Nightcliff three-peat and PINT take out historic first premiership on NTFL grand final night - Australian Latest news
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Nightcliff three-peat and PINT take out historic first premiership on NTFL grand final night

With less than 20 seconds to go in the Northern Territory Football League grand final, inside a Nightcliff Tigers forward line saturated with nearly 36 weary bodies, St Mary’s — holding onto a six point lead — looked the sure and deserving victors as they stifled the Tigers’ desperate last-ditch attempts to level the scores.

With just 10 seconds to go, Nightcliff players were still trying to fashion a clean kick at goal in a sea of manic green and gold defenders.

When the ball somehow squeezed out to ex-Port Adelaide Power player John Butcher, who marked it ten metres out from goal before audaciously wheeling around on his right foot and booting it through to level the scores at 102 apiece, there were only six seconds left to play.

The ensuing siren signalled a historic moment: after four quarters played in the NTFL grand final, Nightcliff and St Mary’s could not be split.

The announcers at TIO Stadium, addressing a delirious crowd unsure as to what the rules stipulated was supposed to happen next, explained that they weren’t quite sure either.

But soon after came a resounding answer: two five-minute halves of extra time would decide the premiership. The players resumed their positions on the field.

Neither team could land a decisive blow in the first period of extra time, but Nightcliff edged ahead by a point before the teams swapped ends after five minutes.

It was a sharp delivery inside 50 from Nightcliff’s Liam Holtz-Fitz that opened up an opportunity for Trent Melville, who slotted a goal from 40 metres out on a slight angle, sealing the premiership for Nightcliff.

The ferocity of Melville’s celebration and that of his nearby teammates was impressive in itself given the fatigue felt on the field.

Nightcliff, down by 19 points ticking into time on in the final quarter, had stunningly come back to win their third grand final in three years.

It may be remembered as the most thrilling NTFL grand final of all time after the match went into extra time for the first time in league history.

Nightcliff players Cameron Ilett and Phillip Wills smile at the camera with premiership medals around their neck.
Cameron Ilett (left) and Phillip Wills rejoiced after winning another premiership together on Saturday night.(

ABC News: Amy Culpitt

)

Nightcliff claims first three-peat in club history

The Nightcliff Tigers’ reign atop the NTFL is now a dynasty after the club won its third NTFL premiership in a row after beating St Mary’s by seven points in extra time in Darwin on Saturday night.

St Mary’s, the NTFL’s most storied club, nearly clawed back an improbable victory itself after trailing by 37 points in the second quarter — a deficit it flipped into a seemingly unassailable lead late in the final quarter.

But the Tigers, for the second grand final in a row, did not relent to the competition’s historic powerhouse, with their escapologist victory coming a year on from the club’s 13-point win over St Mary’s in last year’s grand final.

“To win like that and go into overtime, it was the best game I’ve ever played in. I’m just so grateful to be a part of it,” said Nightcliff captain Phillip Wills.

The victory marks Nightcliff’s sixth premiership in club history, and its first three-peat. It means the club has doubled its premiership tally in the last three years.

St Mary’s, which has won 32 premierships in the club’s 68 years in the competition, came into the match as underdogs, before coming within six seconds of yet again returning the club to the Territory football’s summit.

“We believed in ourselves. If you don’t believe in yourself then what’s the point in being here?” said St Mary’s backman Raphael Clarke, who was awarded the Chaney Medal for the best player on the ground.

“Everyone had written us off. If it wasn’t for a bounce or a couple of extra seconds, we had it in the bag.

“We let the foot off the accelerator for a split second, and that’s what hurt us in the end.

“Hopefully the boys are proud of me and my effort, that’s all I can ask — unfortunately we don’t have a cup to take back tonight.”

Clarke, along with Jackson Calder (six goals), Lachlan Taylor, Jack Landt, Justin Robinson and a stout effort from ex-Collingwood and Brisbane player Jackson Paine, had nearly done enough to win the club’s 33rd premiership.

But the grunt of Brodie Filo, Domic Brew, Cameron Ilett and Phillip Wills in the Nightcliff engine room, along with the polish of a damaging Shaun Wilson and composure of Trent Melville, ultimately dragged the Tigers victoriously through extra time.

Playing in his 12th NTFL grand final, Cameron Ilett, one of the Territory’s all-time-great footballers, added yet more silverware to his name winning his eighth league premierships (three at Nightcliff and five at St Mary’s).

PINT get first tase of premiership glory

In the grand final of the NTFL Women’s Premier League, PINT made history winning their first premiership over the Darwin Buffettes.

PINT players celebrate with the premiership cup after winning the 2020/21 NTFL Women's Premier League grand final.
PINT were the dominant force in the NTFL all year before edging the Darwin Buffettes in the grand final.(

ABC News: Amy Culpitt

)

The 46-35 victory capped off a remarkable day for the club, which also won the division one and two premierships in both the women’s and men’s competitions.

Just 11 points separated the sides at the final siren, with the Buffettes fighting back to narrow the margin to within two goals with minutes remaining.

But strong defence from the Queenants shut down the Buff’s chances, led by league best and fairest and former AFL player Jasmine Hewett.

Hewett named Williams medallist for best player in the Grand Final, despite playing with a broken hand from a previous match.

She said the win is a moment she will never forget.

“That was the most enjoyable game I think I’ve ever been a part of,” she said.

“I couldn’t have done it without my girls, we all lifted through the middle, we knew we had a job to do. And god I’m so proud.”

Former Saint Mary’s premiership winning coach Ricky Nolan led the PINT side this season.

He said he couldn’t be prouder of his side.

“It’s been a long journey for these girls, getting flogged when they first entered the competition, to where they are now,” he said.

“They’re a great bunch and I’ve loved every minute of coaching them.”

Fighting back tears, captain Katie Streader was full of praise for her teammates.

“There are no words. It’s a game of footy, but it’s more than that.

“When that final siren went, it was just utter relief.”

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