Launceston welcomes back banned Bomber

Simeon Thomas-Wilson, Mercury

LAUNCESTON will announce its senior coach for the 2017 TSL season today, with former Essendon player Sam Lonergan to return to the role after his 12-month ban.

Lonergan, who played 79 games for Essendon, was set to coach and play for the Blues this year. But along with 33 of his former Bomber teammates, he was banned by the Court of Arbitration for Sport from January 13 to November 13 as a result of the club’s supplements scandal.

Launceston’s assistant coach for the past two years Chris Hills took the reins of the Blues in Lonergan’s absence, but the Mercury understands the former Bomber will be announced today as the club’s coach for the 2017 season.

While they were banned by the CAS until November 13, the Essendon players were allowed to return to their clubs – having been barred from entering them as they served their suspension – on September 14.

Last month Launceston president Paul O’Donoghue indicated the club was keen on Lonergan returning as senior coach of the club he played for as a junior for next season.

But while Lonergan is set to regain his livelihood, the fallout for the 34 players as a whole looks to not be over just yet. Several of the banned players have lodged claims for compensation from Essendon and the AFL over the club’s disastrous 2012 supplements program.

Lonergan’s fellow Tasman­ian, ruckman Tom Bellchambers, is understood to have been one of the players who has settled with the club so far.

Lonergan returning to Launceston leaves just three TSL clubs without a senior coach for next year.

Applications for beaten grand finalist North Launceston and the Tigers close on Friday, while Lauderdale and Darren Winter are still to make a decision if he will coach next year.

 

Development League may grow

By Simeon Thomas-Wilson, Mercury

THE TSL’s Development League is likely to stick to its make-up next year but plans are afoot to increase the number of clubs from seven.

TSL general manager Carl Saunder said now the season was over he would meet clubs to discuss a range of issues, with the future of the reserves competition a priority.

After the Prospect Hawks’ TSL licence was withdrawn — adding to Burnie and Devonport choosing to field teams in the NWFL — the future of the Development League has looked unclear with a make-up of five southern teams and two northern ones.

Some club officials favour playing TSL reserve teams in regional leagues but Saunder said the Development League would continue.

“We will obviously look at how we can improve the ­Development League,” he said.

“We are suspecting the 2017 Development League will be a seven-team competition and from there we can build ­towards what we want it to be.”

Saunder also said he would investigate increased broadcast opportunities for the TSL, with live streaming a game a week a possibility.

After broadcasting of State League games ceased in 2011 due to a funding dispute with the ABC, the TSL began to live stream games online in late July.

Saturday’s grand final ­between Glenorchy and North Launceston at Aurora Stadium had a peak audience of 850 in the third quarter.

Saunder said the competition would discuss how games could be regularly broadcast next season.

“Certainly we think there’s scope for broadcasting a live stream,” he said.

“Whether it’s a game a week, that’s still to be worked around, but what we found this year was that it also gave clubs the chance to engage with their fans if they were playing outside their region.”

Last year in the Tasmanian State League Review Report, presented by then general manager Shaun Young to clubs, AFL Tasmania indicated it wanted to have major sponsor Southern Cross Television broadcast one live match every week of the season.

However, this was expected to cost about $400,000 to $450,000 and clubs were likely to be asked to invest in the project.

A super contribution

By Rob Shaw, Examiner

With his side-parted, short, black hair and broad-rimmed spectacles, there’s more than a touch of the Clark Kents about Zane Littlejohn.

But even Superman eventually ran out of sequels in which to save the day.

After two State League flags, the superpowers finally ran out in a third straight grand final, but Littlejohn flies off into the Queensland sunset with both a proud record and universal respect.

Like another diminutive North Launceston thinker, Brendon Bolton, Littlejohn leaves the venue formerly known as York Park for the AFL with modest playing credentials but a coaching style deserving of a higher stage.To watch the 30-year-old coach his beloved Bombers for the last time was as enthralling as anything going on the other side of the boundary line.

