North will be unchanged

By Phil Edwards, The Examiner

North Launceston coach Zane Littlejohn is highly likely to take an unchanged side into Saturday’s TSL grand final to the one that defeated Glenorchy by eight points in the second semi-final a fortnight ago.

The Northern Bombers will again play Alex Lee alongside Daniel Roozendaal with four senior grand final debutants making the cut in Connor Pearton, Jock White, Tarryn Thomas and Stephen Heppel.

Littlejohn said his side had a few things up their sleeve they might trial differently to the second semi-final as far as their game plan went.

“Finals footy has a unique way of winning finals footy,” he said.

“We try to pride ourselves around trying to play that really good brand of finals footy.

“We’ve done our research but we’re not sure how they will go yet or if they will make any changes from last week’s game against Burnie – Wilson didn’t play that game and I don’t know if he is in line to come in or what the go is so we will wait and see around that.

“We’ve got a few things we will trial or things we think might work on the day but again against a good side like Glenorchy you have to have your plan A, B and C set in place.

“And be able to be adaptable which is what we have been trying to work on all year.”

Glenorchy coach Aaron Cornelius said they had named a squad but had not finalised their line-up.

“We have one more training run to go and winning by such a large margin last week –  but it’s a different game this weekend against this opposition compared to last,” he said.

“If there are any changes it would only be because they play a different brand of footy.

“It would just be our four emergencies that might come into the mix Sam Hall, Trad Duggan, Caden Wilson and Luke Webb.”

Cornelius said having to travel to play the Northern Bombers at Aurora Stadium for the grand final did not faze his team.

“It’s another ground but obviously a different set-up having to travel but it is a state league so we’re prepared for that and we will be ready,” he said.

“It’s a great venue and is probably the best ground in Australia and has a great surface and is a similar size to here (KGV).

“We like playing on the best venues in the state and that’s probably the one. We’re looking forward to this weekend and the grand final is no different.”

Cornelius said he had a different team compared to last year’s grand final.

TSL decider has all the makings of a classic

By James Bresnehan, The Mercury

THE target on North ­Launceston’s back is bigger than ever, says coach Zane ­Littlejohn as the Bombers shoot for a historic TSL premiership three-peat against arch-enemy Glenorchy at Aurora Stadium tomorrow.

The Bombers will take the same 22 from the second semi-final – 13 premiership players from last year – into the grand final showdown against the team that has tested it more than any other this ­season.

Their past two games have been decided by four points in Glenorchy’s favour at Aurora in round 17 and eight points to North Launceston in the second-semi at Blundstone two weeks ago.

Littlejohn predicted ­another ripper.

“The round 17 game and the second-semi were both ball tearers and you’re going to get that when you’ve got two really good, ­really well-drilled sides, ­especially come grand final day when the rewards are massive,” Littlejohn said.

“After we won in 2014, I said to the group that we had a target on our back.

“It’s been on our back again this year and it’s bigger than before because teams want to beat the reigning premier ­regardless of where the reigning premier is on the ladder. Teams want to beat them.

“I have no doubt this weekend teams that don’t go for Hawthorn will be cheering on the Bulldogs because they don’t want to see the reigning premier win.

“It’s the same with us.”

North Launceston chose the same side that held off Glenorchy at Blundstone, which includes goal shooter Tom Bennett and ruckman Daniel Roozendaal, who both missed last year’s premiership.

“We want to show faith in the 22 who got the job done for us in the second-semi,” Littlejohn said.

“They worked super-hard last time to get us the result and we’ve put our faith behind them at selection that they can get the job done again.”

State co-captain Taylor Whitford would become one of the few players in Tasmanian football history to skipper three consecutive premierships at the top level if the Bombers get the triple treat.

“Our last two games have been rippers and I hope people get to the game and support footy in Tassie because it’s a pretty good brand at the ­moment,” Littlejohn said.

For the Magipies, the TSL grand final has turned hard luck story for teenager Brodie Rowbottom, who lost his place in the side to veteran Caden Wilson.

Born in 1999 – the last time Glenorchy won a statewide flag – Rowbottom’s exit and 28-year-old Wilson’s return is the only change from the Pies’ preliminary final annihilation of the Burnie Dockers last ­Saturday,

With a horses for courses mindset, the Magpies brought in Wilson and named Rowbottom, Sam Hall, Luke Webb and Trad Duggan as emergencies.

If it plays as named, Glenorchy will field 15 players from last year’s grand final side.

