The North Launceston Football Club has been the dominant force in Tasmanian State League football for years now, and although some may sense a changing of the guard is on the horizon, the reigning premiers look once again to be one of the teams to beat.
TSL Digital Reporter Mitchell Jones runs the rule over where the new-look Bombers sit heading into a premiership defence.
TSL inception: 2009
TSL Premierships: 2014,2015,2017,2018
Head Coach: Taylor Whitford
Home ground: University of Tasmania Stadium
Captain: Bradley Cox-Goodyer
Vice-Captain: Jay Foon & Josh Ponting
Leadership group: Arion Richter-Salter & Jack Avent
Rivals: Launceston, Glenorchy, Lauderdale
2018 ladder position: Premiers (16 wins, 2 losses)
2019 Key Match-Ups:
Round 1 vs Tigers @ Twin Ovals March 30 (Night game)
Round 4 vs Launceston @ Windsor park April 19 (Good Friday clash)
Round 5 vs Lauderdale @ Lauderdale Oval April 27 (Grand Final Replay)
Round 21 vs Glenorchy @ KGV August 24 (Indigenous Recognition Night Match)
North Launceston finished last season in dominant fashion, winning their fourth premiership in five years after going through the 2018 season with only two losses.
North started the season with strong wins after bringing in some talent from the NTFA and north west coast, while also retaining the majority of their 2017 list. Their strong team showing throughout the year was capped off with some outstanding individual performances with six Northern Bombers named in the TSL team of the year, Taylor Whitford winning the RACT Insurance Player of the Year award and Josh Ponting winning the Alastair Lynch Medal to cement North Launceston as the powerhouse of Tasmanian State League football.
Ins- Jordan Tepper (South Launceston), Liam Davies (Ulverstone), Ben Elmer (Rocherlea), Braden Van Buuren (Latrobe), Kurt Hibbs (South Launceston), Jack Rushton (Launceston).
Outs- Tarryn Thomas (AFL), Thomas Bennett, Jake Pearce (Hillwood), Zach Burt (George Town), Jordan Cousens (Rocherlea), Beau Sharman (Devonport) Tom Couch, Mark Walsh, Micheal Tang.
With several key outs from last year’s premiership side, the North Launceston Football dynasty could be in danger of coming to a crashing halt, with the loss of leading goal kicker Tom Bennett, versatile swing man Zach Burt and recent gun recruits Michael Tang, Beau Sharman and former coach Tom Couch.
Playing Captain Taylor Whitford sees no concern with this shift in players, however, instead viewing it as an opportunity for players who had previously been on the fringe to develop further and get the chance to play senior TSL football.
Whitford also puts high regard on the external talent that has been brought into the club, with two stars of the NTFA – Jordan Tepper (2018 Best and Fairest) and Ben Elmer (2018 Leading Goalkicker) – set to don the red sash in 2019.
Crafty forward Jack Rushton has also joined the Bombers, making the move from crosstown rival Launceston after a strong start to life in the TSL last season, with his run and crafty goal sense making him a valuable acquisition.
The Northern Bombers have also recruited top NWFL players Liam Davies and Braden Van Buuren who both finished in the top 5 of the NWFL best and fairest last season.
Whitford has noted that this year pre-season practice matches provided a good hit out for many of their young players set to step up in 2019 with, with Whitford accepting that there is a learning curve to be had, as players new to TSL senior football look to mix in with the Northern Bombers seasoned players of the competition.
Whitford acknowledges that the competition will be tight this season, with an influx of talent joining the league, and the likes of Colin Garland at North Hobart, Kieran Lovell at the Tigers and Aiden Grace at Glenorchy set to increase the standard of the competition.
Whitford sees this as a big positive for the TSL, even though some clubs may be looking at the Northern Bombers’ losses as an opportunity to gain confidence and knock the competition’s powerhouse off its perch.
Despite all of the club’s changes, however, the Northern Bombers enter 2019 with arguably the strongest midfield in the league, with Whitford, Ponting and Brad Cox-Goodyer set to have a big say on whether the Northern Bombrs can win a third consecutive flag and further cement this golden era for the club.
With strong recruits and a culture of success, the Northern Bombers will again likely be one of the teams to beat.
Will the dynasty continue in 2019 or will another club take down the juggernaut of Tasmanian Football? Only time will tell.