Launceston club rookie Jobi Harper to return after 18 months out of State League

STANDING TALL: State League journeyman Jobi Harper during a Tasmanian training session at UTAS Stadium will make his long-awaited return to senior level football after 18 months on the sidelines.
STANDING TALL: State League journeyman Jobi Harper during a Tasmanian training session at UTAS Stadium will make his long-awaited return to senior level football after 18 months on the sidelines.

Launceston has rung out a raft of changes for the club’s biggest game of the year.

But almost hidden among an incredible seven changes for the region’s TSL derby with North Launceston, Jobi Harper is set to make his Blues debut after recovering from a knee reconstruction.

Coach Sam Lonergan had been delighted to deliver the bright news to the 2013 South Launceston TSL premiership player, who moved across to Windsor Park after Burnie withdrew from the statewide competition in preseason.

“It’s exciting for our football club – I haven’t spoken to one of our guys [Harper] yet,” Lonergan had told the media hours prior to Thursday night’s team selection.

“Jobi will return for his first game of football, so that is our biggest change and it’s exciting for Jobi.”

Harper, who also spent time at Western Storm, has started out this year in the development league after 18 months out of the game.

The seven changes ensures the Blues enter the battle on Saturday accompanied with a vastly-different look to the team that just hung on last week from a rushed behind.

Launceston easily led by nearly five goals early in the final term before Glenorchy came storming back to level.

That in part has also forced Lonergan’s hand to also bring in Jared Dakin, Miller Hodge, Jameson House, Hamish Leedham, Tom Mundy and Sam Rundle into the final 22 to bolster the Blues’ chances of an upset on home turf.

But Sam Bruinewoud, Tyson Miller, Giacomo Millucci, Chris Savage,  Matthew Spohn, Simon Vandervelde and Sonny Whiting will all watch from the sidelines. 

Lonergan had little hesitation in enlisting his faith onto a number of returning faces to stick to the game plan.

“We’ll still structure the same way, the way we play football, the way we have taught our players to play with a similar way,” he said.

“We’ll just have different personnel, which will still be exciting to see.”

Lonergan is still weeks out.

The 31-year-old appeared a surprise name on the team sheet only last match.

A troublesome hamstring has forced Lonergan to reassess his prognosis for more than just another week.

“I’m out of the boot, so that’s a positive,” he said.

“I was four to six weeks roughly; a gauge of four and see how it is travelling.

“We’re about two weeks now and over the next two weeks, I’ll get moving again and then it will come down to match conditioning between week four and week six.

“So we’ll just have to wait and see.”