A high-performance football program is crucial to Tasmania and the state’s under-18s must be afforded greater opportunities, State League leading goal-kicker Mitch Thorp says.
The ex-Hawthorn draftee and South Launceston premiership coach, who spent two years coaching Devonport before his move to Launceston this season, is not concerned about speculation the TSL may not continue beyond 2018, but said the competition played a vital role within Tasmania.
The 29-year-old Blues full forward said without an elite competition such as the TSL, Tasmania’s best players would be lost to other states.
“You’re not going to keep the best players and you’re not going to keep the best coaches either,” Thorp said.
“I’m a supporter of the TSL and high-level football programs, which the State League is. I was around when the VFL was in and played in the Devils as a youngster and enjoyed it. I’ve also coached in the State League and seen that be successful for young people as well.
“I hope the TSL does stick around and maybe our under-18s get a bit more access to games – that’s the most important part moving forward.
“We’ve got a lot of fantastic facilities and fantastic young players in the competition… great young coaches coming through like Sam (Lonergan) at our club and Taylor (Whitford) at North Launceston that get to cut their teeth.
“We’ve seen what’s happened with Zane Littlejohn, who started with North Launceston and is now at Brisbane.”
A steering committee chaired by AFL boss Gillon McLachlan continues to investigate the game’s future and talent pathways in Tasmania, despite rumours suggesting the TSL could be scraped in favour of a full-time TAC Cup Mariners program and a senior VFL or NEAFL team.
Southern clubs are believed to be meeting in Hobart on Wednesday with an all-in TSL presidents’ meeting with AFL Tasmania chief executive Trisha Squires scheduled for May 3.
The committee’s findings are expected to be handed down on Saturday, June 30 – 10 weeks away.
Launceston boasts a 2-1 win-loss record after falling to the Northern Bombers in round 1 and going on to defeat North Hobart and Lauderdale by a combined 192 points leading into this weekend’s bye.
Thorp has booted 12 goals to lead the Peter Hudson Medal race with Saturday’s triumph his first as a player or coach at Lauderdale Oval.
The married father-of-two, who has spent the past 11 years focused on football full-time, is enjoying not coaching for the first time in six seasons.
He finds himself running his own health and fitness company in Launceston – working alongside Corey Baldock and North Launceston’s Jake Pearce.
“Working in this industry is a great passion of mine with my wife being a nutritionist by trade,” Thorp said.
“I’m a bit more relaxed leading into games and not having to worry about opposition and teammates.
“I’m one of the older guys at the cub and a leader among the younger guys, but I’m very much enjoying playing under Sam.
“It’s probably a blessing in disguise to go back and just be a player, and play under someone so I can use that going forward with my own coaching.”
Thorp said the Blues’ football program stacks up with the very best he has experienced throughout his career including those at Hawthorn, Glenelg and Werribee.
“It’s a fantastic football club from the top down with Sandra (Boland) doing a fantastic job as president,” he said.
“From the juniors, the women’s and seniors it’s as good a program and football club as I’ve been involved in.
“I probably saw that eight months out before I arrived when we played Launceston at Devonport.
“The whole environment that had been created through Sam’s early days in exceptional.”