TODAY might be North Warrnambool Eagles’ defining moment.
In coach Bernard Moloney’s eyes, today’s match against reigning premier and ladder-leader Warrnambool is about making a stand after the Eagles were thrashed by 70 points in round three.
“We have to come with the right mindset,” he said.
“The last time they embarrassed us and I will take a lot of the blame. Just after three-quarter-time they got to six goals up and I took some risks and made some changes to try and strengthen our forward line and they really got a hold of us.
“I think we have come a fair way from that but we won’t know how far until we test ourselves against them.
“If you are climbing a mountain you look down on who’s coming behind you.Warrnambool are the ones who are ahead of us and we have to make a statement. On our home ground they are there to be beaten.”
Moloney said Warrnambool had achieved its status as the competition leader through “enormous self-belief”.
“This is our test,” he said.
Moloney, in his first year at the helm of the Eagles, speaks of this season but his comments about making a statement could be extended further.
An intense rivalry is building between the two clubs based on several spiteful incidents in their round-three clash, as the Eagles long to overthrow the powerhouse Blues.
The Eagles have won four of their past 15 matches against the Blues but none have had lasting results. Last year, the Eagles faced Warrnambool three times. They won a dead-rubber match by a point in round 18 with the Blues already assured of a top-three spot. Three weeks later in the preliminary final they met again and the Blues scored a 69-point win before going on to clinch back-to-back premierships.
Today the Eagles are third with a 7-4 win/loss record and the Blues first with 10 wins so far this season.
If the Eagles win today, they would stay a game clear of fourth-placed Portland and compact the race for the minor premiership. But a loss could see it and Portland level on 7-5 records throwing the Eagles’ top-three hopes in doubt.
Warrnambool coach Scott Carter said his club was prepared for a battle.
“First versus third in round 12, the games are starting to get important,” he said.
“The importance of games increases as we get into the back third of the season.
“We haven’t got a lot of margin for error. We are very happy with the position we find ourselves (10-1) but we are very aware top spot is still up for grabs.
“We pride ourselves on being at our best when the stakes are high.”
Carter said ground and weather conditions could see the result determined by a “roll of the dice”. His players needed to adapt to the conditions better than they did against Camperdown two weeks ago.