It was a hard old slog at Devonport Oval, with an extremely wet and muddy surface coupled with strong and swirling winds, making for some of the toughest conditions anyone involved will ever play in. Launceston lost Casey Brown and last week’s debutant Tim Auckland to school representative football commitments and Jake Smith to injury, while welcoming back veterans Nathan O’Donoghue and Cam Downie and defender Jack Donnellan.
The Blues kicked two goals in each of the first two quarters while remarkably keeping Devonport scoreless for the half to build up what turned out to be a match winning lead. The Magpies came out strongly in the second half to match it with Launceston but the Blues were able to maintain their 27 point half time advantage. The even spread of contributors and control of possession was perhaps best summed up by the fact that there was not a single Launceston player in single figures for disposals on the day, the first time that has happened this season.
Devonport weren’t without their chances, but outstanding team defence from the Blues kept them to just two goals for the day from their 39 entries. Key defenders Jimmy Aganas and Simon Vandervelde both had excellent performances, locking down on their opponents while also providing the rebound with 18 and 17 disposals respectively. Jack Donnellan was very good on his return to the side, with 16 disposals and 8 tackles. Ryan Tyrrell had 22 disposals and 5 tackles off half back, while Stewart Williams, Chris Savage and Joe Boyce all also contributed well to the defensive effort.
During the week Magpies coach Mitch Thorp signalled the potential of Brodie Palfreyman’s influence on the game and the teenager lived up to the billing with 34 disposals, 9 tackles, 6 clearances and 4 inside 50s, managing to find space where no-one else could in the quagmire. Jay Blackberry continues to rack up the numbers at will and had his tenth game of the season with 25+ disposals, he had 29 disposals, 10 tackles and 6 clearances. In a game with a high amount of stoppages ruckman Hamish Leedham did the hard yards, with 11 of his 13 possessions being contested. He also gave his midfielders first use with 47 hit outs.
Up forward Rulla Kelly-Mansell was the only multiple goal kicker on the ground with 19 disposals, 5 marks and two goals. Brendan Taylor had 20 disposals and a goal, Connor Smith 15 disposals, 4 inside 50s and a goal, and Corey Sheppard had 14 disposals, 6 tackles and a goal. Coach Sam Lonergan relished the conditions and the contested nature of the game with 24 disposals and 5 tackles, while leading goal kicker Sonny Whiting turned provider with no goals but 17 disposals and 3 inside 50s helping set up the Blues’ attacks.
Launceston can now enjoy a week off before finishing off the home and away season by hosting ladder leaders North Launceston at Windsor Park. The Northern Bombers have won both previous meetings between the two sides this season, with the most recent being a 21 point win for North at UTAS Stadium in round 12. With the Blues four points ahead of Hobart City with a percentage 38% better than the Demons, anything short of a truly bizarre set of results in the last round will see Launceston playing finals football in 2017.
Launceston goals: Kelly-Mansell 2, C. Sheppard, C. Smith, Nunn, Taylor
Launceston best: Aganas, Donnellan, Palfreyman, Vandervelde, Blackberry, Lonergan
By Josh Giblin