In contrast to the stereotypical image of an excitable leader alternating between raising fists in celebration and smashing them through walls in frustration, Littlejohn prefers observation over obscenity. Even as the contest swung towards Glenorchy with the premiership quarter living up to its name, he remained passive, quietly dispatching instructions to runners and sharing ideas with assistants. Inside must have been a washing machine of emotions but outside was a picture of composure.

When the three-quarter time siren sounded, North were 20 points down and the three-peat looking as likely as the AFL’s Four-thorn.

Coaches’ on-field addresses are usually considered off limits for newspaper reports but I figured as this was Littlejohn’s last it would not betray any confidence.

His teaching background was instantly apparent. Not only did he speak comfortably to a gathering but they hung on his every word.

This must be what it’s like to be taught by Mr Littlejohn.

Again, unlike so many in the coaching game, there was a lack of either swearing or volume.

“Do what you do best,” he implored his players. “Don’t hope for it to happen, make it happen.”

It had more than a few shades of Hawthorn coach John Kennedy’s infamous motivational address: “Don’t think, do”, but it was similarly inspiring.

“Don’t wait for Taylor Whitford, don’t wait for Daniel Roozendaal, youmake it happen.”

With his most trusted lieutenants like Roozendaal, Whitford and Brad Cox-Goodyer front and centre, Littlejohn reminded his men that their shared six-year journey was not over yet.

And it was entirely appropriate that a teacher should make a literary reference to conclude his final address.

“Continue to write the chapter how you want,” he added.

Ultimately, neither side won the final quarter. The teams went goal for goal, point for point, to maintain the same 20-point margin between them at the final siren.

If the mark of a man is not how he deals with triumph, but adversity, then Littlejohn passed that test.

As the visiting bench exploded in joyous celebration, the home side’s coach continued to take in the scene before strolling out to console his players.

His only departure was to break into a run to make sure he reached Aaron Cornelius for a congratulatory handshake before his opposite number was swallowed up in a whirlpool of black and white celebrations.

Gathering his shattered players, their faces dampened by tears as well as sweat, Littlejohn implored them to: “Carry ourselves in the professional way we have developed over six years.”

That they did, Whitford particularly impressive as he paused during an emotional losing captain’s address to encourage his opponents to enjoy what he said would be the best time of their lives.

The rest of the day had hit a similarly appropriate tone, witnessing, as it did, the best and worst aspects of what remains arguably Tasmanian sport’s most iconic annual event.

A well-attended pre-match function played host to some impeccable timing as Premier Will Hodgman and treasurer Peter Gutwein walked in on Robert Auld’s address just as the new AFL Tasmania CEO was praising the sport’s state government support.

However, it also served to help demonstrate the outdated folly of retaining the state’s highest individual footy honour as part of a distracted luncheon.

If ever there was a conclusive argument for giving the Alastair Lynch Medal it’s own Brownlow-style occasion, it was perennial front-runner Jaye Bowden not only being otherwise occupied when announced as winner before the game but also collecting the accolade afterwards only to admit, with commendable honesty, that the medal he truly coveted was the premiership one to follow.

Expect this year to be the last for the award’s current format.

Auld’s address continued the new AFL Tasmania theme of openness and consultation but reluctance to simply avoid rocking the boat. He concluded: “I don’t want for us to take the path of least resistance because if we do the destination will be mediocrity.”

It was a suitably profound statement on a day when 6128 supporters farewelled the state’s latest AFL aspirant.

Littlejohn leaves North Launceston and Tasmanian football healthier for his involvement.

He’d make an ideal first coach for a Tasmanian  AFL team. But that’s about as likely as the rest of Superman’s comic book storylines.

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Academy headhunts premiership coach

By James Bresnehan, The Mercury

THE premiership credentials of Aaron Cornelius have made the Glenorchy mastermind front runner to take a $100,000 job with the Simon Black Australian Rules Academy as its coach in the state’s south next year.

“Ace” Cornelius, 26, was still in celebration mode yesterday after Glenorchy pulled off a remarkable premiership victory against the TSL’s most successful club, North Launceston — three consecutive grand finals for two flags — at Aurora Stadium on Saturday.

