Darren Ewing who needed 11 goals to reach the magical 100-mark.

Thunder started the first quarter in impressive fashion and was on top of Aspley in most areas of the game. Ewing received good service from his midfielders and was able to get on the end of a couple of goals early in the piece. It was a similar story in the second quarter but Thunder were not able to capitalise on all of its chances when going forward which allowed Aspley back into the game. At half time Thunder took a two-goal lead into the break and the vibe was generally positive.

The lack of incentive for a victory must have taken its toll as the Thunder was thrashed in the third term to the tune of eight goals to two. The Hornets had too much run in its legs and played inspiring football in the lead up to their finals campaign. At three quarter time there was no coming back for Thunder as Aspley led by 25 points and had all the momentum. The last quarter was purely academic as Aspley’s attention turned to next week.

Darren Ewing played a solid game up forward with five goals and a number of direct goal assists. Darwin Buffaloes pair Phillip Wills and Jordan Wilson-King were good contributors for the Territory and used their solid bodies to effect. Shannon Rioli showed his beautiful skills by foot while skipper Cameron Ilett never stopped trying. Former Brisbane player Cheynee Stiller was Aspley’s best player.

By Jackson Clark

NT Thunder v. Southport

NT Thunder has all but sealed its fate for the 2013 season after a disappointing loss to Southport at the Fankhauser Reserve in Queensland at the weekend. Thunder is now almost certain to miss out on the finals after the 18.19 (127) to 8.11 (59) loss to the Sharks. The Thunder never looked a chance as the home side dominated the contest from the onset.

It was a sluggish start to the match but Southport appeared to have control of the play and at quarter time led by just under three goals. The Sharks kicked into gear in the second quarter and put Thunder to the sword with a dominant seven goal to nil term. The match was essentially over at half time with Southport leading by 60 points. Thunder had to answer for the Sharks’ pressure and could barely manage any opportunities in front of goal. Thunder came out after half time with nothing but pride to play for and managed to break even on the scoreboard in the third term. With the Sharks’ attention turned to next week it was an uneventful last half. It was arguably the Thunder’s most disappointing loss for the season as they succumbed to a 68-point loss in one of the most vital games of the season.

Ben Rioli continued his terrific form this season providing plenty of rebound out of the back half. Jordan Wilson-King was also impressive and provided a spark for Thunder. Julian Lockwood and Jayden Prior battled hard all day while Austin Wonaeamirri also did a number of good things. Darren Ewing was held goalless and is now on 89 goals for the season with only one match remaining. Thunder take on Aspley next week at TIO Stadium.

By Jackson Clark

NT Thunder v. Labrador

Darren Ewing had a field day as his NT Thunder side demolished Labrador to the tune of 137 points in Queensland on Saturday. Thunder kicked 29.17 (191) to Labrador’s 8.6 (54) as ‘Boof’ Ewing dominated with a career best 14 goals.

The result of the match was never in doubt as the Territory side dominated from the onset. An inaccurate 5.10 meant that the Thunder only led by 38 points at the first change. Labrador was simply outclassed in every area of the ground as its opposition rapidly piled on the goals. Thunder led by 57 points at the main break and increased that margin to 94 at three quarter time. While the Tigers’ only motivation was to regain respectability to the score line, Thunder were after a percentage boost to stay in fifth position in front of Morningside on the NEAFL ladder. The Territory boys got exactly what they were after with a nine goal to two final quarter.

Ewing’s 14-goal master class was the obvious highlight of the game. The star forward marked everything that was presented to him and his kicking for goal was nothing short of superb. Ewing has now kicked 87 goals for the season as he closes in on the illustrious century mark with three games in the minor rounds remaining. Chris Dunne played a sneaky support role in the forward line to bob up with seven goals. Dunne has slipped under the radar this season and has a more than impressive season tally of 48. Ben Rioli had another top game gathering plenty of the ball in the back half and running forward to kick two goals in the last quarter. Brad Vassal and Cameron Ilett used their strength and size over the ball to win many clearances over the course of the match.

By Jackson Clark

NT Thunder v. Brisbane Lions

NT Thunder has rebounded from its loss to Morningside last week to record an emphatic 12.18 (90) to 11.17 (83) over Brisbane Lions reserves on Saturday at TIO Stadium. The match was played as a curtain raiser to the AFL game later that night and the hot weather conditions worked in favour of the home side. The Territory boys had more run in their legs and were able to overcome a three quarter time deficit to win by seven points.

