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Sunday, June 07 2020 @ 12:02 pm ACST

The More Things Change…NTFL Grand Finalists

As the saying goes, the more things change the more they stay the same. Such is the case with the NTFL season. Despite Southern Districts dominating the home and away season, their Preliminary Final loss to St Mary’s will see the Saints and Wanderers play off in their third consecutive Grand Final.

Over the three seasons other teams have peaked, only to drop off at the business end of the season. The 2015/16 season saw a rejuvenated Darwin Buffaloes, a rampant young Nightcliff Tigers and the Crocs throw their hats into the ring to change the status quo and kick off their own dynasty. But at the end the perennial Saints and the fast finishing Eagles kept the balance the same.

In 2014 St Mary’s won by 21 points. In 2015 it was Wanderers turning the tables to down the Saints by 34 points. This latest rivalry will be decided as a “best of three” on Saturday night at TIO Stadium as the best performed teams of the past three years meet again.

St Mary’s blitzed Southern Districts by 74 points in the Preliminary Final. In a surprise result, the Saints got the advantage early and just never let go. The harder they strangled the further the Crocs capitulated. The teams had met twice this season, both matches won by the Crocs by 69 points and 21 points. But finals are a different game, and Saints are arguably the best at understanding what finals wins take. In fact, St Mary’s won every quarter, never giving the Crocs a chance to reset their own compass.

Final Score: St Mary’s Saints 19 13 127 d Southern District Crocs 7 11 53

The emphatic fashion of the Saints’ win should install them as premiership favourites, but the season results tell a different story. Whilst Saints did defeat Wanderers by 36 points back in Round 9, it was Wanderers that held on twice in thrillers in Round 1 and again in Round 12 to win both games by just three points.

Their most recent encounter was two weeks ago in the Qualifying Final when the Wanderers again held firm to win by 10 points.

It sets up another fascinating Grand Final, and in a season littered with results by less than a goal it would be a fitting end to the season if this one went right down to the wire. Let’s see if the history gods take any notice of that prediction.

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