Written by Alex FitzGerald
Glenorchy vs Launceston
Blundstone Arena – 1:00pm
Saturday 2nd September
2017 Encounters :
Launceston 16.5 (101) def Glenorchy 4.7 (31) (Round 9, Windsor Park)
Glenorchy 14.6 (90) def Launceston 12.12 (84) (Round 18, KGV Oval)
The Magpies will be pleased they’re not venturing to the North of the state this week, with the accurate Blues making surprisingly light work of them at Windsor Park when they met in Round 9. Glenorchy coach Aaron Cornelius described the Blues as one of the best sides in the competition prior to their rematch in Round 18, and the Blues won plenty of admirers in that game, conceding two late goals to just fall short of the fast-finishing Pies in one of the matches of the season.
Previous Finals Encounters:
Glenorchy (4th) – 12 wins/6 losses; 156%:
The Magpies started their season with four big wins, but then lost four matches in a row; all to the sides who ended up qualifying for the finals. Glenorchy had a stronger back half of the season, despite being decimated by injuries, to win eight of their final ten games against quality opponents. The boys from KGV have the ability to play at an elite level, as their healthy percentage shows but are undoubtedly racing the clock to field their best side in September. The Magpies love proving the doubters wrong, and may well do so as they strive to defend their 2016 flag against the other four sides who have lifted to match them in 2017.
Launceston (5th) – 9 wins/9 losses; 113%
Launceston have played solid football in patches this season, without blowing the socks off any opposition sides. Still, their performances against Glenorchy warrant attention, and the Blues did manage to limit the damage when going down to the other four sides playing finals, with their bravery and hardness at the contest in close matches unquestionable. With a strong mix of experience and talented youth, the Blues are seen by many as the dark horse of this year’s finals series, with coach Sam Lonergan repeatedly stating he believes his side can surprise teams and play deep into September.
Glenorchys’ Cameron Duffy and emerging Blue Hamish Leedham have been among the form big men of the competition, with Duffy’s form rewarded through his selection as the state ruckman earlier in the season. Leedham has turned heads with his physicality and presence in what has been a breakout season for the Launceston tall. With Duffy nursing an injured finger, the prospective duel between the two is evenly matched, and whoever gets on top to feed the ball to the midfielders will play a crucial role in the progression of his respective side.
Sonny Whiting has been a prominent feature in attack for Launceston this season, with the veteran leading forward booting 44 goals to finish the home and away season as the second highest goal kicker in the competition. Glenorchy is likely to play state representative defender Jordon Arnold on him, with the Magpie’s courage and spoiling ability crucial to negating Whiting, who has the strength and ability to play tall. A host of other defenders have played negating roles with great success this season, including Matthew Dilger, who will line up for his 150th match this weekend; as a result, Glenorchy has conceded the second-least points of top-five sides in 2017.
Both sides possess enviable midfields, with Glenorchy captain Brayden Webb, Mitch Rainbird, Rhys Mott and RACT Insurance Player of the Year Jaye Bowden all capable of racking up high numbers and using the ball well by foot. Launceston have their own power quartet however, with Sam Lonergan, Brodie Palfreyman, Jay Blackberry and Jake Hinds all in stellar form. The foot skills of Blackberry and Hinds are particularly damaging, with Hinds’ confidence to back his kicking seeing him break lines through the latter half of the season, and Blackberry earning the nickname ‘The Mailman’ due to his ability to always deliver.
Zac Webster, like many of his Glenorchy teammates, has had an injury-affected 2017, but has been damaging when on the park. The former Hawthorn-listed small forward doesn’t need to have a huge amount of the ball to cut teams apart, such is his vision and ball use. Webster is particularly skilled at finding targets inside attacking 50, and works hard both ways to find the ball in space. Having not faced the Blues this season due to injuries, Webster is a bit of an unknown for Launceston in that regard, and could be the wildcard in Glenorchy’s quest to remain in the hunt for back to back flags.
Not a lot needs to be said about Jaye Bowden, with not many sides able to quell his influence this season. Running a hard tag on the versatile superstar wouldn’t be the worst thing Launceston could do, if the nominated player can keep up with him.
