Experience isn’t always linked to age and reigning State League premier North Launceston is a prime example.
Just four players will line up against Lauderdale at UTAS Stadium on Saturday that haven’t won a premiership with the powerhouse in the past five years – Beau Sharman, Sherrin Egger, Jordan Cousens and Michael Tang.
Meanwhile, the Northern Bombers’ fab four – coach Taylor Whitford, captain Brad Cox-Goodyer, vice-captain Jack Avent and utility Zach Burt – are fortunate enough to be aiming for their fourth flag.
And all that success exists despite just two players being born before 1990 – Sharman and ex-coach Tom Couch.
“You could say that I’m getting used to this week as I’ve played in the past five, which is a privilege,” Burt, 24, said.
“[I’ve told the young boys] to just stick to basics. It’s always going to be a heated grand final day, but the team that does the basics will win.
“We’ve played Lauderdale enough this year to know what they’re going to throw at us, they could do something different on Saturday but we’re well prepared.”
Burt, who kicked 29 goals in the opening 10 rounds before relocating to defence, said he is likely to man up on returning Southern Bomber Ryan Wiggins when he drifts forward.
“He’s very strong one-on-one, is quick on the hit up and a very good shot on goal, so I’m going to have to be on and limit his opportunities to goal,” he said.
Burt has become the general in defence since Jay Foon was ruled out mid-season and been the No. 1 tall alongside product of club legends Connor Young, 22.
“Taylor has given me some pretty tough tasks throughout the year which has allowed me to be a bit more confident,” Young said.
“Lauderdale are quite dangerous up forward and around the ground as well, but the three big targets up forward – Ryan Wiggins, Thor Boscott, Josh McGuinness – make it pretty tough to match up on.
“I will likely get Thor who is a little shorter than me, but bigger in size. But I’m looking forward to the challenge as I feel like I’ve got him for aerobic capacity.”
At the other end of the ground, Tom Bennett is in career-best form and coming off a best-on-ground six-goal semi-final performance despite goal-kicking demons troubling him at times.
The 25-year-old has booted 49 majors so far with a big bag in grand final number three on his radar.
“I had a little think about it and had a little goal-kicking routine that I showed [Whitford] last Thursday night and he wasn’t real thrilled with it, so I went with the old one and it seemed to work well [against the Pies],” Bennett said.
“I’m not too sure who they’ll play down back on me as they’re a bit unpredictable sometimes. Maybe Oscar Shaw who played on me last time?”
Tarryn Thomas, 18, has only played four matches in red and black in 2018 but stood up to kick two goals in last year’s decider despite copping plenty of physical attention.
“I learnt from last year’s grand final that anything can happen and that you need to remain on top for most of the game,” he said.
Fast forward to Saturday 5.30pm and it is hard to envisage any other sight than North Launceston lifting its fourth State League premiership cup in five years.
North has won six of its past seven games against Darren Winter’s Lauderdale by a 10-goal average – including last year’s corresponding fixture by 87 points.
Both sides have experienced personnel changes from 12 months ago and boast match-winning weapons, however, it’s how you use them and if they can fire when the heat is on that counts. And even the most eccentric football brains would struggle to look past the Northern Bombers.
Taylor Whitford’s men have managed 46-0, 29-0 and 46-2 point first quarter starts in three times the challengers have met the masters this season. The Southern Bombers did wrestle their way back into two of those contests but the damage was done early.
History says Lauderdale struggle to keep North under 100 points with the likes of Tom Bennett, Brad Cox-Goodyer, Tom Couch and Whitford dominating.
Yes North are without two defensive pillars in Jay Foon and Arion Richter-Salter, but you would back in Zach Burt, Connor Young, Jack Avent, Rhyan Mansell and Michael Tang to fight hard to win or draw their battles with Thor Boscott, Henry Kerinaiua, Jacob Gillbee, Ryan Wiggins and so on.
Lauderdale’s midfield has improved, but North has too many quality on-ball and forward combinations.
TIP: North by 48 points