Clarence delivered one of the season’s finest performances to upset the Northern Bombers by just two points and challenge the 2018 season scriptwriters.
North Launceston, far and away the competition’s premier side across the last season and a half, had been considered a monty for the 2018 flag by many, but a loss to the ‘Roos has indicated that this is far from a foregone conclusion yet.
In a see-sawing match full of momentum swings, Clarence timed their run to perfection, booting four goals to none in the final term to run away with a 10.8 (68) to 9.12 (66) win.
The match went down to the wire, with the ‘Roos needing a goal in the dying stages to secure the win. The man of the moment? Clarence big man Ryan Bailey.
Bailey had three chances late in the game to seal the win for the ‘Roos.
The first, a set shot from close range after a mark on the goal line? Hit the post.
The second, an attempted mark 40 metres out directly in front? Spoiled.
The third, a free kick in front with less than 90 seconds left? Nailed.
This goal put the Roos in front for the first time in the final quarter, with a lead of one-point grown to two by a Jarrod Harper shot as the siren sounded, with the win now placing Clarence two games clear in second place, setting up a big second half of the campaign.
Clarence coach Jeromey Webberley insists his side still has plenty of work to do if it wants to be a serious contender.
“We are really rapt to get the two wins. We really set ourselves for Launceston up there and the best team in the competition at our home ground.
“Confidence is what it is, you go into every week knowing you can win but we were in this position last year. We beat North Launceston and they went on to win the premiership by 100 pounts.
“I think last year we stopped growing as a group and we lost our identity. It is important that this group continues to grow and continues to build on this identity – it is holding us in good stead at the moment but I still think there are a number of areas we can improve on.”
Clarence’s defensive group – led by Ryan Bailey, Taylor Williamson and James Holmes – were enormous throughout the day, restricting the competition’s most potent team to just 68 points and a goalless final term.
North Launceston threatened to take the game away from the ‘Roos in the third term, kicking six goals to two to take plenty of momentum into the final change.
Webberley put it to his troops for one big final term, and that is exactly what he received.
“We are really happy with our work defensively and that fight in the last quarter. At three-quarter-time we put it on for one last effort and our midfield really responded.”
“They dominated a half and we probably had the game on our terms for a half as well. No side was able to stop momentum for extended periods of the match and we just had momentum in the last. The result could have gone either way.”
North Launceston coach Taylor Whitford echoed this sentiment, conceding that a loss is never ideal, but that his side will take plenty out of the contest.
“Clarence took advantage of their opportunities and were really good with the momentum in the last, we weren’t able to stop it.
“A two-point loss in the scheme of things is ok. These are the games you want to play. I thought some guys stood up and some others didn’t. It is probably good that we can reflect on some things, a win might have masked that.
A loss is a loss. We don’t want to lose games of footy but Clarence are a great side at the moment and are playing some great footy,” he said.
North Launceston will have the bye in round 13, while Clarence will come up against Glenorchy at KGV.
Webberley remains tight-lipped about what his side can achieve in 2018, while admitting that he will also have some selection headaches in the back half of the campaign with the likely returns of Trent Standen, Keegan Wyllie, Ryan Edmondson, Harry Richmond and others.
“It is getting hard. This group is a really tight 22, they are all best mates and all stick together.
“We probably can bring in more talented players but they need to understand that it is system-based and that they need to buy in to what this group has started. We will slowly integrate them and I’m sure they will slot in well.”
Clarence 3.3, 4.5, 6.6, 10.8 (68)
North Launceston 3.4, 3.6, 9.7, 9.12 (66)
Clarence: A. Dickenson 2, R. Bailey 2, C. Nield 2, T. Cunliffe, J. Webberley, K. Howlett, T. Castle
North Launceston: Z. Burt 2, T. Whitford 2, C. Lowe, M. Tang, K. Curtis, B. Cox-Goodyer, T. Bennett
Clarence: R. Bailey, T. Williamson, B. Jones, F. Seymour, T. Cunliffe, J. Holmes
North Launceston: S. Egger, A. Lee, M. Walsh, T. Whitford, J. Ponting, T. Bennett