The Lions side took a hit before the match when reserves stars Sam Docherty and Jordan Lisle were promoted to the senior team. Thunder also had a couple of key players out with Kenrick Tyrrell and Shannon Rioli absent from the side. The first quarter was played at a cracking pace with only a solitary point separating either side at the first change. The Lions slowly gained the ascendency on the Thunder and increased its lead to just over a goal at the main break.

Brisbane was showing obvious signs of fatigue and made use of the air-conditioned rooms during the breaks. Despite having their chances in front of goal, the home side were unable to capitalise on many opportunities and at three quarter time trailed the Lions by 14 points. The NT Thunder coaches urged a big effort from their troops in the final term as a loss would have greatly affected Thunder’s finals aspirations this season. Thunder controlled the majority of the last quarter and it was any side’s game from early in the piece. During the middle stages of the quarter, Thunder’s forward press was working to its advantage as Brisbane struggled to get the ball over half way. A squandered opportunity in front of goal by Marco Paparone dented the confidence of the Lions side and from then on it seemed as though whichever side made the least mistakes would probably win the match. Darren Ewing’s brilliant snap for goal from a Brant Chambers handpass led to his sixth for the day and sealed the win for his side.

Young defenders Jordan Wilson-King and Ben Rioli were superb for the Thunder. Wilson-King is fresh off a year as a rookie at the Fremantle Dockers and played with plenty of poise and confidence. Rioli always seems to have big performances against Brisbane and mopped up everything in the back half. Justin Beugelaar took plenty of intercept marks and generally read the play well while Phillip Wills worked hard all day. Dean Staunton and Cameron Ilett, both players with plenty of experience, stood up and led from the front and played a vital role at times when the game was there for the taking.

By Jackson Clark

NT Thunder v. Morningside 

NT Thunder has let a giant opportunity slip with a disappointing loss to Morningside at Esplen Oval in Brisbane on Saturday. Morningside narrowly lead the contest for most of the day before exploding in the final term to record a 19.14 (128) to 9.15 (69) win. Both sides are in similar positions on the ladder in the race to qualify for the NEAFL finals and a win for the Thunder would have been handy.

The home side started the match with all the play but failed to capitalise on chances in front of goal kicking 3.7 for the term. At quarter time the Panthers led by just under a goal and they were able to maintain that lead into the half time break. Little separated either side in the first half and the match was played with plenty of grit and determination. Morningside was still unable to break from the Thunder shackles in the third term and at three quarter time went in with a seven point advantage. It was any side’s game for the taking but the Panthers were able to dismantle their opposition early in the final term to kill off any chance of a Thunder win. Morningside kicked 9.2 to 0.4 for the term in what must have disappointed the Thunder coaching staff.

Kent Abey was too big and strong for the Thunder defence booting eight goals and playing a role in a couple of others. Ryley Buntain gathered plenty of the ball in Morningside’s defensive half while Jonathan Williams and Jayden Russ also performed well. Thunder skipper Cameron Ilett led from the front while St Marys teammate Shannon Rioli also showed flashes of brilliance throughout the match. Darren Ewing was well held and only kicked a solitary goal.

It is a tough road ahead for the Thunder if the side is to make the finals. It faces a major challenge next week in the Brisbane Lions reserves at TIO Stadium in what will be played as a curtain raiser to the AFL match later that night. The Lions are in top form in the NEAFL competition with players such as Jordan Lisle, Patrick Karnezis and Jared Polec amongst a host of names that regularly feature in the best players.

By Jackson Clark

NT Thunder v. Gold Coast Suns

NT Thunder have edged one step closer to a finals berth after its 47-point win over Gold Coast Suns reserves at TIO Stadium on Saturday night. The Thunder outplayed the AFL reserves side from the opening bounce to secure an impressive 22.16 (148) to 15.11 (101) win. The win places Thunder in fifth position ahead of Morningside on percentage. The Suns felt the loss of a number of key players that were unavailable due to playing in the AFL match earlier that day.

Thunder started the match in top form and kicked a couple of early goals to put the Suns on the back foot. Spearhead Darren Ewing kicked three first quarter goals and looked set for a big match as his side led by five goals at the first change. Despite the 30-point lead, it could have been even more if Thunder had have kicked straighter on goal. The Suns applied more scoreboard pressure in the second quarter but the home side seemed to have an answer and at half time increased its lead to 40 points. The second half was a relatively even contest with the floodgates opening and both sides scoring more freely. Thunder outscored Gold Coast 12 goals to 11 in the second half with both sides playing a more attacking game style.

