Waratah have booked their place in the NTFL grand final following a dominant semi-final display against Southern Districts. WATCH THE REPLAY.
Waratah claimed their spot in the NTFL grand final following a dominant and composed performance against minor premiers Southern Districts.
Districts had beaten Tahs handily on both occasions in the regular season, but it was Waratah’s turn in the major semi-final with the squad producing an impressive 16.9 (105) to 7.7 (49) win.
The ever-dominant Matt Dennis got matters underway winning the ruck battle and giving the Crocs’ midfield brigade plenty to work with.
And Michael Bowden, the stand-in captain in place of the suspended Dean Staunton, made the most of the chance, brushing past Tah’s skipper Brodie Carroll to set up Jack Sexton for the opener.
Districts kept the pressure up limiting Waratah’s early inroads, but the momentum shifted heavily when midfield star Jake McQueen awkwardly limped from the field injured.
Arnold Kirby found some parity in the ruck with his second efforts, while Tom Cree enjoyed some explosive bursts out of midfield finally allowing Tahs entry into the forward 50.
A fumbled kick from Bowden, now sitting in the backline, went off target allowing Waratah vice-captain Dylan Collis to supply Marcus Hope with the leveler.
And with momentum behind them Waratah went up another gear applying the forward pressure and finding goal scorers from almost every angle.
Abe Ankers, Tom Banuelos and Carroll were everywhere living off second efforts from Kirby and allowing their forwards plenty to work with.
Those forwards did not disappoint as tall forward Darcy Hope and Corey Rich, among others, nailed almost everything they shot at goal in those opening quarters.
Soon enough Districts were facing an uphill battle and after their initial spring they were only their best and fairest winner Luke Smith was able to add any extras.
But even with the odd speedbump of resistance Waratah were able to continue upping the ante with their sights only on playing in the grand final and finally breaking their 23-year cup drought.
Districts took the game on at the outset of the second half scoring twice within two minutes through former AFL player Cam Ellis-Yolmen and McQueen, who was still running injured.
The minor premiers looked on to claw back their deficit, but for all their efforts Waratah took on the pressure and still found ways to score against the run of play.
A massive hit on Sexton from Jack O’Sullivan fired Districts up further and may become a point of contention during the week.
Jayden Magro showed his hand in the final quarter despite being kept quiet by Charlie McAdam for the majority of the match, finally scoring a goal of his own after a long day’s grind.
And at that stage it was just the icing on the cake for a side full of match winners including their ruckman Kirby.
“It’s good to get the win, the boys from last year want a bit of redemption and we’re all up and about, but the jobs not done yet,” Kirby said.
“It came down to 22 blokes playing their role, selfless footy, which might have been lacking last year.
“We know teams are going to come at us and how we respond to them when they do is something we’ve really improved on in the past few weeks.
“We’ve had a big focus on discipline after it cost us (against Saints in Round 17) and then try to break even in the midfield, particularly when they have Matty Dennis.
“It was a good challenge going up against him, we’ve had a couple of good battles this season, and hopefully we can another in a couple of weeks.”
As for Districts they now go into the prelim final against St Mary’s with injury concerns to several key players including Matt Shannon, Matt Dennis, Jake McQueen and Cam Ellis-Yolmen.
Districts: 2.2 4.3 6.5 7.7 (49)
Waratah: 6.0 11.2 13.4 16.9 (105)
Dylan Barry 2
Darcy Hope 2
Tom Banuelos 2
Robbie Turnbull 2
An action-packed major semi-final is in store when an explosive Waratah take on minor premiers Southern Districts at TIO Stadium.
And the NT News will be there to livestream every moment exclusively for you from 6.45pm, Saturday.
Southern Districts have only played once in the past three weeks, but as the league leaders they will still fancy themselves more than a chance.
They will be playing without their captain Dean Staunton (suspended), however they’re still spoiled with midfield options including Jake McQueen and Luke Smith.
Meanwhile, Waratah have the match fitness their opposition is lacking, having played and beaten the reigning premiers in the qualifying final last week.
There’s firepower right across their list and with a chance of jumping straight into the grand final, as they did last year, Tahs will be putting all their effort into this one.
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Originally published as NTFL 2022-23: Watch Southern Districts vs Waratah major semi-final livestream