O'Connor to put interleague fitness to test

TERANG Mortlake star Damian O’Connor will use Saturday’s match against Cobden as his Hampden interleague fitness test.

O’Connor, a proven player at representative level, needs to overcome a groin/adductor complaint to again feature in Hampden’s squad for the country championships clash with Ovens and Murray at Wangaratta in 11 days.

If fit, he is expected to be given a leadership role, given his standing in the Hampden league, his passion and commitment to interleague football.

O’Connor, who didn’t play the second half against Warrnambool, ran 10 kilometres at club training last Thursday but opted to take a cautious approach and missed Saturday’s win over Hamilton Kangaroos.

The versatile midfielder yesterday said he would play with the Bloods in Saturday night’s game against Cobden.

“It depends on how I will pull up from a full match and how my form is,” O’Connor said.

“If I’m not in good form I won’t get picked.”

O’Connor said he would only put his hand up to represent the league if he was fit and his form warranted selection. With sides only having a four-man interchange bench this year instead of six, he doesn’t want to jeopardise Hampden’s chances. “I can do everything in a straight line but it’s just sideways (that is the problem),” O’Connor said.

He will run again tonight at club training before a swim and gym session tomorrow and then Thursday night’s main session with the Bloods.

“It’s not too bad. I reckon I could have played against Hamilton Kangaroos but if you hurt it in the first five minutes you look stupid.”

The only thing that will stop O’Connor playing with the Bloods on Saturday night is if wife Jess goes into labour with their third child. Her due date is tomorrow.

O’Connor is in a better position than a week ago when his chances of representing the league looked all but over. His teammate Stephen Staunton (shoulder) remains a major concern for selectors.

Hampden coach Nick O’Sullivan said Staunton, who kicked seven goals in last year’s win over Sunraysia, was doubtful to overcome his injury.

O’Sullivan said the majority of Hampden’s interleague side were named among their club’s best performers last weekend, heightening expectations.

Portland midfielder Luke Crane suffered an ankle injury in his side’s win over Camperdown on Saturday but O’Sullivan said reports from Portland were positive while the fitness of Camperdown coach Dan Casey, who has hamstring tightness, is no issue.

O’Sullivan said selectors had added South Warrnambool midfielder Nick Thompson to the original 40-man training squad after he made a late start to the season.

But the squad is down to 38 after North Warrnambool Eagles ball magnet Dean Gavin, Port Fairy midfielder Aaron Shields and wingman Jaise Coleman were unavailable.

The squad trains tomorrow night before training twice next week ahead of the long bus trip to Wangaratta.

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