Bowden boys seek final redemption

By Adam Smith, The Mercury

THE Glenorchy Football Club has been a part of Jaye and Tyler Bowden’s life from the moment they were born and tomorrow they get another chance at adding to the family legacy.

The pair, sons of Pie great Michael, will be aiming for redemption in the TSL grand final against North Launceston at Aurora Stadium.

Michael played in seven consecutive Statewide grand finals from 1982-88, winning flags in 1983, ’85 and ’86, before coaching the club to SFL glory in 2008, the last year before the return of the State League.

Jaye, 27, played under Michael that year – he was also part of the 2007 premiership – but has since lost two TSL grand finals in 2009 and 2015.

For all the individual accolades the competition’s best player has been awarded, team success is what he craves the most and to do it alongside his younger brother would put the icing on the cake.

“Our family has always been massive with footy and at the Glenorchy footy club especially,” said Jaye, whose grandfather Roy also played in two Magpie premierships in the 1950s.

“Myself and Tyler have grown up around it, it’s natural so to speak. It’s been in our life since day one.

“It is special to play with Tyler, let alone have the opportunity to win a premiership with him.

“We had a chance last year and unfortunately didn’t quite get across the line.”

While Jaye has tasted premiership glory Tyler, 23, is still waiting for his chance, having been in the juniors in Glenorchy’s 2007-08 triumphs.

“We played a lot of footy growing up and have always been pretty close, we have a good friendship,” Tyler said.

“To be able to play in a grand final with Jaye is pretty special – if we won it would be amazing.”

Michael couldn’t be prouder of the achievements his sons have had on the field, but as any parent would agree it is what they are like off it which pleases him most.

“I’m just proud that they are good kids as well,” he said.

Premiership pain drives Glenorchy

By Adam Smith, The Mercury

THE last man to coach Glenorchy to a senior premiership is confident the club is primed to end an eight-year drought in Saturday’s TSL decider against North Launceston.

Michael Bowden, father of competition star Jaye and his brother Tyler, led the Pies to grand final glory in the SFL Premier League in 2008, the last season before the reintroduction of the State League.

A three-time premiership star with the Magpies in their glory years during the 1980s, Bowden, right, believes the black and white army has learned its lesson from the heartbreak of losing last year’s grand final to North Launceston.

“I think they are a bit better side this year. I thought last year North Launceston were the best side,” he said.

“At least this year they got to play each other twice. I think they got a false sense of security last year.

“This year Glenorchy is a bit stronger and North isn’t quite as strong as last year, but they are still a well-drilled side with [Zane] Littlejohn in charge.

“He is pretty switched on.”

The Pies had to reach the grand final the hard way after losing to North in the second semi a fortnight ago, but rebounded in emphatic fashion by hammering Burnie last weekend.

Bowden has no doubt they will be better for the run.

“I think they are pretty determined and hopefully they can make up for it.

“Having that extra game last week would have helped them, it’s been well documented that having the bye every second week for the last four weeks and then a game in between wouldn’t have been ideal.

“That match against Burnie will just top them off nice I reckon.”

Few people have the insight into Glenorchy’s chances as Bowden.

He was set to be at the helm of Glenorchy in the debut year of the TSL but stepped down less than eight weeks before the start of the season, with Ben Reid appointed to fill the void.

The Pies won through to the inaugural grand final and started favourites before crashing to Clarence, and they suffered a similar fate to the Bombers last year under Aaron Cornelius.

Cornelius has labelled the Bombers favourites but Littlejohn says the Glenorchy players are of the mindset that it is their game to lose.

Hoping for the big day

By Phil Edwards, The Examiner

It was going to be a nervous wait for selection to be finalised for this week’s State League grand final for six young North Launceston players.

Will Loone, 18, Arion Richter-Salter, 18, Jock White, 18, Tarryn Thomas,16, Connor Pearton, 18, and Stephen Heppel were all in contention to line up in the season decider against Glenorchy and were waiting on the coaches call.

Heppel and Thomas have been regulars in the senior side this season and seem assured of their position in defence and the midfield respectively but for the other four it was a matter of waiting to hear whether they had been successful in making the team for the biggest game of the year.

White captained the Scotch Oakburn College team in the SATIS firsts football grand final against St Patricks College this year and said he would welcome the opportunity to play if it presented itself.

“I’m really looking forward to the chance to play in what should be a tough game,” he said. “I played a few senior game last year but have had more this season.

“I’ll have to see how I handle the senior grand final nerves this week when I come to it but I have learnt a lot this year and being coached by Zane has been really good and hopefully I can run out there on Saturday.”

