Blues through to Prelim as Roos’ run ends

Written by Anthony Osborn, Alex FitzGerald

Clarence have crashed out of the 2017 finals series in straight sets with Launceston again proving a giant killer. A determined Blues outfit overcame a slow start in Saturday’s First Semi Final to win their second September decider on the road, defeating Clarence by 33 points at Blundstone Arena.

Despite trailing by 13 points at the first break, the Blues shifted into gear to boot six of the next seven majors and book themselves a place in next week’s preliminary final, running out convincing 13.8 (86) to 7.11 (53) winners. The Blues are quickly becoming the sleeping giants of this finals series and they are full of belief that anything is possible, this September.

Clarence dominated the first quarter, with dangerous small forward Ian Callinan opening the scoring.  Long goals to Jarrod Harper and Trent Standen followed as the ‘Roos seized control of the contest early.  A late Jake Nunn major from the Blues first foray forward saw the Launceston faithful breathe a sigh of relief, with the damage only 14 points at the first change after a Gabby Chambers goal for Clarence was ruled to have been kicked after the siren; the scoreboard reading 3.2 (20) to 1.0 (6).

The second quarter saw the visitors kicking with a slight breeze, and they made the most of it, with their outside runners providing plenty of opportunities forward of the centre square.  Sam Lonergan capitalised to boot two of the Blues five goals for the term, with Clarence managing just one major despite the immense forward tackling pressure of Callinan.  With the self-belief that Lonergan had spoken about during the week apparent among the vocal Launceston playing group, the Blues went into the main break holding a handy 6.2 (38) to 4.4 (28) lead.

The hosts made their intentions clear in the opening five minutes of the third term, but were unable to capitalise, as the Blues defence held firm.  An Alex Silver goal gave Clarence hope, but Launceston responded through multiple goals from midfielders Jay Blackberry and  Joe Boyce, taking a 21 point advantage into the last change.

With Jake Cox in a tracksuit with thanks to a hip injury and several other players limping, Launceston maintained control of the contest, kicking four goals to two in a frenzied final term to book themselves a match up with Lauderdale at the same time next week.

Launceston playing-coach Sam Lonergan was proud of how his side had responded to the challenge of finals football.

“It’s been a fantastic result; the belief the group has is incredible, it’s what we coach for.  To create what we have done in the last couple of weeks has been fantastic.”

Much of Launceston’s development and growing confidence has come from its often-unheralded defensive group, with the likes of Chris Savage, Simon Vandervelde, Jack Donnellan and Jimmy Aganas playing their roles weekly, to the pleasure of Lonergan.

“(I think) it is the best back seven in the competition; there are no big names in the group but there will be by the end of the year.”

Launceston’s midfield and forward depth also shone through against Clarence, with onballer Brodie Palfreyman, ruckman Hamish Leedham and forward Nathan O’Donoghue all having significant influence.

Jason Bailey, Gabby Chambers, Jack Gleeson and Tim Castle (in game 150), all worked tirelessly on a disappointing afternoon for Clarence, but coach Jeromey Webberley was adamant that the ‘Roos will take plenty of positives out of the season, despite a straight sets exit.

“As a society we tend to look at things we need to improve on, but we also need to look at how far we have come; we’ve come from seventh (last season) to fourth and have a fantastic Mercury Cup team chock-full of talent and have unearthed some guys this year who will be serious TSL players.”

“It’s disappointing but we will have to move on.”

Webberley was full of praise for Launceston and insisted that the Blues have the potential of continuing their September surge.

“They played some fantastic footy and are in extremely good form. They are playing a good style of game that holds up well in finals; I’d give them a real chance for next week.”

Clarence’s final match for 2017 also signalled the finale of Ian Callinan’s career, with the crafty forward indisputably one of the finest Tasmanian footballers of the modern era.

It's not the way the little master would have wanted his career to end, but boy what a career it was. Congratulations on a stellar career, Ian Callinan. A true legend of Tasmanian football ????? #SXTSL

Posted by Tasmanian State League on Saturday, 9 September 2017

Callinan, who returned to Clarence at the beginning of the 2016 season after a stint with Adelaide in the AFL and Central District in the SANFL, will be a big loss for the ‘Roos, with Webberley full of praise for the veteran.

“He (Callinan) has had an outstanding career; he has just persisted and dominated wherever he has gone. His relationships with all of the players are fantastic and he will be sorely missed.”

The Blues will play a third consecutive final at Blundstone Arena next weekend against Lauderdale, and Lonergan is confident his side can take another major finals scalp.

“We have our best team out there at the moment. No one is carrying injuries and no one is in doubt, so we are training guys to play and perform on game day and it has put us in a good position to run out games,” the Blues supremo explained.

Round 2 – 09/09/2017

Launceston                              1.0,  6.2,  9.4,  13.8  (86)

Clarence                                3.2,  4.4,  5.7,  7.11  (53)

GOALS, Launceston :
N. O’Donoghue 3, J. Boyce 2, S. Lonergan 2, J. Blackberry 1, J. Nunn 1, S. Whiting 1,
R. Kelly-Mansell 1, S. Rundle 1, J. Gillow 1

Clarence :
J. Webberley 2, I. Callinan 1, A. Silver 1, J. Harper 1, T. Standen 1, W. Wall 1

BEST, Launceston :
S. Williams, N. O’Donoghue, J. Hinds, B. Palfreyman, J. Blackberry, S. Whiting

Clarence :
J. Gleeson, J. Bailey, G. Chambers, T. Castle, M. Ling, K. Wylie