Despite years of experience as a footballer, coach and leader, Launceston forward Mitch Thorp is thriving within his new role at Windsor Park.
Thorp, who coached Devonport for three seasons, took South Launceston to a TSL premiership as a playing-coach in 2013, but made the move away from coaching after the 2017 season to join the Blues.
The former Hawthorn player’s decision to move away from coaching has already reaped benefits on the field, with Thorp playing a key role in Launceston’s strong start to the 2018 Bupa Tasmanian State League season as he relishes the opportunity to play freely without the added responsibility of coaching for a short while.
“Part of the reason I ended up going to Launceston was to have 12 months away from coaching and to enjoy playing and that is certainly what has happened so far.
“I have been relatively consistent with my approach to football and I’m just a little more relaxed leading into game when I don’t have to worry about the opposition and teammates as much – it’s been really enjoyable,” Thorp said.
Thorp has kicked 12 goals across the opening three games of the season to sit atop the Peter Hudson Medal tally, with his nine-goal haul against North Hobart backed up by a two-goal effort against Lauderdale.
Launceston were impressive against Lauderdale, leading at every break to record an emphatic 62-point win on the road, with the win particularly satisfying for Thorp, who went into the clash without fond memories of playing at the home of the Southern Bombers.
“From a personal perspective I’m relieved. I’ve played a lot of footy at Lauderdale and had never won a game there.
Even when South Launceston were pretty successful we never beat them. To record my first win at Lauderdale was nice,” Thorp said.
Despite not holding the official title of captain or coach, Thorp is using his vast football experience to the benefit of the group, and his role as a player to the benefit of his coaching.
“I’m a 29-year-old and one of the older guys at the club, so I am still very much a leader for the young guys.
“I have really enjoyed playing under Sam (Lonergan) and I have coached for six years in my own right. It’s probably a blessing in disguise to go back as a player, play under someone else’s leadership and take things on board for my own coaching,” he said.
Thorp made the move to Launceston alongside fellow Devonport star Dylan Riley, with the two immediately slotting into a star-studded side that features the likes of Sonny Whiting, Jay Blackberry, Rulla Kelly-Mansell, Brodie Palfreyman and others.
“It has only been a small sample size so far but it is always pretty handy when you have a strong midfield. It’s pretty easy as a forward sometimes when they are hitting you up with that sort of delivery,” he said.
Launceston were considered by many in the preseason as one of the teams to beat, and although the Blues went down to reigning premiers and cross-town rival North Launceston in round one, the side has responded with strong wins over North Hobart and Lauderdale to go into the round four bye with a 2-1 record.
“A lot of hard work and planning went into our preseason. We are a pretty fit side and finished the game against Lauderdale strongly.
“North Launceston are the yardstick. We came up a bit short in round one but have bounced relatively well since then. I think all teams are still chasing North Launceston though,” Thorp said.
Launceston will travel to Blundstone Arena to play Clarence in round five after the bye, before hosting the Tigers, Glenorchy and North Launceston at Windsor Park in what looms as a season-defining period for the premiership fancy.