By Brad Cole, The Advocate
A fresher and fitter Burnie team look set to make plenty of noise in the 2016 TSL finals series, starting on Saturday at West Park against North Launceston.
Coach Clinton Proctor admitted his team limped to the line last season, resulting in a preliminary final loss to the Bombers.
But with a turnover of players and a different approach to injury management this season, the Dockers enter the game in far better shape.
“There’s been a conscious effort behind the scenes in getting our timing right – we were pretty sore this time last year and patching a few guys up,” Proctor said.
“But it’s also come about with the transition of our list and getting more younger guys in our side like John Holland, Josh Handley and the Mitchell brothers (Nick and Tom), who are coming into their prime.
“The balance is much better and we have been cautious not to carry any injured players into a game this year and we’ve improved our record by one win.
“But this is a different season now and it all starts again.”
Proctor admitted forward Andrew Lee is all but out of the line-up after stomach pains forced him to hospital last weekend.
But he was confident the rest of his forward line, which contains six other players with over 15 goals to their name this year, will still function well.
“Lee kicked six last week but has only kicked 28 for the year, which shows he is not our only avenue to goal,” Proctor said.
“We’ve got a really good mix of goalkickers in the team and it will take a collective of them to get the job done on Saturday.
“Another strength of ours that we will have to show is the versatility of Jobi Harper, Rudy Barrett and the Walters boys (Nick and Harry) to play a little bit taller in the forward line.”
Rudy Barrett is one of many options the Dockers can use forward.
One surprising fact in North Launceston’s favour is their excellent record at West Park, which has recovered well from the winter deluge that saw plenty of the surface reduced to mud.
The Bombers have been able to win at the fortress both this year and last year, and Proctor knows opposition coach Zane Littlejohn will have his team enter the game with a siege mentality after their 10-goal loss a fortnight ago.
“It’s pretty evident that when they have their backs against the wall and things aren’t going their way, they find a way to get up and we respect that,” Proctor said.
“This time last year they lost to Devonport in the final round and to us in the first week of the finals then went on to win their second consecutive flag.”
Saturday’s game starts at 1.00pm.