The 2016/17 Northern Territory Football League Premier League grand final could be remembered as much for the legendary talent that was seen playing for the last time as for St Mary’s 32nd premiership win.
By Murray Silby
The 2016/17 Northern Territory Football League Premier League grand final could be remembered as much for the legendary talent that was seen playing for the last time as for St Mary’s 32nd premiership win. The NTFL records will show the Saints recording a 54-point victory over Wanderers, 14.7 (91) to 4.13 (37) in what was a more entertaining match than the margin suggests – especially for the first three quarters - but footy historians and fans alike will take note that it’s likely some of the greatest names of Territory footy graced TIO Stadium at Marrara for the final time. For the winners, nine-time senior premiership player John Anstess’ future is uncertain and Iggy Vallejo has declared, after winning his 10th senior premiership with St Mary’s, that he’ll retire. Vallejo retires as the NTFL games record holder on 343 games, a record that might be a long time standing. Inspirational captain Peter MacFarlane also announced his retirement leaving the NTFL with eight premierships and a Nichols Medal, alongside his good friends Karl Lohde also retiring on eight premierships and Henry Labastida on six.
While for Wanderers, the Motlop family, a mainstay of the Eagles’ playing stocks for years, is likely to be diminished next season with Shannon doubtful and Daniel announcing he won’t play on. Shannon played in North Melbourne’s 1999 AFL premiership winning team and later for Melbourne. Daniel played for North Melbourne and Port Adelaide in the AFL. Daniel says he may play in South Australia, but the pressure he feels playing in his home town has taken a toll on him and he won’t be seen playing in the NT again. “No, not up here. I’ve had enough,” he said immediately after the loss to St Mary’s. “The whole emotion of it is pretty full on you know. I love this club too much, to the point where I’ve got to let it go and head back to Adelaide and get on with business and life and so on.”
Motlop said that he’s proud of the Wanderers club’s achievements on grand final weekend, despite the loss in the men’s premier league. “We’ve got a great club,” he said. “We had six teams in grand finals. We had the under 18s in the grand final, a lot of other teams made grand finals. We’ve got a very good club you know and these losses are hard, but we learn from them and the junior grades learn from them and there’s going to be a good future ahead.” He praised St Mary’s for its win in the men’s premier league. “It was a great effort by Saints. It was a tough game, a tough slog. We didn’t take our chances, they took their chances so Saints are a great club and they proved it again tonight,” Motlop said. “We’ve got a young list and we’ll go away and fire up again next year.”
For Iggy Vallejo, it was a happier finish to a fine career that has seen a huge amount of success. “That’s number 10, yeah, in the seniors,” he said. “Definitely (my last game). It was always going to be my last season and losing my Dad last year, it was always going to be for him so it’s a special one for me and also for my family. “I kept on looking up there (to heaven) in the last quarter and letting him know, ‘Get us over the line!’, and just so happy the siren went.”
Vallejo said all his premierships with St Mary’s have had their own unique qualities and none have been the same as another. “No, definitely different,” he said. “We just train so hard, that’s why we’ve got success at this footy club. We train so hard and to cap it off with a premiership it’s made it all worthwhile. “You work so hard, you want something, that’s your goal and we achieved it so very special.” Of the 10 senior premiership teams he’s played in Vallejo rates the 2016/17 team as the finest. “It’s the best one. It’s just so balanced. We had the inside players. We had people who could kick goals and finish off, it’s just the complete package this year, so special,” he explained. The Saints champion says the victory was made all the more satisfying because it was over old rival Wanderers. “They always come to play, it’s never going to be an easy final,” he said. “They’ve come through the hard way, but we’re just so happy to finish off strongly and win the flag.”