Having to skip some of Glenorchy’s Sunday celebration session at KGV for his cousin’s wedding, Cornelius said: “I’m just really proud of the guys.

“All of the players played their roles and we got a great welcome back to the club with the cup.

“It’s great reward for everyone’s hard work.

“I had a lot of players came up to me last night and say they now understand why I ride them so hard. You do those things because of what they accomplished yesterday as a group.”

Cornelius said the Simon Black academy role was on his radar.

“I’ll sit down with the footy club and hopefully we can work something out that will allow me to do both — the academy role and coach Glenorchy,” he said.

“I don’t know how I will be able to fit those two things in but hopefully we might be able to work something out.”

North Launceston is also in the market to replace its coach Zane Littlejohn, who is off to Brisbane in November to take up his new role as Brisbane Lions’ development coach, possibly under another Tasmanian, Hawthorn football boss Chris Fagan, who is touted as the front runner to replace Justin Leppitsch.

Simon Black’s academy could also have a hand in finding North Launceston’s new man in a dual role.

“If the new coach comes along and it’s something that aligns with the club role, it’s a possibility,” Littlejohn said.

Award Winners

TSL Volunteer of the Year
Tony Bell – Devonport Football Club

DL Leading Goal Kicker
Logan Barker – North Launceston Football Club (55 goals)

TWL Leading Goal Kicker
Brittany Gibson – Burnie Dockers Football Club (55 goals)

Hudson Medal – TSL Leading Goal Kicker
Jaye Bowden – Glenorchy District Football Club (74 goals)

Matthew Richardson Medal – TSL Rookie of the Year
Toutai Havea – Lauderdale Football Club

Eade Medal – DL Best and Fairest
Paul Hudson – Lauderdale Football Club

TWL Best and Fairest
Brittany Gibson – Burnie Dockers Football Club

Alastair Lynch Medal – TSL Best and Fairest
Jaye Bowden – Glenorchy District Football Club

DL Best on Ground 
Jarrod Harper – Clarence Football Club

TWL Best on Ground 
Ellyse Gamble – Burnie Dockers Football Club

Baldock Medal – TSL Best on Ground
Clinton French – Glenorchy District Football Club

Premiership Coach Medal
Aaron Cornelius – Glenorchy District Football Club

Most Promising Goal Umpire
Ferne Callaghan

Most Improved Goal Umpire
Matthew Purdon

Goal Umpire of the Year
Dylan Geeves

Most Promising Boundary Umpire
Lochlan Bromfield

Most Improved Boundary Umpire
Lucas Chamberlain

Boundary Umpire of the Year
Adam Reardon

Most Promising Field Umpire
Tom McIntee

Most Improved Field Umpire
Declan Waddington

Field Umpire of the Year
Nic Saltmarsh

Littlejohn sad farewell to Bombers

By James Bresnehan, The Mercury

IT will hurt Zane Littlejohn to leave the club that has been his second home for five years but he packs his bags for Queensland proud of his achievements at North Launceston.

After finishing eighth in 2012 and ’13, Littlejohn masterminded three grand final appear­ances and two premierships in his past three years as Bombers coach.

They were unsuccessful in landing a third flag against Glenorchy at Aurora Stadium on Saturday, but the 30-year-old heads to his new job as Brisbane Lions development coach pleased with the impact he has had at the Bombers.

“Yes, it’s going to hurt when I leave,” he said.

“I said to my wife this morning, that’s the biggest disappointment in my time at the club, having to leave.

“When I first got the job I had a two-year contract. I wanted to leave the place in a better spot than I first found it.

“Whether I had an influence on just one person, that would be a win for me, I never expected playing in three grand finals and winning two of them.

“It has been a whirl wind of emotions, especially after the game.

“I’ve made a lot of good friends at this place and being coach has given me a lot of great opportunities.

“This will be home for a long time. It’s a special footy club and I’m proud of playing some part in helping them get back to the top of Tassie footy.”

