When you’ve been on top for nearly a decade, everyone is waiting for you to fall off.
While North Launceston’s demise has been predicted many times before, the club keeps finding a way to go again, making the last seven TSL Grand Finals in a row, winning five of them.
However, the Northern Bombers are arguably facing their toughest challenge yet in 2021, coming off a Grand Final defeat with several key departures and changes at the top.
But under new playing coach Brad Cox-Goodyer and first-time captain Jay Foon, these two stalwarts of the club are not only looking to forge a fresh identity, but keep North Launceston as competitive as ever.
When two-time Premiership coach Taylor Whitford decided to step away, Cox-Goodyer was a natural replacement.
As a five-time Premiership player, two-time Darrel Baldock Medallist (best on ground in the Grand Final), Alastair Lynch Medallist (the TSL’s best and fairest), RACT Insurance Player of the Year and now former captain of the club, he is certainly qualified.
Cox-Goodyer originally inherited the captaincy from Whitford when the latter became playing coach in 2017, so it’s only fitting that he steps up once again.
“It’s been great, I’m moving into my 12th or 13th year of senior football and I’ve achieved a little, so to have a new challenge put in front of me to coach the club is really exciting. It gives me a fresh look at things,” Cox-Goodyer told The Inner Sanctum.
“There’s been a fair few challenges early doors, the majority of it has been off-field with the administration of a football club that you have to take care of, just player management, planning and trying to get things right. I’m a big one for relationships as well, so ensuring that I don’t just get the work in, but building a bond that’s going to help us further down the track.”
With Cox-Goodyer vacating the captaincy, it meant that vice-captain Jay Foon was ready to take over.
A superstar of the competition, Foon has made five consecutive TSL Teams of the Year because of his elite skills, intercepting and rebounding off half-back.
He has also played through the midfield and didn’t let a broken neck in 2018 derail his skyrocketing trajectory.
“It’s obviously something you always aspire to as a leader, to be able to captain a footy club like North Launceston,” Foon said.
“I’ve been vice-captain in the past, so it hasn’t been too much of a massive load up to what I’m used to. The boys have all gotten behind me so it’s been pretty good.”
The duo’s partnership will be crucial in shaping the future of the club, with each of them having the utmost confidence in the other.
“Jay’s last few years as a leader have been terrific, his growth’s been huge. Now it’s time for him to step up into that captaincy role, but he’s got a lot of respect from the group and he voices his opinion when he needs to. It’s going to be a new experience for him as well, I’m a new coach and he’s a new captain,” Cox-Goodyer said.
“We’ve got a pretty good relationship, we’ve played footy together for a number of years. I’m more than happy to bounce ideas off him and I’m really looking forward to him growing into the role. He’ll have times where he’ll struggle, but he’ll learn from it.”
Foon had similar words of praise for his coach.
“Brad’s been awesome, he’s been a leader at the club with him being captain for the last couple of years. He’s built really good relationships with the guys coming through and the boys really enjoy playing underneath him. He’s a quality person and he’s changed it up a bit which is enjoyable,” he said.
While Cox-Goodyer has not found tasks like running training difficult, he admits managing coaching and playing duties on game day will be a challenge.
“It’s going to be a learning curve. I’m really going to have to put a lot of trust in my assistant coaches to oversee things on game day, because I’ll obviously be on the ground. I’ll do most of the work during the week and on game day I’ll try to concentrate on being a player first because that’s my role,” he said.
“It’s going to be interesting, hopefully my playing standards don’t drop too much, I want to continue to try and be the best player I can. I don’t know how it’s going to go at the moment, but I’m sure I’ll learn a lot from the first couple of games and adjust when I need to.”
But Cox-Goodyer and Foon will be leading a very different Northern Bombers outfit this season, with some of their best players departing over the off-season.
In Taylor Whitford, North Launceston is not only losing its coach, but its reigning best and fairest winner (one of four he won during his time at the club), a two-time RACT Insurance Player of the Year and one of the best players in the state.
Josh Ponting, who also falls under that last title, departs as a two-time Alastair Lynch Medallist, RACT Insurance Player of the Year and Darrel Baldock Medallist.
Young guns Sherrin Egger (work commitments) and Jackson Callow (Norwood in the SANFL) have moved on, with Callow also training on at Hawthorn over the summer.
“It’s probably one of the few years where we’ve lost guys and haven’t replaced them with senior guys,” Cox-Goodyer admitted.
“We’ve lost a fair bit of experience and talent, which happens every year. But I’ve always said that I’ll give all I can do the guys that we’ve got, there’s no point worrying about things we can’t control.
“We’ll probably have a very different team come Round One to what people have seen, there will be a fair few kids playing their first game. It’s very exciting in that sense, you have guys that have been around the footy club for a while, they’re going to get their chance when in previous years they haven’t with the list we’ve had.”
Foon echoed his coach’s words, saying the availability of spots is brewing excitement among the young players.
“We’ve lost some good players, but we’re a pretty good group. It’s exciting, the young guys are grabbing it with both hands. We’ve lost those senior guys, so spots are available,” he said.
“It gets us to have more depth at the footy club and we can blood some guys. Hopefully they can become the 100-200 game players that some of the guys who have left have been.”
Cox-Goodyer, Whitford and Ponting were seen by many as the cornerstones of North Launceston’s dynasty, with the former saying it feels strange not seeing the other two at the club anymore.
“I guess it is a bit weird coming to training and not seeing those guys. Taylor’s played in all the Premierships that we played in and Josh played in four. We’ve been playing football together for a very long-time and we’re very good friends outside of football,” he said.
But this is not the first time that the Northern Bombers have lost key players or personnel over their seven seasons of dominance, potentially a good sign for 2021.
Cox-Goodyer is the team’s fourth coach since 2015, but it has still made the Grand Final in every year since then.
When asked about how North Launceston has remained so powerful despite all these changes, Cox-Goodyer pointed to the strength of the club at all levels, citing the fact that players like himself, Foon and Whitford all came through as juniors.
“That’s a credit to the football club as a whole, not just the senior group. Being able to develop our own has been a pretty big part of what we’ve done. A lot of our senior and Premiership players played junior footy at our club, we don’t really get that many people from other clubs as much as people say we do, we don’t,” he said.
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