In one of the most exciting Nichols Medal counts in recent history, three votes to Nightcliff’s Phillip Wills in the final game of the season has seen one of the NTFL’s favourite sons bolt home to claim the League’s top honour.
It is the first Nichols Medal for Wills, who has finished runner-up on three previous occasions (2016/17, 2014/15, 2013/14) and also in the top five in two other seasons.
In a night that paid respect to 70-years since the Nichols Medal got its name, he finished with 20 votes, three clear of his former teammate, Darwin Buffaloes’ co-captain Jarrod Stokes and Southern Districts’ midfielder, Clinton Gallio.
In fourth place was the Southern Districts club best and fairest winner, Dean Staunton (14 votes), with last season’s Nichols Medal winner Cameron Ilett of Nightcliff and St Mary’s’ Nathaniel Paredes tied for fifth place with 13 votes.
In the TIO NTFL Women’s Premier League division, last season’s NTFL Rising Star, Janet Baird of Palmerston Magpies claimed the Gwynne Medal with an impressive 23 votes. And in doing so became the youngest woman to be bestowed the top prize.
Full details of the Gwynne Medal count can be read here.
At the end of the Round 17 read a trio of winners looked possible. Gallio and Stokes sat at the top on 17 votes and were joined by Wills after he picked up a single vote in Nightcliff’s win over Wanderers.
As the tension built the stage was perfectly set for a slow recount of Round 18. In the second last game to be read aloud, the Darwin Buffaloes suffered a big loss to Waratah, so Stokes was unable to attract any of the umpires’ votes. And in the last game announced, Nightcliff’s 90-point thrashing of Southern Districts meant Gallio was also overlooked as Wills swept up the three-votes to the rapturous applause of his NTFL peers.
Interestingly, Wills didn’t poll a single vote until Round 8. The 31-year-old, who currently has 176 Men’s Premier League games to his name, played in Round 1 but missed rounds 2 to 4 before playing all the remaining games from Round 5 on. He finished the home and away season with 15 games, meaning he polled in eight of the last 11 games.
It was Wills’ teammate and reigning Nichols Medallist, Cameron Ilett who sprinted out of the blocks at the start of the season. Ilett picked up two best on ground performances in the first two games and by Round 5 led all-comers on nine votes.
Southern Districts’ duo Dean Staunton and Sam Smith were hot on Ilett’s heels with eight votes apiece. Staunton collected all eight of his votes between rounds 3 to 5. And Smith polled in four of the first five rounds. The two often combining with Gallio to pick up the full suite of available votes.
At the end of Round 5, Gallio and Stokes had each collected six votes, along with Palmerston’s Nathan Deans and Waratah pair, Alexander Aurrichio and Brodie Carroll.
Midway through the season when Wills only had one vote, Gallio and Ilett were the leaders of the pack on 12 votes, with both players polling in five of the first nine rounds.
Stokes and Staunton (11 votes) and Smith (nine votes) rounded out the top five.
Two best on ground performances for Gallio in Rounds 9 and 10 saw him snatch the lead on 15 votes, with Stokes also turning in a best on ground three-votes and a further two-votes in the same rounds, forcing his way into outright second place with 13 votes.
As the season progressed, some of the top players started to miss games through injury. Gallio didn’t play in Round 11 and then sat out for four games between Rounds 14 to 17, while Ilett suffered a neck injury in Round 14 that had him sidelined until Round 18.
Smith, who finished third in last season’s medal count, played the first 10 games of the season before sustaining a heartbreaking ACL injury in Round 11, the final game before the Christmas break.
Gallio picked up his final votes for the season in Round 12, taking his tally to 17 to lead ahead of Stokes (16 votes), Ilett (12 votes) and Staunton (11 votes). With only seven votes accumulated to the same point, Wills was back in eighth place.