Chris Dunne was superb playing across half forward and on the ball finishing with eight goals to take his season tally to 40. Dunne always seemed to find space in the Thunder forward line and capped off his hard running by kicking truly in front of goal. Ex Fremantle rookie Jordan Wilson-King gathered plenty of the football in the first quarter and looks right at home in the Thunder back half.  Ben and Shannon Rioli continued their fantastic seasons while skipper Cameron Ilett showed tremendous leadership throughout the match.

For the Suns it was Alex Sexton that impressed with his hard running and long goals a feature of his game. Kyal Horsley gathered plenty of the football but let himself down with his disposal at times during the match. Jared Brennan showed glimpses of brilliance and will put his hand up for AFL selection along with Jack Hutchins.

By Jackson Clark

NT Thunder v. Sydney Swans Reserves

NT Thunder has made a successful trip to the Red Centre after recording a 53-point win over Sydney Swans reserves on Saturday. The Thunder severely restricted the Swans’ influence after quarter time to eventually win 16.16 (112) to 9.5 (59) at Traeger Park.

Thunder went into the match after making plenty of changes to the line-up so it was a good win in the context of the season. On face value the game looked to be a massive challenge for the Territory boys but it was a severely depleted Sydney side that ran out. The young Swans fielded a few local top ups from Alice Springs and Thunder capitalised on the unsettled nature of the Swans team.

It was a relatively even first quarter that saw Thunder with their noses in front at the first change. The young backline of the NT was exceptional in the first quarter with Ben Rioli in particular showing plenty of skill and dash. The second quarter was completely controlled by Thunder as Sydney could only manage a solitary behind for the term. Any chance of an unlikely Swans revival was quashed in the third quarter with Thunder kicking a couple of early goals. At three quarter time it was the NT Thunder up by 50 points and the match was all but over. The last quarter was purely academic with the result of the match already determined. Thunder took its foot off the pedal to an extent to allow Swans kick four goals for the term to break even with the Territory for the quarter.

Darren Ewing kicked seven goals to take his tally to 61 for the season. Ewing has been superb this season and another century of goals is certainly not out of the question. His new support up forward in SANFL champion Brant Chambers kicked three goals to also play his role effectively. Ben Rioli played his best game of the season with terrific rebound from the back half. His brother Shannon provided poise and skill around the football and supplied the Thunder forwards with premium service. Matt Argus provided plenty of grunt work while Julian Lockwood battled hard all day for the second week in a row.

By Jackson Clark

NT Thunder v. Mt Gravatt

NT Thunder has recorded a 75-point win over NEAFL cellar-dwellers Mt Gravatt on Saturday afternoon in Brisbane. The 21.18 (144) to 10.9 (69) win was important in the context of Thunder’s season as it keeps the side in touch with the final five.

Mt Gravatt made the most of the windy conditions to get off to the perfect start in the first term. At quarter time the Vultures led the Thunder five goals to one and optimistic Mt Gravatt supporters could sense an upset brewing. To make matters worse for the Thunder was the injuries to key play makers Kevin Vearncombe and Nathan Brown. Thunder got back into the contest in the second term and began to gain the ascendency after the half time break. At three quarter time it was obvious that the Vultures players were beginning to tire. This set the Thunder up for a massive last quarter and the Territory boys certainly did not disappoint. Thunder kicked 11 goals in the final term to record the percentage boosting 75-point win.

It was an impressive win for the Thunder when taking into account that they only had two players on the bench for the final three quarters. Julian Lockwood was superb in the ruck in the absence of Kevin Vearncombe. Dean Staunton and Cameron Ilett won their midfield battles and got first hand to the ball on many occasions. Darren Ewing continued his terrific season up forward with a bag of seven goals, including his 400th NEAFL goal. Chris Dunne and Thomas Gorey kicked four goals each and Lachlan Argus played one of his best games of the season.

By Jackson Clark

NT Thunder v. UWS Giants

NT Thunder has let another game slip on home soil in what was a 46-point loss to the UWS Giants at TIO Stadium on Saturday night. Thunder started the match well and led at quarter time but ran out of legs and eventually lost 17.18 (120) to 10.14 (74).The consecutive losses at home could have negative repercussions on the Thunder’s season as the side is now sitting in seventh place on the NEAFL ladder. A win would have seen the side jump in front of Redland and Morningside on the ladder.

Thunder went into the match with several notable absentees in young Thunder star Errin Wasley-Black, Baydon Ngalkin and Aaron Motlop. At quarter time, the Thunder led by five points and looked on top of the Giants in terms of ball use and endeavor. From then on the game was mostly controlled by the GWS reserves outfit and they steadily increased its lead at every change.

