Fresh from taking the spoils from one of the competition’s toughest meetings, Lauderdale ruckman Haydn Smith says his side holds no fear ahead of this weekend’s daunting trip to UTAS Stadium.
Smith’s Lauderdale has had a wretched time playing the Northern Bombers on the road in recent seasons, with Lauderdale suffering an average losing margin of 66 points across the five games they’ve played at UTAS Stadium (including two Grand Finals) since last winning there by a point in round 10, 2017.
Despite this poor recent history, Smith is confident that the development Lauderdale as a team and a win like Saturday’s against Glenorchy will hold the team in good stead moving into this weekend’s battle of the Bombers at UTAS Stadium.
“Yeah, there were some pretty nervous stages there early on when they kicked four or five goals up and you started to wonder how the game would go but I think to the boys credit, we showed a fair bit of fight and didn’t put our tails between our legs and give up.
“We started to fight back, have some pretty good scoring opportunities and actually play some pretty good football at stages to get the margin back. It’s good to have that ability for any sort of game.”
Being able to scrape back from a four-goal deficit midway through the second term should give the Bombers great confidence according to Smith.
“It’s good for our finals aspirations. We won’t forget the last two grand finals we’ve played in where the margins have crept out at stages and then there has been a let-down feeling.
“To know that we can claw back margins like we did on the weekend is a good feather in our cap, just to know that we have the confidence to break open any game and score when we need to.
“As long as the injury list is nice to us, we should be in a good position to challenge for the premiership. That’s obviously our main aim and what we want to do, so as long as keep guys fresh, we should go pretty well close to getting there.
Lauderdale blew their northern counterparts out of the water earlier in the year in round five at Skybus Oval, with a scintillating eight-goal to one second quarter.
However, with six straight wins since, a new-look North Launceston outfit appears to now be a different beast.
“I think in terms of raw skill they might have been a bit better last year, but this year they are obviously well drilled, they’re quick, they’re young, they’re enthusiastic and they’re only going to improve with every game they get under their belt.”
Smith acknowledges the enormous challenge that is playing North Launceston on their home deck, conceding that his side’s earlier win over North Launceston now means little.
“They’re a good side no matter where you play them, but at their home ground with the extra travel makes it that little more difficult.
“It would be a big scalp for us to get and would give us more confidence, but we don’t go into the game under any sort of pretences for having beaten them before. At the end of the day you are only as good as your last game.
“I think because we played them in the first half of the year it doesn’t mean anything. They’ve improved every game since and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them be a three-four goal better side than when we played them last time.”
The pain of 2017 and 2018 Grand Final defeat may still not be that far removed for Lauderdale, but Smith insists it isn’t something that is spoken about in the lead-up to a clash between the two sides.
“We don’t really (talk about the previous two Grand Finals), we have a bit of a different look and feel to our team and a different way we play footy.
“North Launceston are a much-changed side as well and have lost a lot of their key personnel from last year, but in saying that, they are a younger, fresher team and probably play quicker than they had in previous years so you go into the game wanting to beat them for the way they’ve beaten us the last two years, but that’s just back of the mind stuff. We’re now looking at a fresh, new-look North Launnie team.”
This weekend’s top of the table clash will not only pit the competition’s leaders against each other, but also two of the state’s best ruckmen in Smith and Alex Lee.
Smith currently sits second on the RACT Insurance Player of the Year leaderboard with 11 votes, while Lee – the Tasmania Devils U25 Ruckman in this month’s rep game – has six votes after two best on ground efforts earlier in the year.
This duel shapes as a key one in deciding the end result.
“Alex is a good ruckman,” Smith said.
“He was obviously the state U25 ruckman and he had a pretty good game, so it is going to be a good battle.
“Alex is one of the ruckmen I always have to prepare for the most, to make sure I have everything right going into the game.
“It is going to be a pretty good midfield battle all day I’d suggest; not just with myself and Lee, but with everyone else involved in the midfield as well. They’re two solid midfield groups.”
The Bombers have thrown a number of players through the middle of the ground this season, as well as mixing up their key position players at either end of the park.
This willingness to shuffle the magnets on game day is something Smith believes is a dangerous weapon at Lauderdale’s disposal.
“Our best team is pretty good in the fact that we can throw guys anywhere.
“We have a pretty versatile mix and guys with some pretty raw talent who can play anywhere.
“It doesn’t really matter if we throw a Jacob Gillbee forward or back, he’s going to give us a great contest and the same with an Ethan Whish-Wilson, he can actually play defence pretty well at times himself. We have great personnel, are pretty versatile and can throw guys everywhere and can mix and match for opposition as we need to.”