NIRRANDA coach Aidan Cole knows the Blues’ season is on the line when they take on Old Collegians at Davidson Oval today.
Sixth-ranked Nirranda is two games and percentage behind fifth-ranked Old Collegians entering the Warrnambool and District league match of the day.
Defeat will all but mathematically eliminate the Blues from the finals race, despite a much-improved campaign under first-year coach Cole.
They would have to win their remaining four matches — Panmure and Allansford lay in wait — and hope the Warriors lose all four of theirs.
Victory would keep them in contention, but only just. They would likely need three further wins, including against either the Bulldogs or Cats.
“We know this week is going to be do or die for us and it could be the same for them as well,” Cole said.
“It’s going to be a fairly tough slog, it might go down to the wire especially with the weather that’s on its way.”
Cole was upbeat about the Blues’ prospects of beating the Warriors.
He believed his men were a better side than the one which lost the corresponding fixture in round one at Cobden Recreation Reserve by 75 points. “Over the break, the training sessions we had everyone was still upbeat. Tuesday and Thursday this week, they’re ready for this game,” he said.
“They’re really looking forward to it. They know we could be a finals chance if we do get over this one, it could set us up.
“The form we’ve come away with in the last month we’ve been real happy with.
“It’s probably been great for the boys as well, their confidence has shot through the roof, that’s really what you want leading up to the end of the season.”
Nirranda made three changes on Thursday night, welcoming back Jesse Dalton, ruckman Tim Abraham and Brad Smith.
But Nick Walsh injured a wrist in a farm accident midweek and will miss, robbing the side of a recruit who can play tall or short.
Old Collegians included Jacob Lacy, for his first game since breaking a wrist in round seven, and Zac Pickett, who was unavailable last round. Vincent Fogarty and Matt Petherick were the players to make way, with coach Daryl Beechey saying they were “unlucky with us having a full list”.
Beechey likewise described the assignment today as “a huge game for us”.
“It’s nearly a final before finals. It’ll sew up that finals spot, put us three clear (of Nirranda). It could set us up a bit, it’s a must-win for us,” he said.
Beechey said his players were “slow to react” against Kolora-Noorat last round. The Power kicked seven goals to none in the first term en route to an upset win.
“It was a side below us and one we should’ve won. Everyone is pretty disappointed how it panned out,” he said.
“There was no need for me to go on about it too much, everyone understood the disappointment and the importance of that game we let slip.” A similar slow start today could again be fatal, particularly with the Davidson Oval mud likely to impact scoring in the second half.
“We’ll still try and play our style of footy, there’s no reason why you can’t run and carry the footy in wet conditions and expose them that way,” Beechey said.
“Hopefully we can use our pace and fitness and get over them that way. Not a hell of a lot changes.
“We’ll adapt a little bit to the wet conditions, that’s part of it as well, but we’ll still try and play our style as much as the conditions let us.”