North Launceston have maintained top spot on the TSL ladder, but only just after seeing off a gallant Burnie by 20 points in Sunday’s clash at West Park.
With a team missing several star players, on top of three withdrawals from Thursday night’s selected side, the Bombers were still expected to have too much firepower for a Dockers team that had only saluted once this season.
But the home team showed plenty of fight, harassing the visitors for three quarters and leading for all but a 10-minute period.
However a growing injury toll during the day finally told for Burnie, with North Launceston’s senior brigade such as Jack Avent and Brad Cox-Goodyer getting on top in the final quarter to run out 11.17 (83) to 9.9 (63) winners.
With a highly-anticipated showdown against Glenorchy coming up at home this Saturday, Bombers coach Tom Couch cut a relieved figure after the game as his team had to battle for four points against lowly opposition for the second week in a row.
“We spoke at half time about our effort and our ball use and we needed a bit of a wake-up call to really get going,” Couch said.
“We have a really young side in at the moment, with probably eight of our first 22 out and it’s testing out the depth on our list.”
With the aid of a handy breeze, the Dockers got out to a 11-point lead at quarter time, and were able to keep that to nine points as they defended stoutly against a wayward Bombers forward line.
That margin grew to 15 points when Blair Rubock snapped the opening goal of the third term, but North Launceston responded through Tom Bennett, Cox-Goodyer and Dylan Clayton in the space of six minutes to finally hit the front before Harry Walters restored Burnie’s lead at the final change.
With the Dockers unable to rotate off the bench in the final term, their younger players started to make errors and the Bombers capitalised with a three-goal burst from Mitchell Donnelly, Avent and Cox Goodyer to all but seal the four points.
While the senior players hauled his team over the line, Couch was also full of praise for his younger brigade, and in particular Tyran Mansell in defence.
“I thought Tyran was head and shoulders above everyone else today and he keeps going to another level with his football,” Couch said.
“It’s a bit of a shame that he doesn’t get as much attention in regards to the recruiters as he may do if he was playing TAC Cup where you are in their face every week.
“He’s going to be a very good player and it was almost worth the drive up to be honest.
“Arion Richter-Salter really stood up down back as well and Kailem Baker on the wing showed a bit too.”
With Jay Foon, Tarryn Thomas, Karlton Wadley and himself due back for the Magpies clash, Couch believes he will need that boost to combat a seriously good side.
“We went to their game on Saturday and they are a completely different side who moved the ball better than any team I have seen this year,” he said.
“We’ve got a game on our hands, that’s for sure.