Judging Launceston on its straight-sets State League finals exit, pundits would have every right to rule the Blues’ season as a failure.
However, coach Sam Lonergan was a lot more optimistic 15 minutes following his side’s 72-point first semi-final defeat to Lauderdale on Saturday night.
The Blues finished fifth last season and went on to win two finals at Bellerive Oval before being knocked out by the same opponent and eventual grand finalists in the preliminary final.
This year they earned the double chance by finishing third after a brilliant start, poor middle period and strong finish to the home and away season having recruited some top end and raw talent.
PICTURES: View our mega gallery here
Adding the likes of Hudson Medallist Mitch Thorp, Dylan Riley, Jobi Harper, Jamieson House, Ethan Jackson and co. to an already capable list – expectations were high both on the in and outside.
“Internally we know we’ve got a side we know could have won and I think North Launceston [who advanced through to this year’s grand final with a big victory over Glenorchy] will win the flag now,” Lonergan said.
“I don’t thing there is anyone that can challenge them [and] I believe our group was the group that could match up well with them.
Asked whether he would give the season a tick or a cross, Lonergan was optimistic on how far his players had come and the hard lessons they would learn.
“We finished in outright third position this season and then dropped to fourth, we’re likely to have one or maybe two players drafted, the club’s in a very financially stable position, which last year we were building to be in that stage,” he said.
“There are a lot of layers to that question but overall I think it’s certainly a tick.
“Our first six games were really solid and we were 5-1… and sitting second on the ladder, then we had a poor five-week block and then after that we won five of the last seven in the back half.”
Lonergan said aside from a tough mid-winter period with plenty of road trips and over-training, Launceston’s season was fairly consistent.
The Blues are undoubtedly still a developing force.
The Windsor Park-based club’s seniors won seven games combined in 2015-16, nine of 18 last season and only lost seven of 18 this year.
And its development league side is undefeated and through to a grand final after falling at the final hurdle in 2017.
Launceston was down by five goals at three-quarter time in its final game of the season and Lonergan said he made the decision to try and win the game rather than protect against the eventual blowout.
“We were either going to be in the game to win it or we were going to go down by some margin,” he said.
“I could have thrown a man back and saved the scoreboard and saved a bit of outside noise coming at me tomorrow no doubt or possibly tonight, but the reality is we needed to throw the kitchen sink to score a 30-point deficit.
“And we chose to go down swinging and sometimes that doesn’t pay off.”
Lauderdale will now play Glenorchy in a preliminary final at Bellerive Oval on Saturday, with the winner to challenge North at UTAS Stadium in a fortnight’s time.
“We won’t get ahead of ourselves, we know Glenorchy have given us a fair bit of trouble through the year,” Lauderdale coach Darren Winter said.
“They [North Launceston] are a really good football team and whoever gets to them after next week’s going to have their work cut out.
“They’re a hard nut to crack.”