Former Carlton swingman Bret Thornton was dangerous up forward kicking five goals. New Giants draftee Kieran Jaksch kicked four in a support role to Thornton. The Thunder was led by small men Phillip Wills and Dean Staunton. Ex Fremantle Dockers rookie Jordan Wilson-King showed promising signs in his first match with the Thunder while Cameron Ilett produced a consistent four quarter performance. Darren Ewing kicked five goals and was a handy target for the Thunder up forward.

Thunder travels to Queensland next week to face Mt Gravatt in what is a must win game in the context of the season. Thunder will go into the match as favourites and will need to make the most of the opportunity. The Territory side has had a hot and cold season and faces a tough road after the Mt Gravatt game.

By Jackson Clark

Southport v. NT Thunder

Southport has escaped TIO Stadium with a nine-point victory over NT Thunder on Saturday afternoon. The Sharks survived a late fight back from the Territory side to win the match 15.12 (102) to 13.15 (93) in what was a curtain raiser to the AFL match between Western Bulldogs and Port Adelaide. Southport had the benefit of inside knowledge of a number of NT players with St Marys premiership coach Jason Cotter as football manager of the club. The Sharks played solid football in the early stages of the match and increased its lead at every change. Despite trailing by 25 points at three quarter time, there was still a glimmer of hope for the Thunder. The home side produced a better brand of football in the final quarter and managed to outscore its opponents five goals to two. However it was all too little too late and the Sharks left Darwin with the four premiership points.

Josh Baxter was dangerous up forward for the Sharks and finished with a haul of six goals. Jason Burge and Daniel Wise provided plenty of run and skill and were a major catalyst of the victory. Thunder youngster Errin Wasley-Black produced another impressive game while Southern Districts trio Dean Staunton, Will Farrer and debutant Daniel Cox showed plenty of spark. Darren Ewing kicked five goals in a lone hand up forward.

By Jackson Clark

NT Thunder v. Broadbeach

NT Thunder has recorded a great come-from-behind win over Broadbeach at H&A Oval in Brisbane at the weekend. The Thunder overcame a three-quarter-time deficit to win 20.8 (128) to 16.5 (101). It was a great victory for the Thunder and the side showed true Territory spirit in winning despite injuries to some of its star players.

It was a high-scoring match played in sunny conditions and at quarter time both sides had piled on five goals. Thunder broke away in the second quarter to kick seven goals to three and take a 23-point lead into the main break. However the loss of backman Josh Chaplin meant that the Territory side was a big man down for the second half.

The third quarter was dominated by Broadbeach with the home side piling on seven goals to nil to snatch the lead. The most notable incident was the injury to speedy Thunder midfielder Matt Rosier. The Central Australian went down after a marking contest and it was originally reported that he had a compound fracture of the left leg. Play was stopped for over 30 minutes while an ambulance took Rosier to a local hospital. Fortunately Rosier was cleared of any broken bones but he received over 30 stitches below his knee in what was a compound muscle explosion.

After the bizarre third quarter that lasted 65 minutes, Thunder had work to do to overcome a three goal deficit. The Thunder’s experienced players stood up in the final term to help the side boot eight goals to one and claim a 27-point victory.

The win was on the back of performances from some of the younger Thunder players in Errin Wasley-Black and Nakia Cockatoo.  Wasley-Black covered over 15 kilometres in what is a tremendous example of the draft hopeful’s work rate. Brad Vassal and Cameron Ilett won many crucial disposals around the stoppages and set the standard with their attack on the football. The dangerous forward trio of Darren Ewing, Chris Dunne and Baydon Ngalkin were again devastating for the Broadbeach defence. They combined for 13 goals and the Cats could do little to curtail their dominance.

By Jackson Clark


South Australian National Football League defeated the North East Australian Football League by 82 points in what was a battle between representative players of their respective leagues. The highly-rated SANFL competition were far too strong for their NEAFL opponents and easily dealt with them 21.14 (140) to 9.8 (62) in Adelaide last Saturday.

Three NT Thunder players represented the NEAFL outfit led by St Marys premiership winning coach Jason Cotter. Cameron Ilett, Brad Vassal and Chris Dunne all pulled on the NEAFL jumper and performed well in the state game. Ilett was arguably best performed with a tally of 25 disposals and 11 marks. Chris Dunne was his usual lively self around goals kicking two majors despite little opportunity.

SANFL rocketed out to an early lead and looked like making the scoreboard ugly. But to the NEAFL’s credit, they bounced back to win the second term and get to within under one goal at one stage. The class of the SANFL outfit was clearly on show in the final half with the South Australians booting seven goals in each of the final two quarters. The NEAFL on the other hand could only manage three for the half.

