New coach, new captain, same old success.
What a season it was for the all-conquering Northern Bombers.
The North Launceston Football Club entered the 2018 Bupa TSL season looking to further build on one of Tasmanian football’s great dynasties.
With four straight Grand Final appearances, three of which saw the club clinch the ultimate prize (2014 – ’15, ’17), the Northern Bombers were under pressure to deliver again this season, with 2017 premiership skipper Taylor Whitford taking the coaching reigns to great expectation.
Following in the footsteps of Zane Littlejohn and Tom Couch, Whitford coached his group brilliantly, maintaining the Bombers’ dynamic ball movement and stingy defence to see off a range of contenders.
With Glenorchy, Launceston, Clarence and then Lauderdale right on their heels throughout the season, the Northern Bombers continually looked the form team of the competition, going down just twice for the season (to Glenorchy in round 3 and Clarence in round 12).
Established stars Tom Bennett, Josh Ponting, Mark Walsh, Alex Lee, Brad Cox-Goodyer and Taylor Whitford continued to impress, while fresh faces Sherrin Egger, Dakota Bannister, Jordan Cousens, Beau Sharman and Michael Tang immediately impressed when first blooded into the senior team.
After finishing as minor premier in 2017 with 16 wins and a percentage of 181.55%, the Bombers actually improved in 2018, with the same number of wins but a percentage of 201.45%.
The Bombers kicked only one more point this season, but conceded over 100 less, meaning the side’s potency inside 50 wasn’t hindered as the defence became even tighter.
Contenders came and went throughout the year, but in Taylor Whitford’s maiden season at the helm, the Northern Bombers once again claimed the throne as the competition’s top dog.
Ladder Position: 1st (W: 16, L: 2, %: 201.45) – Premiers
Tom Bennett – 43 (third in competition)
Team of the Year Representatives: 6
- Jay Foon (BP)
- Renowned as ‘Mr. Dependable’ in defence, Jay Foon played an integral role in the Northern Bombers’ claiming the minor premiership. His season was cruelly cut short by a nasty injury, but his performances were as important as anyone’s in putting North Launceston in the box seat for another flag, one that they ultimately won.
- Tom Bennett (CHF)
- Arguably the best marking forward in the TSL, Bennett’s vice-like grip and sharp shooting for goal makes him a dynamic force inside 50. Mobile, athletic and smart, Bennett’s season made him a clear choice for centre half forward in the Team of the Year.
- Brad Cox-Goodyer (HFF + Captain)
- It was an injury-interrupted campaign for the premiership skipper, but one that still saw him enhance his reputation as one of the TSL’s most explosive players. The 2017 Baldock and Lynch Medalist kicked 36 goals from just 14 games, often rolling between the forward 50 and midfield. A worthy captain of this team.
- Taylor Whitford (FOLL + Assistant Coach)
- The added responsibility of coaching did nothing to diminish Taylor Whitford’s output, with the 2017 premiership skipper and 2018 premiership coach dominating as a goal-kicking on-baller. Finished as the season’s fifth highest goal kicker and tied for the RACT Insurance Player of the Year award. Whitford’s campaign was sensational.
- Zach Burt (INT)
- One of the most versatile players in the league, Burt kicked 29 goals for the season – despite finishing the year as a regular centre half back. A star at both ends of the ground, Burt can break a game open inside 50 or act as a wall across half back.
- Josh Ponting (INT)
- Few win more of the football than Josh Ponting, with the eventual Lynch Medalist a star around stoppages. Ponting worked brilliantly alongside the likes of Taylor Whitford, Mark Walsh and Brad Cox-Goodyer to supply silver service to the Bombers’ elite forward line.
Best and Fairest:
Yet to be held.
For a second straight season, a North Launceston player took home the Alastair Lynch Medal, with Josh Ponting leading all comers with 23 votes – edging out captain and 2017 Lynch Medalist Brad Cox-Goodyer (14 votes).
Zach Burt also finished in the top 10 with 12 votes, while Taylor Whitford and Jordan Cousens polled six votes apiece.
RACT Insurance Player of the Year:
Playing coach Taylor Whitford was a standout for the Northern Bombers in 2018, amassing 18 votes en route to becoming a joint winner alongside Glenorchy’s Daniel Joseph. Josh Ponting (11) and Tom Bennett (10) were also contenders for much of the year, while Sherrin Egger also notched eight votes.
The Rising Star:
Sherrin Egger‘s first season as a Bomber was stellar, with the former Devonport young gun claiming the Matthew Richardson Medal as the competition’s most outstanding young player. A dogged competitor, Egger combines flashy brilliance with genuine grunt to be yet another crucial weapon in this impressive North Launceston machine.
Fletcher Bennett is another player who continued to improve as the season progressed, showcasing his maturity and speed while playing a variety of roles.
Rhyan Mansell -who attended the State Draft Combine – also continued his rapid development with a terrific campaign, largely as a small defender.
Well, this one is pretty clear. In a near perfect season, the highlights were aplenty, but the 2018 Grand Final triumph – the club’s fourth in five seasons – stands head and shoulders above the rest.
The Bombers were clinical in dismantling Lauderdale in the 2017 decider but faced a much sterner test in 2018, with Lauderdale ensuring the game was a dogged, arm wrestle of a contest.
It proved to be a match that would underline the greatness of this side.
With the Northern Bombers holding a one-point advantage at the first and main breaks, the game was in the balance heading into the third stanza, and the reigning champs responded – kicking the only two goals of the term to take a 16-point lead into the final quarter, one akin to an even greater margin considering the low-scoring nature of the contest and the fact that Lauderdale had only mustered the three goals for the game to that point.
The Northern Bombers, having won the arm wrestle, ensured that they won the war from there on out, kicking a further two goals to one in the final term to clinch another historic flag.
Tarryn Thomas was an example of how the Northern Bombers got on top, with the classy utility taking to the skies and hitting the scoreboard to ensure he finished his time as a Bomber in style, while Brad Cox-Goodyer was dominant for almost the game’s entirety – claiming a second straight Baldock Medal as best afield.
Challenged for the throne, the Bombers once again held firm.
Superstar Tarryn Thomas was at his exhilirating best in North Launceston Football Club's flag triumph yesterday. 👌 🌟
Posted by Tasmanian State League on Saturday, September 15, 2018
It was a season of highs for the Northern Bombers, but the season-ending injury sustained by Jay Foon in round 17 against Glenorchy at KGV Oval was a definite lowlight.
In a freakish accident, Foon suffered a fractured bone in his neck as a result of a tackle, and subsequently missed the remainder of the season.
Floated as a chance of returning for the Grand Final, Foon is clearly a popular member of the group, with the team’s premiership success somewhat soured by the absence of the Team of the Year back pocket.
2018 In Three Words: Bomber Dynasty Confirmed