A Grand Final birth awaits the winner of the Men's Premier League Semi Final between Nightcliff and St Mary’s on Saturday night, with the match set to headline Week 2 of the 2019/20 TIO NTFL Finals series.
St Mary’s have been the only side to successfully dismantle the Tiger juggernaut this season, with a stunning seven-goal final quarter allowing them to run over the top of the reigning premiers by 27 points in Round 7.
Star forward Jackson Paine booted five majors that day for the Green Machine while Leroy Larson chimed in with three in a best-on-ground performance.
It will be a different look Saints side this time around with Larson unavailable due to re-registration, something that will no doubt galvanise St Mary’s and enhance their hunger for victory.
After missing last week’s win over the Tiwi Bombers, Paine returns to the Saints line up and should provide a dangerous target in the forward 50 along with Jackson Calder.
At their feet will be Shannon Rioli and Maurice Rioli Jnr, who are lethal around goal, while Nate Paredes, Shaun Edwards, Jake and Jacob Long are gifted midfielders who will prove difficult for the Tigers to contain.
The Round 7 loss was Nightcliff’s only blemish for season 2019/20 and they deserve to go into this match as favourites.
This is a side that boasts enormous depth all over the ground.
They have plenty of height with Kyle Winter-Irving, Hugo Drogemuller, Jonathon Miles and John Butcher providing excellent targets around the ground and up forward, while the bookends of Trent Melville at full forward and Kaine Riley down back are as reliable as they come.
It’s a blue-chip midfield with Brodie Filo, James Tsitas, Phillip Wills and Cameron Illet all elite ball-winners while the combination of small forwards Liam Holt-Fitz and Declan Singh-Lippo will prove to be a headache for Saints defenders.
The depth and cohesion of the Nightcliff side should be enough to get them over the line but expect a fired-up St Mary’s to take it right up to the minor premiers.
In the other Men’s Premier League Semi Final, Tiwi Bombers run into an in-form Southern Districts side which has won its last four matches.
The winner of this contest will progress through to the Preliminary Final next week, while it will be season-over for the loser.
Tiwi will be buoyed by the fact star defender Jason Puruntatameri will be available for the clash, after he had a one-match ban overturned at the Tribunal on Wednesday night along with young wingman Matthew Kantilla.
Exciting runner Adam Tipungwuti will unfortunately be unavailable for the Bombers after being named to play for Northern Melbourne in a AFL practise match against Melbourne tonight, but Tiwi will welcome back the experience of former West Coast playmaker Ashton Hams which will offset that loss.
There’s plenty of class in this Bombers line up, with Ross Tungatalum, Charlie Molyneux and Nathan Djerrkura all exquisite ball users.
Rodney Baird and Michael Dunn compliment Jason Puruntatameri well down back, while the potency up forward of Dion Munkara, Harley Puruntatameri and Austin Wonaeamirri make the Bombers a dangerous side.
But they come up against a Southern Districts side that is playing their best football at the right time of the season.
Patrick Gallow is a commanding presence for the Crocodiles in the ruck and should provide the likes of Richard Tambling, Josiah Farrer, Ed Barlow and Lionel Ogden with first use of the football.
Jeff Garlett, Will Farrer and Dylan Barry were devastating around goal in the Crocs’ big win over Buffs last week, while the experience of Michael Barlow, Rory O’Brien, Matt Cannard and Jayden Schofield should hold them in good stead.
This match is a difficult one to pick and could come down to whichever side makes the most of their opportunities in front of goal.
In the Women’s Premier League, Waratah will need to rebound quickly after their surprise loss to Southern Districts last week.
They run into an exciting PINT side which has all the momentum after pulling off a shock upset of their own last week when they knocked Palmerston out of the finals.
It was Jessie Baumer who did the majority of the damage for PINT by booting four goals and Waratah will need to shut her down to be successful.
While the Queenants are certainly a chance, the class of Lauren Roberts, Lauren O’Shea and Amy Chittick should be enough for Tahs to get the job done.
In the other Semi Final, Southern Districts will go in as firm favourites against Darwin Buffettes.
Ebony Miller is the competition’s leading goal-kicker while Grace Mulvahil provided her with a valuable ally up forward with two majors last week.
Throw in the likes of Maria Moussa, Tyler Thornton and Malory Nankervis and the Crocs will be hard to beat.
But don’t write off the Buffettes.
Kylie Duggan and Desley Ah Wang are experienced campaigners while Tayla Hart-Aluni and Lucy Adam are difficult opponents to match up on.
Buffs will take it up to Districts but the Crocs should have enough fire power to get the job done.