Super Saturday in the Top End- NTFL Grand Final Previews





Premier League – St Marys Vs. Wanderers
There is an aura of invincibility surrounding the St Marys Football Club. Football pundits across the Northern Territory have considered the premiership a foregone conclusion for the mighty green machine for a number of weeks now. But internally, the club has not believed the hype and continues to work hard and prepare well for the most important game on the NTFL calendar. The Saints have had a clear run to the premiership decider. After finishing four and a half games clear on top of the ladder, the reigning premiers thrashed Southern Districts to the tune of 107 points in the second semi-final. The club hasn’t lost a game after Christmas in three years and has won its last four matches by an average of 88 points.

Its forward line is functioning as well as ever with Dennis Dunn trophy winner Darren Ewing, Peter Macfarlane and young gun Leroy Larson all in great form. Throw in one of the AFL’s greatest ever small forward in Stephen Milne and it is enough to cause headaches for any backline. The defence led by stalwart John Anstess has been impenetrable and has conceded by far the least amount of points against in the competition. Nichols medallist Cameron Ilett leads a powerful midfield which includes Bendigo star Jack Geary and the ever-reliable Karl Lohde.

So on the surface it looks as though the Saints should win comfortably, but are the Eagles a chance? Absolutely. Wanderers have defied all the odds to get to this Grand Final. They have effectively needed to win four consecutive elimination finals, which they did. And now they will field undoubtedly its strongest side of the season. The talent on the Eagles’ list runs very deep, especially with the inclusion of four superstars in Brad Vassal, Jack Hollmer, Marlon Motlop and Eddie Sansbury. The versatility of the Wanderers side is perhaps its biggest strength. Daniel and Thomas Motlop have proven on many occasions this season that they can be effective both up forward and in defence. The Lajamanu Lightning Bolt Liam Patrick is playing arguably his best season in the NTFL and he has the ability to turn a game on its head.

As the old football adage tells us, games are won from the middle of the ground. St Marys have an advantage here with a better array of inside midfielders that thrive on winning the contested ball. The Eagles midfield will have its hands full trying to stop Ilett, Lohde, Geary, Wilson and co around the stoppages. But if they can break-even it will be game on. Wanderers have a quicker side and will need to try and spread the ball wide to get the Saints chasing.

St Marys have been the benchmark for so long and are the deserved favourites in this Grand Final. However the bookies make it appear as though it will be a one-sided contest. Take one look at Wanderers’ side on paper and tell me that they can’t be competitive with St Marys. They are strong in all areas of the ground and they have that x-factor talent that can take hold of a game. But I feel as though the stability and consistency of the Saints side will hold them in good stead in the unpredictable environment that is a Grand Final. St Marys to win by 17 points with Jack Geary collecting the Chaney Medal for best on ground.


Division One – Pint Vs. Banks
It is a throwback to the old TEAFA days as two traditional rivals PINT and Banks do battle for the holy grail of the Division One competition. Expect plenty of fireworks with no love lost between these two clubs. PINT enter the match as favourites after finishing the season on top of the ladder and easily accounting for Nightcliff in the second semi-final. It’s an old side stacked full of players with distinguished NTFL careers and this experience can be invaluable in Grand Finals.

Matt Gale and Brendan Clohesy have been solid contributors through the midfield all season for the Greenants. Spiritual leader Callum Crook has been terrific and is coming off two consecutive best on grounds while Brad Rayson and Ross McDermott compliment what is already a potent attack. The Kensey brothers in the back half have been good players at PINT for many years now and would love to add another premiership medallion.

But while the Banks are in the unfamiliar position as the underdogs, do not discount its chances here. Emotion can be a driving force in big games and the longstanding rivalry it has against PINT will no doubt come into play. The mercurial Aaron Knapman has kicked more goals than anyone in the Division One competition and is always a dangerous target in the forward line. Nick Twelftree was impressive in a key position defensive role last week while Will Johnson, Brad Taheny and Adam Spencer can gather plenty of the football in the Bulldogs’ engine room.