SANFL representative side was best served by small midfielder James Boyd and utility Paul Thomas who gathered 65 disposals between them. The pair are teammates at SANFL club Central District and they combined last Saturday to wreak havoc against the NEAFL. Another teammate Brayden O’Hara gathered 27 disposals while ex Brisbane rookie Leigh Ryswyk booted six goals up forward.

For the NEAFL side it was Morningside veteran Paul Shelton who gathered 30 touches while Daniel Dzufer and Cheynee Stiller picked up 26 disposals each. Thunder star Darren Ewing’s absence hurt the NEAFL’s potency up forward but Brisbane listed player Sam Michael tried hard all day and finished with 12 marks and a couple of goals.

By Jackson Clark

NT Thunder v. Morningside

Morningside has defeated NT Thunder by 29 points at TIO Stadium on Saturday night. The 18.9 (117) to 12.16 (88) loss was disappointing for the home side and they now move to fourth spot on the ladder after seven rounds.

Thunder started the match well but failed to capitalise on chances in front of goal to kick an inaccurate 3.5 for the first term. The home side took a narrow lead into the quarter time and half time breaks but the roles were reversed at three quarter time with the Panthers leading by just over a goal. Morningside had superior fitness over the Territory boys and kicked five goals to one in the last quarter to leave with a 29-point victory. It is a disappointing result for the Territory as they appear more vulnerable to losses at home than in previous seasons, where TIO Stadium has been a fortress.

Hezekiah Lawrence was a shining light for the Thunder with the young star improving in every match he plays. Phillip Wills worked hard all game while draft hopeful Errin Wasley-Black produced good footy in patches. Spearhead Darren Ewing was well held by the Morningside defence but still managed to kick three goals.

By Jackson Clark

NT Thunder v. Redland

NT Thunder has escaped with a 12-point win over Redland Bombers at Casheez Park in Brisbane at the weekend. The 13.14 (92) to 11.15 (81) win now gives the Thunder a four-two win-loss record after a shaky first couple of games of the season.

NT played a solid brand of football in the first half, moving the ball up and down the ground with precision. By half time, the visitors had opened up a 40-point advantage as the Bombers went into the half time break looking to regroup. Thunder held onto a 32-point lead at three quarter time but the Redland side sensed an opportunity to get back into the game. The Bombers outscored NT five goals to one in the final term but it was a case of too little too late for the home side.

Darren Ewing continued his good form in front of goal kicking four while his sidekicks in Chris Dunne and Baydon Ngalkin kicked two each. Nathan Brown and Brad Vassal worked tirelessly all game while St Marys teammates Cameron Ilett and Shannon Rioli also played well. Justin Beugelaar was a vital cog in the Thunder defence in his first game back in a couple of weeks.

NT Thunder faces Morningside this Saturday night at TIO Stadium.

By Jackson Clark

NTFL Grand Final

The St Marys juggernaut rolls on with the NTFL powerhouse winning its 29th senior premiership last Saturday night. The Saints came from behind to eventually defeat a gallant Tiwi Bombers 16.6 (102) to 11.5 (71). Many times during the match St Marys were tested but like all champion sides do, the Saints dug deep to find a way to win. 17-year-old star William Rioli was a handful up forward and kicked five goals to be named Chaney medallist for best afield. Rioli impressed with his positioning and mercurial goal kicking ability.

Tiwi Bombers started the match with an early goal as Ross Tungatalum began to cause headaches for the St Marys defence. The Bombers had most of the momentum in the first term but at quarter time the scores were level. The second quarter was dominated by the speed and skill of the Tiwi side and Saints were left flat footed on many occasions. The Bombers kicked goals in quick succession and should have booted more had it not been for a number of costly misses in front of goal from big man Darcy Barden.

Rupert Pupangamirri’s goal in the opening minute of the third quarter meant that the Bombers led by four goals and many St Marys supporters feared that their side was letting the game slip by. But the tide was slowly turning and by three quarter time the Saints trailed by a solitary goal and were in with a sniff. St Marys would have gone into the three quarter time break confident as the side appeared to have more fitness than its opponents.

The last quarter played out exactly how an optimistic Saints supporter would have predicted. The green machine piled on goal after goal and completely overran the Bombers. St Marys kicked 6.1 for the quarter while keeping Tiwi scoreless to win the premiership by 31 points.

Kevin Tandogac finally found his elusive premiership medal and was one of his side’s best contributors on the night, picking up plenty of football across the back half. Shannon Rioli led from the front in what must have been an emotional day for his family. Ryan Smith battled hard in the ruck and played one of his best games for the season. Xavier Clarke was classy all day and inspired his side with a spectacular grab in the third term. For the Bombers it was ex St Marys player Jason Puruntatameri and Dion Munkara that gave them the best chance of winning. Ross Tungatalum was exceptional in the first half but faded out of the game. Despite injury concerns, Paul Scanlon worked tirelessly all game for the Bombers and worked in tandem with Kristan Height.

