When Launceston began its 2017 campaign, a return to the conference grand final was anything but a foregone conclusion.
The club then lost Reece Potter’s successor Ben Rush after just four games at the helm.
But with recruits Lauren Nicholson and home-grown star Tayla Roberts stepping up to the plate, the Tornadoes have managed to win two away finals to set up yet another conference final; this time against five-time SEABL champions Bendigo.
Chairwoman Janie Finlay said the Torns’ title challenge has surprised even some at the club and is the manifestation of a unified and dedicated playing group.
“We sort of thought we were in the beginning of another development phase this year,” Finlay said.
“We thought that was perhaps where we were at, but the team have been incredible the way they’ve formed together.
“There’s that classic concept that you can have the best players but if they don’t play well as a team… and we’ve got this incredibly, strong committed team and they’ve really unified at the end of the season.
“What we’re seeing now in this club on the court are all our values, they’ve gelled really well as a team and they’re giving it everything, they’re full of heart.”
After missing finals between 2011 and 2014, which included a one-win season in 2013, the Tornadoes have been on an upwards spiral of proportions befitting their nickname, reaching a preliminary final in 2015 and a conference final last year.
Saturday’s clash with Bendigo represents a chance for Richard Dickel’s side to go one step further and set up their first championship grand final since 2010 and their fourth since the team started in 1994.
Finlay said the team’s recent success is all the sweeter in light of a difficult period at the start of the decade.
“To know where we’ve come from – and we can still remember the feeling of that, it wasn’t that long ago – and with the core group of supporters, sponsors, players, and particularly the juniors who have seen Torns in that time and still wanted to be part of it, step by step we’ve got there,” she said.
“Richard is doing a fantastic job having come in under difficult circumstances, and to peak the team at this time of year is both a reflection on the work he’s done but equally a reflection on the maturity and the dedication of the girls.
“They have got stronger together rather than the potential of fracturing as a playing group in tough times, it’s actually been really healthy, they’ve been incredible.”
- The Tornadoes play Bendigo at Bendigo Stadium on Saturday. Tip-off is at 7pm.