By Simon Andrews
Launceston have won their second premiership in a row after a highly anticipated Grand Final rematch against North Launceston on Sunday.
It was a tight, low-scoring affair for most of the game until Launceston pulled away with five goals in the final term. The Blues claiming their third modern TSL premiership with a 34-point victory.
Despite holding the best record heading into the finals (16 wins and 2 losses) and many describing them as ‘the standout’ throughout the season, a round 20 loss to Clarence and a semi-final loss to North Launceston had surprisingly, positioned the Blues as underdogs for many heading into the big dance.
Launceston had also been unable to overturn a two-match suspension for their key forward Cody Thorp, leaving doubts as to where their goals would come from.
It was a fierce and fiery contest early on with the crosstown rivalry living up to the hype. Goals were hard to come by in the first three quarters, with the Blues holding a narrow 45-42 lead heading into the final change.
The Blues turned up the heat in the fourth, holding North to just one behind for the term, extending their own total by 35 points to take control.
The stats reflect this fourth quarter domination, with Launceston switching on their elite ball control and movement that had made them the most efficient side all year.
The Blues led the Bombers in total disposal in the fourth quarter (71-42) and controlled the ball movement with marks over North 26-5. Their inside mids led this charge holding the Bombers to 0 clearances from centre bounces in the final term.
This drive of momentum was highlighted by a huge hanger from Launceston’s Jake Smith, Smith then booting it deep into the forward 50 setting up a crumbing goal from Zach Morris.
The Darrel Baldock medal for best on ground went to Launceston leader and ruckman, Joe Groenewegan. Groenewegan racked up 23 disposals, 27 hit outs 2 goals.
Other notable performers form the Blues were Brendan Taylor with a game high three goals as well as Coach and brother of Cody, Mitch Thorp, who stepped in and gave the Blues some much needed height in the forward line. Thorp was quiet in terms of possession but was incredibly vocal on field and set the tone with two goals early in the first term.
Cripps Player of the Year and new TSL Life Member Jay Blackberry registered 22 touches and a goal, while skipper Jobi Harper claimed 17 disposals and a game high 11 clearances.
An important aspect of the Blues win was their ability to halt the impact of 2021 Alastair Lynch Medallist Brad Cox-Goodyer who averaged 24 disposals, 6 clearances and almost 2 goals a game in the regular season. Launceston managed to hold Cox-Goodyer to just 11 touches and 1 goal, although the star Bomber was hampered by an arm injury for much of the afternoon.
Ultimately it was a resounding victory for the Blues, but North Launceston should still be satisfied with their season. The Bombers finished the regular season with a 14-4 record while blooding 19 debutants along the way. One of these youngsters impressed in the Grand Final, with Oliver Sanders racking up 21 disposals, 7 clearances and a goal.
The Bombers now consist of a young, strong core which will see them contend for premierships for many years to come.
However, 2021 is the Launceston’s year. They were clear favourites throughout the season and stepped up when it mattered in the biggest game of the year. The Blues have won their third premierships in a decade and look primed to fight for a historic three-peat in 2022.
Launceston 3.1, 5.2, 7.3, 12.5 (77)
North Launceston 2.1, 4.4, 6.6, 6.7 (43)
Launceston : B. Taylor 3, M. Thorp 2, J. Groenewegen 2, M. Musicka 2, J. Donnellan 1, Z. Morris 1, J. Blackberry 1
North Launceston : B. Cox-Goodyer 1, O. Sanders 1, M. Walsh 1, B. Leary 1, T. Bennett 1, J. Rushton 1
Launceston : J. Groenewegen, M. Hodge, J. Harper, J. Hinds, J. Blackberry, B. Taylor
North Launceston : M. Stingel, M. Walsh, T. Donnelly, B. Simpson, R. Whitney, B. Van Buuren
Darrel Baldock Medallist: Joe Groenewegen