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Wednesday, June 20 2018 @ 11:11 pm ACST

Northern Lights To Shine


July is the time of the year when northern humidity is at its lowest and conditions are ideal for Australian Rules football in our most northern cities. Hence, the next two weekends are the annual showcase of northern footy with two AFL premiership matches being played in both Darwin and Cairns.

Many good teams have travelled north at this time of year to play, but usually not in matches which would determine finals fortunes – at least not both matches together. But this year Darwin will be blessed with a genuine match which could determine the makeup of the top four, whilst Cairns will host a game which will spell curtains for the loser in terms of 2017 finals.
TIO Stadium in Darwin will see the top team, the in-form Adelaide Crows, take on the season’s surprise packet, the Melbourne Demons. Adelaide currently sits atop the ladder. Melbourne sits fifth, but only percentage out of the top four. An Adelaide win will see it further strengthen its hold on the minor premiership and consign the Demons to the lower rungs of the top eight.

Conversely, a Demon win could see it enter the top four and see the Crows drop as low as third place depending on other results. For these reasons the match looms as a huge showcase of footy for the local Darwin crowd. The word ‘sell-out” could yet be a reality given the stakes and the standard of the two teams. The names of Betts, Walker, Sloane, Laird, Lever, Jenkins, Crouch and company will be pitted against the new Demon era with players like Petracca, Gawn, Oliver, McDonald, Harmes, Lewis, Garlett and troops.

On paper Adelaide probably looks like the favourite, but try telling Melbourne that.

The following weekend Cairns will host its first ever reigning premier when the Western Bulldogs take on the Gold Coast Suns. The exquisite irony here is that over the three years of the Dogs and Suns having played here they have both been pretty well in the mix around the middle of the ladder and the same goes for this year – the Bulldogs sit 11th with just seven wins. The Suns are 14th with just six wins. Yet the winner will stay in the race for the finals (both have winnable games this weekend). The loser will begin the planning for 2018.

Once again the match will be fascinating and will genuinely shape the remainder of the season. It should be enough for a huge crowd to descend upon Cazalys Stadium.

Can last year’s premiers, the Western Bulldogs, shrug off the premiership hangover and make their charge to the finals over the final rounds? With a list that includes the mercurial talents of players like Stringer, Dalhaus, Picken, Johannisen, Wallis, Hunter and so many more talented kids and veterans alike, they should again be triumphant. Yet the Suns keep finding enough stars or just good, solid hard workers to pick off wins – probably none more so that Ablett (should he play), Lynch, Harbrow (the local favourite), Saad, Martin and local kid Jack Bowes (like Harbrow, a Cairns product).

Whatever happens under the northern lights of TIO Stadium and Cazalys Stadium, the northern climes of Australia are about to be treated to some tremendous and absolutely desperate footy over the next two weeks – broadcast to a national (and in some cases international) audience for all to see.

This is what makes winter up north so great.

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