PRELIMINARY final combatants Cobden and North Warrnambool Eagles last night opted to promote teenagers for tomorrow’s cut-throat encounter at Warrnambool’s Reid Oval.
Cobden, coming off a 13-point loss to Warrnambool in last Saturday’s second semi-final, welcomed back Geelong Falcons midfielder Daniel Watson for his first game since round two and just his second of the year.
The Falcons’ elimination from the TAC Cup under 18 competition last weekend cleared the way for Watson to return. He played 19 matches for the Falcons and was named in their best players nine times.
Reuben Dare was squeezed out of the Bombers line-up, with coach Wayne Robertson describing him as “very unlucky”.
“I enjoy most things about coaching but I don’t enjoy that,” he said of making the call on Dare.
Robertson said the Bombers were upbeat about their chances and, after two light training sessions this week, were primed for a big match.
North Warrnambool Eagles promoted bottom-age under 18 player Tom O’Leary for just his third senior game.
The running player, who made his debut against Koroit in round 17 and played against Cobden in round 18, replaced injured assistant coach Tim Sheldon.
Sheldon suffered a broken thumb in last Sunday’s 62-point first semi-final demolition of Camperdown and had surgery on Tuesday, ending his season.
In a stunning move, the Eagles named vice-captain Matthew Wines as an emergency, just four weeks after he suffered a serious neck injury which was to have ended his season.
Coach David Haynes was coy on whether Wines would play, but said he had trained last week and acted as runner last Sunday.
He said his players had completed a recovery session on Monday night and had their biggest session of the week on Wednesday night. They will have a light run tonight.
Haynes said the Eagles, preparing for the club’s first preliminary final in its 15-year HFNL history, were keeping their achievements in perspective.
“The feeling I’ve got from the boys is that it was a good win, but they kept the lid on things,” he said. “There is a feeling around the group there is unfinished business. They haven’t carried on too much.”
Waiting for the winner is minor premier Warrnambool, which booked its place in the grand final with a tough win over Cobden at Koroit’s Victoria Park last week.
Blues coach Scott Carter put his players through their paces for an hour last night at Reid Oval, reporting all were fit and healthy.
“We had some sore boys,” he said.
“It was a pretty hard-hitting game. We are definitely not complaining about having the week off.”
But his players won’t be getting an easy ride into the grand final, with the Blues planning an 80-minute session at the Friendly Societies’ Park at 9am tomorrow.