Thorp chases last AFL hope

IN THE end the desire to have one last crack at an AFL career swayed former South Launceston coach Mitch Thorp to desert the TSL's new club, Western Storm, for a two-year contract with SANFL club Glenelg.

The 24-year-old was given an offer as playing assistant coach alongside former Port Adelaide and Carlton great Nick Stevens in arguably the best football competition outside the AFL.

After agonising over the decision, he could not turn it down.

He joins two other Tasmanians at the Tigers, with former Essendon and Richmond player Sam Lonergan also signing on as an assistant playing and former Carlton player Aaron Joseph rounding out a Tassie trio.

"It was a case of making a decision - Glenelg were very interested in me playing there and being an assistant coach," Thorp said.

"I spoke to a lot of clubs in the off-season and probably knocked them all back.

"This is an opportunity for me to become an AFL player, which is slipping away from me at 24, and at the end of the day that is probably the reason I am going to make the move.

"I love playing in Tassie, so it was a very difficult decision and one I took some time to come to, but it was definitely the right one given that I want to play and coach at a high level.

"I'm very fortunate to be an assistant coach to Nick Stevens, who has played 250 AFL games with Port Adelaide and Carlton.

"Also to coach alongside Sammy Lonergan, who is another Tassie guy - so I've got some friends in that group and I think that will make me better as a coach and really test me as a player as well, because this year was terrific down here and I'm really looking forward to the challenge."

Thorp said he had told the Western Storm playing group of his decision yesterday and they had been supportive of his move.

He said he believed the new club could be successful whether he was in charge or not.

"We put a lot of hard work in together, started at the bottom and won the premiership, so I'm very fortunate they've been supportive and just about all of them said they are very determined to ensure the Storm is a success because they want to be part of a strong team on and off the field," he said.

"I've got no doubt that with both my brothers playing there and my two best mates in Mitch Hills and Braden McGee, the club will be very strong whether I'm there or not.

"I don't think it is a setback but a good opportunity for someone new to coach the group.

"It's an extremely hard decision with a great group of friends and a really well organised club which has 50 players signed up and the core of our premiership team together - it is really hard for me to walk away from.

"It's going to be a very good club, Western Storm, and whoever coaches them will be very lucky because they will have a very grounded group and a team that knows how to win, so it will be interesting to see who takes over."

Thorp is realistic that this coming season is his final chance to make it back to the elite AFL competition. "To be an assistant coach under Nick Stevens is an achievement I'm proud of at 25 years of age and I will be doing everything I can on and off the field."

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