By Simon Andrews
The 2021 TSL season has been filled with moments of great triumph and disappointment. To make finals, teams must pull off incredibly hard-fought victories and overcome unique challenges along the way. Leaders from all four finals teams look back on the year that was, and describe their positions and strengths heading into finals.
Fletcher Seymour (Launceston)
The Launceston Blues have produced a historic year, defeated on only two occasions. Despite this, no season is void of challenges.
With captain Jobi Harper taking to the field just four times this year, other players have had to step up into leadership roles. One such player is Fletcher Seymour, although he praises the group effort in Harper’s absence.
“It’s been a shared load across the midfield group, with Jay Blackberry, Jake Hinds, Brodie Palfreyman and earlier in the season Miller Hodge,” he said.
Launceston consists of a strong experienced core, but there have been several young players that have stepped up their game in 2021. Seymour also highlights some underrated talent with the loss of some of their stars.
“Jack Tuthill and Alec Wright have both have had their best seasons to date and have played pivotal roles for us. Alec has been our interceptor, and Jack has given us some rebound and shuts down the oppositions best smallest player” Seymour said.
“Zach Morris is going to be a star of the competition and Colby Mckercher, for as long as we’ve got him, I reckon there will be a few AFL Clubs interested in Coby”.
“The biggest challenge we face so far has been the injury of Dylan Riley, and finding a new avenue to goal has been important”
“Brendon Taylor in the absence of Dylan Riley always pops up and kicks goals. He flies under the radar and plays a really important role for us as a defensive half forward that also hits the scoreboard”
The Blues have had 12 wins this year with margin of 50+ points, but Seymour says their comeback win at Kingborough is even more important.
“The win at the Tigers we came out a bit sloppy but showed a bit of character in the second half to pull off a really good win. You never know what you’re going to face in the finals, its good having that belief and confidence that we can come back”
Launceston are often considered to be ‘the standard in the TSL, but just how does the team itself deal with that label?
“We hear it, and there is some external noise, but internally we keep priding ourselves on our own standards and keep driving them as high as we can”, Seymour said.
Jay Foon (North Launceston)
North Launceston skipper Jay Foon has led his side to another stellar year. The Northern bombers have only lost 4 games and Foon is proud of that achievement while also having to debut an entire team along the way.
“Brad (Cox-Goodyer) and I said at the start of the year that there’s no expectation on the group”, Foon said.
“We’ve been able to debut 19 players this season, and that holds the club in really good stead for the future”
“The likes of Michael Stingal and Brandon Leary are the best that have been able to debut this year. There are a lot of kids that are willing to learn, and that’s going to make it really easy to teach them moving forward”
Foon praises the efforts and role of young vice-captain Ben Simpson this year, and highlights the big step forward he has made.
“His leadership is second to none, he’s really improved his leadership over the past few months”, Foon says in praise of Simpson.
“For him to be able to vice-captain the club at 20 years old is a massive effort. He’s a bridge, that can connect both the younger and older guys”
North Launceston fell short to their cross-town rivals in last years grand Final, but Foon hopes that the new breed of Bombers and their best football can take it to the blues in 2021.
“A loss in a Grand Final is always a motivating factor”, Foon admits.
“We pride ourselves on our contest work, and finals are won and lost in the contest”.
“We know our forward 50 entry hasn’t been our greatest strength but, hopefully we can see some more fluid ball-movement coming into finals”.
Jarrod Harper (Clarence)
Clarence’s Jarrod Harper and Zac Buechner have stepped up into the top role at Clarence this year, leading them to a home final against the Tigers. Harper declares much of this has come down to the improvement of their young players.
“Ideally you want to play finals in front of your home crowd”, Harper said.
“With such a young group, everyone gradually improves each year”
“James Holmes is one of our best lock down defenders, he probably doesn’t get his name up in lights that much but the role he players for us in locking down the opposition player is quite valuable to us”
Clarence pride themselves on hard, pressure football, which is a part of their game that will be vital to uphold throughout finals.
“We call it our ‘DNA’, all the hard stuff that doesn’t really go noticed”, said Harper.
“If our ‘DNA’ isn’t up to standard there’s no point having a game plan, all the hard stuff that people don’t really see is something we pride ourselves on”
A big loss heading into finals for the Roos is midfielder Ethan Jackson with a broken collarbone. Despite the loss, Harper insists a group effort can fill the void.
“You look at his numbers and he has been quite impressive in the middle, and he also has the ability to go forward and take a mark”, he said.
“We might not replace someone of the calibre of Jacko, but we’ve got plenty of soldier’s fill a role in the team if we need”.
Lachie Clifford (Kingborough)
No doubt, the surprise high achiever of 2021 has been the Kingborough Tigers. First year captain Lachie Clifford insists his new roe hasn’t changed him much and praises the development their entire group this year.
“I’ve always tried to lead by example, whether I was captain or not”, said Clifford.
“There’s countless players on our list that have come along in terms of ability. Our success this year so far has been built across our young group as a collective coming together and playing good team footy”.
The Tigers have topped the charts all year with their pressure. Clifford is proud of the effort displayed in this area by his squad throughout 2021.
“When we give 110%, we put immense pressure on the opposition, we make it extremely hard for them to move the footy”, he said.
The Tigers forward line suffered a significant loss early in the year, but Clifford calls attention to their ruckman Marcus Gardner, who could be an asset in front of goals during finals.
“The biggest challenge this year that stands out is losing Tyler Carter with that horrific leg injury, he’s been our main man up forward for as long as I’ve been at the club”. Clifford admitted.
“Every time he (Marcus Gardner) puts his hands up in the air he’s pretty hard to stop, he’s probably one of the best marks in the competition”.