In some impressive form and with the balance right, Launceston spearhead Mitch Thorp is confident his side is raring to go on the eve of the finals.
The Blues looked to have found their groove in recent weeks with wins over North Hobart and Lauderdale, with Saturday’s 34-point win over the ‘Roos at Windsor Park cementing Launceston’s status as a genuine premiership threat.
Thorp has identified the team’s chemistry and dynamic as being integral to the change in form and is confident the Blues have found the formula that will serve the club well.
“It’s a bit of reward for effort. We had a flat patch in the middle of the year where we were trying to build our chemistry and get the right balance of effort and skill-based players in the same team.
The Blues started the season as one of the front runners, winning five of their first six matches to sit as North Launceston’s biggest challenger, but this good start came unstuck mid-season, with the Blues dropping five games in a row.
However, the last two games of this sequence – a 48-point loss to Glenorchy and a one-point loss to North Launceston – may well be the turning point in the Blues’ season.
“The Glenorchy loss, whilst we still lost by 50 points, our effort was really good.
“We then played North Launceston and only lost by a point. We have built that chemistry nicely, got the ball rolling a strung a few wins together.”
Thorp was integral in Saturday’s win over the ‘Roos with six goals – stretching his Peter Hudson Medal lead out to 14.
But Thorp thinks that his own role and form has been altered by the return of some of the state’s most promising talents, namely midfielder Chayce Jones and ruckman Tim Auckland.
Jones captained the Tassie Mariners to the 2018 Division Two Academy Series title and looks to be a hot draft prospect after performing well for the Mariners, Allies and now the Blues.
“He is full of class and is an elite talent,” Thorp said of Jones.
“He [Jones] was exceptional on the weekend against Clarence. He is really balanced and his lateral movement out of traffic is possibly the best I’ve seen from a young bloke.”
Fellow young gun Tim Auckland also performed well for the Mariners and after being named in the preliminary Allies squad, also gained valuable experience with the Adelaide Crows in the SANFL earlier in the year.
Auckland’s return for the Blues has had a profound effect on the make-up of the team and the brand of football coming out of Windsor Park.
“Tim is 198cm and after playing four senior SANFL games has returned and changed our dynamic.
“I prefer to play the traditional centre-half-forward role and with Timmy Auckland back in, it allows Hamish Leedham or him to play deeper forward. I had to play closer to goal earlier in the year but now I can move further up the field,” Thorp said.
Thorp’s push further afield has also been aided by the red hot form of ex-Devonport teammate Dylan Riley, who is thriving as a marking forward.
“We have changed our forward line structure since the start of the season and Dylan Riley going forward has been a real win.
“He is really good in the air but as soon as the ball hits the ground he is like a cat as well – it has really helped me move further up the field which is what I prefer to be doing.”
Thorp insists the Blues hold no fear ahead of a road trip to the Twin Ovals, where they were dealt a shock defeat earlier in the season.
“We are a pretty different side to that time. We want to finish in the top three and we need to control the last two games if we are to have chance of doing that.
“They [the Tigers] were far too good for us last time we went down there. Full credit to them for that day but we will be looking to make amends.
“We are all chasing North Launceston – they are five games clear for a reason. Our form is trending the right way at the right time of the yera. We are giving ourselves a look at it and a real opportunity come finals but we are still quite respectful of what they have done and the powerful unit that they are. We are up for the fight and very much looking forward to if we do meet them, playing them in the finals.