Fierce rivals Tiwi Bombers and St Mary’s will headline Week 1 of the TIO NTFL Finals this weekend, with the Men’s Premier League sides set to do battle in the Qualifying Final on Saturday night.
The winner will earn the chance to take on Minor Premiers Nightcliff next week, while the loser will take on the winner of the Elimination Final.
Both sides have named strong line ups, with the Bombers set to be boosted by the possible returns of star midfielders Dion Munkara and Adam Tipungwuti, as well as ruckman Jack Monigatti. All three missed last week’s narrow win over Wanderers.
Monigatti looks set to form a potent ruck combination with fellow tall Lachie Howe, which should help them combat the influence of gun Saints big man Ryan Smith.
Tiwi’s midfield bats deep with Dion Munkara, Tipungwuti, Nathan Djerrkura and Charlie Molyneux while they should receive plenty of run from the likes of Jason and Harley Puruntatameri, Michael Dunn and Matthew Kantilla.
Add in the X-factor of superstar Ross Tungatalum, playing his 200th Premier League game, and the Bombers will be hard to beat.
However they run into a battle-hardened St Mary’s side who know how to win finals and have rebounded strongly after a poor season in 2018/19.
Saints have also named a strong squad with a wealth of AFL experience courtesy of Jarrad Waite, Jackson Paine, Jake Long and Shaun Edwards.
Captain Shannon Rioli, Nate Paredes, Raph Clarke and Jack Geary have won plenty of finals for the Green Machine in the past and know how to get the job done in the critical moments.
Waite, Paine and Jackson Calder provide excellent focal points up forward and will have the likes of Shannon Rioli, Maurice Rioli Jnr and Nick Yarran at their feet waiting to pounce.
In the Elimination Final, Darwin Buffaloes will take on Southern Districts in a do-or-die clash.
The fourth-placed Crocodiles have found form in recent weeks and have compiled an imposing squad on paper.
Like St Mary’s, Districts are also full of AFL talent, with Michael Barlow, Jeff Garlett, Richard Tambling, Ed Barlow and Jayden Schofield all seasoned campaigners.
The Farrer brothers, Josiah and Will, have both enjoyed excellent seasons while Dylan Barry, Rory O’Brien and Dean Staunton give them plenty of grunt on the inside.
Throw in Keegan Dingo, Charles McAdam and rising star Brodie Lake and Districts will go into this match as slight favourites.
But don’t discard the Buffaloes.
Matt Campbell will have his side primed for an assault and Darren Schillabeer and Daniel Stafford provide them with key pillars up forward.
There is plenty of excitement in this side with young guns Djamatjama Wunungmurra and Nathaniel Cooper possessing excellent goal-sense while Isaac Seden-Kurnoth is one of the most improved players in the competition.
Timmy Eldridge and Jalen Clarke have been loyal soldiers for the Buffaloes for years while Michael Coombes will provide them with a bullocking presence around the contest.
In the Women’s Premier League, Southern Districts face a tall order when they take on the formidable Waratah in the Qualifying Final on Saturday afternoon.
Led by the evergreen Lisa Roberts, Waratah’s finals record is simply staggering.
Tahs have won seven of the past eight premierships, with only Darwin Buffettes breaking their stronghold on the cup in 2016/17.
With such a remarkable record, they will be hard to beat again.
The loser of this match will get a second chance and play the winner of the Elimination Final between Palmerston Magpies and PINT.
Meanwhile, third and fourth placed sides Darwin Buffettes and Nightcliff will face off in the other Elimination Final, with the loser being eliminated and the winner facing the winner of Qualifying Final.