By Jackson Clark

NTFL Finals Week Three

Tiwi Bombers has earned a spot in the NTFL grand final after a 51-point win over Wanderers at TIO Stadium in last Saturday’s preliminary final. The Bombers got the early jump and looked far more slick than its opponents before eventually winning 18.9 (117) to 9.12 (66). The match was played in overcast conditions with dark clouds lingering around for most of the match. It was not until the third quarter that the rain started coming down and by that stage Tiwi was well in control of the match. The Eagles did not have the leg speed to match the Bombers with key playmakers Dion Munkara, Jason Puruntatameri and Paddy Heenan wreaking havoc early in the contest. Simon Munkara used his finals experience to lead from the front and kick a number of important goals. Tim Bongetti played his best game of the season to boot four goals, including three in a short period of time in the second half. Dan McLinden restricted the output of Wanderers key forward Adam Cook and brought the ball to ground to allow the quick Tiwi defence to rebound the ball.
The win means that Tiwi will face off against NTFL juggernaut St Marys in Saturday’s grand final. The Saints are highly favoured after winning its last 18 games, including the second semi-final against the Bombers a fortnight ago. The green machine will enter the match having only played one game in a month and have no major injury concerns to any of its players. The on-ball brigade led by Karl Lohde, Justin Wilson and Cameron Ilett is coming off a solid season and has plenty of finals experience. Combine that with a forward line that has key forwards in Grant Weeks, Matthew Ferguson and Peter Macfarlane and small men Justin Cooper, Shannon and William Rioli and it is enough to make any backline in Australia nervous. Speaking of backlines, the St Marys defence has been impenetrable this season. Tiwi Bombers should regain the services of last season’s Chaney medallist Paul Scanlon as well as big men Darcy and Billy Barden. However they will face a nervous wait with skipper and this season’s Nichols medallist Shane Tipuamantmirri reported for a rough conduct charge – his second report of this final series. Simon Munkara and Ross Tungatalum are hitting good form while silky-skilled Rupert Pupangamirri can turn a game on its head with a quarter of brilliant football. The Tiwi defence has plenty of pace in Jason Puruntatameri, Dion Munkara and Michael Dunn while Narby Kelly and Dan McLinden add strength and experience. The Bombers have the speed and skill to tear opposition teams to threads at times but inconsistency and occasional mental fragility within the group can sometimes hurt them. St Marys cannot afford to be over-confident as seen in previous years when the side has fell down at the last hurdle. A massive crowd is expected at TIO Stadium to watch the two sides take battle in what headlines an action-packed day of grand finals.

By Jackson Clark

NTFL Finals Week Two

St Marys are one win away from securing its 29th NTFL Premiership after defeating Tiwi Bombers in the second semi-final on Saturday at TIO Stadium. The Saints broke away in the second quarter to win the match 19.9 (123) to 10.12 (72). A vocal crowd turned up for the anticipated match and it was played at a frenetic pace early in the contest. The Bombers failed to capitalise on a number of opportunities in front of goal early in the first quarter. St Marys made the Bombers pay up the other end and at the first change held an eight-point advantage. It was during the second quarter the Saints took control of the match with hardened bodies such as Karl Lohde, Henry Labastida and Justin Wilson continually winning the football. Tiwi regrouped after half time and piled on consecutive goals to give the Saints a minor scare. However as all good sides are, the Saints were relentless and finished on a high with a 51-point victory. Kane Leerson was terrific with three goals from a midfield position while ex-St Kilda pair Matthew Ferguson and Xavier Clarke were instrumental.
Wanderers gave the remaining teams in the competition something to talk about with a massive win over Southern Districts in the late game. The 22.12 (144) to 6.8 (44) win sent the dismal Crocs outfit crashing out of the finals. It was a disappointing end to Southern Districts’ season after going out of the finals in straight sets, both losses being over 100 points. Wanderers did as it pleased with players like Chris Dunne, Brad Vassal and John Jackson accumulating plenty of the football. The Eagles will now face Tiwi Bombers in what is shaping to be a terrific encounter. Both teams are evenly matched with plenty of strength and grunt around the football and also lightning speed and silky skills through the wings and flanks.

