NORTH Warrnambool Eagles is looking to land a psychological blow five weeks from the finals today by beating a side above them for the first time this season.
Coach Bernard Moloney said the third-placed Eagles needed to claim a scalp when they host second-placed Koroit at Bushfield Recreation Reserve.
The Eagles are a game clear of fourth-placed Portland but they face the Tigers in a daunting away game next week that could determine which of the two sides secures a top-three finish and the finals double chance.
“We’ve got a couple of hard weeks if we put this one down,” Moloney said. “The ball is in our court to perform well and that’s the way you build a bit of momentum heading into the finals.
“I think we match up really well against Koroit.”
The Eagles have selected arguably their best side of the season so far after a wretched run with injuries.
But with midfielders Andy McMeel, Jye Bidmade and forward Jeremy Parkinson all passing fitness tests after being late withdrawals last week, the Eagles enter the match in better shape than round five when they suffered a 26-point loss to the Saints.
“We didn’t perform well against them last time,” Moloney said.
But the Eagles enter today’s match fresh from a 110-point thumping of Cobden.
“The guys are now realising you can’t play well one week and drop away. The pressure is on us and the guys realise that.”
For the second consecutive week, the Eagles have history against them. They have a 1-6 win/loss record plus a draw against Koroit at their Bushfield home ground since 2008.
Koroit coach Adam Dowie said the Saints’ were comfortable with their 11-2 win/loss record. “We should be safe with the double chance,” he said.
“If you had given us that at the start of the year we would have grabbed it with both hands.”
Dowie said the Saints were looking forward to the clash, in which Maskell Medal winner Ben Goodall returns for his first game of the season, and exciting teenager Jarrod Korewha makes his senior debut after representing Vic Country at under 16 level.
Dowie said Goodall, who has been training for six weeks, would need time to get back into the swing of senior footy, having not played since last year’s unsuccessful grand final.
He said Goodall’s late start to the season would most likely be a blessing for the match-winning midfielder.
“He’s probably feeling better than he would at this time of the year because he’s fresh and he’s not sore,” Dowie said.
Dowie said Goodall had made the decision to return to the game after being left alone by the club.
“I think the more you annoy him, the more you would push him away.”
Dowie revealed the Saints had Goodall doing some conditioning work “on the quiet” before he returned to training with the team about six weeks ago.
The Saints are keen to expose Korewha to senior footy and with another teenager Jayden Brennan out with a shoulder injury, the time has arrived.
Dowie recognised Korewha was facing tough opposition on debut and again next week against ladder-leader Warrnambool but said he had an opportunity to be part of the Saints’ September push.
“We think if he can play against those blokes when the grounds are wet and heavy it’s a good sign whether we can move forward with him in the last few weeks and the finals.”