Round 15 Bupa Tasmanian State League action is nearly here, with the battle for third spot at KGV Oval looming as a pivotal contest for both the Magpies and Blues.
Tigers FC v North Launceston at Twin Ovals (Saturday 2:00pm)
Last time they met: North Launceston 20.16 (136) def. Tigers FC 3.5 (23) – Round 8, 2019 at UTAS Stadium
The Tigers were comprehensively accounted for when they last played the reigning premiers, but now entrenched in the top five, will likely view this as a chance to prove their finals credentials and knock over the Northern Bombers for the first time.
The Tigers’ midfield group stacks up well compared to anyone, with Lovell, Matthews and Clifford all having fantastic seasons.
This group will need to be firing against the Bombers, however, with Ponting, Cox-Goodyer and Whitford remaining the pinnacle for midfield trios in the competition.
The return of Bart McCulloch provides extra headaches for the Tigers, while Ben Elmer will also give another avenue to goal.
North Launceston’s firepower in front of goal – largely built off the back of its midfielders – will likely to be too strong for the ever-dangerous Tigers.
Where the Tigers might be able to expose the Bombers is in the ruck, with Hugh Johnston coming in to support Marcus Gardner against makeshift ruckman Cody Lowe.
Players to watch:
Tigers FC – Samael Rice
The Tigers’ skipper has been in strong form this season, playing selfless roles most weeks to shut down the opposition’s most damaging mid-sized forward. The Northern Bombers have no shortage of such player, making the role Rice plays even more crucial this week.
North Launceston – Tom Donnelly
The former Tassie Mariner has impressed since returning to the senior side from injury, filling a void as a versatile, marking forward. An exciting talent, Donnelly can play several roles, including as a key defender or running wingman.
Tip: Northern Bombers by 30 points
Lauderdale v North Hobart at Skybus Oval (Saturday 2:00pm)
Last time they met: Lauderdale 16.14 (110) def. North Hobart 6.11 (47) – Round 9, 2019 at Skybus Oval
The Demons will face a stern test in round 15 as they look to back up last weekend’s drought-breaking loss.
A clash with the ladder leaders at the hostile venue of Skybus Oval, the Demons will need to be at their absolute best to challenge.
Colin Garland, with eight goals last weekend, looms as the key, with his efforts inside 50 set to determine how competitive the Demons can be against the ladder leaders.
Lauderdale, off the back of the bye, now have a great chance to further entrench their place on top of the ladder and maintain their one-win advantage over North Launceston.
Experienced, bigger bodies like Sam Siggins, Phil Bellchambers and Bryce Walsh should prove too strong around the contest, with the Bombers’ enviable forward line also likely to be too potent.
Players to watch:
Lauderdale – Sam Siggins
One of the competition’s most consistent performers, Siggins is having a spectacular season as a midfielder. A big body, Siggins will look to impose himself at the coalface while also chipping in as a ruckman.
North Hobart – Nathan McCulloch
One of the competition’s most underrated midfielders, McCulloch plays his role week in, week out. A contested beast, McCulloch also managed to hit the scoreboard last week with two majors in the Demons’ drought-breaking win.
Tip: Southern Bombers by 40 points
Glenorchy v Launceston at KGV Oval (Saturday 2:00pm)
Last time they met: Glenorchy 6.8 (44) def. by Launceston 9.16 (70) – Round 9, 2019 at KGV Oval
This looms as a season-shaping match for both sides, with the injury-riddled Magpies and ever-improving Blues both looking to be key figures in the 2019 finals series.
The third-placed Magpies currently sit just one win ahead of the Blues, with a Launceston victory set to springboard Mitch Thorp’s side into third spot.
Launceston are humming, with the return of Dylan Riley and the growing fitness of Jay Blackberry seeing the Blues possess one of the competition’s most damaging forward groups.
Throw Harper, Palfreyman, Seymour and now Bristow into the midfield, and you also have one of the competition’s best midfield contingents.
The injury-hit Magpies will need its defensive unit and midfield groups to stand tall if they are to take the points here. However, the returns of Jaye Bowden, James Webb, Zac Webster and Sam Reeves are huge.
Watch out for Sam Rundle against his former side, with the ex-Blue delivering an underrated but consistent season of football.
The match-up between Aiden Grace and Jake Smith looms as being particularly entertaining, with the two state U25 players both playing crucial roles for their respective teams. Grace will have a point to prove after being blanketed by Smith back in round nine.
The Blues, with their list depth and fitness, should be too strong here.
Players to watch:
Glenorchy – Harrison Gunther
The Glenorchy defender is putting together another strong season, impressing with his intercept marking. A player who reads the play better than most, Gunther makes forwards accountable with his potency off half back.
Launceston – Dylan Riley
Riley’s return to Windsor Park has proven fruitful so far with six goals from two games. A damaging footballer with the ability to shine aerially and at ground level, Riley makes an already potent Launceston forward line all the more damaging.
Tip: Blues by 15 points