The North Launceston team of 1998 was coached by Mathew Armstrong and was the only team in the history of the Tasmanian Statewide League to complete a season undefeated. In the premiership decider they accounted for Clarence easily, having kept them goalless for the first half of the game.
The coach of North Launceston’s 1998 team, Mathew Armstrong, said:
“The North Launceston Football Club demands the best from players, staff and coaches. I was fortunate to be given the opportunity to lead the club in my first coaching assignment after retiring as an AFL player. I couldn’t have hoped for a better start to coaching as I was able to lead a quality group of experienced players and new recruits who were all hungry for the one goal: a state premiership. That we were able to achieve this by being undefeated and ultimately defeating Clarence in the grand final made the achievement of the 1998 team all the sweeter for everyone associated with the North Launceston Football Club.”
North Launceston’s Year of Achievement
It was pretty clear from the start of the 1998 season that North Launceston were going to be serious challengers for their fifth state premiership.
The push for the ultimate prize began with the recruitment of Tasmanian AFL star Mathew Armstrong to coach the team following two mediocre seasons by the club’s standards. Armstrong had been coached by the likes of David Parkin and Denis Pagan and was embarking on a career in coaching when he took on the North Launceston position.
The Robins commenced their campaign with early wins as excellent recruiting and a wealth of experience immediately began to tell on the rest of the competition. The North Launceston team continued undefeated with only the occasional scare.
The team’s finest hour came against Burnie in Round 14 at West Park on a windy Sunday afternoon. They were well behind the eight ball at three-quarter time, down by as much as seven goals and it seemed inevitable that they would crash to their first defeat. But they proved the football world wrong, charging home in the last quarter to record a brilliant 16-point victory, not only proving they had a psychological advantage over the rest of the competition but also sending Burnie to a much dreaded qualifying final date with coastal foe Devonport at Devonport.
The Robins’ coaching staff entered the finals talking about ‘the process’ that would bring them the final reward of the state premiership. The coaches’ game plan was based around 100% accountability by all players to ensure that pressure would create errors/turnovers amongst their opposition.
North Launceston claimed the minor premiership with 18 consecutive victories, and then claimed a spot in the statewide grand final with a strong win over Devonport in the second semi final at York Park.
The big prize came when North Launceston totally outplayed reigning premier Clarence by 49 points in the grand final at North Hobart, in front of 9,653 fans. It was well and truly won at half time, as the miserly defence of the Bombers kept Clarence to 0.8, a rare feat.
North Launceston goes down in history as one of the best teams in the modern era.
In 1998 North Launceston’s neighbours, South Launceston, simultaneously triumphed at NTFL in their first season in the competition. For one season at least there could be little doubt that Launceston constituted the epicentre of Tasmanian football power.
North Launceston’s Finals Campaign, 1998
TFL Statewide League – Second Semi Final Date: 6 September
North L’ton: 3.2 8.5 8.8 14.13 (97)
Devonport: 2.2 3.4 4.7 6.8 (44)
Venue: York Park
Umpire: C. Lodin, M. Williams, S. Schuringa.
North Launceston: A. Sanders, J. French, A. McLean, J. Gibson, M. Simpson, N. Howard, K. Tyson, S. Kremerskothen
Devonport: W. Weidemann, G. Guard, M. Langmaid, B. Rawlings, J. Walmsley, J. Skidmore
North Launceston: J. Gibson (4), S. Kremerskothen (2), D. O’Neill (2), A. McLean (2), A. Sanders, B. Bolton, S. Hawkins, M. Armstrong
Devonport: B. Jaffray (2), G. Guard, A. Jones, M. Langmaid, P. Beechey
TFL Statewide League – Grand Final Date: 20 September
North Launceston: 2.8 5.11 10.14 14.16 (100)
Clarence: 0.4 0.8 4.12 6.15 (51)
Venue: North Hobart Oval
Umpire: W. Young; S. Schuringa; M. Wilson
North Launceston: B. Bolton (BOG – Weller Arnold Medal), K. Curtis, A. McLean, J. Matthews, M. Todman, A. Sanders, M. Simpson, S. Hawkins, D. Trevena, J. French
Clarence: K. O’Dwyer, M. Colegrave, N. Davey, S. McCallum, A. Cole, J. Barling, K. Wilson, C. Black, M. Jones
North Launceston: J. Gibson (3), S. Kremerskothen (3), D. Trevena (2), M. Armstrong (2), M. Simpson (1), B. Bolton (1), A. McLean (1), C. Jones (1)
Clarence: C. Black (2), S. Allen (2), K. O’Dwyer (1), C. Alexander (1)
North Launceston’s Grand Final Team:
B: Adam Sanders, Dayle O’Neill, Marcus Todman (Vice Captain)
HB: Mathew Armstrong, Dale Chugg (Captain), Nathan Howard
C: Kim Curtis, Brendan Bolton, Steane Kremerskothen
HF: Jason Gibson, Andrew McLean, Scott Hawkins
F: Darren Trevena, Jason Matthews, Jason French
Ruck: Adam Aherne, Mark Chugg, Kent Tyson
Reserves: Mark Simpson, Chris Jones, Scott Blackwell
Coach: Mathew Armstrong