IT might be a touch premature, but Camperdown and Warrnambool could be playing for a week’s rest at the start of the finals series today.
Seven weeks out from the finals, Warrnambool and Camperdown are separated at the top of the Hampden league ladder by percentage after recording nine wins and two losses in their opening 11 matches.
Blues coach Scott Carter understands the importance of a win.
“Our boys know how big a game it is,” Carter said.
“The winner will by no means have cemented top spot but they will be in the driver’s seat. They can definitely say they will finish in the top three.”
Carter is predicting a tough, tight contest in expected wet conditions.
“It’s a massive game. I think everyone would have to agree it’s the biggest home-and-away game this year.
“I think it could come down to which side can get some momentum early on and whichever side can make the most of their opportunities.”
He said the Blues were disappointed with their use of the ball when Camperdown claimed a 37-point win in round five at Reid Oval, but he gave credit to the Magpies.
“It’s time a lot of people started giving Camperdown some credit. They are not 9-2 for no reason. They have a pretty even spread,” he said.
“I picked up from that match they are a very good stoppage side and have good clearance work. That day our ball use was terrible but that was because the pressure they put us under.”
Back in round five the Blues met the Magpies without key position players Sam Cowling and Andrew McCarthy, which left their defence undersized. This time Cowling is back, but the Magpies are missing full-forward Luke Molan through suspension.
The best player on the ground that day, Camperdown’s Luke Mahony, is out for the season with a knee injury.
But Carter doesn’t believe Molan’s absence will have a big bearing on the game, suggesting the conditions would have reduced his effectiveness.
Camperdown coach Bernard Moloney disagrees. He said the Magpies had opted to include back-up ruckman/key forward Marcus Powling for his first senior game of the year in Molan’s place.
“We brought in another tall because we are very aware of trying to stretch sides with our height,” he said.
“We are very lucky we have Sam Gordon there. He’s been terrific since coming back from the Falcons. You still have to have good skills even though it’s wet, but tall players don’t get shorter.”
He said Powling’s inclusion was also aimed at boosting the Magpies’ ruck stocks.
“First touch, especially against Warrnambool, is going to be really important. Having two ruckmen we hope will give us first touch,” he said.
Moloney said the Magpies expected a closer game than round five.
“We are very respectful of Warrnambool, but I reckon they are playing much better than they were last time,” he said.