Southern Cross TSL Preview with Alex FitzGerald


Saturday 20th May

Burnie vs Clarence (West Park) 1:00pm

Last Time They Met: Burnie 14.22.106 def Clarence 4.2.26 (Round 17, 2016, at West Park)

Burnie had a well-earned bye last week after back to back games against top sides Glenorchy and North Launceston.  After upsetting Glenorchy the week previous, Clarence were surprisingly beaten by a point by the Hobart City Demons in a hard-fought match in the wet last Saturday.  Last time these two sides met, Burnie were a significantly more experienced unit, and brushed the Roos aside by 80 points at the West Park fortress.

Burnie are in a similar position to fellow coastal side Devonport in that they are blooding a lot of young players this year.  They have just the one win for the season so far, but there have been plenty of positive signs.  Leaders Nick and Harry Walters and Rudy Barrett have picked up where they left off in 2016 and are all playing consistent football.  Blair Rubock, Sam Kalbfell and a host of other youngsters have impressed. Darcey Brazendale played his two best games of the season against the Pies and Bombers, as did defender Ben Keiselis, who kept the dangerous Zach Burt to a solitary goal.  Captain Nick McKenna is a huge in for the Dockers as he returns from suspension, while Clint Proctor and Tyrone Morrison have recovered in time for this week, despite leaving the ground injured against the Bombers.

The Roos suffered a shock loss to the Hobart City Demons, Trent Standen was in impressive form across half forward, kicking four majors to make it 11 across the past two games.  Veterans Jarrod Harper and Jackson O’Brien played their best games of the season, while the underrated Gabby Chambers, Matthew Ling and Michael Blackburn continued their strong starts to the season.  The Roos will look to Aidan Grace to support Standen up forward, with Jake Cox out with a broken hand and Ian Callinan out with a hamstring injury, and will expect Jason Bailey and first year player James Holmes to again hold down the defence.  Jeromey Webberley limped from the field last week and may sit this week out with heavy rain expected on the north west coast.  Sam Siggins will be looking to impress in the ruck after a quiet week, as competition for big man spots in the state squad heats up.

Clarence will be gutted that they let last week’s match slip in the final term, and should bounce back this week.  Burnie haven’t been at full strength all season for various reasons, and if Proctor or Morrison can get up, could challenge the Roos early on their home turf of West Park.  This game will be another learning experience in the end for the Dockers, who appear a couple of seasons off being challengers again, as they get games into their impressive younger brigade. The heavy rainm expected will now doubt prove a leveler for the young Dockers but you’d anticipate it won’t do enough to see them victorious.


Hobart City Demons vs Launceston (North Hobart Oval) 2:00pm

Last Time They Met: Hobart City Demons 19.10.124 def Launceston 16.12.108 (Round 12, 2016, at North Hobart Oval)


Hobart City Demons provided the upset of the season last week, hanging on to defeat the highly fancied Clarence by one point at Blundstone Arena.  Launceston played a strong brand of football, with winners all over the ground as they defeated the Tigers by 81 points.  Last time they met, Sean Willis booted four and Ryan Matthews dominated as Hobart City Demons beat the Blues in a shootout.

Hobart City Demons put in a huge performance to defeat Clarence on Saturday, and have now won three of their past four matches.  Midfielder Ryan Matthews was huge again, with his clean ball use in the wet a cut above the rest, while Nicholas Baker was equally as impressive according to coach Kane Richter.  Sean Willis and Blake Grant are slowly building their reputation as a dangerous duo up forward, and kicked seven goals between them against the solid Roos’ defence.  Jesse Maple and young Bailey Walker have put together a strong month of football across half forward.  Liam Azzopardi has shown he’s capable of running off his man while holding down defensive lockdown roles, and has been well supported by captain Hugh Williams, who now has three games under his belt after being hamstrung in the opening rounds.

Launceston reminded doubters last week that they are indeed a top four side, putting the Tigers to the sword with relative ease at Twin Ovals.  Stuart Williams and Jake Smith were outstanding in defence, as was overlooked Mariner Casey Brown, whose intercept marking and run out of the backline was praised by coach Sam Lonergan.  Sonny Whiting booted six goals to solidify his reputation as one of the competition’s best leading forwards, while Jake Harris chimed in with two goals.  Nathan O’Donohue and Rulla Kelly-Mansell were dangerous across half forward, while in the middle Lonergan benefitted from Hamish Leedham’s presence in the ruck.  Jake Hinds has also been in strong form running off half back but will be out due to Mariners commitments. Captain Chris Savage enters the fray for the Blues in a major boost for a clash that will have a major say on ladder positions.

This could be the match of the round, with both sides in a rich vein of form and as confident as they’ve been all season.  Hosting the game could give Hobart City Demons an advantage, but the battle in the wet against Clarence last week may result in some heavy legs late in the match.  Launceston should prevail here, with body size and experience the key factors, but don’t be surprised if the hosts again silence the doubters with a fast start against the more experienced Blues, who will miss Mariner standout Chayce Jones after he injured his ankle in the first term last week. With just one game between both teams, this one is a biggen.