Loone is the younger brother of Tom who kicked the goal in the second semi-final against Glenorchy that gave North the lead in the dying minutes.

“It would be pretty exciting and special if I got a spot with an older brother in the team,” Loone said.  If all goes to plan and we are both playing it would be a pretty special day and one to remember.

“It will be pretty tough because there are probably seven other guys in line for the same role but if I got the opportunity I would make the most of it.”

Richter-Salter was hoping he would be lucky enough to grab a spot in the side in his first full year of senior footy.

“If the opportunity came up it would be great – I think I could handle the big occasion and it would be something I would look forward to and take it in my stride.”

First shot fired

By Phil Edwards, The Examiner

Another chapter in the North Launceston and Glenorchy State League rivalry will be written in Saturday’s grand final as the war of words over which team is favourite continued between the two coaches.

Glenorchy coach Aaron Cornelius was at pains in his preliminary final media conference to paint North Launceston as the best team in the state saying their second semi-final defeat was deja vu from last year’s grand final.

“Everyone has written us off and apparently we’re chokers. Why would we be the best team in the state when we just lost the game to get into the grand final to the best team in the state?” Cornelius said.

Northern Bombers coach Zane Littlejohn responded in his grand final press conference when asked if his team were the favourites this week having a home ground advantage and week off after being underdogs last year.

“Leading up to last week it probably sat pretty comfortably with me and then Aaron comes out and says he is more confident about winning this week compared to last week – and then they win that game by 94 points – so I would hate to think what he is going to do to us,” Littlejohn said.

“We are really excited about the opportunity to be able to defend our title and we’re comfortable as a footy club where we are. I’ve got no expectations on me as a coach and no expectation on our playing group to perform – we just want to make sure we go out and play it our way.”

Littlejohn said the Bombers had not discussed the possibility of making TSL history by winning three flags in a row but rather were focused on their processes.

“What we’ve spoken about is winning a premiership and giving ourselves the best opportunity – if we do win the game then three is the outcome. But I’ve said a fair bit it is about the process not the outcome – the outcome will take care of itself if you get the process right. We love playing the best sides and that is what we are going to have this week playing one of the best sides in Tassie.”

“They are well-coached and well-drilled and have been minor premiers for the last two years – to be in that situation I have no doubt they will be super hungry to make sure they get a premiership and probably the pressure is on them to make sure that happens.”

Littlejohn said his club had nothing to prove and were comfortable with what they had achieved in the past two seasons but his team had given themselves the opportunity to win another flag.

“They’ve been the minor premiers and there has been a lot of talk about Ace calling us the favourites which is fantastic if he wants to go that title but he probably needs to make sure his players understand the same because there are a lot of players in his camp who think it is theirs to lose so it will be a good challenge.

“It will be close – two good sides and it will be hard-fought between 44 players and whichever side can get the momentum at the right end of the time.

“I think it will be a fierce contest.”

Teen excited to be mixing it in the big league

By Simeon Thomas-Wilson, The Mercury

INITIATIONS to TSL finals footy do not come much tougher – or scarier – than Burnie hard nut Zane Murphy having a crack at you at West Park.

But North Launceston’s rising star Tarryn Thomas says he has learnt from the bruising welcome to State League finals action and is ready to help the Northern Bombers try to go three straight on Saturday.

The 16-year-old Prospect High School student has had a 2016 to remember.

Thomas made his State League debut for the dual-reigning premier, he was the Mariners’ best player at the National Championships and named the MVP in the Tasmanian under-16’s campaign.

And it could get even better if the Northern Bombers salute against Glenorchy in the TSL’s decider at Aurora Stadium on Saturday.

“It’s pretty exciting,” ­Thomas said yesterday.

“My friends are pretty jealous of me playing in a grand final at 16.”

But it has also been a year of learning for the prospect ­described as the equal of – if not better than – Tasmanian AFL stars Grant Birchall and Jack Riewoldt at the same age.

He found out how much of a different beast TSL finals footy was in the qualifying final when, after kicking a vital goal in the third quarter, he was involved in an off-the-ball incident with Murphy.

Thomas was thrown by the Dockers onballer onto the hard middle of the field at West Park. The action resulted in Murphy missing the first semi-final after being found guilty of rough conduct.

After the incident, a dazed Thomas had to be helped from the ground before coming back on and helping the Northern Bombers to the win.

In July, a recruiting scout for a high-profile Melbourne club said Thomas – who, as an indigenous player could be North Melbourne’s first gem gained from its Tasmanian AFL academy – was on the radar of several AFL clubs.

