THE birth of a baby girl threw Hampden’s selectors an unexpected bonus last night for Saturday’s country championships clash against Ovens and Murray.
Coach Nick O’Sullivan and his team of selectors spent more than 20 minutes after training finalising their side for the trip to Wangaratta.
They named former Hampden captain, Terang Mortlake star Damian O’Connor, in the starting 18, just hours after they ruled out the big-game performer.
But in a dramatic night on the track at Reid Oval, O’Sullivan received a text message that his brother-in-law O’Connor and wife Jess had welcomed their third child into the world.
Earlier yesterday O’Sullivan revealed O’Connor had withdrawn from the squad because Jess, who was expected to give birth last Thursday, was unlikely to do so until the weekend.
O’Sullivan and his selectors had no hesitation in naming O’Connor in the side.
“He’s been massive for the Hampden league in the past three years I’ve coached,” O’Sullivan said.
“He has given everything for the league at representative level and he deserves an opportunity to play. We are not putting pressure on him, it’s his call. He needs 24 hours to let the dust settle.”
O’Connor’s inclusion came shortly before Portland midfielder Luke Crane, who went to training battling an ankle injury, ruled himself out, despite moving well and displaying his exquisite skills.
“He did all the ground drills, the running and long kicking but he said he’s only about 80 per cent right,” O’Sullivan said.
“He’s not convinced he will get through a full game and he doesn’t want to let us down. That takes guts to make that call.”
Selectors named 13 debutants to wear the bottle green jumper among their 22. The list of fresh faces included multiple Warrnambool premiership players Andrew McCarthy, Brendan Moore and Jackson Bell, Hamilton Kangaroos midfielder Tim Meulendyks, Portland midfielders Jake Myles and Jake Dignan, Port Fairy defender Dylan Gunning, Cobden midfielder Sam Harkin, North Warrnambool Eagles ruckman Jordan Dillon and his midfield teammate Matthew Wines, Koroit ruckman Jeremy Hausler, Camperdown coach Dan Casey and his Magpies teammate Nick Bateman.
O’Sullivan named Kangaroos midfielder Hamish Waldron and Terang Mortlake key forward Chris Bant as emergencies. If O’Connor doesn’t play, Waldron, a similar build, would most likely get the nod.
Port Fairy coach Sam Rudolph was ruled out yesterday because of a foot injury.
Ovens and Murray named a 23-man squad before its final training session tonight, including former AFL star Brendan Fevola and ex-Richmond and St Kilda half-back Dean Polo.
Hampden interleague squad
B: Brendan Moore (Warrnambool), Paul Hinkley (Cobden), Dylan Gunning (Port Fairy)
HB: Chris Baxter (Terang Mortlake), Nick Bateman (Camperdown), Damian O’Connor (Terang Mortlake)
C: Sam Harkin (Cobden), Isaac Templeton (Koroit), Tim Meulendyks (Hamilton Kangaroos)
HF: Travis Graham (Warrnambool), Sam Dobson (Koroit), Brody Mahoney (Cobden)
F: Jake Myles (Portland), Dan Casey (Camperdown), Jeremy Hausler (Koroit)
Fol: Jordan Dillon (North Warrnambool Eagles), Nick Thompson (South Warrnambool), Jake Dignan (Portland)
Int: Jackson Bell (Warrnambool), Matthew Wines (North Warrnambool Eagles), Wil Pomorin (Terang Mortlake), Andrew McCarthy (Warrnambool)
Emerg: Hamish Waldron (Hamilton Kangaroos), Chris Bant (Terang Mortlake)