Winter-Irving takes his football talents to the Top End

By Meg Saultry

While local footballers enjoyed a long-awaited season break after a gruelling 2019 winter campaign, Seymour’s Kyle Winter-Irving has been sweating it out on TIO Stadium in Darwin as part of the Northern Territory Football League this summer.

Playing his last game for Seymour Lions on September 1 in their finals loss to Rochester, the 23-year-old was soon on a flight up to Darwin ahead of playing his first game for the Nightcliff Tigers on October 5.

In what is a full-time commitment, Winter-Irving has made the move north for six months to play a full season with the Tigers, who last season won the Premier League grand final over Southern Districts. 

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After playing three matches with Pint last season, Winter-Irving said it was through his Seymour teammate Jason Cole that first got the forward interested in testing his talents up north.

“Jase has played up there for a couple of years recently, though he was flying in and out,” Winter-Irving said.

“It got me interested in the league as he was doing that.

“Speaking to him, he encouraged me to go up there and get a taste and see what it's all about.”

Lion to Tiger: Kyle Winter-Irving (right) celebrates a goal with his Territory teammates. Picture: Felicity Elliott/AFLNT Media

Throughout his campaign with the Seymour Lions this year, Winter-Irving lined up for 16 games and booted 22 goals as a forward.

But his time up in Darwin has seen the big man take on a new challenge.

“I was speaking to the club throughout the winter, and I was recruited as a half forward,” Winter-Irving said.

“But their ruckman got injured and has missed games, so I've been doing ruck duties.

“I've enjoyed the change.

“In a winning side, I'm not fussed where I play.”

Looking to defend last season's premiership, Nightcliff sits on top of the ladder eight rounds in, with a record of 7-1.

In round seven, the Tigers lost their first match of the season to St Mary's, which Winter-Irving said was a real eye-opener for the team. 

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“We're off to a good start, we won the first six,” he said.

“But we were complacent that weekend, I think we expected it to happen and were run over in the last quarter."

In a bid to describe the difference of the Northern Territory League to Victoria's Goulburn Valley League, Winter-Irving said it was hard to compare the two leagues.

“They're a completely different style of football and you play in different conditions,” Winter-Irving said.

“The night time games, the ball is really slippery. It's all about getting used to the heat.

“You sweat from your jumper down to your boots and socks.

“And the ball moves quicker. It's not as defensive, it's a very attacking style of play.

“There is not as much time with ball in hand.”

Winter-Irving will return to Victoria for the Christmas break in three weeks time, before heading back up to Darwin for the back seven games of the NTFL season.

“It really ramps up and the standard of footy goes,” Winter-Irving said.

“It'll be nice to freshen up (over Christmas), so when I get back up there, I'm putting my best foot forward in keeping my spot in the side.”