Despondent Darwin Buffaloes Football Club players sunk to the ground whilst Southern Districts Football Club celebrated a one point win in an epic encounter at TIO Stadium on Wednesday night as the match was decided 13.7 85 - 13.8 86. The game was twice postponed due the impact that Tropical Cyclone Marcus made across Darwin City, and Emergency Services, Defence Services and Power and Water Workers continue to work tirelessly to get the city back to normal.
5,443 fans packed TIO Stadium to witness what many pundits have described as on of the better NTFL deciders in memory. In time, that may be some consolation for the brave Buffaloes team who faced some difficult hurdles this season, none more so than the severe spinal injury to Tai Martin-Page. Martin-Page defied medical predictions to fast-track his recovery to the point where he attended the game and was embraced by his team mates and wider club members. An inspiration to all Buffaloes and the wider AFL community, the Rirratjingu Football Program will keep an eye on the progress Martin-Page makes.
The extra days break didn't help the double blues as Southern Districts exploded in the first quarter to seize momentum and look the well fancied side most pundits had expected to win easily. But there is something about this young Buffaloes outfit and Co-Captain and Chaney Medalist Jarrod Stokes took on the game and his clean hands at ground level and ability to burn defenders with foot speed turned the tide. Player-Coach Matt Campbell moved to the middle and his combination with Ruckman Ryan Sullings dented the domination that Districts big-man Mark Jamar had in the first quarter.
The Buffaloes moved to within a goal at halftime and the crowd sensed that the makings of something special was about to unfold. It was special. Both teams traded blows in the final quarters and no effort was spared by either side. A two point deficit at 3/4 Time set up for a hectic last period. The double blues peppered the ball into the forward 50 in the closing stages but it wasn't to be and the hooter signalled the end of a brave comeback and Southern Districts backed up the favouritism with their clubs first premiership in 11 seasons.
Southern Districts have been the best side all season in the NTFL which no football fan would dispute, although Buffaloes supporters can be excited for the upwards trend across the past three seasons. Those in the inner sanctum have witnessed a real self-belief across the young brigade with a number of players now holding close to 50 games experience under the re-build implemented by former Coach Mark Motlop and now refined by Campbell and his support staff.
Rirratjingu Football Program participant and small defender Gapirri Burarrwanga was energetic throughout the contest and showed his trademark ability to roam the edge of the contest to snaffle loose ball when available. Rirratjingu Football Program Senior Coach Hayden Rickard said "Really proud of Gapirri and the way he has settled in at Djarrak and our Program. A fine debut season at league level and really forging ahead off the field as a responsible father and partner and kicking goals on the work front too".
He added "We are tinkering with our content and specifics around conditioning to allow our players to handle the 12 month loads we are undertaking. We are currently reviewing our season as well as deep into our Gove AFL preparation. Experience tells us that our players with NTFL games under their belts add a real impact to our domestic league and I'm looking forward to our girls again improving our Women's squad".
PHOTO CREDIT: AFLNT MEDIA