Rulla Kelly-Mansell has been a nominated fire starter a number of times this season, with the high-leaping forward well and truly earning the title. RKM has the ability to kick goals at crucial times in matches, with his snap from the pocket at KGV Oval in Round 18 against the Magpies temporarily giving his side the lead in a hotly-contested final term. Launceston have trialled him further up the field in recent weeks, and if he lines up on a wing then a tantalising match up on Rhys Mott could be on the cards. With the uncanny knack of finding a way to produce the impossible, Kelly-Mansell must be guarded closely, as most of the games where he’s been quiet Launceston have fallen.
While Glenorchy would be the obvious choice here due to their win-loss record, recent finals history and current form, the Magpies still have an injury cloud overshadowing KGV Oval. Captain Brayden Webb, ruckman Cameron Duffy and the big-bodied Mitch Hills highlight the key inclusions, however regular best 22 players Josh Watts, Harrison Gunther and Tyler Bowden have all been named as emergencies, foreshadowing a number of possible late changes. Glenorchy’s pace is one of their strengths, and they showed in their last match up with Launceston the ability to move the ball quickly with damaging results.
The Blues matched North Launceston for most of their Round 21 encounter, and will be armed with plenty of confidence heading into this match. The returns of the tough Sam Rundle, playing coach Sam Lonergan and emerging defender Jimmy Aganas bolster the visiting side, giving Launceston a real chance to knock off the reigning premiers on Saturday.
Curtailing the Magpies’ key playmakers and not letting Glenorchy kick a string of consecutive goals is integral to the outcome of this match, but the Blues have emerged from a month of tough games well-conditioned for finals football and are well-poised to cause an upset on Saturday. A tight contest all day; Launceston by 14.
Clarence vs Lauderdale
Blundstone Arena – 3:45pm
Saturday 2nd September
Clarence 19.7 (121) def Lauderdale 13.11 (89) (Round 3,Blundstone Arena)
Clarence 14.7 (91) def Lauderdale 11.7 (73) (Round 12, Lauderdale Oval)
Clarence 9.10 (64) def Lauderdale 9.9 (63) (Round 20, Blundstone Arena)
The already-fierce Eastern shore rivalry has gone to a new level this season, with Clarence having inflicted three of Lauderdale’s five losses to be the only side the Bombers haven’t toppled in 2017 to date. All matches have been physical encounters, with Lauderdale closing the gap every time they have met, culminating in a one point margin when the red hot teams last met in Round 20.
Previous Finals Encounters:
Clarence 17.14 (116) def Lauderdale 14.14 (98) (1st QF, 2013, Blundstone Arena)
The 2013 Qualifying Final was a fiery one, with several reports coming out of the clash. Current Roos Jeromey Webberley and Jake Cox were among the best for the victors, while a young Thor Boscott impressed for Lauderdale.
Clarence 16.11 (107) def Lauderdale 14.8 (92) (1st QF, 2012, North Hobart Oval)
The first final between these sides went down to the wire, with present-day small forward Trent Standen the difference, as he booted six goals to help Clarence get across the line. Lauderdale have only four current players remaining on their lists who pulled on a guernsey in this match, while the Roos still boast a formidable eight.
Clarence (2nd) – 14 wins/4 losses; 135%:
After failing to make a finals appearance in 2016, the Roos started their season with a bang, winning their first five matches, before stumbling against the Hobart City Demons in the wet by the slimmest of margins. Another impressive six game winning streak followed, but a string of injuries to key players saw Clarence drop three of their final six matches, albeit against sides inside the top four. With the Round 18 loss to North Launceston the only blowout concern all season, and with a host of players fresh after being rested last week, Clarence are heading into September ready to make an impact.
Lauderdale (3rd) – 13 wins/5 losses; 143%
After a slow start, the Bombers pieced together an eyebrow-raising six game streak, defeating Glenorchy and North Launceston along the way. A loss to Clarence sidelined the juggernaut momentarily, but the boys from the tip bounced back to put together seven high-scoring wins in a row until they again went down to the Roos, this time by a solitary point. Arguably the form side of the competition alongside North Launceston, Lauderdale head into the finals after the bye, with the much-needed break ensuring coach Darren Winter has a full-strengthsquad at his disposal for a charge at September. The Bombers have been finals regulars but a top three finish is new to them, giving Winter perhaps his best crack at a flag yet.
