NTFL Finals Preview

BY – JACKSON CLARK

TWITTER – @JClark182

We have finally arrived at the time of the year that every footy fan eagerly awaits. The NTFL finals series kicks off this week with two blockbuster games on Saturday at TIO Stadium. Here I’ll look at how the final five sides are faring at this stage of the season.

Minor premiers St Marys are in the box seat to claim premiership number 30 after a stellar season that saw new coach Rick Nolan guide his side through undefeated. The Saints have won 36 consecutive matches with its last loss coming from Central Australia in the first round of the 2012/13 season. Nolan has his side playing a well-drilled, disciplined style of football, which should hold them in good stead during the finals. The Saints boast a number of players in career best form and have a relatively healthy list with plenty of playing depth.

Wanderers have had a shaky past fortnight but make no mistake, the Eagles are still a definite premiership threat. Whispers amongst NTFL followers have suggested that the Eagles have ran out of legs and will struggle in the finals. I am of the complete opposite opinion. Paul Motlop is a smart coach and his tactics of resting a number of their better players over the past couple of weeks mirrored that of Fremantle coach Ross Lyon in the AFL this season. The Dockers were thrashed by the lowly St Kilda in the final week of the minor rounds but made a host of changes the following game to beat Geelong in the first final. I think a similar thing will happen this week and Wanderers will beat Nightcliff. With players such as Chris Dunne, Eddie Sansbury, Marlon Motlop, Nathan Djerrkura, Shane Thorne … the list goes on … the Eagles have a seriously talented playing list and are as good as any side in the competition when everything clicks. They will face the Tigers this week after making 12 changes from its big loss to St Marys.

Nightcliff finished the season on a roll with four wins in a row. Coach Damian Hale and the rest of his team are confident in leading the Tigers to its first premiership in 50 years. But will the season but the year that Nightcliff breaks its agonisingly long flag drought? Seb Guilhaus has arguably been the best ruckman in the competition this season and he will be tapping the ball down to players like Toby Stribling and Troy Coates, who are top notch players in their own right. With Troy Kelm another rucking option, it is likely that the Tigers will control the majority of the ruck contests tomorrow. Nightcliff will look to capitalise on the Eagles’ lack of size in defence. With star forwards Aaron Cornelius and Daniel Dzufer an ominous presence in attack, the midfielders will look to get the ball in the forward fifty long and deep and hope crumbing players Baydon Ngalkin and Kayle Kossack get to their feet.

Southern Districts are similar to Wanderers in that they have a star-studded side on paper with plenty of ex-AFL talent. The Crocs will be looking at making amends for last season’s embarrassing finals series and coach Shannon Rusca will be hoping the experience of the playing group will get them through. Everyone knows that Districts are capable of playing some quality football. After almost ending St Marys’ unbeaten run early in the season, the Crocs have produced some high-class performances against good opposition. Unfortunately, it is inconsistency that has influenced their form this season. Still, with players like Des Headland, Troy Taylor, Damian Cupido and other stars in the side, one would expect them to beat Waratah and advance past the first week.

Waratah has been the surprise packet this season. During the pre-season the general consensus was that the Warriors were in for a lean year on the field and not many predicted them to make the finals. But Brenton Toy has a proven track record as coach and his side’s good start to the year has held them in good stead at the business end. The recruitment of speedsters Davin Hall and Jake Farrell has given the forward line plenty of enthusiasm and excitement. They will enter this week as the underdog but it is a tag that the boys from Gardens Oval have embraced on many occasions this year. Luke Harder and Alice Springs pair Abraham Ankers and Errin Wasley-Black are welcomed inclusions for tomorrow’s match.

FINALS WEEK ONE:

Saturday 22nd February

Qualifying Final: Wanderers vs. Nightcliff (TIO Stadium) 3:15PM

Elimination Final: Southern Districts vs. Waratah (TIO Stadium) 5:30PM

TIPS:

Wanderers (24 points), Southern Districts (11 points)

PREMIERSHIP PREDICTION:

St Marys

NICHOLS MEDAL TIPS:

Phillip Wills (Buffaloes), Seb Guilhaus (Nightcliff), Peter Macfarlane (St Marys)

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. With no knowledge of the season save for Jackson’s wonderful weekly summary and no formal following of this comp, let alone a team, I’m putting my money (it’s fake money) on the Crocs. And yes, my reason is shallow. It’s because they’re called the Crocs. Also, I don’t want St Marys to win again. That’s an internal conversation between an absolutely anti-catholic attitude writ large vs an irrational desire to like the side Cyril’s from well, just because. Go Crocs!

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