NTFL rep footy returns in 2021

Joel Jeffrey, Russell Jeffrey and Lateesha Jeffrey

AFL Northern Territory (AFLNT) is delighted to announce that 2021 will see the return of the Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) representative side and representative games.
 
The best men and women from the TIO NTFL competition will be selected to pull on the famed ochre, black and white guernsey and represent the NTFL during the Australia Day long weekend in January.
 
A quality-opposition is being sounded out and will be announced at a later date.
 
It has been 15 years since the NTFL last played a representative game.
 
The 2006 loss to North Adelaide signalled the end of what was 58 years of men's NTFL representative games, which began back in 1948 when a Darwin team defeated a representative team from Alice Springs.
 
The great Australia Day representative game tradition began at Gardens Oval in 1985 when the might of the NTFL took on SANFL powerhouse, Glenelg. A 14 goal second-half spearheaded by the likes of Warren McCoy, William 'Ninny' Briston, Brian Long, Cadji Dunn, John Paterson, Tom Lawler, Don Bonson and Damien Christensen (all named in the NTFL best) saw the NTFL run out 35-point victors. Glenelg went on to win the SANFL premiership later that same year.
 
After that first game, powerhouse football clubs from the AFL, VFL, SANFL and WAFL started making the trip up to the Top End and an annual spectacle on or around Australia Day became a highlight on the Darwin community's calendar.
 
The NTFL was known as a quick, skilful, well-disciplined side and won most of its representative games over the next 20 years, while also giving birth to some of Territory footy's most recognisable names.
 
The 1995 one-point win to the NTFL over Fremantle signalled the Dockers' first official match as the AFL's newest team, and it was also the first game played under lights at the now known TIO Stadium in Marrara.
 
On the women's side, it will be the first official NTFL representative team other than those who played for Darwin in intra-Territory matches.
 
However, the foundations of the side go back two decades to when female representative footy became available to Territory players.
 
The NT Kites was a self-funded NT women's side which began in 2000 and competed at national championships for close to a decade, often boasting the highest representation of Indigenous players at the carnivals. 
 
The women were equally known for their tenacious attack on the ball and their quick feet. In 2010, after AFLNT established a women's football development role, they first competed at national championships in South Australia under the umbrella of NT Thunder.
 
It was at this same competition that 18-year-old Lateesha Jeffrey became the first High Performance National Academy selection from the NT; joining players such as Shannon Byrne, Natasha Medbury and Vanessa Peris who had earned All-Australian rights playing with the Kites.
 
Jeffrey continued her playing ways and was part of the foundation 2016 NT Thunder Senior Women's Academy who played a couple of games in Victoria to help with selection ahead of the inaugural AFL Women's season in 2017. She then went on to captain the NT Thunder VFL Women's side in 2019.
 
AFLNT CEO, Stuart Totham said the emergence of an NTFL representative fixture was something to celebrate.
 
"Over the past few months, we have been playing back some of our old games, getting nostalgic for the good old days, and we asked the fans if they would like to see the return of an NTFL representative side. The answer was an overwhelming yes.
 
"Likewise, the NTFL clubs have been very supportive of the concept and agreed to a competition-bye over the Australia Day long weekend. Though, we expect the traditional Foundation Cup games between Wanderers and Waratah to go ahead on Australia Day itself, which is a Tuesday," he said.
 
Round 15 will be a split round; beginning on Tuesday 26 January and continuing through to the weekend of Saturday 30 January. The 2020/21 TIO NTFL season will remain an 18 round minor season, concluding a week later than usual; the weekend of 20 February before finals begin. 
 
"The NTFL representative side and game is something we have been considering for a while, but the disruption caused by COVID-19 has freed us up to think more seriously about these ideas and to find ways to celebrate footy.
 
"We want to see the best of the NTFL run around and inspire the next generation of stars. The NTFL representative games were an integral part of the NT football calendar, those who had the honour of wearing the jumper wore it with great pride, and we look forward to re-creating that sense of pride and re-establishing this event in 2021.
 
“The addition of a female representative game will also add an exciting element to the day, and it's an opportunity they deserve.
 
"In due course, we will work through the make-up of the selection committees, coaches, opposition and game details but for now we wanted to let everyone know that they've got something big to look forward to," Totham said.