TTU hoping flag will bridge era

Calm before the storm: TTU players at training on a Thursday night. Photograph: Liam Durkin





THERE is currently only one road that leads into Tyers.

As far as Traralgon Tyers United senior football coach Jamie Aitken is concerned however, that one road can lead to a premiership.

Aitken is preparing to enter the North Gippsland Football-Netball League Grand Final, in a bid to deliver the Bombers’ first senior flag since 2004.

TTU has been the standout team of the NGFNL this season, and only one more win stands between them and not only the premiership, but the title of premiers and champions.

While heading into a Grand Final unbeaten carries with it a large degree of expectation, Aitken said the team was taking it in their stride.

“Every game you play you want to win, you don’t want to lose,” he said.

“The myth about you have to lose one (necessary loss), I don’t really worry about that, we take it week-by-week and you play who’s in front of you.”

The Bombers will have Woodside to deal with on Saturday, a team holding some historical similarity in terms of premiership drought.

The Wildcats last saluted in 2003, just a year before TTU did likewise.

Having earned the week off after defeating Woodside in the second semi-final, TTU trained as regular last week, in a bid to keep their routine as normal as possible.

The Bombers then had match simulation last Saturday, before players were given the choice to go and watch the preliminary final between Woodside and Heyfield.

Aitken said he didn’t have a preference for Grand Final opponent, nor was he worried about heading into the decider after only playing one final.

“Not too concerned only playing once or twice in four weeks, you’ve got some older bodies and sorer legs, sometimes it’s good to have the break to freshen up,” he said.

“We just want to keep our routine, stick to what we’ve been doing all year, play our game style, do those little things that give us the edge.

“Both teams (seniors and reserves) having the week off, it’s easy on the track, you’ve got full numbers, it’s just better excitement for players when you have all your mates playing, all round it’s easier as a coach.”

TTU will be looking to make it a double on Saturday, with its reserves also in the Grand Final. The Bombers have indeed been blessed with depth this season, with reigning Mid Gippsland FNL senior best-and-fairest Ricky Cochrane even unable to get a game in the main 22 for the semi-final.

The Bombers head into the Grand Final with no shortage of Grand Final experience. Midfielder Michael Jacobsen has played in a senior flag for Traralgon in the Gippsland League, as has Rohan Hildebrand, while Aitken himself has played in multiple Grand Finals for the Maroons.

Hildebrand was one of a few players added to the TTU line-up this season, in a bid to go one better than their runner-up finish in 2022.

Hildebrand was joined by Frazar Brouns from Rosedale, and the Michie brothers, Liam and Caleb, from Moe.

The inclusions have helped complement an already classy side that includes skippers Jye Neilson and Mitch Mustoe, and the likes of Kade Duncan and recently crowned NGFNL best-and-fairest Liam Willaton.

“Liam’s a fantastic bloke and a fantastic player, he’s only young, but we’ve got a core group of players all across the ground, we’re not relying on one player to win the game,” Aitken said.

“They’ve (the new recruits) been fantastic, bit of older heads, bit of toughness, they’ve played higher level (Gippsland League) which you can tell, just the older heads come game day and on the training track – they just get it.”

TTU surprised many last season, including possibly themselves, by going straight through to the Grand Final after beating raging favourites Yallourn Yallourn North in the second semi.

The Bombers may well have played their Grand Final there and then, as come the big day, they were well beaten by the Jets.

This year however feels different, according to Aitken.

“I think last year was the first time the club has been in the Grand Final for 20 years and (it was) very much excitement around the club,” he said.

“I think with three quarters of the squad playing in the Grand Final last year, they know what to expect a bit more, it feels like there is excitement but still have the job to do, bit more mind on task.”

While the Tyers bridge saga has driven people mad behind and away from the wheel, it could serve a metaphoric purpose.

There is currently no shortcut into Tyers, and there is no way known TTU will be taking any shortcuts in their bid to take out the 2023 flag.

Qualifying for a Grand Final requires a lot to go right on and off field, and Aitken said much of the Bombers’ motivation would come from those who have contributed enormous hours.