Glenorchy vs Lauderdale (KGV Oval) 2:00pm

Last Time They Met: Glenorchy 18.8.116 def Lauderdale 11.8.74 (Round 12, 2016, at KGV Oval)

In the Red Saturday clash for the Red Shield Appeal, Glenorchy head into this week after a tough fortnight, with two successive losses to Clarence and North Launceston. It is their fourth consecutive game at home and they will be looking to snap the home ground losing streak at two.  Those sides are expected to finish alongside the Pies in the top three in 2017, so expect the Pies to regroup for this crucial clash.  Lauderdale have won three in a row, overrunning Devonport on the coast last week.  Last time they played, Liam Smith kick five goals in a best afield display for Glenorchy in a convincing win.

After three games played across ten days, Glenorchy should come into this game more rested than last week, with a full week’s rest under their belts.  They will welcome back some fresh legs in Matthew Joseph from suspension, and 2016 premiership player Tim Butterworth will also come in after a move home from interstate. The club will take time on star Zac Webster, who is on his way back from hamstring issues. Lesser lights Tom Morgan and Connor Salter impressed coach Aaron Cornelius with their efforts against North Launceston last week, as did Mariner forward inclusions Harrison Pearce (three goals) and Harrison Gunther. Unfortunately both will be in South Australia when this week’s match takes place. Captain Brayden Webb was a solid performer in the midfield as per usual, while Liam Smith and Jaye Bowden worked hard to kick two goals apiece in a rare challenging afternoon for the Magpies.

Lauderdale have been in tremendous form, with the southern Bombers moving the ball well from defence to hit the scoreboard hard to win their last three games in a row.  They have picked up the pieces after a tough start to the year, leveling the ledger at 3 and 3. Thor Boscott and Ray Hill have been constant targets up forward, and booted five goals apiece against Devonport last week.  Ryan Wiggins returned from a week in the Mercury Cup to kick three majors in his 100th game, with Toutai Havea also dangerous up forward after making the switch from defence in the last month.  Midfielders Bryce Walsh and Dylan Fyfe continue to rack up crucial touches and key clearances, with Fyfe’s running goal from the centre square one of the highlights of the round. Wingman Robbie McManus has been in damaging form, and could count himself unlucky to have missed selection in the state squad, along with Boscott.

Both sides are likely to view this match as their most important of the season to date, with the more-favoured Glenorchy keen to stay in touch with North Launceston and not fall back to the pack, and Lauderdale eyeing off fourth position on the ladder.  Both sides will be close to full strength, and the crowd at KGV can expect a physical, high scoring encounter, highlighted by elite ball movement.  The Bombers were able to take it up to Clarence until late a few weeks ago, and if they can curtail the influence of the Magpie stars and maintain their impressive forays forward, they’re a real chance to knock off the Magpies at home and hand them an unheard of third straight lost at their fortress.


North Launceston vs Tigers (UTAS Stadium) 2:00pm

Last Time They Met: North Launceston 30.19.199 def Lauderdale 3.6.24 (Round 12, 2016, at KGV Oval)

North Launceston remain undefeated after beating Glenorchy last week in their closest match of season 2017.  The Tigers are at the other end of the spectrum in terms of form, having lost their past three games after things were looking bright following a narrow win over Hobart City Demons in Round 3.  Last time they met, the Bombers obliterated the young Tigers, with up and coming forwards Dakota Bannister and Tarryn Thomas combining for 11 goals.

North Launceston put four quarters of consistent football together to emerge victorious in their toughest game so far against Glenorchy.  Bart McCulloch starred up forward, bagging five goals, while Jack Avent chimed in with three majors and Zach Burt two.  The humble Tom Couch again dominated the midfield, with his form worthy of  speculation that he may be the best player in the competition.  Ruckman Alex Lee was sensational around the ground, winning his battle with the highly rated and in-form Magpie Cameron Duffy.  Josh Ponting played well for the second week in a row, and the underrated Jake Pearce was also among the Bombers’ best, highlighting the player depth of the premierships favourites.  Captain Taylor Whitford and Tarryn Thomas were quieter than usual, but expect the Bombers skipper to bounce back this week, along with big-bodied midfielder Brad Cox-Goodyer.

Coach Aaron Vince was bitterly disappointed with the Tigers’ efforts last week, describing them as insipid.  The Tigers could manage only one behind in the second half against a dominant Launceston side, and will be determined to prove they’re better than that this week against quality opposition.  Tyler Carter was clearly the best Tiger last week, with numerous spoils, tackles and possessions in a determined effort off half back.  Mitchell Carter also tried hard with a number of rebound 50’s, but the midfield group was comprehensively beaten.  One positive was the performances of debutants Ben Graham and Toby Cowen, who never stopped trying, and the constant tackle pressure of Mariners captain Lachlan Clifford. The Tigers will need fewer passengers this week if they are to turn things around. But it is easier said than done against North Launceston at UTAS Stadium.

North Launceston should win this match comfortably, as their form and fitness has so far proven to be unparalleled.  Vince will be looking for improvement from his Tigers, and while the result won’t go their way, their effort and contests are the measuring points the coaching staff will look for.  Both sides are likely to use this clash to see where their younger players fit into the respective squads moving forward.