By Jackson Clark

 NTFL Finals Week One

22nd – 24th Feb

Tiwi Bombers put on a football master class last Saturday afternoon defeating Southern Districts by 107 points in the qualifying final at TIO Stadium. The match started slowly with both sides adjusting to the increased tempo of finals football. After quarter time the Bombers kicked into gear and looked a class above the Crocs. The superior foot skills and blistering speed of the Tiwi side tore Southern Districts apart and led to a 26.12 (168) to 9.7 (61) win. Gerrard Cunningham kicked seven goals but could find himself in trouble with the NTFL tribunal after being reported for misconduct. Kristan Height kicked five and Ross Tungatalum kicked four as the small forwards were too nimble for the Southern Districts defence. Billy Barden was terrific in his role on Cupido, providing plenty of rebound for the Bombers and forcing the big forward to remain accountable. The big win sets up a highly anticipated match against ladder-leaders St Marys this week, with the winner earning a spot in the NTFL grand final.
Wanderers’ premiership hopes remain alive after eliminating Waratah from the finals with a 13.7 (85) to 10.5 (65) win at TIO Stadium. The Warriors got the early jump and led by three goals at the opening change with key forwards Ben Saunders and Todd Grima looking lively. A five goal to one second quarter in favour of the Eagles shifted the momentum of the match as Wanderers went into the main break with a seven-point advantage. The Eagles appeared to be in control of the match but the Warriors refused to quit and at three quarter time were within two goals of the lead. But the loss of big man Todd Grima with a dislocated ankle affected the confidence of the Warriors and left them without a big target up forward. This limited forward options for Waratah and the side was unable to get back into the match.

By Jackson Clark

Round 18 

15th -17th Feb 

It was a weekend of floggings in the final round of the NTFL season. Wanderers made short work of Palmerston in the first game of a triple header at TIO Stadium, recording a 21.12 (138) to 8.5 (53) win. After Wanderers kicked a couple of goals early in the piece, the Magpies dug deep and made the match a relatively even contest up until half time. An eight goal to nil final term stretched the final margin out to 75 points as the Eagles’ attention will turn to its elimination final against Waratah next week. Many tip that the loss was Palmerston coach Russell Jeffrey’s last game in charge at the Magpies.
Waratah embarrassed a severely depleted Nightcliff side 25.12 (162) to 5.8 (38) at Nightcliff Oval on Saturday afternoon. The toothless Tigers were uncompetitive from the opening bounce and it was disappointing way to end a terrible season. Todd Grima kicked seven goals and worked in tandem with Ben Saunders (six goals) to wreak havoc on a stunned Nightcliff defence.
Tiwi beat a persistent Darwin side 23.16 (154) to 13.7 (85) in the middle game at TIO Stadium. The Bombers started the match well with Ephrem Tipungwuti on fire up forward kicking four opening term goals. Tipungwuti would not add to his tally after going off with what appeared to be a hamstring injury. The Buffaloes bounced back after a quarter time deficit and evened up the contest by half time. The inexperienced legs of the young Buffs side were unable to stick with the Bombers that kicked nine goals in the final term to blow out the margin.
St Marys will go into the week off with plenty of confidence after a big win over Southern Districts in the late game at TIO Stadium. The Saints showed why they are considered premiership favourites by controlling the contest from the onset before eventually winning 19.10 (124) to 7.11 (53). A tight-knit St Marys backline led by John Anstess kept goal kicking machine Damian Cupido to only a solitary goal. Xavier and Raphael Clarke also provided plenty of run from defence and set up many attacking plays. Shannon Rioli and Justin Cooper combined for eight goals and were dangerous all night up forward. There could be concern at the tribunal this week for both sides with Xavier Clarke and Southern Districts captain Matt Cannard both reported for head high contact.

By Jackson Clark

 Round 17

8th – 10th Feb 2013

Darwin Buffaloes recorded its third win over the season with a 14.14 (98) to 12.9 (81) win over a disappointing Nightcliff side. The hard running young Buffaloes outfit kicked eight goals in a rampant first quarter that left the Tigers dumbfounded. Nightcliff threatened a comeback but did not have the fitness or skill to pull it off. Steven Anderson, Joey Collinson and Robert Taylor combined for 10 of the Buffaloes’ 14 goals.
Waratah defeated Palmerston 10.10 (70) to 7.7 (49) in a low standard match at TIO Stadium on Saturday. Hot and humid conditions only saw four goals kicked in a dismal first half. The late inclusions of superstar full forward Darren Ewing and ex-AFL player Cameron Cloke was not enough to pull Palmerston over the line. Justin Beugelaar continued his good season with another solid performance while Ben Saunders gathered plenty of the football.
Southern Districts did its premiership chances no harm with an impressive 15.10 (100) to 12.12 (84) win over Wanderers in the late game at TIO Stadium on Saturday. The Eagles went into the match as favourites after the side’s impressive win over Tiwi Bombers the previous week. But despite leading for most of the match, Wanderers could not stop the six-goal-to-three onslaught by the Crocs in the final term. Damian Cupido kicked four goals to take him to 130 for the season and he is now the record holder for most goals in a single NTFL season. Captain Matt Cannard led from the front while Sonny Dann was terrific in a defensive role on Daniel Motlop.
St Marys continue to be the competition’s benchmark side after a dominant 46-point win over Tiwi Bombers at Tiwi Oval on Sunday afternoon. Only two goals separated either side at the main break but a six goal to one third term essentially sealed the win for the Saints. Boom recruit Grant Weeks was too big and strong for the Tiwi defence and booted five goals. The St Marys small forwards were also dangerous with Justin Cooper kicked four goals and William Rioli bobbing up for two.