Littlejohn’s proudest ­moments were winning TSL premierships in 2014 and ’15.

“To see the joy on people’s faces in ’14 and ’15, not just the players but the people who have been around this football club a lot longer than I have, is something I will never forget,” he said.

“I have no doubt people are saying that’s probably the end of North Launceston but it has never been about me.

“This playing group will stick together, I’m pretty sure, and hopefully we will see them back up the top again.”

Littlejohn has a daughter on the way next month and will be in Brisbane in time to take the Lions’ first-year to third-year players for preseason in ­November.

Meanwhile, Bombers ruckman Daniel Roozendaal has announced his retirement from the TSL.

Flag success finally for Mott and Reynolds

By Brad Cole, The Advocate

The road to premiership glory has been a long and painful one for former North-West Coast pair Rhys Mott and Ben Reynolds.

Between the two of them there had been seven failed attempts, all of which were in black and white jumpers.

Reynolds went through the agony of Devonport’s three consecutive NWFL grand final losses from 2004-2006, with Mott joining him for the TSL disappointment in 2010 and Glenorchy’s shock loss to North Launceston last year.

But after the Magpies atoned for last season’s result with 20-point win on Saturday, the relief on both their faces was plain for all to see.

“It’s been a long time coming, so it’s a pretty special moment,” Reynolds said after the game.

“I was surprised the final quarter was so short – I thought there was still a couple more minutes to go –  so when that final siren went I was pretty relieved.”

“When it got to that 26-minute mark, I was hoping the siren would go and go and go, but what an unreal feeling at the moment” Mott added.

After another outstanding season, which saw him named captain in the TSL’s team of the year, Reynolds almost made it a perfect year with a runner-up finish behind teammate Clinton French in the voting for the Darrel Baldock medal for best afield in the grand final.

With North Launceston bombing the ball regularly into its forward line, Reynolds dominated in the air to repel the attacks and send his team forward.

“I just wanted to defend well and back myself that if the ball was in the air I could mark it,” Reynolds said.

“The way the game panned out it probably played into my hands.”

Mott had a quiet first half as both teams found goals hard to come by, but worked his way into the game in the second half as Glenorchy made their move.

He believed the semi-final loss to the Bombers a fortnight earlier had helped his team in the long run.

“The result in the semi-final was probably the best thing that happened to us in the end,” Mott said.

“It sharpened us up a bit because we were undisciplined, but today we done everything right and we know when we play our best footy we’re the best team.”

There was no fairytale finish however for outgoing North Launceston coach Zane Littlejohn as he prepares for his new role with the Brisbane Lions.

“That’s the beauty about sport – it can be a killer or you can write some fairytales at times,” Littlejohn said.

“I said when I got the job that I wanted to leave it (the club) in a better place that I found it and I hope I have done that –  it would have been nice to have won a a premiership today but unfortunately that wasn’t the result.”

Moving on

By Phil Edwards, The Examiner

Zane Littlejohn will head to Brisbane to take up his new AFL development coaching role by early November.

Littlejohn was able to secure the position with the help of contacts at the AFL Coaches Association and flew to Brisbane for talks after the Northern Bombers round 19 clash against Launceston in early August.

“Greg Hutchinson passed my name on to Brisbane and from there I got a phone call from Justin Leppitsch and Matty Francis and before I knew it I was up there having a meeting two weeks later and was offered a position,” he said.

Littlejohn has signed a three-year contract with the football club independent of who the new Lions coach will be.

“I love to continue to learn and challenge myself and others to step outside our comfort zones and this is a new challenge for myself and my family.

“It is something we are really excited about and have worked hard for and it was always a goal of mine to try to get into the AFL system.”

Littlejohn said his role could change depending on the new coach but expects to be a skill development coach working with first-year players and getting them ready to play AFL football. On match days he will work with their reserves side in the NEAFL competition.

“It is about continuing to challenge myself and learn and get inside the four walls of the Brisbane Lions and what comes after my three years I don’t know – I just want to sink my teeth in and leave my mark there in a positive way.

