WARRNAMBOOL coach Scott Carter says Maskell medallist Tim Hunt is a certain starter for the Blues’ preliminary final showdown against an unchanged North Warrnambool Eagles.
Hunt was a late withdrawal last weekend with a groin injury, missing the Blues’ second semi-final loss to Koroit.
The smooth-moving ball winner replaces premiership teammate Rob Bright for tomorrow’s Reid Oval clash.
Carter said Bright’s omission was “a really hard decision”.
“It was probably the toughest decision I have had to make since I have been coach,” he said.
“With the character Rob’s got he’s taken it the best possible way and is right behind his teammates.”
Bright has played 15 matches this season, including the Blues’ first two finals.
The ruckman missed a chunk of the season with a hand injury.
Carter said the change was based on “weight of numbers”.
“A player like Tim Hunt we’d welcome back with open arms — he’s last year’s Maskell medallist,” he said.
“I guarantee he’ll play Saturday.”
Carter said he was confident Hunt, who has carried a groin since the round 18 loss to the Eagles, would have a positive impact.
“It is something he has to manage and get through best he can,” he said.
North Warrnambool Eagles will be without in-form midfielder Andy McMeel for a second week.
Eagles coach David Haynes said McMeel hadn’t overcome a niggling calf injury.
“He wasn’t right so he won’t play,” he said.
“All year we have said if you can’t train fully on the Thursday you won’t play so there is no point changing it now — it has worked.”
Haynes said it was positive to go in with a settled line-up.
“It’s no change for a change,” he said.
“It would be very hard to leave someone out after the way we played last week.”
Haynes said the Eagles were buoyed by their 99-point belting of Cobden in Sunday’s first semi-final but had approached their second preliminary final with a maturity which lacked last season.
The key forward said the Eagles’ preparation was strong.
“We trained to be peaking at this time of year,” he said. “It is no surprise to me that we’re playing good footy now and only have one injury.”
Grand finalist Koroit will have a training run tomorrow morning.
Saints coach Adam Dowie said the players had a recovery session on Sunday and trained Tuesday and last night.
“We have a few boys who are a bit sore but will be fine,” Dowie said.
“The week off helps freshen us up and get over a few niggles.
“It’s been nice knowing you are in and can sit back and relax a little bit and at 5pm Saturday we’ll have an opponent.”
The Saints left potential senior call-ups Karl Dwyer, Eli Barker and Jayden Whitehead out of their reserves side for their preliminary final against Camperdown tomorrow.
“We just about have everyone to pick from,” Dowie said.
“It gives you headaches but you’d rather have that than be looking for players.”