 By Jackson Clark

Round 16

1st - 3rd Feb 2013

Wanderers sent a message to the other top sides of the competition with a nail-biting five point victory over Tiwi Bombers on Saturday at TIO Stadium. In what was one of the matches of the season, the Eagles reigned supreme 17.15 (117) to 18.4 (112). The lead changed hands several times in an exciting final term but Wanderers grabbed the all-important four points. Daniel Motlop was superb in his first game of the season
Southern Districts did just enough to beat Waratah, as Damian Cupido edged even closer to the NTFL season goal kicking record. The Crocs won 13.11 (89) to 9.9 (63) but the focus in the latter stages of the match was centred on Cupido. The goal kicking machine ended the match with nine goals to take his season tally to 126, only two short of Dennis Dunn’s record. Des Headland played well in his third match with the Crocs as did big man Laurence Angwin.
St Marys continued on its merry way with a 19.16 (130) to 7.10 (52) win over Nightcliff at Nightcliff Oval on Sunday afternoon. The win means that the Saints will finish the NTFL season on top of the ladder and will have a one week rest during the first week of the finals. After a seven goal opening term, the Saints were never troubled by the tame Tigers as the ladder leaders cruised to the 78-point win. Shannon Rioli dominated with four goals while Karl Lohde and Justin Wilson were strong around the clinches.
In the battle for the wooden spoon, Palmerston recorded a 10.9 (69) to 7.10 (52) win over Darwin at Northline Oval on Sunday. The Magpies led the match for most of the game and survived a late scare from the Buffaloes. The win was a fitting way to salute Tavis Perry, who announced his retirement during the week. Perry kicked three goals and was one his side’s main contributors in his final match.

By Jackson Clark

 Round 14

25ht – 27th Jan 2013

St Marys defeated a spirited Darwin side by 79 points in the early game at TIO Stadium on Saturday. Both sides donned special heritage jumpers to celebrate the rich history between these two clubs. The Saints always looked a class above but found it hard to shake the determined young Buffaloes outfit. Darwin tired in the last half to eventually succumb to the premiership favourites 21.11 (137) to 8.10 (58). Jack Long continued his improvement this season and used the ball exceptionally out of the back half. Grant Weeks struggled at times with his accuracy in front of goal but finished the game with 8.6 in a dominant display of strength up forward.

Wanderers were too good for Waratah in the annual Australia Day Cup match winning 13.11 (89) to 9.12 (66) at Gardens Oval. For the second time this season, ex AFL star Brendan Fevola failed to fire a shot for the Warriors and was a liability at times in the forward line. It was a close contest for the first three quarters before the Eagles booted five goals to two in the final term to seal the win. Brenton Motlop was good in his shutdown role on Fevola while Chris Dunne used his ability to spread to perfection gathering plenty of the football and bobbing up for a couple of goals.

Despite a tumultuous week at Tigerland, Nightcliff kept its composure to put in an improved performance against Tiwi Bombers at TIO Stadium. However it was not enough to get the win as the Bombers left 14.13 (97) to 12.7 (79) winners. The Bombers rocketed out to a four-goal lead at the first change but from then on it was an even contest until the final siren. Dion Munkara continued his brilliant season with another best on ground performance while 100-gamer Rupert Pupangamirri also starred.

It was the Damian Cupido show at Northline Oval as Palmerston’s woeful season continued. Cupido dominated the match with 14 goals, bringing his season tally to 117, as the Crocs romped to a 24.14 (158) to 5.9 (39) win. Palmerston stuck with the Crocs in a low-standard first quarter but it was in the second half when Districts put on the after-burners. The Crocs booted 14 goals to one in the final half to embarrass their opponents and cruise to a 119-point win.

By  Jackson Clark

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