AS far as challenges go in 2017, Warrnambool coach John Cook says this is the toughest yet.
It’s not as though his team hasn’t already had its work cut out for it this season, tackling premiership hopefuls South Warrnambool and Port Fairy in the opening two rounds.
Both resulted in losses for the Blues, but consecutive wins against Portland and Hamilton Kangaroos have got their season back on track.
They will be tested once again under lights at Cobden Recreation Reserve on Saturday night when they take on the ladder-leading Bombers.
“It is the greatest challenge we’ve had so far this year,” Cook said.
“Cobden being undefeated, playing at home under lights – it’s a big ask, but we’ve just got to make sure that we focus on the things that we can control and make sure we can stay true (to our values).
“If you’re not prepared to have a go or stay true to the statements that we make, what’s the point?
“It’s a matter of applying pressure around the ground and, most importantly, on the scoreboard.”
The fifth-placed Blues have split their games 50-50, but are averaging just 63 points for a game compared with 79 points conceded.
The Bombers, meanwhile, has been booting 95 points a game and, while that ranks them third in the competition, they have also been extremely stingy at the other end of the ground, letting through just 57 points on average.
Cobden coach Levi Dare said the team hadn’t discussed its status as ladder leaders, but the mood around the club was understandably buzzing.
“The boys are obviously a young group, they’re upbeat and it’s good to get some wins,” he said.
“We haven’t really talked about where we are on the ladder, just talking about what we can control and if we’re winning that’s good.”
The Bombers have brought back Aidan Cole (calf) and Jack Hammond (illness), while Jahd Anderson has had to pull out with achilles soreness.
Christian Koroneos will be sidelined with a partial cartilage tear in his knee, while Noah Mounsey was omitted.
In the Blues’ camp, Matt Schnerring will be away on Greater Western Victoria Rebels duties, while Andrew McCarthy and Dylan Cox are out injured.
“Both of them didn’t see the last game out,” Cook said.
“Sam Wilde will play at 4pm (in the reserves). He’s a project player for us at the footy club.
“He’s got tremendous talent and great character, we’ve just got to make sure we give him games when it’s appropriate.”
Nicholas Alexandrou, Brad Williams and Martin Van Rooy return to the Blues’ line-up.