But as the last six rounds of votes were knocked off one at a time, the momentum clearly swung in his favour. At the same time, Stokes’ fortunes diminished with the Buffs turning in poor on-field performances, and he only managed to add one more vote to his tally, while Paredes also succumbed to an injury in Round 16.
An impressive 13 votes in the same period clearly marked Wills as the best player in the back end of the season. The next closest was Waratah midfielder, Abraham Ankers, who accumulated seven votes, and Wanderers’ young gun Joel Jeffrey who received six votes from the last six games.
And so, the Nightcliff junior turned Darwin Buffaloes' captain come Nightcliff star once more became the fourth Tiger in eight seasons to be awarded the NTFL’s highest individual accolade.
For winning the Nichols Medal, Wills receives return airfares for two to Melbourne and two tickets to the 2019 Toyota AFL Grand Final thanks to Virgin Australia and the AFL.
On the women’s side, it was 19-year-old Janet Baird’s big night. And she only needed 13 games to claim an impressive 23 votes, two more votes than last season’s joint Gwynne Medal winner, Lisa Roberts.
Baird will also receive return airfares for two to Melbourne and two tickets to the 2019 Toyota AFL Grand Final thanks to Virgin Australia and the AFL.
She started playing NTFL as a 14-year-old, has now amassed 83 games for the Palmerston Magpies Football Club and made her Women’s Premier League debut back in season 2016/17, playing just the one game.
In 2017/18 she played 17 games and became one of the Magpies’ most consistent performers. She picked up the Rising Star award for her effort and polled strongly in the Gwynne Medal count to finish in equal-fourth with 16 votes.
Baird played 13 games during the home and away season, mostly as a defender who generated plenty of run off the halfback line and was also one of the best players in the competition for being able to turn defence into a scoring opportunity for her team.
She kicked 14 goals too, proving her versatility and willingness to play in whatever position needed filling.
In the other awards handed out on the night, Nightcliff made it a double-win in the Men’s Premier League awards with Trent Melville claiming the Dennis Dunn Leading Goal Kicker trophy off the back of his 55 goals in his first NTFL season.
While in the Women’s Premier League, Waratah’s dynamic small forward, Amy Chittick held off a couple of her teammates to claim the top goal kicking prize for her 25-goal season.
Darwin Buffaloes’ young guns, Malcolm Rosas and Mattea Breed were rewarded for their impressive showings in the Premier League this season and took home The NT News Rising Star and Women’s Premier League Rising Star, respectively.
And the media were divided on who the Men’s Premier League player was, with The NT News/Darwin Business Machines’ Player of the Year going to Palmerston Magpies’ ruckman, Matt Dennis and the ABC Player of the Year awarded to Jarrod Stokes.
Daren Habets of Waratah was awarded the Kenndards Hire Volunteer of the Year Award for all the effort he puts in with the seniors on game day and at training, as well as the club Auskickers. Meanwhile Josh Hardy picked up the gong for ABC Umpire of the Year off the back of regular appearances in the Men’s Premier League and his mentoring of younger umpires.
The Mitch Lee Medal for the best and fairest player in the Men’s Division 1 competition couldn’t be claimed by just one player, instead, nothing separated grand finalists, David Oates of the Banks Bulldogs and Joshua Carmichael of Nightcliff, who both finished on 19 votes.
It is the second season running that Oates has claimed the prize, continuing a strong winning-affiliation that Banks has with the award. While for Carmichael, it’s the first win in his first NTFL season.
Remarkably, Oates polled in every one of the Bulldogs’ first five games and went on to poll in nine of the 14 he played.
Carmichael also gained votes in nine of his 13 games and like Oates had an impressive start, collecting votes in four of his side’s first six games.
At the end of Round 6, they both sat atop the leaderboard with 10 votes, their next closest rival being past Nichols Medallist, Matt Cannard from Southern Districts, who had seven votes.
While both Carmichael and Oates continued to add to their tallies, it was Carmichael that took the next lead. Between Rounds 9 and 14 he collected nine votes to take his score to 19, which was three votes clear of Oates.
