The Bombers have been the TSL titans, competing in the past four Grand Finals and collecting three premiership cups. Josh Partridge steps through what 2018 might look like for the mighty North Launceston, posing the question on whether the men in red and black can go back to back?
Written by Josh Partridge
Established: 1893, Renamed North Launceston in 1899
TSL Inception: 2009 (Founding Team)
Home Ground: University of Tasmania Stadium, Launceston
Guernsey Colours: Black and Red
Head Coach: Taylor Whitford
Assistant Coaches: Paul Holmes, Scott Stephens, Chris Whitford, Will Tatchell, Adrian Smith
Leadership Coach: Anthony Loone
Captain: Bradley Cox-Goodyer
Rivals: Launceston Blues, Lauderdale Bombers
Key Clashes: Round 1 vs Launceston at UTAS Stadium on March 30 – Phil Edwards Cup (Good Friday)
Round 4 vs Clarence at Blundstone Arena on April 20
Round 7 vs Lauderdale at UTAS Stadium on May 12
Ins: Jordan Cousens (Rocherlea), Dakota Bannister (East Coast Swans), Lachlan Young (Scottsdale Magpies), Jack Mazengarb (Clarence), Sherrin Egger, Cooper Stuart, Beau Sharman (Devonport), Stan Tyson (Deloraine)
Outs: Jay Lockhart (Casey VFL), Lewis Holmer, Kailem Baker (Redlands NEAFL)
North Launceston were the definition of dominant throughout the 2017 TSL Season, only dropping two games along the way to claim their third premiership in four years.
A seventeen-point loss to Clarence in Round 9 and a one-point loss to Lauderdale in Round 10 were the only blemishes on the road for the North Launceston juggernaut as they continued their stranglehold on the competition. Their grand final win by an astronomical fourteen goals over the Southern Bombers truly stamped their authority as the state’s dominant force. The third flag in four years.
North Launceston’s preseason got off to a shock start in October of last year with the news that Premiership coach, Tom Couch, was leaving the club to take up a playing assistant role at the Casey Demons to further his coaching ambitions. However, with premiership captain, Taylor Whitford to take the reins, the club certainly wasn’t in a negative position with Whitford coaching a game during the 2017 season. After undertaking an apprenticeship of sorts with both Couch and dual premiership coach and current Assistant forwards coach at Brisbane lions, Zane Littlejohn, Whitford’s ascension to senior coach was certainly a future plan within the group. In addition to the loss of Couch, midfielder Jay Lockhart announced in early January that he would be joining him at the Demons to further the chances of his AFL dream. Tasmania’s best player in the annual match against the NEAFL last year, Lockhart will be missed within the playing group, but the Bombers have recruited strongly to cover their losses.
To do this, North Launceston have gone with a ‘What’s old is new theory’ with both Dakota Bannister and Lachlan Young re-joining the Bombers fold after a year in NTFA Division 1 at East Coast Swans and Scottsdale respectively. With the news of Devonport’s exit from the TSL, the Bombers have been licking their lips with talented trio Sherrin Egger, Cooper Stuart and Beau Sharman adding to the list. 17-year-old Egger certainly one to watch after taking out the Advocate Junior Sports Award Male Sportsperson of The Year Award with his last years’ efforts.
Young Ruck Forward Cody Lowe has had a great preseason and will be looking to add to the several Seniors games he collected during last years’ TSL Season. Arion Richter-Salter, one of North Launceston’s best players on the ground in last years’ Grand Final has also torn it up on the track and is injury free which is a dangerous thing for the forwards of the competition. In addition to these players, Coach Whitford predicts his Tassie Mariners players, Angus Jeffries, and Che Haines, to break through into the senior team and truly make an impact on the competition.
Starting their season off in a similar manner as last years will be a key for this North Launceston unit and the first ever Phil Edwards Cup match, in memorial to the Examiner sports writer who sadly passed away last year, against Launceston will be the perfect match to gauge the competition.
The Northern Bombers key nucleus remains with Lynch Medalist Bradley Cox-Goodyer ready to back up a stellar individual year, Coach Taylor Whitford ready to lead from the front and the likes of stars Jay Foon, Jack Avent, Mark Walsh, Tom Bennett, Zach Burt, Josh Ponting and Bart McCulloch still at the club. list is showing no signs of slowing down with oodles of talent and age on their side.
Whitford sees cross-town rivals Launceston as one of the teams to possibly usurp the Bombers at the top of the competition given their strong finish to last season and their recruitment of players of the ilk of Mitch Thorp and Dylan Riley from Devonport. Whitford also expects the usual suspects of Lauderdale, Clarence, and Glenorchy to be up there with the Tigers on the radar after some strong recruiting with the likes of Will Campbell and Ryan Matthews.
Despite being both minor premiers and premiers last year, North Launceston are still looking to improve from the almost perfect season that confirmed their status as the state’s yardstick.
In quite a scary statistic for the rest of the competition, in the Grand Final last year, North kicked 21 goals and 22 behinds, meaning an improvement on that inaccuracy could easily pull them further from the rest of the field.