Brain’s premiership glory

By Daniel Hughes

Finley's Zac Brain was crowned a Northern Territory Football League champion on the weekend for his club, the Nightcliff Tigers.

The Tigers faced off against St Mary's Saints at TIO Stadium and Darwin and were able to square away the win by 13 points after a solid final quarter effort.

Final score, Nightcliff 10.13 (73) to St Mary's 9.6 (60).

Starting out the first quarter strong with a 15 to 7 lead, the Tigers looked in control.

The lead continued to grow in to the second term with the Tigers slotting six goals to St Mary's four to hold a 17 point lead.

A total of eight behinds had accumulated in the first half from the Tigers keeping the Saints in the game.

When the siren sounded at the end of the third quarter, a surging effort from St Mary's had Nightcliff's lead brought back to two points, with poor conversion in front of goal again hindering the Tigers.

The Saints had the chance to hit the lead at the start of the fourth, but Nathaniel Paredes missed a set shot.

A fast break from Nightcliff soon stretched the lead to eight points as Micheal Hagan and Ryan Mu used their speed to burn off several opponents and finish with a six-pointer in the goal square.

An exceptional passage of play from Nightcliff saw Nathan Brown win the ball on the wing with it eventually finding Tent Melville.

He executed an exceptional kick from 50m on an angle to nail his fifth major and extend Nightcliff’s lead to 14 points.

St Mary's captain Shannon Rioli responded, swooping on a loose ball inside 50 and finished on the run from 20m out, reducing the margin to eight points.

It was goal-for-goal as John Butcher, who had been quiet for the Tigers, marked and kicked truly to extend the margin back to 14.

A couple of costly misses to the Saints saw the margin close to 12 points.

A valuable point to James Tsitas made it a three-goal game and when the siren sounded shortly after, the Tigers had claimed back-to-back premierships for the first time in the club’s history.

Brain was overwhelmed with the victory, and despite an earlier knock to the head, he was able to take the field to celebrate with his team when the final siren sounded.

“It was so good, everyone played their role and had a good crack,” he said.

“They all stepped up and filled their individual roles when they needed to.

“I didn't know what the score was towards the end of the fourth quarter, I had bleeding down my forehead on the bench at the time but when the siren sounded I ran out in the middle with the boys.

“It was good to have a grand final like we did.”

Helping celebrate Brain's big premiership victory was his family, who travelled all the way from Finley to support.

Parents Michelle and Greg travelled with some of their children to support Zac and his younger brother Jasper on grand final day.

“It was an unreal feeling having my friends and family come to watch,” Zac said.

“It was definitely special, there's just no way to describe it.”

Jasper played in the game before his older brother for the Division One Tigers side who unfortunately suffered a 39 point loss to Pint Football Club.

Final score, Pint 10.11 (71) to Nightcliff 4.8 (32).

After a big season up north, Zac will be travelling back home to Finley, stepping in to the senior coaching position for Barooga in the Murray Football League.

The role comes after the 25 year-old claimed the club's best and fairest medal in 2019.

He is looking forward to the opportunity to return to the club and said he's still hoping the season will go ahead despite concerns from the AFL about COVID-19.

“I'm quite excited to get back into it with the Hawks,” Zac said.

“At this stage we will try and stick together in hope the season isn't cancelled or the start postponed.

“I'm looking forward to my new role, I have received amazing support from within the club, all the boys backed me for the position.

“I know that come season time they're going to listen to what I have to say.”

Zac has high hopes for his side, after they missed out on a finals spot in the 2019 season.

“I'm hoping we can make it to finals and if things can go our way we hope to see ourselves in the grand final, but we will just take it one week at a time at the start of the season.”