A nervous wait ensued, especially when Oates received best-on-ground honours and the full three votes in Round 15 to make it all square again. Neither player polled in the final three rounds and thus the Men’s Division 1 Mitch Lee Medal went to two players from the division’s top two teams.
The Lancaster Medal in the Men’s Division 2 league was another award hotly contested by Nightcliff players. This time it was Spartans’ captain Chris Smith whose 20 votes held off his distinctly recognisable teammate, Jaise Coleman, who also features heavily in the vote count every season.
After the first two rounds, it was University’s Scott Whittle who got off to the perfect start, collecting six from six possible votes.
By Round 6 though, Smith and Coleman took the lead, and it was only Jabiru’s Jayred Dawson-Smith who mounted a challenge when at Round 9 he jumped to the lead on 14 votes. To the same point of the season, Smith had 13 after polling in five games, and Coleman has collected 12 votes in five games also.
Smith regained the lead in Round 10, moving to 15 votes and from that point on he never lost it and pushed ahead for his second Lancaster Medal (previously won in 2014/15 season).
A full list of awards and winners is as follows:
Phillip Wills – Nightcliff – 20 votes
Janet Baird – Palmerston Magpies – 23 votes
Men’s Division 1 Mitch Lee Medallists
Josh Carmichael – Nightcliff – 19 votes
David Oates – Bank Bulldogs – 19 votes
Men’s Division 2 Lancaster Medallist
Chris Smith – Nightcliff Spartans – 20 votes
ABC Player of the Year
Jarrod Stokes – Darwin Buffaloes
ABC Umpire of the Year
The NT News Player of the Year
Matthew Dennis – Palmerston Magpies
The NT News Rising Star
Malcolm Rosas – Darwin Buffaloes
Women’s Rising Star
Mattea Breed – Darwin Buffaloes
Dennis Dunn Leading Goalkicker
Trent Melville – Nightcliff – 55 goals
Women’s Leading Goalkicker
Amy Chittick – Waratah – 25 goals
Men’s Division 1 Leading Goalkicker
Kyle McBean – Waratah – 36 goals
Men’s Division 2 Leading Goalkicker
Robert Goldsmith – Nightcliff Spartans – 82 goals
Kennards Hire Volunteer of the Year
Daren Habets – Waratah
Statewide Super Club of the Year see here for full details
Big Club division:
1st - $7,000 – Waratah
2nd - $3,000 – Nightcliff
3rd - $2,000 – Wanderers
Small Club division:
1st - $2,000 – Tiwi Bombers
2nd - $1,000 – Banks
3rd - $500 – Big River Hawks
Nichols Medal leading vote-getters:
1st – Phillip Wills – Nightcliff – 20 votes
2nd – Clinton Gallio – Southern Districts – 17 votes
2nd – Jarrod Stokes – Darwin Buffaloes – 17 votes
4th – Dean Staunton – Southern Districts – 14 votes
5th – Cameron Ilett – Nightcliff – 13 votes
5th – Nathaniel Paredes – St Mary’s – 13 votes
Darwin Buffaloes top 4
50 total votes
1st – Jarrod Stokes – 17 votes
2nd – Ryan O’Sulivan – 8 votes
3rd – Malcolm Rosas – 6 votes
3rd – Adam Sambono – 6 votes
Nightcliff top 3
83 total votes
1st – Phillip Wills – 20 votes
2nd – Cameron Ilett – 13 votes
3rd – Hugo Drogemuller – 8 votes
Palmerston top 3
