The Blues’ last home game at Windsor Park for the season and the final home and away fixture for 2017, saw them host old rivals North Launceston as the club celebrated the ten year anniversary of the 2007 premiership as well as the 150th game for one of the players from that side in Nathan O’Donoghue. With veterans Sam Lonergan, Sam Rundle and Cam Downie missing, as well as key defender Jimmy Aganas, the Blues welcomed back Casey Brown and James Gillow from school representative commitments as well as fellow youngsters Alec Wright, and Ethan Conway who came in for his first game of the season after showing consistent form in the Mercury Cup this year. It made for a youthful line up for Launceston, with no less than nine teenagers taking to the field against the Bombers.
To their credit they stuck with the minor premiers for three quarters before the Northern Bombers kicked clear in the last quarter, with Launceston down to two rotations on the bench. Casey Brown has been a fixture in the best for the Blues all season and his return to the side on Saturday was no exception. The youngster showed great tenacity at the contest and had 11 disposals, 3 spoils, 6 tackles and also set up some of the play with 3 inside 50s. Jack Donnellan had 12 disposals, 5 marks and 5 tackles, and Stewart Williams 15 disposals, 5 marks and 4 spoils. Teenage full back Simon Vandervelde managed to keep star key forward Bart McCulloch goalless, which means he’s now kept Mitch Hills, Mitch Thorp and McCulloch goalless in consecutive games since returning to the side.
Draft hopeful Jake Hinds showed his range on the weekend, playing in multiple roles throughout the game and doing well in each. He had an equal team high 22 disposals and a goal. Brodie Palfreyman continued his outstanding season despite receiving plenty of close attention, he equalled Hinds’ team high 22 disposals while also having a team high 8 clearances, as well as 6 tackles, 4 inside 50s and a goal. Joe Boyce was also excellent through the midfield with 19 disposals and 7 clearances, while it was another day at the office for the ever consistent Jay Blackberry who had 21 disposals, 3 clearances, 11 tackles and a goal.
Rulla Kelly-Mansell had 16 disposals and a team high 5 inside 50s, while Connor Smith pinch hit in the midfield and had 15 disposals and 2 clearances. James Gillow kicked two goals on his return from school representative football, while Sonny Whiting was Launceston’s other multiple goal kicker with two as well. While Brendan Taylor showed a real appetite for the contest with 10 tackles and 15 of his 20 possessions being contested.
The Blues can now look forward to finals football for the first time since 2013 and will face Glenorchy at Blundstone Arena at 1pm on Saturday in an elimination final. The two sides have split their two previous meetings this season, with the most recent being a six point win for Glenorchy in a thriller at KGV in round 18.
North Launceston 14.11.95
Launceston goals: Gillow 2, Whiting 2, C. Sheppard, Palfreyman, O’Donoghue, Hinds, Blackberry
Launceston best: Brown, Boyce, Hinds, Donnellan, Savage, Leedham
By Josh Giblin