INJURIES are undermining Hampden’s country championships bid, with coach Nick O’Sullivan forced to draw a line through five stars just eights days before the clash with heavyweight Ovens and Murray.
While O’Sullivan insists the Bottle Greens will take a talented side to Princes Park, he acknowledges they will start underdogs in tomorrow week’s match in Melbourne.
The league’s equal-leading goalkicker David Haynes was ruled out before training on Wednesday night with a persistent ankle injury that flared up in round two. He intends playing for his club under duress tomorrow.
Koroit teenager Sam Dobson, who has had a major impact in the first five games of the season up forward after a year with North Ballarat Rebels, is also unlikely. O’Sullivan said Dobson suffered a knee injury at club training on Tuesday.
It is another blow for the Saints and Bottle Greens, who have already lost key defender Chris McLaren to a season-ending knee injury.
Former VCFL full-back, Warrnambool’s Sam Cowling, is battling to overcome a groin injury and won’t play interleague, while midfielders Brad Miller (broken finger) and Cobden ball magnet Leigh Evans (ankle) are also out of the original 39-man squad.
“They were walk-up starters,” O’Sullivan said.
But he said Hampden still boasted plenty of quality players, including Cobden recruit Joe Dare, who was the Northern Bullants’ player of the VFL finals series last year. He is hopeful Dare’s Maskell Medal-winning brother Levi, who made an unexpected return to the Bombers in recent weeks from VFL side North Ballarat, will be available. He also has last year’s vice-captain Damian O’Connor, South Warrnambool assistant coach Jarrod Thompson, Koroit stars Ben Goodall and Ben Dobson and Warrnambool captain Dustin McCorkell.
O’Sullivan said selectors added North Warrnambool Eagles ruckman Jordan Dillon to the squad as they searched for height to take on an expected tall Ovens and Murray combination.
There is some good news for Hampden, with former Carlton and Brisbane full-forward Brendan Fevola ruled out of the Ovens and Murray side because of Dancing With The Stars commitments, according to Albury newspaper The Border Mail.
Ovens and Murray’s original 47-man squad has also been hit hard by injuries, with Albury co-coach Daniel Maher suffering a season-ending knee injury last week, Yarrawonga’s Craig Ednie (shoulder), Lavington’s Josh Hamilton (hamstring) and Rovers’ Sam Caruso (quad). Former Sydney Swans spearhead Barry Hall, who recently signed to play in the Ovens and Murray league, won’t be part of the campaign.
But Ovens and Murray has several former AFL players in its squad, including ex Bulldog and Swan Ed Barlow, Richmond’s Chris Hyde and Carlton’s Karl Norman.
Hampden has two training sessions next week at Reid Oval.