Two of the TSL’s highest-profile players will line up alongside one another at Launceston next season after Blues boss Sam Lonergan announced the signature of outgoing Devonport coach Mitch Thorp.
The signing comes two weeks after Thorp announced his resignation from Devonport, sparking speculation he would reunite with former Glenelg teammate Lonergan at the Blues.
“I had a pretty good strong feeling that Mitch was going to end up at Launceston,” Lonergan said.
“It was just a matter of crossing the Ts and dotting the Is and doing it in a professional and respectful way for Devonport Football Club and Mitch and his family.”
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In a recruitment coup for the Blues, Dylan Riley will join Thorp in making the move from Devonport Oval to Windsor Park.
The 24-year-old comes to Launceston in top form having been named his side’s sole representative in the TSL team of the year and narrowly missing out on consecutive club best and-fairest awards.
Despite playing most of the 2017 season as a midfielder-forward, Riley could be asked to line-up in the Blues’ half-back line.
“It’s exciting, (Thorp) gives us a really strong key forward and a real physical presence up forward and with Dylan, Dylan’s got so much X-factor,” Lonergan said.
“You play him across half-back and it starts to add to our team some intercept marking and some speed and run and carry and a player that can really move well through the wing and half-back.”
The dual announcement comes in the wake of Launceston’s best finish since 2013 and leaves the Blues strongly placed to challenge for the premiership next season.
Lonergan expects to retain much of his list from this season, with retirements and Stewart Williams’ potential return to the mainland likely to be the only departures from Windsor Park.
Easing the pain of any such losses will be the prospect of Thorp sharing the forward 50 with small forward Sonny Whiting, who again topped the Blues’ goalkicking this season with 50 majors.
“They’re best mates, they spend a lot of time together and understand each other really well so the two of them will work well.
“I’m pretty sure they’re both excited to play in the same forward line and work with each other, it’s a big and a small - you couldn’t want a more dynamic duo in the TSL or any football side than the two of them playing together.”
A former no.6 draft pick and a premiership coach at South Launceston, Thorp will bring a host of leadership skills and playing experience to Lonergan’s up-and-coming charges.
However, Lonergan said he would not be putting any pressure on his new star forward to take up any official leadership role at the club – other than leading from the front on gameday.
“It’ll be more of a back seat role in that aspect.
“I’ll lean on Mitch away from the football club but for Mitch I just want him to play footy, he’s 28 turning 29 and he’s been heavily involved in Tassie footy for a long period of time and at times that can be frustrating.
“So for Mitch as a mate, I just want to see him play two or three years and finish off his career focusing on the enjoyment of the game and getting back to that side of it.”
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