Half-way review of the NTFL season

By – Jackson Clark

As the NTFL enters a three-week recess over the Christmas break, I thought it would be a good time to take a look at how the season has unfolded so far.

This season has seen the introduction of the controversial new player points system that has changed the way many clubs have recruited. Despite the capping of interstate recruits, we have seen a high-standard of competition to date.

Around 35 players with AFL senior or rookie list experience have suited up in the NTFL this season with a number of ex juniors returning to their roots. Southern Districts have welcomed the return of Jared Brennan and Richard Tambling while the Davey brothers, Aaron and Alwyn, are back in Palmerston colours.

In a competition normally dominated by small men it has been one of the most impressive ruck divisions in memory. Perhaps the in-form player in the league right now is Nightcliff ruckman Seb Guilhaus. The 200cm giant arrived in Darwin fresh off SANFL team of the year accolades and originally trained at St Marys before finding himself at the Tigers.

Other dominant big men to enter the league this season are Geelong premiership ruckman Mark Blake (St Marys), SANFL legend Craig Parry (Waratah), recently delisted Adelaide rookie Ben Dowdell (Southern Districts), VFL team of the year ruckman Russell Gabriel (Buffaloes) and Northern Football League star Matt Dennis (Palmerston).

After 11 rounds St Marys sit on top of the ladder and are undefeated under new coach Rick Nolan. The Saints have now won 29 matches in a row as it searches for back to back premierships. The green machine were boosted in the preseason after securing the services of superstar NT Thunder forward Darren Ewing and exciting WAFL youngster Shaquille McKenzie. A number of young players have also been blooded in the Premier League which bodes well for the club’s future.

Breathing down its neck is a Wanderers team that is hungry for premiership success. The Eagles have only lost one match for the season and that came after giving up a 25-point lead to St Marys in round three. The “Muk Muks” boast a supremely talented side with the likes of the Motlops, Brad Vassal, Chris Dunne, Shane Thorne, Nathan Djerrkura, Liam Patrick and Eddie Sansbury on its playing list. Add 100-game AFL defender Michael Pettigrew to that after Christmas and it is looking a very potent side.

These two sides are a couple of games clear of the next challengers in Nightcliff, Waratah and Southern Districts. The Tigers are restrained by the player points rule but at its best will have a damaging forward line in Aaron Cornelius, Todd Grima and Brant Chambers. With the Tigers starved of premiership success for almost 50 years they are the chosen side for most neutral supporters of the competition.

Waratahs has surprised a few sides this year and Brenton Toy is one of the best coaches in the game so the Warriors will be in strong contention for the final five. Ngukurr pair Jake Farrell and Davin Hall have created plenty of excitement in the forward line and on the wing and have complemented a Waratah side that traditionally lacks speed.

Districts are another side with an immensely talented playing list. Tambling, Brennan, Brad Dick, Des Headland, Troy Taylor, Gerrick Weedon and a scattering of WAFL recruits have talent to burn but have lost a couple of crucial games this season. The Crocs let a 23-point advantage over St Marys with five minutes left in the match turn into a loss and were unlucky with one of its games being abandoned due to the cyclone warning. A big win against Buffaloes before the break might be what the Crocs needed to give them momentum for the second half of the season.

Tiwi Bombers are in an interesting position and have only recorded three wins this season. There is no denying that at its best the Bombers are a premiership contender but consistency has been a major issue this season. The Bombers are often all out attack and its defence has the tendency to leak goals. They have conceded significantly more points than any other side in the competition in what must be a concern for its coaches. Liam Jurrah was a brilliant acquisition to the side but his latest arrest concerns may put his season in some doubt. A couple of Central Australian players have added bite to the side with Gibson Turner and Dylan Alice joining the club.

Palmerston are slipping under the radar after languishing at the bottom of the ladder for most of the season. Coach Dean Rioli has continued with the club’s youth policy while bringing in a couple of solid recruits. Matt Dennis has played only a couple of games but his athleticism and strong marking will be a valuable asset in the second half of the season. Jack Shannahan has come with big wraps after playing in the VFL and his last month of football has been good.

The Buffaloes are in a similar position with plenty of the club’s next generation running around. Buffaloes have produced patches of good form this season and have been unlucky not to snatch a couple more wins. Ex Geelong player David Mensch adds knowledge and experience when he plays while Frankston player Luke Clark is a top line forward on his day.

Central Australia was disappointing in its eight-game trial and could only muster one win.

Twitter – @JClark182

About Jackson Clark

Born and bred in Darwin, Northern Territory, I am a young, aspiring football writer that lives and breathes the game of Australian Football. I'm also a keen player and coach.

Comments

  1. Was reading about the points system recently but it wasn’t really explained. Can you elaborate?

  2. LOOKS like ‘Weeka” Weeks won’t be making the trip north this season, Jackson.
    After three century+ goal kicking seasons in the Bendigo F.L. he spent an injury-plagued season at Rochester in the Goulburn Valley F.L. in ’13.
    And, no, Almanac Admin. I wouldn’t be crossing the road to see David Mensch play.
    We endured Benchie Menchie for far too long at CatLand.
    Good luck to him wherever he goes, but we had more than enough of Benchie at K. Park!!

  3. Rochy Rocket says

    VERY pleased to learn that Grant Weeks is not playing in Darwin this summer.
    He needs to get the crop off at Colbo and get fit for Rochy in 2014!!!

    Looks like Mensch’s old Mansfield team-mate Cam Hotton has the job in front of him as coach of the Tiwi Bombers

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