Gapirri Burarrwanga will fly the Rirratjingu Football Program flag at the NTFL 2017/18 Premier League Grand Final at TIO Stadium on Saturday at 7pm where he will line up on the half-back flank as the Darwin Buffaloes Football Club will face warm favourites the Southern Districts Football Club in a much anticipated clash.
The Buffaloes got a jump on the fancied Districts team two weeks ago and produced arguably the most dominant quarter of the finals series as they exploded from the blocks in a blitz of dominance at the contest complemented by outside run to pile on seven goals. The game then turned into a arm-wrestle with the weather leaving the TIO Stadium surface resembling a lake just before the halftime break as an electrical storm eventuated causing a break in play after the second half had begun.
With the weather forecasters predicting another wet weekend, both sides are well equiped to get their hands dirty if the weather gods decide a wet surface should grace the Grand Final. Districts will believe they have seen the threat of the Twin Towers in the Buffaloes forward zone with Darren Shillabeer and Todd Miles disrupting the Crocs last game around. If the Red, Black and Whites concentrate on this avenue then live-wire forwards Adam Sambono and Steven Anderson can chime in with both capable of the taking the game by the scruff of the neck.
Most pundits predict the contest will be won in the middle and both sides were evenly balanced throughout the last contest despite the Buffaloes making better use of their possessions. A number of players with AFL experience will go head to head through the centre and these contests should be worth the price of admission alone.
The Buffaloes backline has been the unheralded area in the post-Christmas period with a number of players in career best form. Josh Saveka was a colossus last game and will look to reach at least that standard in the decider. Bradley Stokes would be one of the more underrated defenders in the NTFL and regularly impacts the contest with no regard for his personal safety on display week to week.
Burarrwanga has fitted seamlessly into the Buffaloes back six after being a linchpin defender in the Djarrak Football Club 2017 Premiership. RFP Senior Coach Hayden Rickard was thrilled with his form. He said "Really stoked with the way Gapirri has gone about his business this NTFL Season. Cameron Stokes has made a massive difference in Gapirri's approach to his defensive work and his closing speed and shut down work that defined him in Gove AFL action has taken on another level here. I'd love to see him win an opportunity at NT Thunder level and I certainly think he has the mindset to another level up again".
Rickard also pointed to the development of other program members in the Premier League space. "It was great to have Dale Dhamarrandji debut at League level this year. Although struck with the injury curse, he certainly didn't look out of place. He added "Lee Mununggurr is probably our hard luck story this year. His growth throughout was fantastic under Matt Campbell and he will rue the fact he got injured at a crucial time of the year. But setbacks are an opportunity to dig in and build some resilience and add to your character so I expect Djarrak FC will be privy to a super-hungry footballer come the end of April".
The Buffaloes will be buoyed by the attendance of Tai Martin-Page who was injured earlier in the year. Martin-Page has shown great determination in his rehabilitation and those close to the Buffaloes know their won't be a dry eye in the sheds when the playing group is reunited with one of their favourite club-men. The key will be to play with a clear head and tick the processes Coach Matt Campbell has put in place.
The Rirratjingu Football Program has had a number of key volunteers that have shaped an improved 2017/18 edition with Danny Beadman, Steven Raymond and Araluen Maymuru working hard through the week and on a number of weekends to ensure further incremental gains. The Program turns its attention to Djarrak FC next week and current and new players are urged to get to Yirrkala Oval each Tuesday and Thursday from 5pm.
Photo Credit: AFLNT Media.