It may have been the third flag of his career, but for Seymour’s Kyle Winter-Irving, a premiership with Northern Territory club Nightcliff this season ranks as his proudest football achievement to date.
Playing in the Northern Territory Football League throughout the summer, Winter-Irving’s Nightcliff Tigers were crowned premiers on March 14, holding off an aggressive St Mary’s side by 13 points.
“Obviously it’s my proudest achievement,” Winter-Irving said.
“I’m 23 and have won grand finals with Nagambie, but to move away from home and play a higher standard of footy makes it pretty special.
“I've had some good celebrations over the past few days, celebrating with the mates I’ve made over the last six months.”
As reigning premier, Nightcliff entered the finals series as the team to beat after wrapping up the home-and-away season as minor premier.
But a shock semi-final loss meant Nightcliff had to fight even harder to its their grand final spot after eventual grand final opponent St Mary’s comfortably beat the Tigers by 26 points.
Winter-Irving’s team would soon rebound the following week during the preliminary finals, beating South Districts by 37 points and setting up the much-anticipated rematch with St Mary’s.
At TIO Stadium, a hot start with the Sherrin saw the Tigers up by 17 points at the main break, before a rejuvenated St Mary’s flipped the switch to pluck up a two-point lead heading into the final quarter.
“They really came at us and it was anyone’s game at that point,” Winter-Irving said.
“That last quarter would have been good to watch.
“Once we were 13 points up, we knew we wouldn’t lose.
“The siren went and there were high emotions, especially last year's boys who won back-to-back.”
As for his own performance on the biggest day of Top End's football calendar, Winter-Irving said he was happy to play his part for his team.
“I had a different role. I’ve done a lot of ruck work throughout the year, but I played up forward and was pinch hitting in the ruck,” he said.
“It wasn’t one of my best games, but I did my role. Everyone was contributing, all 22 had an impact.”
With the dust now settling on the season, a chance to reflect on what was "one of the best experiences of his life" has Winter-Irving feeling content about his latest football endeavour.
“I was sitting back after celebrations (last) Tuesday morning, taking it in, these last six months,” he said.
“It feels like not long ago I came up here, but it's been one of the best things I’ve done.
“I’ve lived in Victoria forever, so to come up here and play a higher standard of football and meet the quality of people I did, I have no regrets.”
With the Goulburn Valley League season postponed amid the current coronavirus pandemic, Winter-Irving said he would welcome a return home and the chance to recover after back-to-back football seasons.
“I am coming home. The plan was to move home and start playing with Seymour,” he said.
“Obviously the start date has changed, but that’s probably good for my body.
“In the last 12 months I’ve played about 40 games of footy, so a few weeks off won’t hurt.
“Then I’ll be looking to get back into it at training and have a good season back in Seymour when it all starts.”