NORTH Warrnambool Eagles teenager Dion Johnstone will make his Hampden league senior debut in a qualifying final showdown after the club swung a selection surprise last night.
Johnstone, a zippy, creative utility who is still eligible for under 16s, is one of two Eagles inclusions for their clash against Koroit at Friendly Societies’ Park tomorrow.
He has played seven games for the Eagles’ under 16s and four for their under 18½s this season.
The former Brauer College student represented indigenous side the Flying Boomerangs at the AFL under 16 national championships in 2013 and now boards at Scotch College in Melbourne on a scholarship.
Eagles coach Bernard Moloney said he was confident Johnstone would acquit himself well on the big stage.
“He’s a really good young kid and we have been keeping an eye on him for a while,” he said.
“Losing Jarryd Lewis, an opportunity arose.
“We need pace and he also had a good long kick and a defensive mindset.”
Fellow teenager Mitch Bowman was also recalled after overcoming an infection which was initially thought to be appendicitis.
The former North Ballarat Rebel will give the Eagles another option in defence.
Dylan Cross was omitted and will play reserves.
Koroit made two changes, bringing in tall Tauryn Zimmer and utility Ben Turner-Dwyer.
Zimmer missed last week after injuring his hand and Turner-Dwyer was unavailable.
The Saints named an extended bench.
Koroit coach Adam Dowie said his side had prepared well and discounted the significance of its two wins over the Eagles in the home-and-away rounds.
“I think with the type of year it’s been across the competition you expect the unexpected,” he said.
Camperdown had a light training run last night and will have a thorough session tonight at Leura Oval ahead of its elimination final against Terang Mortlake at Cobden Recreation Reserve on Sunday.
But the Pies have already ruled a line through two players — defender Dan Baker will miss the rest of the season with a broken hand and promising teenager Chester Gardner will see a specialist about his injured shoulder on Wednesday.
Camperdown coach Dan Casey said exciting teenager Billy Arnold would return to the senior side and back flanker Jeremy Lucas and midfielder-forward Darcy O’Sullivan, who has been best-on-ground in the reserves the past five weeks, were among the leading candidates to also come under consideration.
The Magpies kicked 7.16 in their 18-point loss to Terang Mortlake in the final round last weekend.
Casey, fresh from a five-goal haul, said the Pies “had a few shots at goal” last night.
Camperdown will train again tonight with match-ups a focus.
“We’ll then have tea and watch the footy together,” Casey said.
Terang Mortlake will take an unchanged line-up into the cut-throat final.
Bloods coach Matthew Irving said the team would have a recovery session tomorrow lunch time in preparation for their first final in three seasons.
He wants Terang Mortlake to grasp its opportunity after setting a goal to make the top five last November.
“We expected to make finals and now we have made it, we have to take the next step,” Irving said.
“We have had the mentality the last eight weeks that every week was our last and this week goes to another level.”