PREVIEW | 2023/24 NTFL/W Grand Finals

PREMIERSHIP glory is on the horizon for one side in each of the NTFL Men’s Premier League and Women’s Premier League competitions when their grand finals take place tomorrow at TIO Stadium. The NTFL Women’s Grand Final kicks off first from 4:15pm, followed by the men’s decider at 6:45pm as part of a mammoth double-header of action.

Temperatures are tipped to hit about 30 degrees for the first bounce and throughout the women’s contest, only dropping a few degrees by the end of the night. We take a look at both matches, with Nightcliff going head-to-head with St Mary’s in the men’s, while the Saints also reached the women’s decider to tackle PINT.

NTFLW Grand Final | TIO Stadium
Saturday, March 16 @ 4:15pm

The top two teams have reached the decider, with the pair clearly ahead of the rest of the field. PINT has been the team to beat the entire year, going undefeated with only a draw – to the Saints – tarnishing an otherwise perfect record from the Queen Ants. St Mary’s have been no slouch either, winning 14 of the 15 other games with PINT getting the better of them by 21 points back in Round 5.

Their ridiculous percentages of 662.44 per cent (PINT) and 557.65 per cent (St Mary’s) place them well above Nightcliff (11-5) and Waratah (10-6) who were the other competitive sides, with the remaining five teams winning no more than six games and finishing with a percentage below 100.

These sides played a third time back in the second week of finals a fortnight ago, with PINT getting up by 33 points to advance to the grand final. The Queen Ants won 10.5 (65) to 4.8 (32) to book their spot in the grand final, thanks to three goals from leading goalkicker, Steph Lawrence.

Lawrence is far from the Queen Ants’ only threat though with former AFLW-listed talents Carly Remmos and Reni Hicks prominent, while Adelaide premiership ruck Jasmyn Hewett won the league best and fairest earlier in the week.

St Mary’s has plenty of prominent players on its list too, with former Essendon sharpshooter Caitlin Sargent one who can do a lot of damage, while current Hawk Janet Baird provides some outstanding highlights. Former Eastern Ranges representative Paula Pavic has been in some great form in the top end as well.

PINT should be favourites in the clash, but expect St Mary’s to take it right up to them, coming off a huge win over Nightcliff in the preliminary final to build some good momentum into the grand final. If the Saints can have a fast start, it will be game on, but they will need to catch the Queen Ants on the hop if they are to be any chance.

Nightcliff and St Mary’s will do battle in the 2023/24 NTFL Men’s Premier League decider. Image credit: Pema Tamang Pakhrin

NTFL Grand Final | TIO Stadium
Saturday, March 16 @ 6:45pm

Like the women’s decider, the men’s match also has the top two sides making it to the last game of the season. However it is more of an unorthodox path the Tigers and Saints have travelled, with the latter finishing minor premiers, but having to do it the hard way to reach the grand final.

St Mary’s won 13 of 16 matches this season, but two of those three losses in the home and away competition came at the hands of Nightcliff. The Tigers to be fair have had a sensational season themselves, winning 12 of 16, and finishing just four points and percentage off the Saints.

Coming into the finals series, the Tigers were confident up against St Mary’s, and perhaps were the only side likely to knock off the premiership favourites. After a 19-point win in Round 1 and a 17-point triumph in Round 10, the Tigers got up by 11 points against the Saints in the second week of finals.

St Mary’s had of course had the bye in the first week, while Nightcliff only just scraped past Waratah by two points. Matchups can be a funny element to football, and the Tigers just love playing against the Saints, with the semi-final win proof of that.

The Saints made light work of Southern Districts in the preliminary final, running away 26-point winners at TIO Stadium to have the best preparation for a massive game against the Tigers. Unable to crack the code in their three previous encounters, the Saints will be hoping for a case of fourth time lucky tomorrow.

Nightcliff captain Ryan Nyhuis will lead by example from half-back, among a stack of stars including the likes of Brodie Filo, Kyle Emery, John Butcher and Cameron Illett, all of whom have etched their name in NTFL stardom over the years. Former Collingwood VFL co-captain Lachlan Tardrew has been a welcome inclusion to the yellow and black, kicking eight goals across his last four games.

St Mary’s is also stacked with talent, headlined by Nichols Medal winner Dylan Landt, who has former Port Adelaide midfielder Joel Garner, ex-skipper Nathaniel Paredes and talented duo Kieren Parnell and Beau Tedcastle also providing plenty of highlights. Vice-captain Jackson Calder is one who can win a match off his own boot.

Though St Mary’s deserve the title of minor premiers and best team all year, the game is reminiscent of the 2011 AFL Grand Final where the top side – Collingwood – beat all-comers easily aside from Geelong who finished second. The Cats went on to be the only team to beat the Magpies en route to the premiership, which is what Nightcliff is hoping to achieve.

Either side could win this, but the Saints will need to turn around recent history and be at their very best to topple the Tigers who simply match up really well against them.

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