REIGNING premier Warrnambool last night plucked two wildcards from its deep pack of playing resources, naming multiple premiership players Josh Walters and Damien McCorkell for their first games of the season.
Walters, who indicated his decorated career was over after last year’s grand final triumph, set tongues wagging when he appeared as runner for the Blues in last month’s pre-season cup competition.
The following week he made a surprise appearance at training and after six weeks of fitness and skill work, he will extend his career for another season, starting with tomorrow’s round three clash with North Warrnambool Eagles at Reid Oval.
The former league best and fairest winner was one of three additions to the Blues side that defeated Camperdown 13 days ago.
The 34-year-old was named alongside McCorkell, who had a delayed start to the Blues campaign because he travelled overseas and key position player Peter Corredig, who was unavailable for the round two fixture.
Their returns made it hard for coach Scott Carter and his selectors, who had the unenviable task of axing a player.
The unlucky one was half-forward Corey Gallichan, while versatile big man Sam Cowling is unavailable and teenager Luke McLeod is one of three Blues playing with TAC Cup side North Ballarat Rebels today.
Carter said Walters, a veteran of 193 games, and McCorkell were ready for senior football despite no competitive hit-outs since last September’s grand final.
“Josh would have been training now for six weeks and he’s someone who always keeps himself in good condition,” Carter said.
“Damo has had a month’s training.
“Maybe it’s a bit of a gamble not to give them a game in the reserves but sometimes you have to take the risk.”
Carter said the pair would provide vital drive and support for young midfielders Jackson Bell and Darcy Graham.
“We don’t expect them (Walters and McCorkell) to win us the game but I’m sure they will do their role for us.”
The Blues are also preparing to welcome back two other multiple premiership players in coming weeks with teenager Liam Hoy set to make his comeback to the game from the debilitating osteitis pubis in the under 18½s, while Brad Bull, who broke his hand in a pre-season mishap, is expected to play in another two weeks.
Opponent North Warrnambool Eagles suffered a big blow last night, with livewire forward Jeremy Parkinson ruled out with a fractured eye socket.
He was one of three changes to the team that defeated Terang Mortlake by three points.
The Eagles rushed back midfield recruit Jye Bidmade, versatile big man Benjamin Mugavin and promoted running player Thomas Maclarn for his senior debut.
Bidmade suffered a rib injury in round one, while Mugavin was unavailable.
Lachie Woodhams and Matt Brophy were both omitted.
In tomorrow’s other game, Port Fairy welcomed back big men Adam McCosh and Robbie Hare among three inclusions for the showdown with Terang Mortlake at Gardens Oval.
Hare, who played with Terang Mortlake last season, kicked the winning goal in the pre-season cup grand final against the Bloods but suffered a hamstring injury at training on the eve of round one.
McCosh and Hare replaced Xavier McCartney, whose season is over after breaking his leg, Northern Territory recruit Lloyd Stockman (hamstring), while Thomas Lambevski returns to the under 18½s.
Terang Mortlake also made three changes, with midfielders Joe Conheady, Joe Arundell and Danny Craven coming in for the injured Pat Heffernan, who aggravated a groin complaint and will now miss four weeks. Youngsters Ben Finnerty and Dyla