Jake Cox has been a thorn in Lauderdale’s side both times he played against them this season, kicking a combined eight goals from an attacking wing position. Capable of turning a match in a matter of minutes, the Bombers may need to consider sacrificing a playmaker such as Josh McGuinness in an attempt to quell his influence. But will that rob Peter to pay Paul?
With rebounding defender Keegan Wylie likely to miss after suffering a head knock in Round 21, the structure and organisation Jason Bailey provides to the Roos defence will be crucial for Clarence. Alex Hill is one Lauderdale forward with defensive attributes who may go to Bailey, with his presence and contested marking skills likely to keep Bailey honest all afternoon.
The midfield battle will be a treat for supporters, with both sides boasting onballers in form. Bomber Bryce Walsh has had a sensational season, but Gabby Chambers has performed admirably in his run-with roles on the Lauderdale captain so far this season and expect him to head to him at the first bounce. Teenage inside midfielder Nat Franklin has been Lauderdale’s best in two of the three encounters between these sides this year, with Brady Jones a chance to stand him. Expect to see damaging Roo Jackson O’Brien and ball-winning Bomber Dylan Fyfe spend some time on each other around the stoppages as well.
Veteran small forwards Trent Standen and Ian Callinan have been a big part of Clarence’s resurgence this season, booting 68 goals between them in 2017. Standen has a bag of seven under his belt this year, and his ability to remain dangerous is a concern for oppositions sides, with just one goalless match to his name. Callinan has the uncanny knack for finding space and kicking back to back goals in a hurry, as he showed against the Bombers in Round 12 when he slotted three in the first quarter alone. Neither can be given an inch anywhere near the attacking 50.
Thor Boscott has had an outstanding season to date, booting 41 goals from half forward while also spending time in the midfield and cutting sides apart with his clearance work. As damaging in the air as he is at ground level, Boscott has proven he’s more than a human highlight reel, earning 13 RACT Player of the Year Award votes and gaining selection in the state squad. Boscott announced himself to casual TSL observers with a nine-goal haul against the Tigers in Round 15, but most fans are well aware of his presence and ability. Tim Castle played well in defence on him last time these sides met, but with Boscott able to switch into a midfield role, he’ll have to be guarded closely if Clarence want to negate the exciting Bomber’s game winning ability.
This is the most anticipated match of the season to date, with Round 20’s nailbiting result a suitable entree for what will undoubtedly be an afternoon full of talking points. Clarence’s 2016 best and fairest winner Jack Gleeson found himself in hot water in that game, with an appeal sensationally reducing a two-game penalty that would have likely seen him de-registered for meeting the mandatory 16 game threshold. Clarence Coach Jeromey Webberley also voiced displeasure on Lauderdale breaking a coach-code in bringing the incident to the attention to the MRP; it’s fair to say there is no love lost when these sides take the field.
Both sides will bring in players who have been integral to their success this season. Clarence regain Standen, midfielders Gleeson and Jackson O’Brien, and defenders Jason Bailey and James Holmes. Lauderdale will benefit from the inclusions of speedy outside midfielders Robbie McManus and Rhys Sutton, as well as young tall Ben McGuinness. Tough onballer Phil Bellchambers plays his 100th game for the Bombers against a side he has found plenty of the ball against in season 2017.
While Clarence clearly has the wood on Lauderdale this season, the margins have been narrowed and the combined scores lower each subsequent time they’ve squared off. With fresher legs and greater overall firepower up forward, Lauderdale should be able to break through and claim a hard-fought victory on Saturday, but if the history between these two sides is anything to go by, the result will be anything but a blowout. Neck and neck for four quarters, but at the siren; Lauderdale by 14.
$10 Adult/$5 Concession – Includes both matches (Blundstone Arena Double Header)
THIS WEEK’S MERCURY CUP MATCHES
North Launceston v Hobart City Demons – 1:00PM @ UTAS Stadium
Will the Northern Bombers march on in September or can the travelling Hobart City Demons keep their flag hopes alive?
Clarence v Tigers – 10:30AM @ Blundstone Arena
Both sides have been in red hot form, but can the Tigers limit the impressive Clarence forward line and book themselves a Preliminary Finals berth?