NORTH Warrnambool Eagles are firming as a genuine premiership contender despite their horror injury run.
Rival coaches are predicting the third-placed Eagles have the potential to fly home in the remaining eight home-and-away games before launching a serious September assault on a first Hampden league premiership.
Camperdown coach Dan Casey said the Eagles were impressive against his Magpies last Saturday.
“I would hate to see what they could do if they have a full deck of players,” Casey said.
“I think they could do some real damage if they play that well in finals.”
The Eagles were without midfielders Dean Gavin (ankle fracture) and Nathan Murphy (broken thumb), assistant coach Brendan Murfett (calf tear), fellow defenders Darcy Keast (quad) and Nick Maddison (groin) plus key forward Michael Darmody (ankle) on Saturday. Only Darmody is rated a chance to play in Saturday’s match against Terang Mortlake, with Gavin and Murfett having follow-up scans in a bid to check their progress.
Warrnambool coach Scott Carter, who faces the Eagles in round 12, said its cross-town rival had done well to be sitting third on the ladder with seven wins and three losses.
“I reckon they have done a really good job to hold their ground (on the ladder) with all the injuries,” Carter said.
“Their side has a bit of X-factor. They have enough talent that could cause headaches for a lot of opposition coaches.”
The Eagles have been perceived as vulnerable with injuries to so many of their A grade players
Casey said as much after Saturday’s 15-point loss to the Eagles.
“They were cherry ripe for the picking and we didn’t make the most of our opportunities,” he said.
The Eagles’ ability to win consistently has insiders at rival clubs believing they could have more chance than second-placed Koroit at stopping Warrnambool’s march to the finals.
Eagles coach Bernard Moloney isn’t so sure.
“We haven’t proved that because Warrnambool have beaten us (70 points) and Koroit has beaten us (25 points) and Port Fairy has beaten us,” he said. “The thing I’m pleased about, the guys we’ve brought in have given us everything.”
He said under 18½ coach Tom Batten and reserves coach Brad Clough deserved some of the credit for preparing players to follow similar game plans.
Moloney said the Eagles hoped to have key players back and match fit before the finals but the season’s success would be determined by end results, not after round 10.
“We’ve got a long way to go to get to the point where we challenge sides like Warrnambool and Koroit,” he said.
Moloney said the Eagles admired Warrnambool.
“They have shown the other clubs what you have to do: prepare your juniors and stick by them and build an era, a legacy. That’s North’s biggest challenge. They have made a couple of preliminary finals but you don’t build an era on preliminary finals.”