The Northern Territory FL (NTFL) is unique to the rest of Australia in that the competition is played over the Summer months, or ‘wet’ season. Those familiar with the NTFL will know that ‘Southerners’ tend to litter the competition and practically every team has recruits who fly-in, fly-out, with varying degrees of success and longevity.
Because the competition is played in the ‘off’ season for most other competitions in the land, there is a cacophony of players to choose from and it is amazing to see the extravagant measures sides will go to, to lure ‘gun’ footballers from across the land. It is this unique situation, however, which has seen over 50 ex-AFL players compete in the league this season, the impetus behind record home & away crowds and outstanding media coverage. Some of the names include Brendan Fevola, Ricky Dyson, Brent Prismall, Matt Campbell, Simon Buckley, Andrew Lovett and the Clarke brothers (Xavier and Raphael).
In another relatively close season, the 2 top sides at the end of the home & away, St Mary’s and Tiwi Bombers, face off in the NTFL Grand Final this Saturday at 6pm (Darwin time).
St Mary’s are clearly the powerhouse of the league, in their 60yr history, they have won a remarkable 29 flags and have competed in finals in almost all of those 60 years.
The electrifying Tiwi Bombers, on the other hand, have only been in existence for 5 years and will be competing in their 3rd Grand Final, having lost a thriller to St Marys 3 years ago and winning their maiden Grand Final last year against the Nightcliff Tigers.
Both sides have links to Country Victoria, with a number hailing from across the State. Arguably the biggest name in Country football in Victoria at the moment is goal-kicking sensation, Grant Weeks, who has averaged over 7 goals a game at Golden Square in previous years and is now lining up for Rochester in the Goulburn Valley. In a show of the strength of the St Mary’s team, there is a legitimate chance he won’t get selected in this weekend’s match.
Possibly playing against his Rochester teammate is Daniel McLinden, a member of last year’s Tiwi Bombers premiership team and a key member of this season’s defence, the powerfully built McLinden has also recently signed with VFL side Bendigo Gold, though Rochester will be hoping he plays plenty of games for the Tigers, too.
Other well known ex-Goulburn Valley players playing in the Grand Final are Morrison medallist, Kristian Height, who is now at Ovens & Murray FL club, Myrtleford and has played an integral part in Tiwi Bombers team, and Paul ‘Chewy’ Scanlan, who is a premiership player at Seymour and now plays for Northcote Park in the Northern FL. If Tiwi win the Grand Final this weekend, Scanlan will win his 3rd premiership in 12 months, having played in Tiwi Bombers flag in March, 2012, then Northcote Park’s flag in September, 2012, as well.
Even more impressive will be Swan Hill product and Scanlan’s Tiwi Bomber’s teammate, Narby Kelly, who was a member of NT Thunder’s premiership in September, 2011, then Tiwi’s inaugural flag, March, 2012, followed up by a premiership at Northcote Park in September, 2012. Another premiership on the weekend will see him claim 4 in a 24-month period.
Other leagues across the state of Victoria will also have a vested interest in the game. St Arnaud boom recruit Ross ‘Rocco’ Tungatulum will be a key player in the match for the Tiwi Bombers and if he plays anywhere near his capability it will send a shudder through his North Central FL opponents. The fleet-footed and silky skilled Tungatulum has had a relatively quiet year, but showed enough in last week’s Preliminary Final victory that he is still very capable of turning the game in the Bombers favour.
The Hampton FL is represented in the St Mary’s side by NTFL Team of the Year members, Sam Chapman (Camperdown) and Kane Leersen (Colac). Leersen was instrumental in the St Mary’s 2nd semi final victory and ex-Carlton draftee Chapman was named in the best players in every match he played for St Marys this year. Both will rotate through the midfield and potentially spend some time up forward.
Best on ground in last week’s Preliminary final was Finley recruit, Ryan Bonghetti. The aggressive ruckman/forward kicked 3 goals in a five minute burst in the third term to seal the victory against Wanderers FC, and shows he will be more than a handful in the Murray FL this season.
Follower’s of the Bendigo FL will also get a chance to look at some of their newest recruits; South Bendigo recruits Justin ‘Ferret’ Wilson and Jack Long, who will also be in the thick of the action for St Mary’s. Wilson, who was runner-up in St Marys Best & Fairest and named first rover in the NTFL Team of the Year, is a tenacious on-baller, well regarded as a typical ‘ball magnet’. Former NT U18 representative Jack Long, has had a stellar year down back for St Marys and was also named in the NTFL Team of the Year and will possibly line up on the aforementioned Ross Tungatulum.
Sale’s premiership Captain/Coach & ex-AFL player, Matt Ferguson, will play alongside Sale teammate, Peter McFarlane, for St Marys in the NTFL decider. Ferguson, who was once nominated for the AFL ‘Mark of the Year’ award, is a hard-working, powerful forward, equally capable as a high forward or playing deep in the goal square. McFarlane is extremely well regarded in the NTFL and is considered by many as the ‘best mark they have seen’. Indeed, McFarlane’s leadership qualities are very high, and he was named NTFL Team of the Year Captain this season, playing many high quality games from CHF.
The Vic Country influence doesn’t stop on the playing field, either. Ex-Leitchville Gunbower coach, Lee Crossman, is aiming for back-to-back flags from his charges and is assisted in the coaches box by Mansfield Best & Fairest winner and Premiership player, Cam Hotton.