Fired up to storm though

Western Storm coach Mitch Hills calls the shots at training. Pictures: PHILLIP BIGGS.
Western Storm coach Mitch Hills calls the shots at training. Pictures: PHILLIP BIGGS.

HAVING a nucleus of 13 or 14 players from last season's South Launceston State League premiership side is a pretty good starting point for the competition's newest club Western Storm.

From that premiership team coach Mitch Thorp has moved on to further his AFL draft prospects in the SANFL, Jobi Harper and Daniel Johncock are trying their hand in the VFL and defender Rory Mansell has taken a handful of former Bulldog teammates to NTFA club Deloraine.

But former South captain Mitch Hills has a solid base from which to work as he takes the coaching reins of the Storm and attempts to mould it into a major contender in its first year.

"We've lost quite a few guys from our premiership side from last year," Hills said.

I don't like to say they're losses so much as they probably weren't ever part of this new entity and new group.

"We think of it as a totally separate thing to South Launceston because it's a new club and a new opportunity for guys who wanted to to keep playing at this level.

"We've got about 13 or 14 left from that squad of 25 - so it's a good chunk of players to start a new side with so it's pretty exciting."

Hills had added some recruits to his list including Trent Page and Jacob Huett from Bracknell, brothers Roy and Darren Thomas and Shaun Collis from Evandale and fancies the Storm's chances of success.

"We've played some practice games and had wins which is really positive for the way we are playing footy - you don't want to take too much out of practice games but they become important when you are starting something new and getting the belief that they can compete against sides in our competition.

"We start against Devonport and I'm expecting the boys to do really good things this year.

"We play Devonport, Lonnie, who have lost a lot of players, and North all three times, so in terms of prospects I am expecting us to finish pretty high on the ladder."

Expect to see a similar game plan to the one that proved successful for Thorp in winning last season's TSL flag because Hills admits he does not see the need to reinvent the wheel.

"We were a part of Mitch's plans, it wasn't all him, but he was an excellent leader and implemented his game plan really well.

"Everyone had an understanding of it.

"It was a winning game plan that held up against every team in the comp so I am not going to be looking to make a lot of drastic changes to that especially since we play a lot of games on Aurora Stadium where we implemented our game plan really well.

"We've got a similar side and we've got some exciting new forwards in our team and I am expecting our midfield to be the fittest in the comp so we will try to expose other teams in that regard."

Hills expects that there is improvement to be had in the new Western Storm outfit and considers that their line-ups in defence, up forward and in the midfield can be as good as South's last year once the players gel together.

"I think all over the field - we've got some experience from last year's premiership side but we've got new teams in the backline and forward lines.

"They are going to take a while to come together but I also think those teams have even more upside and the ability to be even better than we were last year.

"It is going to take a lot of work and we have a long way to go but I expect us to be a really good side."

Former South utility Chris Taylor rejoins some of his former Bulldog teammates after taking a year off last season.

Hills hopes he can fill the shoes left by Harper and add a bigger body to the midfield group which he expects to be one of the strongest in the TSL.

He also believes the Storm has a number of players capable of filling key positions.

"Our kids are a year older and were a young group last year and there is no reason why they can't step up another level.

"We've got five or six guys who were in the midfield last year still in this team and we were clearly the best midfield as shown in the finals and we're expecting those guys to be even better this year.

"We've kept a lot of our spine that played in the premiership last year but lost Mitch and Rory Mansell as big outs - but I see myself as being able to play in the ruck and at centre half forward or full forward.

"We've got Will Hanson stepping up who was outstanding last year and will play a key post down back and Tom Reinmuth who played every game last year and will be a key back.

"Bart McCulloch had an outstanding year last year and is still part of the team and is going to have a really big year as well.

"So in terms of key position players I think we've got that covered and it's a strong point of our team this year."

Enjoying the opportunity to coach a stronger team than the one he had at his disposal the last time he took the job at South, Hills expects his side to be competitive in every game.

Happy with their preseason preparation despite the lack of a home training base until recently, he said his players were fit and raring to go.

He knows many in the football community will not want the Storm to succeed this season but said that does not bother him or his players.

"There has been a lot of negative press about this club and still it feels like a lot of people want us to fail," he said.

"In a sense it gives us a bit of motivation and more fuel to the fire to prove people wrong and we're going to use it that way during the year.

"From my point of view it is a positive thing and we know within ourselves that we are a really good side.

"On-field it's coming together nicely.

"Off-field - it's a new club and there are going to be difficulties there but that will come together and at the end of the day if the onfield stuff works - that's what it's all about."


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