2023/24 TIO NTFL Wrap: Women's Premier League - Round 7

Grey WPL_Wrap
Written by Grey Morris for AFL Northern Territory

Southern Districts' breakthrough win under new coach Peter Lake was one of several highlights in a big round of high scores in the 2023/24 TIO NTFL's Women's Premier League.

On a day when the in-form St Mary's, Nightcliff and Waratah flexed their muscles on a typical Top End scorcher, the celebrations at the Lady Crocodiles players and coaching staff reached a crescendo after their 134-point win.

A five-goal first quarter showed Districts' intent as they finished with 21.10 (136) to the young Eagles 0.2 (2) in their clash at TIO Stadium's main arena.

The Lady Crocodiles were strengthened by the inclusion of AFLW ruck Fleur Davies (GWS Giants), Alessia Smythe (Southport) and Norwood's Charlotte Nenke and responded in kind.

"Getting some quality ins certainly helped the girls in terms of confidence and setting up our structures without worrying about the scoreboard and it showed with the result,'' Lake said.

"We had a 16-year-old, Bonnie Brown, kick five goals in a performance that will be really good for her confidence and a fairly even spread of goalkickers flowed from there."

Elsie Harden off a back flank and midfielders Emma Forsyth and Nenke stood out in Districts' first win of the season.

Wanderers finally found the scoreboard after seven weeks of football and will know what they must do in terms of pressure around the ball and use of it when in possession if they are to add to it as the season progresses.

Nightcliff's WPL season continues to grow after a fourth successive win since two close losses to frontrunners PINT and St Mary's at the start of the 2023/24 campaign under new coach Andrew Rock.

The Tigers' 10.4 (64) to 4.4 (28) win over a final’s toughened side in the Darwin Buffettes was another big indicator of the side's playing depth.

The Tigers jumped into the top three with a percentage of 454 after the win, with defining matches against a revitalised Southern Districts, Waratah, St Mary's and the Buffettes again to come before Christmas.

Rock said his side's fourth win in a row indicated the players' willingness to play as a team under a brand-new system.

"It was a great win where we're starting to put a few together now after a tough start, so it's been pretty pleasing all-round,'' he added.

"The way they've continued to gel as a team is most pleasing for myself and the whole team."

Three-goal spearhead Cassie McWilliam was a key player in the win with her ability to present to players up the field despite some close attention from Buffettes defenders.

Geelong (VFLW)  recruit Maighan Fogas was important as an inside midfielder and vice-captain Sophie Hatzismalis' game continues to expand in her new leadership role.

St Mary's bounced back hard from their first loss of the season to reigning premier PINT a fortnight ago by beating the Tiwi Bombers by 134 points at Gardens Oval.

Coach Ryan Smith identified some flaws in his side's game during the Round 5 loss and ordered some more running and a more intensive approach to training.

The Saints were forced to make some late changes to sickness, work, and unavailability among the playing group.

"Credit to our depth and the fact we can make five changes to the side and still put on a good performance when we had to beg people to play and fly players in last season,'' Smith said.

"The Tiwi’s competed hard and a few of their midfielders played pretty well by causing us some grief at the centre clearances, so they've got the potential, they've just got to put all the pieces together.''

Jo Miller in a mid-back rotation before going forward, midfielder Billie Byers in a stand-in captaincy role after Emily Forshaw withdrew from the side with illness and clever forward Emma Stark's eight-goal haul were big highlights for the second-placed Saints.

Waratah kicked 11 unanswered goals in the second half to break away from the Palmerston Magpies at TIO Stadium after the scores were level at half-time.

Heidi Thompson's side had nine goalkickers in their final tally of 13.3 (81) to the Magpies' 1.7 (13).

Alysha Healy in a midfield-forward role, Erin Hunt in the ruck and changing at full forward was a menace for the Magpies with her leap and Lauren Pluker's effective tagging role on dangerous Magpie skipper Tatyana Perry were all big factors in Tahs' second half surge.

The 68-point win, Tahs' third in a row after two losses, lifted last season's runners-up to fourth position after seven rounds and within sight of a positive win-loss record before the Christmas break

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