FAMILY before football.
Terang Mortlake veteran Damian O’Connor withdrew from Hampden’s interleague squad last night, 22 hours after the birth of his third child.
The former Bottle Greens captain left his decision until the last minute but ultimately his young family took priority.
O’Connor’s wife Jess, a Bloods A grade netballer, gave birth to their daughter Remi on Wednesday evening.
Remi, who was six days late, is a sister for Indi, 4, and Billy, 2.
O’Connor, who played in Hampden’s 94-point win against Sunraysia last year, said the 14-hour round trip to Wangaratta was a major factor in his decision to miss tomorrow’s clash with Ovens and Murray.
“In the end it was too hard. Jess gets released on Saturday and it’s easier if I am at home with the two other kids,” he said.
“It was a tough one. At one stage I was going, then I wasn’t and then I was going and then I decided not to.
“If the game was in Warrnambool or maybe even Melbourne I’d play but going away Friday, Saturday and Sunday you’re tired anyway, it’s kind of like you’re missing three days. With Jess coming back Saturday it just wouldn’t be fair.
“I just want to make sure they fit in well and the safest option was to stay at home.”
The strong-bodied midfielder-defender said spending time with his new daughter would more than cover the disappointment of missing a “big game”.
O’Connor’s Terang Mortlake teammate Chris Bant will replace him in the Hampden league line-up. The key forward was named an emergency on Wednesday night.
Hamilton Kangaroos midfielder Hamish Waldron was the first emergency but work commitments ruled him out.
“My good mate Mozz (Bant) comes in and that makes it easier,” O’Connor said.
O’Connor said Hampden — the underdog in the fifth versus sixth country championships battle — had prepared well under coach Nick O’Sullivan.
“I reckon they should acquit themselves pretty well,” he said.
“Obviously Ovens and Murray are going to have a pretty formidable outfit but the team that Hampden have picked is pretty versatile so blokes can play in different positions. They should have a good shot.”
O’Connor said negating Ovens and Murray’s playmakers would go a long way to making it back-to-back Hampden interleague wins.
“Ovens and Murray will have plenty of runners and they always have good kicks, being at that level, so I think it will be free-flowing,” he said.
“With interleague it is pretty free-flowing but Hampden’s probably got to get a couple of stoppers going and just slow some of their ball users down and play a little bit defensively.
“I know if we go head-to-head we’d probably lose so it probably has to be a bit more defensive, but then know when to attack.”