36 total votes
1st – Matthew Dennis – 8 votes
2nd – Nathan Deans – 6 votes
3rd – Rodney Baird – 4 votes
Southern Districts top 3
77 total votes
1st – Clinton Gallio – 17 votes
2nd – Dean Staunton – 14 votes
3rd – Samuel Smith – 9 votes
St Mary’s top 3
39 total votes
1st – Nathaniel Paredes – 13 votes
2nd – Ryan Smith – 8 votes
3rd – Anthony Wilson – 5 votes **
Tiwi Bombers top 4
48 total votes
1st – Ashton Hams – 7 votes
1st – Jason Puruntatmeri – 7 votes
1st – Ross Tungatalum – 7 votes
4th – Dion Munkrara – 4 votes **
Wanderers top 3
41 total votes
1st – Joel Jeffrey – 6 votes
1st – Beau O’Connell – 6 votes
3rd – Scott Meyer – 4 votes
Waratah top 4
58 total votes
1st – Abraham Ankers – 9 votes
2nd – Brodie Carroll – 8 votes
2nd – Sam Godden – 8 votes
4th – Alexander Aurrichio – 6 votes
Gwynne Medal leading vote-getters:
1st – Janet Baird – Palmerston – 23 votes
2nd – Lisa Roberts – Waratah – 21 votes
3rd – Katie Streader – PINT – 17 votes
4th – Tayla Thorn – Southern Districts – 16 votes
5th – Tabitha May – Palmerston – 15 votes
Darwin Buffaloes top 3
56 total votes
1st – Machaelia Roberts – 14 votes
2nd – Kylie Duggan – 8 votes
3rd – Bianca Stokes – 6 votes
Nightcliff top 3
28 total votes
1st – Emma-Lou Wolsey – 8 votes
2nd – Jamie Lee Puautjimi – 5 votes
2nd – Shantel Miskin-Ripia – 5 votes
Palmerston top 4
61 total votes
1st – Janet Baird – 23 votes
2nd – Tabitha May – 15 votes
3rd – Natasha Medbury – 9 votes
3rd – Freda Puruntatameri – 9 votes
PINT top 3
48 total votes
1st – Katie Streader – 17 votes
2nd – Samantha Barnett – 12 votes
3rd – Cassie Henderson – 5 votes
Southern Districts top 3
61 total votes
1st – Tayla Thorn – 16 votes
2nd – Lateesha Jeffrey – 9 votes
2nd – Ebony Miller – 9 votes
St Mary’s top 6
33 total votes
1st – Danielle Ponter – 6 votes
2nd – Kate Campbell-Brogan – 3 votes
2nd – Ailish Considine – 3 votes
2nd – Laelia Dunn – 3 votes
2nd – Sara Maxsted – 3 votes
2nd – Tuesday Turner – 3 votes
Tracy Village top 2
36 total votes
1st – Kristy Irvine – 9 votes
2nd – Bonnie McDougall – 4 votes
Wanderers top 3
30 total votes
1st – Morgan Johnston – 9 votes
2nd – Lauren Motlop – 8 votes
3rd – Arthurina Moreen – 5 votes
Waratah top 3
67 total votes
1st – Lisa Roberts – 21 votes
2nd – Madeline Gault – 9 votes
3rd – Lisa Miceli – 7 votes
Men’s Division 1 Mitch Lee Medal leading vote-getters:
1st – Joshua Carmichael – Nightcliff – 19 votes
1st – David Oates – Banks – 19 votes
3rd – Hayden Pierson – Banks – 14 votes
4th – Matthew Gill – PINT – 12 votes
5th – Jackie Brown – Southern Districts – 10 votes
5th – Matt Cannard – Southern Districts – 10 votes
5th – Bradley Taheny – Banks – 10 votes
Men’s Division 2 Lancaster Medal leading vote-getters:
1st – Chris Smith – Nightcliff – 20 votes
2nd – Jaise Coleman – Nightcliff – 16 votes
3rd – Jayred Dawson-Smith – Jabiru – 15 votes
3rd – Tyson Holt – Banks – 15 votes
5th – Patrick Papas – Nightcliff – 14 votes
** Denotes a player who is ineligible to win a best and fairest award due to suspension