NT Grand Final: a run and gun affair

By Peter Argent

Uniquely Territorian and full of all the dynamic aspects of our national football code, the NT Football League Grand Final day, held at TIO Stadium, in Darwin, on March 19 was simply a festival of all things good about the game.

Because of the big wet up north had been bigger and wetter than usual, only four games were played on what is now the northern cities main football venue.

Owen Henry Jr

There was a second festival of football for tomorrows stars, under 14 and under 16s Grand Finals at the NTFL’s first home, the beautiful Gardens Oval, just on the outskirts of Darwin’s CBD.

In the opener at TIO, in the under 18s decider the Green Machine, St Marys collected the crown, beating fierce rivals Waratahs by a comfortable 29 points margin.

Brad Fisher collected the BOG honours, but the player that excited me was the competition’s leading goal kicker and Abala Medallist (best and fairest in 2010-11) Dermott Wood.

Already with all the physical attributes needed for senior football, this kid has speed – and what about his guns (biceps).

Banks collected the division two title with a thrilling five point win over Pints.

Waratahs secured the division one crown with a 28-point win (five-goal margins seemed the order of the day) over Banks in the 3.30pm fixture.

The brother of Power-listed lad Nick Salter from Clare, Matt played for the vanquished, with his dad and uncle driving the over 3000 kilometres from this wine district to see him run out.

Josh Cubillo breaks a tackle from Aiden Hill

In this game, a lad I’d seen previously play at national under 18s with a brilliant name Jethro Calma-Holt, produced one of the most amazing goals of the day.

After falling over in the contest, Calma-Holt, somehow kept control of the football, regained his footing, dodged past a couple of opponents and then slotted the ball through from a 45 degree angle, from 40 metres out.

I captured his exuberant celebrations after the goal (while on the mobile – talking to my wife back in Adelaide at the same time).

Before the main event I got the opportunity to view the famous St Mary football club facility, listening to a great motivating speech given to the Saints players before the match, by Brigadier Gus McLaughlin, who has seen combat in Afghanistan and recently lost a couple members of his troops.

After the  official formalities, the pinnacle of the 2010-11 season started, with Saints, (now coached by Damien Hale) looking for a fourth successive flag, interestingly under a fourth different coach.

Hale had already enjoyed a trio of successes at the start of this century as senior coach at St Marys.

Their opponents were the Paul Motlop-coached Wanderers Eagles, looking for their first success in 18 years.

Motlop had talked in the local pre-game press about getting off to a good start, and the five goal to two opening term proved a launching pad for their victory.

Coach Paul Motlop

It was eye opening to watch the speed of ball movement, the way the ball went from one end of the ground to another a breakneck speed.

Players backed themselves in, took chances and tried to create whenever possible.

No sooner did I focus on a contest in a forward pocket, I’d peer through the lense of my “Cannon” again to regain clarity with the image and the ball was at the other end of the ground.

There were individual acts of brilliance and skill, with plenty of amazing ball control, electrifying passages when the ball when up the full length of the oval, only to be saved by opponents in the last line of defence.

Three goals could have been candidates for the AFL goal of the year.

The only thing missing on a night of 85 per cent humidity was an absolute “hanger”.

To borrow a term from basketball – “It was run and gun” footy!

St Mary's player

The Wanderers and the Motlop’s won the contest, which was really decided by three quarter time with a five-goal lead.

Paul Moltop coaching Wanderers to victory with three nephews, Shannon, Chaney (BOG in the GF) medallist Aaron, and three goal small forward Thomas all playing.

The post-match presentations were chaotic, with supporters wanting to be a part of the action. It was Wild West stuff at its best, even with David Parkin handing out the premiership medals.

If you haven’t seen Aussie Rules footy Territorian style – it’s one to put on your “bucket” list.

Footnote – Opposing premier league Grand Final coaches Hale and Motlop have been premiership team mates, but in a the rugby league. Back in 1972 they won a title with Nightcliff.

Eagles - number one

Shannon Motlop grabs his jumper


  1. Peter Schumacher says

    Listening to Jon Faine’s program this morning, a caller rang in waxing lyrical about the Tiwi Islands Grand Final which apparently was telecast on the ABC. Reckoned that it was an absolutely fantastic game.

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