2023/24 TIO NTFL Wrap: Men's Premier League Grand Final

Photo by Patch Clapp | AFLNT Media

The St Mary's juggernaut rolled on to a 34th NTFL Men's Premier League flag when the Saints beat Nightcliff in Saturday's TIO NTFL grand final by 13 points.

The Saints threw away the form guide that said they had lost to Nightcliff three times in the season, twice in the minor rounds and once in the finals, to record a memorable come-from-behind win.

The 5.14 (44) to 3.13 (31) win also avenged back-to-back grand final losses to the Tigers in 2020 and 2021, the second in extra time after the Saints had led by three goals with two minutes to play.

Defender Joel Garner, of the football variety, won his club's third Chaney Medal in the last four seasons as the best player on the ground and skipper Dylan Landt completed a clean sweep of the season's top individual and team awards on offer by leading his side to another senior flag.

The low scoring in favour of the Green Machine indicated a tough four-quarter slog and so it proved on a playing surface at TIO Stadium that had soaked up a lot of rain in the week leading up to the season decider.

St Mary's had to wait until the 15-minute mark of the second quarter to kick their first goal when spearhead Jackson Calder swooped on a loose ball to snap truly from five metres out.

That was after Nightcliff had created a myriad of scoring chances in the first quarter and a half but could only produce one major from eight deliberate shots at goal.

An opportunist snap from Jack Landt and two third quarter goals by Calder, one from a holding the man free kick and the second from a trademark overhead mark, lifted the Saints to a 15-point lead at the last change.

John Butcher's first goal late in the third term gave the Tigers hope and Cooper Dahms’s running goal from a bad Saints kickout got them closer before Xavier Vallejo's clever snap sealed the game for St Mary's.

Landt, who won his second league best and fairest award, the Nichols Medal, on Sunday, was a relieved man when the final siren blew after 21 minutes of the final term.

"Winning a premiership medallion with your teammates is so much better than individual awards, I'm just so rapt and over the moon,'' he said.

"I'm just so proud of everyone involved, we knew it was going to be a grind coming in with these conditions, but that's what we love, it's St Mary's footy and we grind it out.

"It takes four quarters of footy (to win matches) and we just keep putting our head over it, keep surging the ball forward and hoping we get a score at the end of it.''

Landt, his brother Jack, Nate Paredes, Kieren Parnell, Seth Harris and Jack Kluske were other Saints who found plenty of the football in the biggest game of the year.

Nightcliff's miserly 3.13 may look ordinary on the scoreboard, the lowest score in a grand final since St Mary's kicked 1.2 (8) in a 44-point defeat at the hands of the Buffaloes in 1967/68.

But an airtight St Mary's defence, combined with fanatical tackling, several rundowns of Tiger forwards and the muddy surface ensured goals were as rare as gold nuggets on the night.

First year Nightcliff coach Leigh Crossman said missing gettable goalscoring chances when they had the run of the game in the first quarter and a half had hurt his side.

"We had a few moments we probably didn't take and St Mary's did and in the end that's probably the difference really, which was just over two goals,'' he said.

"I'm extremely proud of our guys, we had a crack all year when at the start of the season we weren't making the finals and beat Saints three times except the one that counts.

That's a credit to them and another indication of how even this competition is, but the simple fact is we had our opportunities but didn't take them.''

Tigers skipper Ryan Nyhuis, Nathan Brown and Mitch Norton down back, Liam Buxton in the ruck, Butcher and Adrian Scott across half forward worked hard all night.

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