DENNINGTON has made two changes to its side for the Warrnambool and District league grand final against Panmure at Reid Oval tomorrow.
Onballer/defender Chris Vickery and young forward Matt O’Rourke last night received grand final lifelines at the selection table.
Vickery returns after fracturing his right hand in the round 18 win over Russells Creek.
He has received the green light from his doctor and has completed everything required of him at training.
O’Rourke is free to play after serving a six-week suspension for unbecoming conduct during the Dennington-Deakin University match in round 11.
Selectors omitted teenager Steve Smith, who is the hard-luck story of the season but will play in the reserves grand final, while Jono Nevill is suspended.
Nevill will appeal his two-match suspension for striking in Melbourne tonight.
Dennington coach Darcy Lewis said Vickery was “half considering” playing in the preliminary final last weekend but the Dogs opted against including him.
“He’s back on the track. He’s got the all-clear from the doctor,” Lewis said.
“We had a talk and said ‘you’ve got to do everything with that hand — tackle, smother, punch.
“He didn’t miss a beat. He’s ready to go. If he can do that at 6pm Thursday, he’ll certainly be able to do it at 2pm Saturday.”
Lewis said O’Rourke had maintained his training during his suspension and was “fit, fresh and jumping out of his skin to play”.
He said the emerging prospect had played some of his best football in the weeks leading up to his ban, three days out from round 16.
“The whole time he never had a bad game. He gives you contest after contest. He’s done everything I asked him to do,” he said.
“He’s someone I really want in the side.”
Panmure named an unchanged side to the one which defeated Kolora-Noorat in the second semi-final a fortnight ago.
The decision leaves key defender Brandon Cole on the outer for a second consecutive grand final.
Cole played 12 matches during the regular season but a difficulty in finding a match-up meant he lost his spot for the Power match.
Panmure coach Simon O’Keefe said the decision was tough, with selectors ultimately “backing the 21 who got us here”.
“Just our structures — we seem to be pretty settled across all the lines,” he said.
“(Cole) is one of the stiffer ones. He’s been really good all year.
“He’s a great kid. He’ll be a really good senior footballer next year and the year after.
“Last year he was good and this year he’s developed again.
“He’s obviously competing against Tim McPherson and Dan Meade for that key position spot.”
O’Keefe said Panmure, as a club and a community, was “buzzing”.
“It’s a pretty small little town. To get into two grand finals in a row is a massive effort,” he said.
“The club is buzzing and so is the community. They’re right behind us.
“We’ve got the A (grade) and A reserve netballers in — three sides in, and two senior sides, is a great effort.”