Thomas says it is his dream to get to the big league, but knows there is still a long way to go – starting with Glenorchy this Saturday.

“I just have to block it [the pressure] all out,” he said.

TWL Grand Final preview

Clarence v Burnie Dockers

In a repeat of the previous two Grand Finals, reigning Premier Clarence take on Burnie Dockers on the last Saturday of the TWL season. These two teams have clashed three times this season, with results sitting at one apiece for the regular season. Clarence were victors by 25 points in the Second Semi Final, with Burnie unable to score in the second half.

Both teams are jam packed with talent, with Burnie Dockers boasting two players with AFL experience in Emma Humphries and Ellyse Gamble, with draft hopeful Brit Gibson starring in her first season returning from injury.

Clarence’s Jacinta Limbrick and Zoie Crawford will be doing a lot of running through the midfield on a big ground while young gun Charlotte Kenny will rebound off half back all day.

The first half will be an exciting and fast paced game but expect the game to slow down on a big ground in the back half.

Burnie Dockers will be looking for redemption after the 2015 season, while Clarence will be looking to go back to back. This game is sure to go down to the wire.

D League Grand Final Preview

Glenorchy v Clarence

Glenorchy and Clarence have once again found themselves lining up against each other in the Development League Grand Final.

Glenorchy should go into the game as slight favourites after running out winners by 36 points in the Second Semi Final and being victors in 3 of the 4 games these two teams have played this season. Clarence was left to make the Grand Final the hard way, but defeated Launceston in a convincing Preliminary Final performance.

Both teams will be filled with senior talent, with Glenorchy’s Simon Spencer, Daniel Muir and Matt Rainbird all playing in the Second Semi victory over Clarence. Playing coach Mitchell Swan, and hard nosed midfielders Claude Alcorso and Jarrod Harper will try to use their experience in big games to get their team over the line.

In the Second Semi, top 10 competition goal kickers Luke Murfett-Cowen and Michael Blackburn only managed 3 goals between them and Glenorchy will once again be relying on Thomas Salter and Daniel Coppleman to shut these two important players out of the game.

Clarence will be setting themselves to go back-to-back, while Glenorchy will be trying to redeem themselves following last year’s Grand Final disappointment.

Don’t be surprised if this game is decided in the dying minutes of the game.

Bombers coach turns up heat on Pies

By Adam Smith, The Mercury

ZANE Littlejohn has launched a grenade into the build-up of Saturday’s TSL grand final, declaring Glenorchy coach Aaron Cornelius is delivering one message publicly while Pies players believe another.

The Bombers earned the north-of-the-state hosting rights for the decider at Aurora Stadium after winning the second semi-final a fortnight ago, upsetting the minor premiers at Blundstone Arena.

It left Cornelius declaring North as big favourites to capture a third straight flag – despite his side going 16-2 in the regular season and thumping Burnie last week – but Littlejohn isn’t convinced the belief is the same behind closed doors at KGV.

“They have been the minor premiers the last two years. To be in that situation, I have no doubt they will be super hungry to try to make sure they get a premiership,” Littlejohn said.

“Probably the pressure is on them to make sure that happens.

“They have been the minor premiers, there is a lot of talk about ‘Ace’ calling us the favourite, which is fantastic if he wants to go with that title.

“But he probably wants to make sure his players understand the same because there are a lot of players in their camp who think it’s theirs to lose.

“Leading up to last week it sat pretty comfortably with me [being favourites] but then Aaron comes out and says he is more confident winning this week than last week and they win that game by 94 points.

“I’d hate to know what he is going to do to us.”

Littlejohn, who will coach his last State League match before heading to AFL club Brisbane in a development role, also made no apologies for the way his troops conduct themselves on the field.

In both the second semi and last year’s grand final the Bombers managed to get under the skin of Glenorchy, drawing regular free kicks for ill-disciplined acts.

“We like to be a hard team to play against and we like to pride ourselves on that,” he said.

“We are the northern suburbs of the north of the state, the old nickname the ‘Swampies’ and we like to live and be proud of that.

“We won’t shy away from that, that’s for sure.”

Dual premiership star Bradley Cox-Goodyer, arguably one of the side’s chief antagonists, backed his coach’s view, declaring the players will do whatever it takes to succeed.

“That’s how we like to approach our footy, with a warfare mentality, do anything it takes to win. If that’s one way we can get under their skin and get an advantage, then yeah we will do it.”