Caleb Niki from Wanderers and Jenna Singh of Waratah have been crowned the best up and coming juniors from the 2018/19 TIO NTFL season in front of 130 people, including family and friends, at the NTFL Youth Presentation this afternoon.
At 17 years of age, Niki’s 18 votes saw him awarded the Abala Medal for being the best and fairest player in the Boys Under 18 division. With Darwin Buffaloes’ forward, Thomas Clarke (21 votes) ineligible to win the award due to suspension, Niki became the second Wanderers player in-a-row to pick up the prestigious medal following on from Beau O’Connell last season. He also joins his dad and uncle as recipients of the prestigious award.
Known as a quick and tough in and under midfielder/forward, Niki is also a talented rugby player and was not on-hand to accept his award due to boarding school commitments but left this short acceptance speech in the event he won.
A member of the Wanderers Under 18 Boys premiership side from last season, Niki continued his excellent form in 2018/19, playing 11 games for 10 wins. He polled in seven of those games, receiving best on ground honours and three votes in five of them.
In a true testament to the depth of young talent at Wanderers, Mark White, who won the Under 18 Leading Goalkicker Award for his 55 goals, and Joseph Salmon also finished in the top five for the Abala Medal.
All three players made their Premier League debut this season and White, who only turned 16 at the end of January, proved he was able to back up from winning the Under 16 Hickman Medal last season. His total of 55 goals came from 14 games at Under 18 level and included single hauls of 13 and 10.
In the Under 18 Girls, Singh who is sometimes better known as “Aggie”, is a bright prospect from the Tiwi Islands playing in her second season with Waratah after making the switch from the Tiwi Bombers Under 15 Girls when she commenced boarding school in Darwin.
An inside midfielder who kicks and handles the ball well and takes the game on, it is said that she never misses a training session. She takes over the Under 18 Girls mantle from the two-time winner, Mattea Breed from the Darwin Buffettes. Up to the end of Round 5, Breed had polled eight votes, but her switch to Premier League made room for Singh to sweep into the lead at the close of Round 9.
When the home and away season ended, Singh had played one Women’s Premier League game and 15 games at Under 18 level where she kicked 26 goals and picked up a total of 19 votes in almost half of the games (seven).
Only two votes behind Singh and in runner-up position was Palmerston’s, Kaitey Whittaker. A tall target with a reliable boot Whittaker didn’t go home empty handed, winning the Under 18 Girls Leading Goalkicker Award with 64 goals.
At 15-years-old, Whittaker played all but one game in her first season playing in the Under 18s. She kicked at least one goal in nine of her 17 games but was especially impressive when she kicked 12 against Wanderers in Round 18, 11 goals against St Mary’s in Round 11 and 10 goals against Tracy Village in Round 16.
In the other awards presented at the NTFL’s Youth Presentation, the Under 16 Hickman medal was awarded to Jamie Jones of Nightcliff. From Tennant Creek, Jones has risen through the ranks as a Tigers junior and polled 16 votes across his 13 games this season. His coaches and the umpires duly recognised him as one of the best players in five of the same games.
Meanwhile, nothing could separate Anthony Puruntatameri from Wanderers, and Matthew Larkin from St Mary’s who tied on 11 votes for the Under 16 Leverence Medal. Both only 14-years-old, Puruntatameri played seven games across the Under 16s, and Larkin played in 14. At Round 16 Larkin had polled 10 votes to share the lead, but Puruntatameri picked up a vote in Round 18 to take the lead before Larkin did the same thing in Round 19 to make it all square.
The leading goalkickers in the Under 16 divisions went to St Mary’s Beau Tedcastle (Hickman division) on 43 goals and Thomas Exposito (Leverence division) of Southern Districts for his 19 goals. It’s the second year running Tedcastle has featured amongst the winners at the Youth Presentation, following on from his best and fairest Under 14 Gundersen medal last year. He scored at least one goal in all but two of the Saints’ games this season, while Exposito’s 11 goals against Palmerston in Round 9 was a big reason he secured the Leverence goal kicking award.
In the Under 15 Girls, there was no stopping Abigayle Sekitoga from Wanderers who finished on an impressive 28 votes to claim the Sharyn Smith Medal. The highest number of votes from any of the youth divisions, Sekitoga’s next closest rival in the Under 15 Girls polled 15 votes. In what was her third and last season playing Under 15s, Sekitoga who doesn’t turn 15 until mid this year, played 12 games for the Eagles this season and phenomenally she was awarded votes in 11 of them.
Meanwhile, her teammate, Lakitah White was awarded the Under 15 Girls Leading Goalkicker Award. The younger sister of Mark, the Under 18 Boys goal kicking winner, Lakitah also played her third and final season in the Under 15s division. In her eight games this season she accumulated 18 goals, storming into the lead in Round 17 after kicking seven goals.
The Under 14 Gundersen best and fairest, William Rowlands was the youngest player to win an award this season. He started playing for Southern Districts three seasons ago and is the second Crocs player in as many years to bag the division’s top honour. It was a tight race between Rowlands and his teammate, Ben Ah Mat, who was awarded the Under 14 Gundersen Leading Goalkicker award for his 29 goals.
Rowlands was named amongst his team’s best on 10 occasions, Ah Mat, who comes from a strong Territory footy lineage, was named in his team’s best eight times. At the end of Round 10 Rowlands trailed Ah Mat, who was in the lead, but following a best on ground three-vote performance in Round 15 he stormed to the front and was able to hold on from there.
While Ah Mat finished runner-up in the best and fairest, Rowlands finished runner-up in the goal kicking (24 goals), proving just why the Crocs Red team went undefeated through the season.
In an exciting finish to the Under 14 Lew Fatt medal count, Jone Garawirrtja in his first season playing NTFL was sitting in second spot on the voting leaderboard leading into the Christmas break. It’s not until Round 17 that he takes the lead but heading into Round 19 there were still five players who could catch him, but he pulls out a three-vote performance to secure the win on 15 votes.
Garawirrtja played nine games for Nightcliff this season and was named in his team’s best on six occasions. While Normie Tipiloura of Wanderers only played six games and kicked an impressive 21 goals to take home the Under 14 Lew Fatt Leading Goalkicker Award. His tally came off the back of kicking six, seven and eight goals in three different games.
AFLNT congratulates all winners on their outstanding performance in the 2018/19 TIO NTFL season.
The Nichols Medal for the senior divisions will be held next Sunday 10 March.
Winners at 2018/19 NTFL Youth Presentation:
Under 18 Boys
Caleb Niki – 18 votes (Abala Medal) – Wanderers
Mark White – 55 goals – Wanderers
Under 18 Girls
Jenna Singh – 19 votes – Waratah
Kaitey Whittaker – 64 goals – Palmerston Magpies
Under 16 Hickman
Jamie Jones – 16 votes – Nightcliff
Beau Tedcastle – 43 goals – St Mary’s
Under 16 Leverence
Matthew Larkin – 11 votes – St Mary’s
Anthony Puruntatameri – 11 votes – Wanderers
Thomas Exposito – 19 goals – Southern Districts
Under 15 Girls
Abigayle Sekitoga – 28 votes (Sharyn Smith Medal) – Wanderers
Lakitah White – 18 goals – Wanderers
Under 14 Gundersen
William Rowlands – 17 votes – Southern Districts
Ben Ah Mat – 29 goals – Southern Districts
Under 14 Lew Fatt
Jone Garawirrtja – 15 votes – Nightcliff
Normie Tipiloura – 21 goals – Wanderers