PINT have had the better of Banks in both encounters this season but as we all know, Grand Finals are a different story. The Dogs will be fired up and confident of a win but I feel as though the bigger ground of TIO Stadium will disadvantaged them. The Greenants are used to the large ground with their home venue of the Marrara Cricket Ground also a large oval. I feel as though the winning momentum of PINT will see them win this Grand Final by 24 points with Brad Rayson B.O.G.


Division Two – Banks Vs. Spartans
This has the potential to be a very spiteful contest with both sides enjoying a fierce rivalry. Banks will start as favourites after an eight-goal win over the Spartans only a fortnight ago. Sam Lewis has been exceptional all season for the Dogs as has veteran Richard Baldock. The 45-year-old Todd Hayes has played with the enthusiasm of a player half his age this season and led the Bulldogs for goals.

The Spartans have been outclassed on both occasions against Banks but they have a number of players that can break a game open. Chris Smith is undoubtedly the best player in the competition and the Bulldogs will want to stick the clamps on him. Jaise Coleman was a runaway winner of the Division One Mitch Lee Medal just last year and if he turns it on it will vastly improve the Spartans’ chances. Tom Antulov and Robert Goldsmith are deadly in front of the big sticks and the Banks defence will have its work cut out for them.

I think the Spartans are not without a chance here with some of its top-line players able to cause some damage. But it is hard to go past Banks winning this one with a reliable team in most positions.


Under 18 – Nightcliff Vs. Buffaloes
Nightcliff are raging favourites to achieve back-to-back premiership flags in the U18 competition. The Tigers finished the season three games clear on top of the ladder despite never being able to field a full-strength side due to many of its star players playing in the Premier League. But the Tigers will be boosted by the return of Ryan Mu, Ryan Nyhuis and Patrick Taban in what should be a huge confidence booster for the rest of the team. All three players have shown that they are more than capable at a higher standard and have the potential to be match-winners in the U18s.

But the double blues will still be confident of causing an upset win after coming so close only a fortnight ago. The Buffaloes lost the match by just 11 points despite arguably one of its most damaging players in Michael Hagan not playing. Hagan’s inclusion plus the solid form of Bradley Stokes and Jalen Clarke should hold them in good stead. Alan Mummery has booted 41 goals for the season and is always a solid target to aim for up forward. Abala medallist Lawrie Raymond has an injury concern but the Buffaloes will be hoping he is declared fit.

The Buffaloes have shown in recent weeks an inability to stop the opposition’s damagin forwards. Matthew Bricknell booted half a dozen goals a fortnight ago while Caleb Clyden threaten to single-handedly win the game off his own boot last week. Defending against a forward line of Bricknell, Andrew Papazoglou and Luis Rodrigues is a tough ask for any U18 backline but the Buffaloes need to pay extra close attention if they are to win this match.

The Buffaloes are talented enough side to cause Nightcliff trouble if all its big guns fire. But the Tigers finished three games on top of the ladder for a reason. Add in three more quality players and it is tough to see how the Buffaloes will win this match. The Tigers by five goals with Ryan Mu picking up another medal for a best on ground performance.


Under 16 (Hickman) – Nightcliff Vs. Southern Districts
This could be one of the more intriguing matches of the day with the undefeated Southern Districts taking on Nightcliff. The Crocs are a very well-rounded team and are strong in every position on the field. Hickman medallist Michael Mummery has booted 65 goals this season and is a genuine game-breaker. The former Nightcliff player can be damaging up forward and also through the midfield, where he has played on numerous occasions this season. Beau Schwarze is another one of the Crocs’ stars and Nightcliff will need to play close attention to both of these two players in order to limit the damage.

Despite not yet beating Districts this season, the Tigers are very confident of their chances heading into the match. They have plenty of x-factor talent in the side that can tear a game to pieces if given the freedom. Ryan Althouse-Cooper and Bryson Nabegeyo have had brilliant seasons while Nelson Sontagg can be effective in many different positions. This game should be genuinely exciting and I cannot wait for it.

I am going to tip and upset here and go for Nightcliff to put an end to Districts’ unbeaten run this season and claim the premiership.


