Mitch Thorp’s first season at the helm at Windsor Park was one of development and improvement, with an exciting mix of youth and star power seeing the side finish the year with a sense of optimism for the future.
The Blues took a little while to get going in 2019, recording just one win from their first four matches. A scratchy 10-point win over Clarence followed in round five, which saw the Blues stay in touch with the top four, but the season really got going in round nine when a new-look Launceston outfit did what a lot of teams struggle to do – defeat the Magpies at KGV.
This win, discussed in greater depth later on, set the platform for the Blues to emerge as a genuine flag threat and as the competition’s form side with five wins from their next six games.
This platform saw the Blues book a third consecutive finals appearance, where big 55-point and 60-point wins over the Tigers and Glenorchy in the Elimination and Semi Finals seeing the Blues march into the Preliminary Final against Lauderdale in red-hot form.
The Preliminary Final, also analysed later on, was a highly competitive affair, and although this didn’t go the way of the Blues, the milestone of reaching the second last weekend of the season will give the club confidence heading into 2020.
The Blues, coming off the back of a straight sets finals exit in 2018, look to have finished this year in a better spot, with several key factors leading to this.
The first comes through recruitment and experience.
The Blues were well served in the midfield with the likes of Hamish Leedham, Jobi Harper, Tim Bristow, Brodie Palfreyman, Jay Blackberry and Fletcher Seymour forming a potent combination.
Similarly the forward line was well led by coach Mitch Thorp, with Dylan Riley’s return midway through the season adding another dangerous element to their scoring arm.
Riley’s return from Meander Valley, Bristow’s return from Western Australia and Seymour’s move from Clarence all proved to be crucial, with the three consistently among the better Launceston players week-in, week-out. The inclusion of such quality allowed the likes of Jake Smith, Casey Brown and Brendan Taylor to continue their improvement.
The second factor proved to be youth.
Launceston’s Development League side was all-conquering in 2018, winning every game on the way to the premiership, and with several players leaving the club heading into 2019, the basis of this side proved to play a critical role in the Blues’ TSL campaign.
Players such as Grant Holt, Miller Hodge, Alec Wright and Jacob Boyd all became staples and regular contributors for the senior side, while young players with considerable senior experience already behind them like Jack Tuthill and James Gillow took their games to another level.
With an enviable group of top-grade players and exciting youth with a season or two of senior footy already under their belt, the Blues look to be in a good spot heading into 2020. Support in defence might be the area they look to beef up as the likes of Tuthill, Hodge, Boyd and Ryan Tyrrell continue to develop.
4th, 11-7, 123.05%, Preliminary Final exit
Mitch Thorp – 39
Alec Wright – 25
Jobi Harper, Dylan Riley – 18
Team of the Year Representatives: 4
Jake Smith (BP)
Jobi Harper (C)
Mitch Thorp (CHF) – COACH
Fletcher Seymour (RR)
Best and Fairest:
Midfield gun Fletcher Seymour took home the McAuley Medal as the Blues’ Best & Fairest ahead of co-captain Jobi Harper. Improved backman Jake Smith finished third, while also being named most consistent.
Jobi Harper was right in the mix for his first Alastair Lynch Medal, polling 21 votes – just two short of winner Josh Ponting.
Harper polled votes in 11 matches, including three best afields in a season that saw him in the top couple of vote-getters for almost the entirety of the season.
Fletcher Seymour was another player at the pointy end of the count, polling 13 votes to finish fourth overall.
Brodie Palfreyman started the year with style, picking up eight votes across the first six rounds before finishing the season with nine. Defender Jake Smith was next best with seven.
RACT Insurance Player of the Year:
Midfield bull Fletcher Seymour announced himself as one of the competition’s stars with a breakout campaign that caught the attention of the media, polling 20 votes and leading the count for much of the season.
Seymour polled in eight matches, including five best-ons, but was pipped at the post by North Launceston skipper Brad Cox-Goodyer, who picked up seven votes across the final three rounds to beat Seymour by a single vote.
Coach Mitch Thorp finished equal seventh on 11 votes, while Jobi Harper (9 votes) and Tim Bristow (8) also featured prominently.
Glenorchy’s KGV fortress proved to be a happy hunting ground for the Blues in 2019, with three big wins at the venue all coming at crucial stages of the season.
The Blues’ round nine upset win over the ‘Pies is a clear standout, and can be attributed as the arrival of the Blues under Mitch Thorp’s reign.
Coming into the game as outsiders, Launceston were simply clinical in their dismantling of the hosts, overcoming a 17-point quarter time deficit and four-point half time difference to lead by 17 at the last change and 26 by the final siren.
Fletcher Seymour was at his destructive best in this clash, while Jay Blackberry and Jobi Harper also played instrumental roles.
The Blues backed this performance up in round 15 with a destructive 89-point win and again in the Semi Final, where the Blues recorded a 10-goal victory and booked a spot in the Preliminary Final.
Although separate matches, three wins from as many visits to KGV is a clear highlight from the 2019 season for the Blues.
It’s tough to go past the Preliminary Final loss.
Launceston’s red-hot finals form had them in a strong position heading into this meeting with Lauderdale.
This position became even stronger as the game wore on, with Mitch Thorp’s men leading by as much as 21 points midway through the third term.
The shift of Sam Siggins into the ruck proved decisive from thereon out, however, with Lauderdale staging a monumental comeback with five goals in half a quarter to lead by 10 points at the final break.
Launceston battled manfully in the final term, staging a mini-comeback of their own late, but the class and momentum of Lauderdale proved to be too much.
A regular season lowlight would be the round 17 defeat to North Hobart.
Launceston entered this game as red-hot favourites after four wins on the trot, and considering North Hobart had only one win for the season to that point, many expected the result to be a mere formality.
The Blues were jumped, though, with North Hobart kicking five goals to two in the opening stanza and 10 to five across the first half to set up a 29-point lead at the main break.
Launceston worked back into the game across the second half but the bulk of the damage was done, with North Hobart holding on to secure a seven-point win, seriously impacting Launceston’s charge towards a top-three spot and second chance.
2019 In Three Words:
Exciting platform built