A WIN has followed every Warrnambool loss this season.
Premiership coach Scott Carter expects the Blues’ competitive nature to give them a boost in today’s Hampden league preliminary final against a momentum-charged North Warrnambool Eagles.
Carter said the Blues’ 27-point second semi-final loss to Koroit stung.
“I am confident in our boys. Year after year they always respond after a loss,” he said.
“It’s showed the resilience of the group. They pick themselves up off the ground.”
Carter said the reigning premiers had “flown under the radar” in the lead up to the do-or-die final.
“There has been a lot of hype around North Warrnambool this week, which is understandable — they are shooting for their first grand final appearance and won a final by 99 points,” he said.
“I am predicting it will probably be another close encounter. Two points and one point are a fair indication both sides are close.
“For us to beat North Warrnambool we have to sustain pressure. North Warrnambool looked good last week maintaining possession out of their back 50.”
North Ballarat Roosters-listed player Marcus Darmody has boosted the Eagles’ defence in their two finals wins.
Carter said he had only seen the versatile Eagle play twice.
“He seems to be a good ball user and smart decision-maker. We can’t afford to allow him time and space in the back half,” he said.
Carter said the Blues, who welcomed back Maskell medallist Tim Hunt at the expense of tall Rob Bright, needed a better spread of goalkickers today to counter the Eagles’ potent attack.
The Blues had three goal scorers in their loss to the Saints — key position duo Jason Rowan and Travis Graham kicked eight goals between them and swingman Tim O’Keeffe chimed in with two goals.
“We had 36 inside 50s and to win a final you are looking at 45-plus,” Carter said.
“One thing we need is to generate more inside 50s.”
North Warrnambool Eagles coach David Haynes said the Blues had numerous forward options, which wasn’t reflected in their loss last week.
“They play a style of footy which is conducive to getting it into Rowan and Travy Graham,” he said. “A couple of guys, Jye Turland and Jackson Bell, have gone under the radar of clubs, so they have key targets but also crumbing targets who can kick goals.”
Haynes said the Eagles had the depth to cover absent ball magnet Andy McMeel.
A calf injury has kept the former North Ballarat Rebel out for a second straight week.
Haynes said the club took a no-risk approach with players under injury clouds.
“We have different blokes who can go through the midfield and we’re versatile too, being able to play Keasty (Darcy Keast) in the midfield too in bits and pieces,” he said.
Haynes said the Eagles were excited about playing in a second consecutive preliminary final but had learned from their 52-point capitulation to Cobden in last season’s penultimate game.
The key forward said the Eagles were “almost a bit over the top” before the 2012 clash, given it was the club’s first preliminary final.
Haynes said the Eagles had learned from that experience and took a mature approach into today’s battle.
“It’s like another game which is good,” he said.
““It hasn’t changed in the second half of the year to be honest.”