GRAND final combatants North Warrnambool Eagles and Koroit are leaving each other guessing, naming extended benches for Saturday’s blockbuster.
The Eagles picked TAC Cup-listed jet Dion Johnstone as part of a four-man interchange, while the Saints added the experienced contingent of Chris McLaren, Tim McIntyre, Tim Martin, Marcus Darmody and James North.
All five of those players were listed on the pine.
Ben Walsh, Daniel Harrington and Thomas Mugavin were omitted and named as emergencies.
Eagles co-coach Graeme Twaddle said picking final sides was always a tough ask.
Johnstone is a strong chance to line-up in the decider.
Teenager Taylem Wason, who is also a TAC Cup-listed player with North Ballarat Rebels, is likely to be the Eagles’ hard luck story.
“We’ll make a decision on that in the next 24 hours,” Twaddle said of the Eagles’ extended bench.
“Probably Taylem will miss out if we go with Dion.
“Because he (Wason) has played a TAC Cup game, he can’t play reserves and because he hasn’t qualified with four games in the under 18s, he can’t play there either.
“If we end up going that way, and it looks likely, it will be a tough call to make but we’ve prepared Tay.”
Koroit coach Adam Dowie said it was a difficult week at the selection table.
They will give their extended bench players, including spiritual leader Chris McLaren, who overcame a calf injury only to hurt his ankle at training on Tuesday night, until the last minute to prove their fitness.
“The personal level is probably the hardest, having to make changes especially players like Daniel and Tom who have played in the last two flags and Benny Walsh, who missed the last two,” he said.
“Making the call is difficult for them, for the selectors and for me because you work with them pretty closely right from November. It was one of the toughest decisions I reckon I’ve had to make.”
Koroit named draft prospect Willem Drew despite the North Ballarat Rebels-listed teenager picked for an all-stars match at Punt Road on AFL grand final eve.
Dowie said the Saints were rapt to have the skillful teenager at their disposal.
“We spoke to Willem straight after the game last week and he and his family were comfortable with it (playing in the Hampden decider),” he said.
“We hope it will be his last game for Koroit. Everyone connected with him is hoping he’ll find a career in football. I have no doubt he will and this is a bit of an opportunity for him to say thank you to us by playing.”