Blues rebuild after player losses

HAVING lost upwards of a dozen senior players means it will be a new-look Launceston side that takes the field for the upcoming State League season.

Gone are AFL draftees Jake and Kade Kolodjashnij, leading goalkicker Sonny Whiting, full-back Gene Savage,  vice-captain Tim Bristow, talls Nathan O'Donoghue, Jason Edwards and Majak Miar, defender Josh Woolley and midfielders Daniel Ellis, Kurt McCabe and Chris Savage.

Take that sort of experience, height and talent out of the team and the Blues face a huge task to build a competitive onfield unit for 2014.

Added to the loss of personnel is a change in coach with Scott Stephens taking the reins from last year's incumbent Brennan Savage.

Savage will be playing assistant coach and take on responsibility for the club's football development and operations.

Stephens will be playing senior coach and said he was adapting well to the new job but freely admitted the club will be in a rebuilding phase this season with a young and inexperienced side.

``It has certainly been challenging but I've been in a second-in-charge role for a number of years and I'm pretty much aware of what goes on during the off-season and with players and trying to recruit,'' he said.

``Starting late did hamper us a fair bit but apart from that it has been thoroughly enjoyable working with a really young group of boys that are young and keen to listen and improve.

``We've lost a lot of mid-20s personnel with a lot of experience.

``We're working with players who haven't achieved anything at this stage but who want to strive for success and are prepared to listen.

``It's going to be a challenging year and a learning process - I don't demand success straight away but I do demand improvement.''

Stephens said the Blues still had a lot of talent on their list and his job would be to help build and develop it.

Filling key positions will be a challenge and a lack of height could be telling.

``I'm really pleased with the group of boys we've got there and I'm confident they can be competitive against all sides in the competition.

``Losing Jake Kolo who was our key centre half-back and Gene Savage our full-back means we've got to manufacture some key defenders.

``Obviously Brennan (Savage) being back to full fitness will look to play in one of those roles at times.

``Tom Claridge is back to full fitness and is another option who can hold down a key position.

``Rohan Sergeant who has predominantly played as a key forward is quite a good backman as well - so we are certainly going to have some challenges with our height but we just need to find ways around that.

``Once again up forward it will be a bit of a wait-and-see year until we can get our positions down pat.

``A lot of those names I've mentioned will probably go up forward as well until we can find a good mix of attack and defence.''

Stephens said they had recruited a young tall from the South Launceston colts called Hamish Leedham who they would look to groom as a ruckman to provide support for the returning Joe Groenewegen.

The Blues are yet to decide on a captain but had options in the leadership group including the likes of Joe Boyce, Jordan Harris, Sam Rundle and Groenewegen - all of whom have impressed on the training track during the preseason.

The club may consider going with co-captains and with the change in personnel, the Blues' game plan will also require some tweaking.

``Due to the personnel we have available it can't be as attacking and free-flowing as we once were when we did have the cattle,'' he said.

``We will structure our game a little bit more around defence.

``To do that we will need to have excellent fitness and that will be a key to our game plan, a good skill level so we can retain the football and pressure.

``Defence and pressure, which we've had a focus on over summer, also forward attention and being able to hit targets.''

His expectations are that Launceston would finish in the finals and he believed it was within its grasp to achieve the goal.

``Until the season settles down it is hard to gauge who is going well and who has recruited and who is going to fall away.

``I haven't paid too much attention to what is going on around other clubs but it looks like Clarence will be really strong with their recruits.

``Hobart City should be OK and Lauderdale should be thereabouts again.

``Up here North have shown some good improvement over the last 12 months and I'd expect that to continue.

``The Storm have got 14 premiership players and should have a good nucleus there and Burnie will be top three again I'd imagine.''

Stephens and Savage will have Robert Groenewegen, Chris Hills and Michael Stevens on the Blues coaching panel.

INS AND OUTS

INS: Joe Groenewegen. OUTS: Kade and Jake Kolodjashnij (AFL), Kurt McCabe (NTFA), Tim Bristow (WA), Chris Savage, Nathan O'Donoghue (NTFA), Sonny Whiting (VIC), Gene Savage (NTFA) Dan Ellis (NTFA), Majak Miar (Queensland), Josh Woolley (Queensland), Jason Edwards (work), Luke Johnston.

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