ONE of the better deciding games of football you are likely to see anywhere captivated fans all the way through the final quarter where Launceston kicked away to run out 13-point winners against their Northern rivals North Launceston. The Blues completed the perfect day winning flags in the development league and the women’s league, triumphing to win their first flag since 2011 and stopped a fourth straight premiership to the Bombers in the process. It was the first time these familiar foes have met in a grand final since 1985 and they duly delivered the anticipated intense contest. Jobi Harper was awarded the Darrell Baldock medal as the best player on the ground for his grunt work through the midfield and his two goals.
Light drizzle started with the first siren as it came and went for much of the game, leaving a greasy surface for the four quarters as North Launceston kicked with a slight breeze advantage to start the game. After some scrappy repeat stoppages, the Bombers managed a clean breakaway and with their first inside 50 of the game they scored a goal from a Jack Rushton soccer off the ground. North managed the next centre clearance and squeezed the Blues for territory with manic defensive pressure highlighted by a Josh Ponting smother.
The rest of the first quarter was played mostly between the arcs as even though Launceston managed to find the corridor frequently, they were unable to capitalise on the scoreboard going scoreless to the Bombers’ 1.2. (8). With the wet surface affecting clean disposal, the contest was physical with plenty of niggle including a cut to the head for ruckman Alex Lee. It all blew up as players were going to their huddles as fiery spot fires popped up after a couple of altercations with every player involved. Passion and feeling in spades which would carry through the rest of the contest.
The rain started to fall heavier to begin the second quarter as Launceston needed to respond, and that they did. A defensive-50 transition required just two kicks to find Jay Blackberry who sidestepped his way into an open goal to kick his side’s first. As the Bombers did after their first goal, the Blues got the very next centre clearance but instead managed to goal on the back of some Fletcher Seymour dash.
A 15-minute stalemate was broken as Hudson medallist Dylan Riley scored from directly in front after a Blackberry intercept just past half forward. With the Bombers only managing minor scores, the Blues enjoyed a seven-point lead at the main break.
North Launceston’s third quarters have been the best in the league all season and they were on display again as Tom Bennett slotted a goal from a free kick less than a minute in. A huge Rushton chase down tackle stopped an almost certain Launceston goal as the momentum started to tip in their favour. Bradley Cox-Goodyer’s raking left boot drilled a 50-metre set shot which gave them a goal buffer 20 minutes into the term. Harper and the Blues were having none of that as he finessed a check side in from 25 metres out on the boundary to bring it back to a one-point margin after the siren.
With the barest of separations, Launceston kicking with the slight wind advantage, and everything to play for, it was game on. The game started to open up, but it was North Launceston who struck first with a Jackson Callow kick off the ground going through. Playing coach Taylor Whitford had an opportunity to put the Bombers up two goals before the shot fell short into the breeze. Up the other end, Riley bodied Corey Nankervis in the one-on-one contest and snapped it through to bring the game back. It was goal for goal as Bennett replied with his second, and some Riley brilliance led to a second Blackberry goal.
With very little separating the two sides, it was going to take something special to give either side a two-score lead, and that is what they got. Harper plucked the ball out of the ruck contest at the top of the goal square and banged it through, an exclamation point to what was already a good day for him. With a seven-point lead 18 minutes into the final quarter, one more goal would seal it. Youngster Jared Dakin delivered the icing goal from the goal square as Launceston would become the 2020 premiers winning 8.4 (52) to North’s 5.9 (39).
Blackberry, Riley, and Michael Musicka starred alongside Harper, as Jamieson House and Jacob Boyd were instrumental down back for the Blues. The Bombers’ midfield brigade of Cox-Goodyer, Whitford, Ponting, and Lee were among their side’s best, while 17-year-old Baynen Lowe provided important contests around the ground.
NORTH LAUNCESTON 1.2 | 1.6 | 3.8 | 5.9 (39)
LAUNCESTON 0.0 | 3.1 | 4.1 | 8.4 (52)
North: T. Bennett 2, J. Rushton, B. Cox-Goodyer, J. Callow.
Launceston: J. Harper 2, D. Riley 2, J. Blackberry 2, F. Seymour, J. Dakin.
North: B. Cox-Goodyer, B. Lowe, T. Donnelly, T. Whitford, J. Ponting, A. Lee
Launceston: J. Harper, M. Musicka, T. Jones, D. Riley, F. Seymour, J. House
#16 Ollie Sanders
Sanders could not manage to get into the game in the first half playing between half-forward and wing but provided some good pressure in the second half. He halved a crucial contest through relentless pressure and was more active around contests, roving and disposing of it cleanly on one occasion.
#25 Jackson Callow
Callow made his way into the final 22 after being named on the extended bench as he seemed unhindered by the ankle injury he sustained which had the potential to rule him out for the season. Like he did for most of the year, he played a half at either end of the ground, tasked with the Mitch Thorp matchup early. He was not afraid to push Thorp back and put his solid frame to good use in the contest. He kept him goalless, but a turnover from a poor kick in the back half resulted in a Launceston goal. Moving to the other end of the ground he was a physical presence more than anything. House ensured he worked for his touches and made Callow worry about him more than his own game, often only engaging body rather than leading at the ball carrier. Even though he struggled to find space, he kicked a goal at a crucial time in the final quarter.
#64 Baynen Lowe
The 17-year-old Devonport product played mostly through the middle of the ground, starting on the wing before rotating through the centre bounces in the second half. Lowe’s physicality and pressure stood out as he showed good speed and defensive qualities, highlighted by a smother and a chase down tackle. His poise with ball in hand was impressive and even despite the slippery conditions, he showed good cleanliness in tight. A nice snap to set up a shot on goal was indicative of his sound decision-making as he was named second best in his side for his efforts.
#20 Jared Dakin
After playing on Whitford the last time these teams met there was feeling the same would happen again. Although he did not play a strict run with role, he played defensive at stoppages on Ponting much like his role last week. When play unravelled he managed to get to most contests and look for his own ball, earning a couple of clearances and showing strength to get a handball out. A quiet second half saw him kick the one goal, but it was the final one for his side as he capped off an impressive season.
#30 Isaac Chugg
Chugg assumed his natural half-back role and was serviceable in his side’s triumph. He was trusted with the kickout duties at times, but it was his run out of the back half which was is main mode of operation all game. Numerous times he ran past for the handball to rebound, but most impressively he did not just blaze away long. He found shorter and better targets. He did lose his direct opponent in traffic who goaled in the final quarter but nonetheless, a solid game.
Picture: Solstice Digital & Photography