Under 16 (Leverence) – Tracy Village Vs. Waratah
Tracy Village enter this match as deserved favourites after going through the season with only one loss. The Razorbacks are a talented side with many of its players capable of being stars at Division One level. In particular, Leverence Medal Brayden McLennan has the ability to run riot through the opposition with his ball winning ability and athleticism. Byron and Callum Mayo have been excellent up forward and will cause headaches for the Waratah defence.

On paper, the Warriors look like massive underdogs but they are hitting form at just the right time of the year. They were ultra-impressive last week in a big win over Nightcliff and if they can carry that form over into this match, they are in with a chance.


Under 14 (Gunderson) – Nightcliff Vs. Wanderers
It is always fitting that the top two sides on the ladder get to play off in the Grand Final. The Tigers finished on top of the ladder undefeated and have looked close to unbeatable at times during the season. Gunderson Medal winner Travis Rose has been exceptional all season for Nightcliff and would have to be considered the best player at U14 level in the NTFL. If he has a big game it is hard to see how the Eagles will be able to stop him. He has plenty of back up too with Kyle Gowley and Wade Derksen also enjoying stellar seasons.

The Eagles will look towards Joel Jeffrey and Eddie White to give them plenty of drive. If they can win the midfield battle they will be half a chance with a number of talented forward line players able to kick goals. Wanderers have lost by 44 points on both occasions against Nightcliff but they need to enter this match with the confidence that none of that matters anymore.

I think the talented young Tigers will win comfortably with Travis Rose collecting another medal for best on ground.


Youth Girls – Tiwi Bombers Vs. St Marys
This could be one of the most interesting games of the day and it is very hard to predict. Before this season, St Marys were virtually unstoppable in the Youth Girls competition and would go through the whole season without being challenged. But enter the Tiwi Bombers. Under the guidance of Karina Gray, the Bombers have played some brilliant football and perhaps no better example was their 139-point thrashing of the Saints just a couple of weeks ago. Jerrica Heenan has been sensational being named in the Bombers’ best players in each of her ten games and also contributing plenty of goals for the team. Arthurina Moreen and Kimberly Stassi have also been very influential for Tiwi across the season.

But the Saints looked strong last week in its 133-point win over Southern Districts in what was a fiery match. Four-time Sharyn Smith medallist Danielle Ponter did not play the last time Saints met Tiwi and saying she is a big inclusion would be an understatement. I’m going to sit on the fence here and just say that this should be an exciting game and a great exhibition of Youth Girls football.


Under 12 (Deslandes) – St Marys Vs. Waratah
This should be a great game of football with plenty of talented young players running around. St Marys finished on top of the ladder with only one loss for the season while Waratah were not far behind and finished in third position. These two sides have met three times throughout the season with very interesting results. On the first occasion, Waratah thrashed the Saints by 81 points and played exceptional football. St Marys reversed the result to win by 53 points shortly before the Christmas break. On the third encounter, it was a very close game until a couple of late Saints goals sealed the win.

But Grand Finals are a different story and there is no doubting that the Warriors’ group of young kids have more than enough talent to win. Northern Territory primary school state representatives Sam Elder and Ned Stevens have been fantastic all season for Waratah and could lead the way again on Saturday morning. The Saints are a consistent and hard-working side throughout the whole team. Best and Fairest winner Kobe Hodges and CJ Wilson-Perkins have been terrific in the midfield and up forward.


Under 12 (Atkinson) – Wanderers Vs. Nightcliff
 It is great that when analysing junior Grand Finals this season, most games appear that they will be very competitive and close. The U12 Atkinson Grand Final between Nightcliff and Wanderers is no exception with both sides very similar in talent. Due to a quirk in the fixture, these sides have only met once this season with the Tigers prevailing in a close game. But the young Muk Muks are more than capable of turning that result around.

The Eagles are coming off two big wins in a row and its Best and Fairest player Jai Jeffrey is playing well. The Tigers have also won two on the trot and Thomas Malseed and Jack Peris have been standouts for the young Cubs this season.

It should be a very close game but I’m tipping Wanderers in a close one.

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.


  1. Top win by Wanderers over St Marys in the NTFL GF by 34 points.
    Their X factor talent worked in their favour Jackson.

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