North Launceston is out to reach an eighth consecutive grand final when the 2021 TSL season gets under way on Friday.
In the second of a series of reviews, The Examiner looks at the Bombers' prospects for this year's full-length campaign.
LAST SEASON: Runner-up (Played 14, won 12, lost 2).
COACH: Brad Cox-Goodyer
LEADERS: Jay Foon (captain), Mark Walsh (vice-captain), Ben Simpson (vice-captain)
OUTS: Taylor Whitford (Casey), Josh Ponting (Rocherlea), Arion Richter-Salter (Preston), Sherrin Egger (Wynyard), Liam Davies (Longford), Connor Young (Scottsdale), Jake Laskey (South Launceston), Bart McCulloch
FIRST GAME: Launceston at UTAS Stadium, 6.30pm Friday
Several of the frontline warriors that have led North Launceston to grand final after grand final may have departed, but few will be discounting the Bombers from the flag race.
Two of North's three superstar midfielders - Taylor Whitford and Josh Ponting - left in the off-season after winning a combined nine flags between them with Brad Cox-Goodyer taking up the reins.
A life member at UTAS Stadium who has been one of the TSL's most dominant players since the competition's revamp in 2009, Cox-Goodyer is up to the task of leading North into a new era.
The 28-year-old coach said he was excited to see how the club's next generation of players would rise to the challenge of senior football.
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"When you speak about our outs and who we've picked up, it's probably the first year it's counterweighed and we've lost more than we've gained," Cox-Goodyer said.
"When you take Taylor Whitford and Josh Ponting out of any side it's probably going to be worse off, so there are no expectations from me.
"I'm sure the external expectations will be that we'll probably go backwards which is fine with me - we're really looking forward to our young guys having a crack and filling the void.
"If we can produce senior footballers from our junior program we're doing something right - if that equates to wins and success that's a bonus.
"But we're going to have a very up-and-down season I reckon - with youth that always happens.
"One week they'll be up, one week they'll be down, we've just got to ride that rollercoaster and hopefully get it right at the right time of the year."
Few do "getting it right at the right time of year" as well as North Launceston.
Just 16 points separated the UTAS Stadium outfit from a fourth-straight senior flag and second consecutive development league premiership in 2020, and even with the loss of several fringe senior players to the NTFA, there's talent to spare.
Ryley Sanders has inherited Whitford's number three guernsey after debuting with huge promise last year and the 16-year-old has a cohort of teen talent rising around him including Harry Bayles, Angus Jefferies and Oscar Van Dam.
Earlier in the year, Cox-Goodyer highlighted North Melbourne VFL list member Tom Donnelly and vice-captain Ben Simpson as players ready to take the next step in 2021.
"It's exciting to have a 19-year-old as vice captain," the left-footer said of Simpson.
"He's been around for a while now - he didn't train that much over summer, he had an injury but he was able to keep his fitness up.
"His leadership potential is going through the roof at the moment, he's definitely taken a step up.
"We've got a kid called Michael Stingel who played some really good footy last year - he's really pushing his case.
"And a lot of our guys in the Devils program - Blade Sulzberger and the Sanders brothers [Ollie and Ryley] are going to be the ones filling those spots, so that's really exciting having 17 to 18-year-olds that are playing senior footy."
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The addition of ex-Richmond and Port Adelaide forward Jay Schulz as a coaching and development director will also help fast-track the development of North's young talent.
"Jay's been good - having someone of that senior talent of AFL experience, he's been a really good sounding board for me," Cox-Goodyer said.
"He's doing a lot of work with our junior football club and progressing those guys to understand that their program matches our senior program, so that when they come up and play that level they're right to go straight away."
Whitford, Ponting and 2020 midfield trainee Sherrin Egger may be gone, but the Bombers retain a wealth of options through the middle.
The leadership trio of Cox-Goodyer, Mark Walsh and Simpson will lead from the front while experienced defenders Jay Foon and Jack Avent are both proven performers on ball.
Nathan Pearce was one vote off winning last year's Rodney Eade Medal in his first year back in the TSL while a pair of NTFA premiership players can also be counted on to play more midfield minutes.
"Guys like Dan Withers who's won league medals in two different competitions as a midfielder, he's one that's probably going to push up and play a bit more time in there, and Jack Rushton," Cox-Goodyer said.
"You throw Jack Rushton around the footy and he's going to give you something no matter what.
"When you say it like that is still looks pretty promising in terms of talent level and experience.
"It's going to be a new group in there which is exciting and with Alex [Lee] leading the way, that makes things a bit easier for us."
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