WARRNAMBOOL'S 18-point win over Terang Mortlake came at a high price with match-winning big man Sam Cowling all but ruled out of Saturday's game against bottom-side Port Fairy.
Cowling, who turned the grand final rematch in round one in the Blues' favour, carried a groin injury into Saturday's game against the Bloods and while working hard, struggled to have a major impact in the 9.18 (72) to 8.6 (54) result.
Coach Scott Carter said Cowling had "played hurt" and wouldn't play against the Seagulls. He will be joined on the sidelines by half-back Kayne O'Brien, who in his best game so far since crossing from West Gambier in the off-season, suffered a serious ankle injury in the third term.
Carter said the Blues first feared O'Brien had broken a bone but the injury was ligament-related. He expects him to miss two weeks. The injuries come on top of that of star forward Travis Graham, who missed Saturday's game with a back complaint.
The Blues got their season's record into positive territory (2-1 win/loss record) with a hard-fought win over the Bloods at Reid Oval - albeit in an unspectacular fashion, kicking the only goal of an error-riddled final term.
Carter revealed he had given his players a tongue-lashing at half-time after their five-point quarter-time lead became an eight-point half-time deficit.
"The best one I've ever given," Carter said of his verbal advice.
"We just weren't working hard enough, our accountability was ordinary, our second and third efforts were non-existent. To the boys' credit they came out and tuned in after half-time."
He said he couldn't identify reasons for the Blues' lacklustre performance.
"A lot of people haven't realised we've had a grand final rematch, a preliminary final rematch and a semi-final rematch and to be 2-1 is a good sign. If someone said we would be 2-1 I would have taken it at the start of the year."
He was full of praise for midfielder/half-back Tim Hunt, who with dash and poise used his skills to the Blues' advantage.
Liam Sheppard, in his first game since 2010, was impressive as a key defender (11 spoils) and will give Carter the luxury of freeing up Cowling to play more forward when he returns from injury. Tim O'Keeffe was also prominent in defence while youngsters Jake O'Donnell and Jackson Bell in their first seasons of senior footy were good.
Terang Mortlake coach Shane Threlfall was pleased with his young side's endeavour, taking four first-gamers into the match.
"Reward for effort was better, I thought we had a crack," Threlfall said.
"I was really proud of the way we played, we didn't die wondering.
"There were a few costly turnovers that hurt us."
He said debutants ruckman Jake Richardson, Sam Crawley, Nathan Sargeant and Joe Arundell were impressive.