COACH: Tom Couch
CAPTAIN: Taylor Whitford
INS: Lewis Hollmer (Victoria), Bart McCulloch (Western Storm)
OUTS: Corey Nankervis, Stephen Heppell, Dakota Bannister, Stephen Witkowski, Daniel Roozendaal.
A NEW coach and plenty of young faces will see a new-look Northern Bombers take to the field in State League season 2017.
Tom Couch has taken over the coaching reins from Zane Littlejohn who has moved on to an AFL development role with the Brisbane Lions.
“We’ve got what we wanted out of the pre-season and for me it has been more about getting to know the players – their strengths and what they need to improve and where they fit into the team position-wise,” Couch said.
“Generally I’m rapt with the numbers we’ve had and the senior players that have come to training and we’ve got some exciting young kids coming through.
“We will have a really young side and against Burnie in our practice match we will have 12 players with less than 10 games senior experience.”
The Northern Bombers’ losses include defenders Corey Nankervis and Stephen Heppell, Daniel Roozendaal, Stephen Witkowski, Tom and Will Loone and Dakota Bannister.
They have picked up Victorian recruit Lewis Hollmer and former Western Storm and Brisbane Lions forward Bart McCulloch.
The 26-year-old Holmer, a 196cm forward-utility, hails from Lorne and has played the past two seasons with Geelong Football League powerhouse club Bell Park.
“Lewie will play a bit in the ruck and forward – I’m just going to see how he goes but that’s what he did back home in Geelong,” Couch said.
“He can play multiple positions and he’s exciting, he’s tall and fit.”
Couch’s aspiration is for the Bombers to play finals but his more immediate focus has been on developing the club’s young talent rather than worrying about final positions.
“I’m not really looking that far ahead but we will probably have five blokes making their debuts in round 1 which I’ve never experienced before and it’s exciting.
“I’ve come to a club that has a big emphasis on developing their kids and I’m the same.
“Just give them a go and back them in and generally they take the opportunity and away they go and they could end up playing 50 to 100 TSL games.”
“To see young guys like Cody Lowe, Dylan Clayton and Cooper Praciak for example get as much out of training and getting better every week.
“I get as much kicks out of that and I haven’t even seen a game yet – our Burnie practice match will be my first live TSL game so I am only going off training and what the boys are telling me.
“I’ve watched a bit of vision but I haven’t sat down and watched a whole game. Our game plan will be very similar to last year but obviously I have tweaked it a bit and have my own take on things.
“I just want the players to back themselves and their instincts and I’m trying not to stick the reins on them too much, just let them play.”
Littlejohn’s replacement said he hasn’t felt any pressure taking over from a dual premiership coach and with a relatively new list and line coaches in different positions, it was a new ball game.
Paul Holmes will be forward line coach, Chris and Taylor Whitford will look after the midfield and McCulloch the forwards with Adrian Smith overseeing game day.
Whitford will again captain the side with Jack Avent and Brad Cox-Goodyer vice-captains and Jay Lockhart, Mark Walsh, Zach Burt and Jake Pearce making up the leadership group.
Couch will look to cover the loss of key defenders Nankervis and Heppel with the likes of Connor Young, Jock White and Arion Richter-Salter alongside the continuing experience of Jay Lockhart, Pearce and Jay Foon.
Up forward, Burt, McCulloch, Tom Bennett, Avent and Josh Ponting will provide options with Alex Lee assuming the No.1 ruckman role with the retirement of Roozendaal.
Couch, Whitford, Cox-Goodyer, Walsh, Avent and debutants Dylan Clayton and Dylan Headland will run through the middle along with Hayden Goss through the wing.
“We will probably have five blokes making their debuts in round 1 which I’ve never experienced before and it’s exciting – they’ve shown enough and they warrant a game and I think they are ready to go.
“It’s going to be a different side as you’ll soon see – but the boys are fit and I’m confident that they are ready to go.
“I haven’t set myself any main goals for the year.
“When it comes closer to round 1 we might sit down and make blocks but for now it has just been all about the pre-season preparation and getting to know the players.”
Couch said the playing group had adapted well to the change of coach and methods.
“They’re a great bunch of blokes that want to get better, so professional for how young they are.
“I have to take my hat off to Zane and Thane (Brady) because it starts at the top. I’ve actually never seen anything like it – the way they talk to each other and what they demand of each other and the respect they hold.
“Obviously they’ve achieved a lot of success in the last few years which comes with that but they’ve been great to deal with.
“Culture is a word that gets thrown a lot but you just feel it when you come to the place as I did last year when I met the leaders back in October – it just feels right.”