COLAC and District forwards Christian Kelly and Ben Cox loom as the biggest threats to a long-awaited Warrnambool and District interleague triumph.
The contrasting goalkickers, who have a collective 43 majors to their name at club level this season, will lead the attack for the hosts at Central Reserve, Colac today.
They shape as match winners should they get the supply. The task of stopping them falls to Warrnambool and District’s Sam Doukas and Luke Duncan.
Colac and District coach Tim Pekin played down his two forwards yesterday, despite their potential to cause havoc.
Pekin, a 219-game VFL player with St Kilda and Fitzroy, said he simply wanted “consistent” matches from the pair.
“As a coach you just want them to be level-headed and play a consistent game, not to think they’re going to do great things,” he said.
“You’ve got an opponent on the day you’ve got to beat first. If the midfields are reasonably equal, they’ve got to make use of their chances.
“But I don’t think it matters who the two, three or four are down there, we have to deliver it well.”
Pekin is confident Kelly and Cox can function effectively in the same forward line, as they did for Alvie five seasons ago.
“It’s a bit like Dunstall and Plugger playing together in state teams. Everybody thought it wasn’t going to work,” he said.
The second-year coach was upbeat as he discussed the clash. He said the Colac and District side was “full strength from what’s available”.
Eight members featured in 2013, although five-goal hero Jake Reed, who has given football away to pursue a cricket career, is not one of them.
“Some of the midfielders, like Michael Davis and David Marendaz on a wing, will be playing. They were a couple of good players last year,” Pekin said. “It sounds to me like the midfields for both teams will be a fairly good match-up.”
Warrnambool and District coach Simon O’Keefe was likewise pleased with the commitment and preparation from his players.
O’Keefe, a two-time Panmure premiership coach, said a lack of pace was an issue in a 13-point defeat in the corresponding match at Reid Oval last year.
Selectors have included Panmure speedster Shamus O’Beirne and East Warrnambool teen Blake Rudland-Castles to capitalise on the wide Colac oval.
“I just don’t think the boys were ready for the pace of the game. We’ll be switched on for that and obviously having a big start is very important,” O’Keefe said.
“We’ll put an emphasis on that, have a good warm-up and hopefully we can bang on some goals early and get the ball rolling from there.”
O’Keefe said “playing to our strengths” would be a key if Warrnambool and District was to turn the tables.
“We’ve got smalls that can run and carry the footy, obviously we’ve got to use those boys and pinpoint the talls,” he said.
“There’s no point having three good talls if you’re not kicking to their right side.
“We’ll use them and play to our advantages and hopefully play a good, fast brand of footy.”
The Cox and Kelly versus Doukas and Duncan clash is one of several which highlight an evenly matched interleague clash.
At the other end, Warrnambool and District forwards Chris Keilar and Rhys Raymond are up against Colac and District backmen Dean Sheetz and Adrian Murray.
The hosts’ ruckman Jayden Angus has quality at his feet in the form of Davis, Liam McGuane and Marendaz.
They are up against the visitors’ vice-captain James Keane and onballers O’Keefe, James Kelly and Sam Gleeson.