2017 Season Preview

Written by Alex Fitzgerald

2017 SFL Season Preview
Hobart Tigers Football Club
Key Info:
Home Ground: TCA Ground
Senior Coach: Mark Beck
Senior Assistant Coaches: Luke Sullivan & Heath Neville
Reserves Coach: Scott Quinn
Captain: Sam Reeves
Vice Captain: Tim Langdale
Deputy Vice Captain: Ross Hugo
Rivals: New Norfolk, Huonville
2016: Fifth 

Key Ins: Ryan Sullivan (Hobart City), Jared Mason (NT), Tim Robertson (NSW), Braden McGee (Injury), Brandon and Blake Lockley (Claremont), James and Daniel Caulfield (Tigers FC)

Key Outs: Jarratt Horton (overseas), Marcus Fitze (retired) Shane Bradford (Clarence)

Don’t Miss:   Round 1 vs Huonville at Huonville on April 8
Round 2 vs New Norfolk at The TCA on April 14 (Good Friday)
Round 9 vs Claremont at The TCA on June 17
Round 11 vs New Norfolk at Boyer on July 1

2016 Recap:
Hobart started the 2016 season strongly, stringing four wins together after a narrow loss to Brighton in Round 1, and just falling short of key rivals New Norfolk in a fiery clash in Round 7.  The rest of the season perhaps mirrored the off-field goings on at the club, with inconsistent performances leaving the Tigers desperately fighting for a finals spot over the last month of the home and away fixture.  A stirring win over New Norfolk at Boyer, a hard-fought game against the then-undefeated Lindisfarne, and a win over Huonville in the final round saw Hobart clinch fifth position, and secure a finals berth for the first time since 2008.

Both the seniors and reserves played their Elimination Finals at Boyer, and unfortunately both succumbed to their respective opponents in New Norfolk and Huonville, but appearing in the final 5 was a huge achievement for the club.  Hobart also fielded an Under-18’s side for the first time in years, with a number of players showing a willingness to take the next step towards playing senior football in 2017.

Tim Langdale was rewarded for a consistent season, receiving the Bailey Medal as Hobart Football Club’s 2016 best and fairest player.  The hard-working midfielder finished on 101 votes, 23 clear of second-placed utility Stuart Paterson (78 votes) and 28 ahead of  2016 vice-captain Luke Sullivan (73).  Despite missing the final five matches of the home and away season, Langdale polled strongly early on and wasn’t headed after the halfway mark of the count.

2017 Pre-Season:
Newly appointed Senior Coach and long time Hobart player Mark Beck identified the need to improve professionalism and club culture when reflecting on the 2016 season, and has challenged players to integrate those values into their training sessions at and away from the club over the summer.  A focus on breaking down the barriers between seniors and reserves and existing friendship groups has also been a focus over the pre-season, with a weekend camp on the East Coast and regular team-building exercises aiding the building of mutual respect for and knowledge of one another among the playing group.A strong and structured weights and running program designed by Strength and Conditioning Coach Callan Newman has seen all players buy in, and the results have been clear to see as stronger and faster bodies take to the track as Round 1 nears.  Training exercises have been designed to replicate match intensity, with players performing under pressure and defensive efforts with the goal of improving skill execution and decision making during the upcoming season.
Beck has challenged players to step up as leaders, and James McGee has taken this on board throughout the pre-season, setting a high standard with his professionalism at training and showing an improved confidence in practice matches.  Brenton Allie and Sammy Godfrey have also led the way, quietly training the house down away from the club and leading by example on the field.

Players new to the club have impressed, with Claremont reserves premiership player Brandon Lockley, who attended the best and fairest last year, a standout.  A quality midfielder with an elite kick, Lockley hasn’t missed a training session, and his performances in practice match have been outstanding, according to Beck.  The Caulfield brothers have been strong additions to the club, with their quality as people and players contributing to the improved culture.  Sam Reeves will again lead the Tigers in 2017, with last season’s best and fairest winner Tim Langdale and the consistent Ross Hugo being voted in by the playing group as vice-captains.

The Season Ahead:
When asked what they wanted out of the season at the first summer training session, all players responded with “a premiership.”  This goal is something Beck wants to achieve, but believes for it to come to fruition requires 90 per cent of players to desperately want it, and to “bust their guts to be better.”  Realistically, the Tigers will be aiming for a top 3-4 position at the end of the home and away season, and then throw everything at a flag tilt, with last year’s dominant sides Claremont and Lindisfarne, as well as the talent-loaded New Norfolk the teams to beat.

Beck believes that the system and culture at Hobart this year is better than those of the aforementioned clubs, and is firm in his view that “culture will beat talent every time,” which will make for some great clashes with the powerhouses of the SFL this season.  The midfield group at the Tigers is stronger going into 2017, with former South Launceston premiership player Braden McGee back from the achilles injury that wiped out his entire 2016 season, and experienced TSL inside midfielder Ryan Sullivan returning to the club to join brother Luke. The loss of ruckman Jarratt Horton should be offset by the signing of NSW tall Tim Robertson, who possesses quick hands, and the defence strengthened by Northern Territory recruit Jared Mason, whose rebounding ball delivery has been compared to that of Shaun Burgoyne.

With an improved culture, fitness base, and huge preseason behind them, the Hobart Tigers are set to break out as a club this season.  Don’t miss the key clashes listed above, and you can help the club by purchasing a membership from the club website or from The Den on Thursday nights following training.

Photos courtesy of Dave Harding