“I want to be a listener and obviously try to provide something for them and leave a bit of myself with that footy club regardless of whether I do three years,10 years or 20 years.

“Let’s hope it can lead to something else – I would love to one day be in the Brendon Bolton situation but there is a lot of water to go under the bridge before any of that happens so I just want to focus on doing my role really well.”

Littlejohn said the Lions started pre-season training on November 7, which was when his contract started but it would ultimately depend on whoever was appointed senior coach when he wanted his staff in place.

He said he was proud of what he had been able to achieve as North Launceston coach – a club with a proud 120-year history.

“I am indebted to the club being senior coach for five years and having been here nine years all up which is nearly a third of my life. I owe them more than they owe me after giving me the opportunity to coach.

“If I could choose a club to bring my boy through to play his footy it would definitely be at this footy club.”

Littlejohn and wife Kat met at the club and are expecting their second child at the end of October, a sister for two-year-old son Boyd.

Baldock Medal to Clinton French

By Phil Edwards, The Examiner

Glenorchy’s Clinton French capped off a dream day claiming a premiership medal and the Darrel Baldock Medal as best on ground in the grand final for his four-goal effort in a low-scoring game.

“It was fantastic that we got over the line after the disappointment of last year but we got the chocolates and that is all that matters and it will be a big couple of days – we all worked pretty hard for this,” French said.

“I went up to Benny (Reynolds) and said it was him or me for the medal and we should have cut it in half or whatever and he was fantastic and everyone was fantastic and they all played a role.”

French was the only multiple goalkicker of the grand final kicking one in the first quarter, two in the third and one in the last.

Teammate Ben Reynolds was unlucky not to take home the Baldock Medal after an outstanding game in defence with French pipping him by just one vote.

Magpies gain flag revenge

By Phil Edwards, The Examiner

Glenorchy are the 2016 State League premiers after dethroning dual reigning premier North Launceston by 20 points in a low-scoring and high pressure grand final at Aurora Stadium.

In a tight arm-wrestle the Magpies led by four points at quarter time and the Northern Bombers by six at half-time with both teams managing only three goals apiece for the first half.

But the third term lived up to its reputation as the premiership quarter with Glenorchy grabbing the momentum in the game and banging on five goals to one to take a 20-point lead at the final change.

No one would ever write North Launceston off under coach Zane Littlejohn but with only one goal apiece kicked in the final quarter the Northern Bombers were unable to find the goals they needed to stage a fightback eventually surrendering the premiership cup in a 9.6 (60) to 5.10 (40) defeat.

The Southern Magpies were the better team in the second half kicking six goals to North’s two and deserved their grand final victory and their revenge for an eight-point loss in the 2015 decider.

It was Glenorchy’s first flag since 2008 in the SFL and broke a 17-year statewide drought with their last premiership coming in 1999.

Clinton French kicked four goals in a best on ground performance to claim the Darrel Baldock Medal just pipping teammate Ben Reynolds who was outstanding in defence all day.

The Pies had more contributors when it counted with Mitch Rainbird, Brayden Webb, Jaye Bowden, Tom Cleary and Mitch Hills other good players.

“North Launceston missed a few opportunities which kept us in the game and we hadn’t played our brand of footy and we spoke about it at half-time not having any passengers and guys attacking their tackles and they certainly lifted in the second half,” Glenorchy coach Aaron Cornelius said.

“French was fantastic and Benny Reynolds was tremendous and I thought Benny and Jaye kept us in the game – in the end I knew it would take 22 players to beat North Launceston and I think that certainly happened in the second half.”

North Launceston captain Taylor Whitford led from the front and was outstanding for North with Tarryn Thomas and defenders Jay Foon and Corey Nankervis other good players.

“Same amount of scoring shots but probably early in the game we didn’t capitalise on opportunities and put the score on the board,” Littlejohn said.

“Our effort and intensity at the contest early was good but we didn’t grab it went we needed to grab it and didn’t have enough contributors in the second half to be able to get the game.”