Written by Mitch Stagg.
The North Launceston Bombers continued on their winning ways on Friday night and new recruit Michael Tang played a huge part in their opening round victory.
Coach Taylor Whitford deployed the former VFL and Calder Cannons listed product behind the ball for his Bombers debut against cross-town rivals Launceston, and he did not disappoint in the Bombers’ 17.8 (110) to 8.6 (54) win.
While star forward Zach Burt (6 goals) and captain Bradley Cox-Goodyer (3 goals) reaped the rewards on the scoreboard and Taylor Whitford won the Adam Sanders medal as the best player on the ground, it was Tang’s rebound out of the back half that was a feature of their damaging ball movement.
Tang, 22, was an integral player in a well-organised and systematic Bombers defence, providing the final link in the chain with his creative run and decision-making.
“Michael is obviously new to our program and we thought we would put him back to let him see the game unfold.
“At the moment, we think having him back settles our group, so he will probably play there for the first half of the year,” Coach Whitford said.
Whitford foreshadowed a raft of roles for Tang throughout the season, but he was pleased with his first up performance in defence.
“He will play on the ball at stages, on a wing and he might even be up forward, he’s that type of player,” he said.
North Launceston got off to a fast start against the Blues, kicking the first four goals of the match, while Launceston struggled to penetrate their watertight defense for the majority of the night, managing just eight goals across four quarters of football, including just three in the first half.
Rulla Kelly-Mansell (3 goals) had some fleeting moments of brilliance, including a spectacular mark in the first quarter, but the Blues forwards were often outpointed by a well organised and disciplined Bombers back six.
Whitford was also quick to praise to the work of his midfield charges, lauding their ability to stymie the Blues prime movers.
“The pressure we were able to put around the contest, especially Mark Walsh in the first quarter was really good, forcing them to kick longer than they really wanted to.” Whitford said.
While Launceston were able to win their fair share of the football, Lonergan lamented their lack of cleanliness at ground level and praised the Bombers ability to capitalize on their mistakes.
“When you fumble in today’s footy, the rebound on that can be crucial, because you just don’t have any time to set the defence.
“The group probably went away from the way we want to play football and whenever you play football the way the opposition want you to play, it never ends well.” Coach Lonergan said.
Despite their defeat, Longeran remained optimistic for the season ahead, but did expect changes for their round two clash with North Hobart at Windsor Park.
“Obviously you always want to walk away with a win, but for us it was a good opportunity to identify some weaknesses in round one.
“I think there will be changes, we potentially have three guys available next week and Millucci played well in the development league.” Lonergan said.
Jake Nunn will miss with a suspected dislocated shoulder, but Lonergan expects to play against the Demons himself after missing round one with a hamstring complaint.
North Launceston further underlined their status and reigning premiers and premiership favourites with a clinical 56-point win over their much-hyped Launceston rival. TSL Digital Reporter Mitchell Jones runs the rule over five of the big takeaways from the contest.
1. If North Launceston Football Club weren’t already this year’s Tasmanian state league premiership favorites, then they are now.
If last year’s 87-point demolition of Lauderdale in the TSL grand final didn’t convince you enough, their round 1 good Friday 56-point win over Launceston, a team touted to be their number one challenger in 2018 will have them firmly in the mind of all TSL clubs as the pace-setters.
2. Taylor Whitford’s extra workload after taking on the 2018 coaching position hasn’t hampered his on-field game.
After being a dominant player for the Northern Bombers over many years, including being an on-field leader and premiership captain, the now 26-year-old and 2015 TSL player of the year took to the field on Good Friday as North Launceston’s playing coach. Whitford took the extra pressure and workload in his stride as he lead from the front to be named best on ground.
3. North Launceston have covered their losses well, after several key departures from their 2018 premiership side.
An impressive display out of the backline by Michael Tang was a highlight of the Northern Bombers debutants, while experienced TSL player Beau Sharmen and young gun Sherrin Egger both proved that they could be key inclusions after making the move from Devonport. Jorden Cousens was named in the best players after crossing over from Rocherlea, while Dakota Bannister registered two last quarter goals in his return to the club.
4. Teamwork is virtue.
Launceston had several good individual players, but often looked disjointed and made mistakes while fumbling regularly. Meanwhile North Launceston showed teamwork on all lines, playing as one solid unit, they moved the ball from the backline to a scoring position with ease with each player taking control of their role and knowing where there teammates where.
5. Rulla Kelly-Mansell has plenty more to show.
It may not have been the Launceston Football Clubs day, but Kelly-Mansell still gave the crowd highlights. After taking a high-flying mark on the wing in prime viewing position of the UTAS Stadium attendees, Kelly-Mansell then followed this up a short time later with a soccer goal.
After limping off the ground with an injury immediately after his first goal, he returned 15 minutes later and went on to hit the score board two more times finishing with 3 goals for the day. If this match was anything to go by, football watchers will once again get a good show when watching the freakish talent of Rulla Kelly-Mansell in 2018.