DESPITE many leagues falling victim to a COVID-interrupted season, the Tasmanian State League (TSL) has managed to avoid these hurdles, and have reached their final match of the season. The grand final will take place at the University of Tasmania Stadium on Sunday afternoon, with the Launceston Blues and the North Launceston Bombers set to lock horns and resume their rivalry in what should be a heated contest.
Launceston defeated North Launceston in last year’s grand final, and were the dominant team throughout the home-and-away season, so many expected them to cruise to a second consecutive flag. This all changed when the Bombers sent shockwaves across the league by upsetting the reigning premiers in the semi-finals, booking their ticket straight to the big dance, while causing some nerves amongst Blues fans. Launceston were forced to take the long route to the grand final, taking on Clarence in a preliminary final, a side who had proved too much at times during the season. The class of the Blues was able to shine through as they took the Roos apart, storming away with a 52-point win, setting up a rematch of last year’s grand final.
Given the cross-town rivalry between the two sides, there is sure to be plenty of fireworks at various stages of the match. Last year’s decider saw an all-in melee on the quarter time siren, and there is a strong possibility of similar scenes in this match.
North Launceston will be benefited by the services of 2021 Alistair Lynch medallist Brad Cox-Goodyer, who has proved time and time again, he can lead by example and drag his side to crucial victories. His ability to not only find the ball, but kick bags of goals is unparalleled across the league, and Launceston would be wise to put some time into curving his influence. Another dangerous weapon for this side is midfielder Jay Foon, who has had some impressive outings against the Blues, including 28 disposals, nine clearances and two goals in Round 8 of this season. One of the league’s premier extractors, Foon could play a big role in driving his side to a flag.
Launceston will welcome playing-coach Mitch Thorp back into the team, replacing suspended brother Cody, and the ex-Hawk will need to play a crucial role ahead of the ball as a leading target. Jay Blackberry can also wreak havoc across the half-forward line, and was voted the best player of the season by the media, so he should feature prominently for the Blues, while Jake Hinds has the ability to not only find plenty of the ball, but seriously hurt the opposition when he uses it. Hinds is one of the league’s star midfielders, so there’s a strong chance the Bombers will pay close attention to him.
For fans of the sport and the league, this is a mouth-watering clash. A rematch of last year’s decider between two traditional rivals and the league’s two best sides, this match could go either way and should prove necessary viewing on Sunday afternoon.
Picture credit: Craig George