Re-energised Blues ready to make an impact

With Launceston entering the 2019 season with a rejigged list, TSL Digital Reporter Alex FitzGerald previews what we can expect out of Windsor Park this campaign. 

 

TSL Inception: 2009 (Founding Team)

TSL Premierships: 2011 (34 Premierships across other competition formats)

Alastair Lynch Medallists: Tim Bristow (2011; then known as the Tassie Medal)

Hudson Medallists: Mitch Thorp (2018), Sonny Whiting (2013), Brian Finch (2010, 2011)

Darrel Baldock Medallists: Nathan O’Donoghue (2011)

Home Ground: Windsor Park, Riverside

Guernsey Colours: Dark Navy Blue and White

Club President: Sandra Boland

Head Coach: Mitch Thorp

Co-Captains: Jobi Harper and Jay Blackberry

Vice Captains: Simon Vandervelde and Hamish Leedham

Rivals: North Launceston, Glenorchy

Key Clashes:  Round 1 vs Glenorchy at Windsor Park on March 30

Round 12 vs North Launceston at UTAS Stadium on June 14

Round 20 vs Clarence at Blundstone Arena on August 20

 

2018: Fourth

Key Ins: Fletcher Seymour (Clarence), Tim Bristow (East Fremantle)

Key Outs: Chayce Jones (Adelaide Crows), Sam Lonergan (Woodville-West Torrens), Rulla Kelly-Mansell (Glenelg), Dylan Riley, Sam Rundle (Glenorchy), Jamieson House (Woodville-West Torrens), Tom Mundy (Williamstown), Ethan Jackson (Clarence), Tim Auckland (Central District), Giacomo Millucci (Glenorchy), Jack Rushton (North Launceston).

 

2018 Recap:

The Blues headed into the 2018 finals series in third position on the ladder after an impressive home and away campaign, where they registered 11 wins.  The boys from Windsor Park beat every side in the competition bar North Launceston, who defeated them by a solitary point in round 15.  A five game winning streak in the early stages of the season was offset by a losing run of five games, before the Blues kept the pattern running with five straight victories from rounds 16 to 21 to wrap up the roster season.

Launceston  looked to have the qualifying final against a battle-weary Glenorchy sewn up before a late charge saw the Magpies narrowly defeat the Blues in one of the games of the year.   A do-or-die semi final clash against eventual Grand Finalists Lauderdale the following week saw the Southern Bombers hit the ground running under lights at UTAS Stadium, bundling the Blues out of the finals in straight sets.

It wasn’t all bad news for the Club in September, with the Mercury Cup side claiming the Premiership in convincing fashion after going through the 2018 season undefeated.  Individually, Launceston had many standout performers in 2018, with key forward Mitch Thorp claiming the Hudson Medal as the league’s leading goalkicker with 62 majors, while midfielder Anthony Liberatore was awarded the Rodney Eade Medal after being crowned the best and fairest player in the Mercury Cup competition.  The Blues also had 3 players named in the TSL Team of the Year: Jobi Harper, Dylan Riley and Mitch Thorp.

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2019 Pre-Season:

The Blues will head into the 2019 season with a mini list overhaul after a large number of key playmakers departed the club over summer, headed up by Adelaide Crows draftee Chayce Jones, Dylan Riley, and 2018 playing coach Sam Lonergan.  Freshly-signed head coach Mitch Thorp is bullish about his list however, with a number of Mercury Cup premiership players ready to step up into senior football under new co-captains Jobi Harper and Jay Blackberry.

Former Tassie Medallist and 2011 premiership player Tim Bristow has rejoined the Club after playing with East Fremantle in the WAFL for the past five years, with emerging Clarence player Fletcher Seymour shifting north to also join the Blues.   Grant Holt has been named for a round one debut after a strong pre-season, with fellow Mercury Cup regular Sam Bruinewood set to share ruck time with Hamish Leedham after a big summer on the track.

 

Tim Bristow is a welcome return for the Blues.

 

The Coach says:

“We’ve had a number of long-time Blues aged in their thirties retire after long careers with the club, and you’ll see a fair few younger faces in the senior side this season.”

“There are a number of exciting players aged around 18 or 19 that have been training really well, local Launceston-based guys, who thoroughly deserve their spots in our senior squad.”

“We’re not dwelling on departures from last season, but focusing on the emerging young players who will grow into important assets.”

“Over the last three seasons the Club has produced strong campaigns, and after re-energising over summer we are ready for another assault and looking forward to finals in 2019.”

 

The Season Ahead:

Jay Blackberry is unlikely to return until mid-season as he continues to recover from an ACL injury sustained in 2018, leaving seasoned players with finals experience and emerging players to lead on the field in the early rounds.  The big-bodied duo of Thorp and Hamish Leedham are likely to cause opposition defenders some issues, while midfield trio Harper, Brodie Palfreyman and Jack Donnellan are set for a big year.  The Blues are unlikely to be without Devils co-captain Jared Dakin for much of the seaosn, but youngsters Miller Hodge, Ryan Tyrell and James Gillow should make the step up in his place after strong 2018 seasons.

While the Tigers and North Hobart have added players with strong VFL and AFL experience, both sides look unlikely to break into the top five, with Launceston set to play finals again in 2019 should they play to their potential and their undoubted group of talented youngsters continue to develop.  Remaining competitive in tough matches and maintaining energy and focus throughout a long season will be key factors in the Blues’ quest for another September campaign.