TERANG Mortlake star Damian O’Connor was last night listed as a shock omission for tomorrow’s final-five deciding clash with Camperdown.
The match-winning midfielder was named only as emergency for the crunch game against the Magpies at Leura Oval. His exclusion from the side cleared the way for assistant coach Chris Bant to return after serving a two-match suspension.
Bloods coach Matthew Irving said O’Connor, an electrician at Midfield Meat, had work commitments tomorrow.
“He’ll try to play but he has to work so whether he gets there in time we don’t know,” Irving said.
“He’s been crook all week. We’re hoping he’s right to play but we are not going to muck around trying to bring blokes in at the last minute so thought we would name the side.” Irving said the Bloods weren’t in the habit of playing selection games and believed naming a side without him would be more settled.
The return of Bant, who has kicked 41 goals for the year is a big bonus for the showdown with the fifth-placed Magpies. The fourth-placed Bloods, despite being a game clear of Camperdown and sixth-placed Portland need to win to guarantee a finals berth next week.
Camperdown is in the same position. It made one change, bringing back midfielder Luke Cardinal from a groin injury in place of dashing defender Billy Arnold, who is in the snow.
Seventh-placed Hamilton Kangaroos produced a selection shock with powerful midfielder Tim Meulendyks, one of the favourites for the Maskell Medal, returning from a shoulder injury for the game against minor premier Warrnambool at Reid Oval.
Meulendyks’ season was believed to be over when his shoulder popped out against South Warrnambool in round 15. But coach Jarrod Holt said specialists found no structural damage and he would not need surgery.
He was one of three inclusions for the Kangaroos, with another midfielder Tom Feely returning from a quad injury while Duncan McIntosh, a quick, skilful running player from the under 18½s was promoted for his senior debut.
They left out veteran Lachy Crawford, who played his 200th senior game last week, while Rick Luhrs and Gus Noske were also omitted.
Opponent Warrnambool made no changes as its looks to warm up for the finals.
Sixth-placed Portland made three changes for its must-win game against second-placed Koroit at Victoria Park. The Tigers promoted under 18½s players Josh Gray for his senior debut and Jesse Murray and Matt Kelly. They couldn’t consider marking forward Dennis O’Loughlin because of a potentially career-ending ankle injury and omitted veteran Jaron Quinlivan and teenager Aidan Cancian.
Koroit also made three changes with defender Tim Carter, ruckman Nathan Meade and teenager Blair McCutcheon brought in. But it lost damaging half-back Tauryn Zimmer, who accidentally put a nail through his hand this week, running player Ben Turner-Dwyer, who is overseas while Kurt Howard was left out.
Third-placed North Warrnambool Eagles regained marking forward Josh Corbett for the game against South Warrnambool at Bushfield. Their opponents the Roosters made four changes with leading goalkicker Robbie Gregg out as he prepares for hip surgery. Talented teenager Paddy Anderson couldn’t be considered because of an ankle injury. The Roosters promoted under 16 midfielder/forward Dominic Watt for his senior debut alongside fellow teenagers Kyden Jarvis and Ben Thornton.
Port Fairy is without key forward Sam McCartney with a hamstring injury for the game against Cobden at Cobden Recreation Reserve. The Seagulls promoted Kane Mercovich for his senior debut from the under 16s.
The Bombers also promoted young players, Jesse Williamson and Jamie Norton.