NORTH Warrnambool Eagles last night named captain Tom Batten for his first game of the year in tomorrow’s round-10 Hampden league blockbuster against Koroit at Bushfield Recreation Reserve.
Batten, who had hip surgery in the off-season, played a full game in the reserves last Saturday, kicking four goals.
While coach David Haynes had considered giving Batten another game in the seconds, he said the star defender’s fitness was good, despite only resuming running four weeks ago.
“He’ll be right, he needs to get back into it,” Haynes said.
“He’s only going to get better. It’s a bit hard not to play him. He would have killed me being the captain and all that.”
Batten will slot into a defensive post, a week after full-back Josh Monaghan made his comeback after missing the first eight games.
Batten’s inclusion meant his younger brother Sam was omitted, along with Nick Mills and Tom Ludeman.
The fifth-placed Eagles also regained pacy forward Jarryd Lewis and the versatile Aidan Long after both were unavailable for last week’s win over South Warrnambool. Third-placed Koroit named an unchanged line-up despite coming off a 26-point loss to ladder-leader Warrnambool.
Reigning premier South Warrnambool named veteran Jacob Rhodes for his first senior game with the club for more than three years. He featured in five changes for the crunch game against sixth-placed Cobden at Friendly Societies’ Park.
Rhodes, 33, who returned to the club after a stint with Dennington, was named alongside ruckman Mick Havlin and forward Scott Maddern, teenage debutant Peter Doukas and hard nut Shane O’Leary.
The Roosters couldn’t consider co-captain Joe Dalton and teenager Jordan Brown both because of broken collarbones, exciting teenager Sam Thomas (hip) while under 18s Josh Walsh and Tait Niddrie missed out.
Opponent Cobden made two changes, losing Tom Watson, who has been called up to the North Ballarat Roosters seconds, and Mick Salmon, who will make his debut with the Geelong Falcons. Youngsters Sam Rix and Tom Smith were promoted.
Terang Mortlake and Warrnambool had contrasting fortunes at selection for their clash at Terang Recreation Reserve. The Bloods lost centreman Nathan Couch to a hamstring strain and skilful playmaker Jason Puruntatameri to representative football with the Northern Territory. That cleared the way for strong-bodied under 18s Matthew Hayden and Danny Craven to make their senior debuts.
Ladder-leader Warrnambool regained star midfielder Tim Hunt after missing one week with an A/C and promoted versatile key position player Corey McLaren for the injured Will Jacobs (slight hamstring strain) and the unavailable Kayne O’Brien.
Second-placed Camperdown got a boost ahead of tomorrow’s clash with bottom-side Port Fairy at Gardens Oval, with teenage star Sam Gordon returning from the Geelong Falcons.
Gordon, who was touted as a high draft pick last year, will play his second game in three weeks for the Magpies. He is joined by defender Daniel Baker who returns after being unavailable last week. Young midfielders Aaron Davis and Eddie Lucas were omitted.
Port Fairy also made two changes, promoting under 18 player Jake Hetherington and Jeremy Sheehan for Todd Leddin and Sam Dwyer, who was cleared to Merrivale.