The footy season is back!
A long summer has come and gone as we prepare for what promises to be a competitive 2018 Tasmanian State League season.
Round one offers up some mouthwatering prospects. A host of former Demons returning to North Hobart Oval in yellow and black, a battle of premiership fancies in Launceston and an intriguing round one Eastern Shore derby are on the menu, every match with plenty of sub stories and elements of intrigue.
Friday 30th March
North Hobart vs Tigers (North Hobart Oval) – 3:05pm
Last Time They Met: Hobart City Demons 14.12.96 def. Tigers 11.11.77 (Round 21, 2017 at North Hobart Oval)
Both North Hobart and the Tigers have undergone significant changes across the off season as they look to develop from being young sides of promise to genuine TSL heavyweights.
The Demons have regained their traditional strip and identity as North Hobart, while also elevating Richard ‘Bear’ Robinson to fill the senior coaching role left by Kane Richter.
Hugh Williams will once again captain the Dees, but the challenge will be for North Hobart to build off signs of promise last season with a drastically different playing group.
A lot of these changes are directly related to the Demons’ round one opponents with former assistant coach Trent Baumeler now the head coach of the Tigers.
A host of playing stars have also made the move including midfield stars Will Campbell and Ryan Matthews, crafty forward Blake Grant and key defender Jake Doran – all of whom are set to line up in round one.
The Tigers will enter 2018 without Brandon Batchelor (NEAFL) and Mitchell Walker (Glenorchy) but have the backing of many to become a genuine finals threat after several seasons of being labelled as ‘promising cubs’.
Tensions have been bubbling in the development of this modern rivalry in recent seasons and so much off-field movement and noise over the off season is likely to only ignite this further. Expect fireworks out of this intriguing clash.
North Launceston vs Launceston (UTAS Stadium) – 6:30pm
Last Time They Met: North Launceston 14.10.94 def. Launceston 9.4.58 (Round 21, 2017 at Windsor Park)
UTAS Stadium will host what promises to be one of the biggest matches of the season when cross-town rivals and pre-season fancies North Launceston and Launceston test their premiership credentials.
Launceston may not have beaten North Launceston since 2013, but after a savvy offseason of high profile signings and a stunning run throughout the 2017 finals series, the Blues look primed for an all-out assault on the flag that currently resides with their cross-town rivals.
The Blues stunned Glenorchy and Clarence throughout the finals of last season and the key signings of Mitch Thorp and Dylan Riley since has only enhanced the excitement that surrounds the Blues leading into a new season. These big names, on top of the development of emerging stars like Brodie Palfreyman, makes Launceston a force to be reckoned with.
The Bombers enter the season full of confidence after an emphatic 2017 season which included the premiership, new captain Brad Cox-Goodyer being recognised as the Alastair Lynch Medallist and Baldock Medallist and the continued development of a host of new and emerging stars.
The Bombers were challenged at times last season but stood tall to secure their title as the state’s best and with Taylor Whitford stepping up to coach the team, the side will once again be striving for success.
Will Mitch Thorp and Dylan Riley start their time at the Blues with a bang? Will the Bombers put the foot down and rubber-stamp their standing as premiership favourite? Are Launceston the real deal?
Some of the off season’s hottest questions look set to be answered as these two teams go head to head in a battle for northern supremacy. This will be essential viewing.
Saturday 31st March
Lauderdale vs Clarence (Lauderdale Oval) – 2:00pm
Last Time They Met: Lauderdale 20.6.126 def. Clarence 7.11.53 (Qualifying Final, 2017 at Blundstone Arena)
On Easter Saturday the sometimes spiteful but always thrilling Eastern Shore Derby resumes as Lauderdale play host to Clarence.
Lauderdale defeated Clarence by 47 points in the 2017 Qualifying Final after the Roos had the better of the southern Bombers throughout the home and away season.
Clarence will be hurting after being knocked out of the finals in straight sets while Lauderdale will have a point to prove after being outplayed by North Launceston in the Grand Final.
Both outfits have retained most of their stars; although Clarence will be without Sam Siggins (Geelong) and Lauderdale will no longer have the services of midfield star Dylan Fyfe (NEAFL).
Lauderdale and Clarence still boast two of the competition’s most impressive lists, however, with this match set to be won and lost in the star-heavy midfield battle that will include the likes of Walsh, Harper, Franklin and Jones.
With the competition set to be as close as ever, wins against teams of similar ability will be worth their weight in gold, further underlining the importance of this opening round encounter for both Clarence and Lauderdale.
The two teams look set to be contenders once again in 2018 and with the hype surrounding another edition of the Eastern Shore Derby, expect both the Bombers and the Roos to rise to the occasion.