WITH its third-straight sudden death final here, Launceston knows its future is in good hands.
The Blues have been in a rebuilding phase since its 2011 State League premiership, winning just 13 games in the past three seasons.
But the return of its favourite son Sam Lonergan as coach and the teaching undertakings of mentor Chris Hills and co is starting to reap rewards with a talented group of 18-year-old Blues boys leading the charge.
Lonergan said the club’s turnaround from eighth last season to Saturday’s preliminary final against Lauderdale has a lot to do with the efforts of Casey Brown, Jake Hinds, Ryan Tyrell, James Gillow and Connor Smith.
Not to mention the Windsor Park club’s grand final-ready development league outfit.
“They’re an incredible group and a very talented one coming through,” Lonergan said.
“The influence they’ve had across the course of the year has been really important for our playing group and they probably don’t know it yet, but they are the driving force of our footy club.
“This footy club at the age of 18 is theirs and what they choose to do with it; stay together as a group, stick it out, work hard and continue to put the club in a really good place – its their decision now as senior 18-year-olds.
“They could have a 10-year career together and have some real success.”
Lonergan said their energy and willingness to improve was keeping veteran Blues such as Nathan O’Donoghue and Sonny Whiting hungry.
“The one that’s lifted the most is probably Nathan O’Donoghue, he’s had a really good couple of games and Sonny Whiting is heavily engaged in the footy club. There is a real feeling of belief being driven by these young guys,” he said.
Gillow, a decade-long Blue, has booted 13 goals in 10 matches playing alongside the two forward stalwarts and said he has learnt an invaluable amount from the pair.
“All the attention gets focused on Sonny and Nods so it leaves me a bit more open,” he said.
“Sonny has taught me a lot and getting the ball at Nath’s feet has been good.”
Smith, who started playing with Launceston in the under-15s, made his senior debut in 2015 and has provided some spark at half forward. “Finals have been a lot more challenging than the normal season that’s for sure; it’s a lot quicker and physical than I’ve experienced before,” the apprentice plumber said.
Draft prospect Hinds, who has been influential in the midfield since returning full-time from Tassie Mariners and Allies duties, said the club had adapted well to its return to September and that he was all the better for it.
Young defenders Tyrell and Brown are part of a successful back seven defensive unit that has so far held firm to the increase in intensity.
“Our game plan is suited to finals football,” Tyrell said.
Brown added: “I usually play on the tallest or fastest player in the forward line including (Trent) Standen and Jaye Bowden, which were good learning experiences”.