“We’ve got a great committee, great match committee, our trainers are second-to-none, lot of support so it makes the job easier as a coach,” he said

“It’s not just about the players, it’s about everyone else. We haven’t won a premiership for 21 years now, it means a lot to the people that have been around the club, we’re excited for them and want to do it for them.”


Won every game and premiership (discounting draws)

Leongatha (Gippsland League) 2022

Won every game, lost Grand Final

Heyfield (North Gippsland) 2014

Trafalgar (Mid Gippsland) 2011


TTU Player Profiles

Jaime Aitken (co-coach)
#1 Jack Brown (co-coach) – Back
Has been one of Gippsland’s premier defenders for many years. Reads the play better than anyone and is an elite intercept player.
#2 Mitchell Mustoe (captain) – Midfield
Team captain who leads from the front with a huge work rate and is explosive inside and out of the contest. One of the leagues superior players.
#3 Michael Jacobsen – Midfield
All class and exceptional distributer of the football. Huge work rate and loves the tough contest.
#4 Beau White – Forward
Electric small forward who is ultra-dangerous around the goals.
#7 Tom Fleming – Midfield
As tough as they come and wins the hard ball in the midfield. Puts his body on the line each week for the team.
#8 Jye Neilson (captain) – Ruck/forward
Team captain who plays ruck/key forward. An athletic and powerful player with a huge work rate and is a very strong contested mark.
#9 Ricky Cochran – Midfield/back
Explosive player who is tough in the contest and runs hard all day.
#10 Dougal Williams – Wing
Tough, hard running and reads the game better than most. Can shut down an opposition player and wins the hard ball.
#11 Zac Kilgower – Back
Exceptional key defender who is tall, quick, agile and will run off his opponent all day.
#13 Trent Hourigan – Back
Hard running player with a high skill level who sets up the team’s attack from defensive.
#14 Guy Sinclair – Back/forward
Versatile player who can swing forward and back and make a huge impact. Has a lot of experience and is loved by his teammates.
#15 Brad Kelleher – Forward
Quality full forward with a lot of experience playing at the highest level. A fantastic lead up forward and is a very accurate kick for goal.
#16 Hayden Willaton – Midfield/forward
A dangerous small forward and hardworking midfielder that gathers high possessions week in week out.
#17 Liam Willaton – Midfield/forward
Young midfielder with a huge engine. Is elite with the ground ball and has exceptional skills.
#19 Jacob Williams – Wing
A young player who wins his own ball and runs hard all day. League under 18 best-and-fairest in 2021.
#21 Rohan Hildebrand – Midfield
Experienced midfielder that loves the challenge, tough and hard at the ball.
#23 Frazer Brouns – Ruck/forward
Experienced ruck/forward that provides plenty of versatility for the team.
#24 Liam Michie – Back
Versatile player that is new to TTU for 2023. Hard worker, team player that can play a range of roles for the team.
#27 Nicholas Fox – Wing/midfield
Young super-fit winger who runs all day. Is a special talent and will relish the big stage.
#29 Kade Duncan – Wing/midfield
Slick hard running wingman who is an absolute class act. Sensational ground ball player with amazing skills.
#30 Jake Cashmore – Back/forward
Small hard running back that sets up the teams attack. Can also play lock down roles on key forwards.
#32 Ben Fleming – Ruck
A talented young player who plays in the ruck and pushes forward. Provides a strong contest across the ground.
#33 Oscar Allotta – Midfield
New to the club in 2023. Hard working and competitive midfielder that loves the tough contest.
#34 Caleb Michie – Forward
New to the club in 2023. Young athletic key forward that reads the play well, strong mark and beautiful kick.
#41 Stuart Goddard – Midfield/forward
Super fit midfielder who can also play as a key lead-up forward and is a strong mark. Is a fantastic shot at goal.
#42 Quinn Sinclair – Back
Reliable and versatile defender who can play on the oppositions best tall and small forwards. Never-say-die attitude who has had a fantastic season.
Andy Theissling – (head of stats)
Diehard Essendon fan, would love to see the Bombers win a local flag.