One more slip-up, and Launceston will be gone.
That’s the reality the third-ranked Blues find themselves in heading into a cutthroat first semi-final against Laurderdale at UTAS Stadium on Saturday.
The comfort of a second chance has brought Sam Lonergan and his men an opportunity for redemption, after failing to capitalise on a three-quarter time winning position last week.
Launceston’s defence, led by co-captain Chris Savage, will have its hands full against several proven Southern Bombers’ weapons in Thor Boscott, Jacob Gillbee and the like.
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“The maturity is in the group with extra games under blokes from last season, so we will find out how far we’ve come this week and hopefully over the next couple,” Savage said.
“We have had some personnel changes on and off the ground. But composure is the key, how we play under pressure. Our back seven to eight have gelled really well together; we cover each other and communicate with each other.
“Anyone can take a tall or a small and we have the confidence to play one on one and know that we have teammates a few steps away that can help you out.”
Rulla Kelly-Mansell has been magnificent since switching the forward line for half-back following a mid-season illness, but for a character with plenty of flair he is still learning the trade.
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The 26-year-old’s ball use and attack is an advantage for last year’s preliminary finalists and complements the likes of housemate Ryan Tyrrell, Jobi Harper, Simon Vandervelde, Joe Boyce, Tom Mundy and Brendan Taylor.
“You get to see the game in a different perspective and learning different positions is good as it’s nice to have a few new tools you can practise,” Kelly-Mansell said.
“Some things come naturally like being able to run, but sticking to my man at times is something that I’m trying to get used to.
“I have to understand that you’ve got to defend first and do everything else second but it’s not completely natural, so lucky Chris Savage keeps me in line.”
The mid-year exit of fellow tall Jimmy Aganas hasn’t impacted the performances of Vandervelde, despite the pair waxing down back for the 12 months prior.
“It hasn’t really effect our style, which is basically run off the back line and having too many talls down there can slow it down – I’m not very fast,” Vandervelde said.
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“Having people like Jobi coming in as a straight swap for Jimmy was a good trade and having Rulla too makes for a good combination.
“With the way the competition’s going now, there are a lot of smaller sides so having two taller key defenders is not a necessity.”
Vandervelde said the toughest task in the competition as a defender is trying to stop North Launceston’s diverse forwards.
And he hopes to have a crack at doing so at some stage this finals series.
“You’ve got to be switched on 100 per cent, so if we get to them I’m really looking forward to the challenge,” he said.
First bounce is at 6.30pm.
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