A lot is spoken about Tasmania’s two biggest 2018 AFL draft chances Chayce Jones and Tarryn Thomas, but Rhayn Mansell has long been touted as a smokey.
Mansell, 18, the son of North Launceston premiership player Brett and Thomas’ cousin, has frustratingly battled through injury during one of the most important seasons of his fledgling journey.
Renowned for his uncompromising approach to attack the football, Mansell untimely ruptured his quad at the start of the year which inevitably hampered his Mariners and Allies campaigns.
“I ruptured a muscle in my quad during the third week of pre-season,” he said.
“It was very frustrating because they told me it was a corky to start with so I played through the whole Mariners series with the ruptured quad without knowing.
“Then just before the Allies campaign I had to get an MRI which confirmed it, so I missed the first two games but I got back for the last two.
“I missed a few weeks last year with a back issue but this injury was the first time I had to play through real pain – it was pretty difficult but we got through it.”
Mansell said he took a couple of weeks to settle into the Northern Bombers line-up upon his return from representative duties, with his most productive appearance arguably coming in the second semi-final against Glenorchy two weeks ago.
His composure for a teenager is up there with the best and will be tasked with a high defensive role against Lauderdale in his second grand final on Saturday.
“Hopefully I can continue that [good] form into this weekend,” Mansell said.
“I’ve settled into a lock-down defender’s role [with Jay Foon and Arion Richter-Salter going out] but I’ve also played through the midfield and as a pressure forward at times.
“When they’ve got the ball I’ve just got to lock down on my opponent and then when we have possession, I’ve got to try and create in order to get the ball through the middle to our forwards as fast as possible.
“I feel a lot more comfortable behind the ball and feel like my best position is down back.”
Mansell said he learnt a lot from last year’s premiership victory and has his fingers crossed that his name will appear on an AFL list somewhere in 2019.
“The physicality of [last year’s grand final] and how quick the game goes taught me a lot. The skills are sharp and you’ve got to be on from the start,” he said.
“I’ve nominated myself for the draft so hopefully a team takes a punt on me, but if not I will probably play TAC Cup next year with the Mariners as an over-age player, or I might go play VFL.
“I’m keen to test myself.”