OPPOSITION coaches are predicting a tense Hampden league preliminary final between cross-town rivals North Warrnambool Eagles and Warrnambool on Saturday.
South Warrnambool's Mat Battistello, Camperdown's Neville Swayn and Cobden's Adam Courtney said both sides had their strengths which would be on display at Friendly Societies' Park.
The Eagles are coming off a humbling 58-point second semi-final defeat to Koroit and the Blues an emotion-charged one-point overtime first semi-final victory against Port Fairy.
Battistello said it was looming as an intriguing encounter.
"It's a short turnaround and given the heavy conditions Warrnambool encountered, plus the 10 minutes' extra time, if it's a close encounter North Warrnambool will sell the fact (Warrnambool's) had a hard run," he said.
"But it looked like a character-building win for Warrnambool, so I think it will be a reasonably tight contest."
The Eagles could bring in midfielder Michael Barlow, whose VFL season with Werribee has ended, and will feature a three-pronged ruck combination against Blues' big man Dan Weymouth.
"North will probably bring Michael in which will be a fair inclusion," Battistello said.
"But there's an element of continuity and their midfielders and ruckmen have only had two opportunities to work with him (this season).
"(Jordan) Dillon and (Ben) Mugavin against Weymouth will have a significant outcome on the game.
"Dan is an outstanding player and is hard to stop but the North side has two or three options - Dillon, Mugavin and Joe McKinnon."
Imbi said North Warrnambool had been "the most consistent side this year" but that both teams had their strengths and were "coached exceptionally well".
"The dry weather will play a factor as it will help Warrnambool's runners cover the ground and give their forwards an opportunity be to really dangerous," he said.
"However, the weather will also allow North Warrnambool to control the game with their foot skills if they gain a lot of possession and have the courage to use angles.
"Warrnambool will have gained a lot of belief in themselves after beating us but North Warrnambool will also be champing at the bit to play, as they were not just outplayed by Koroit but out worked."
Swayn said it was "a toss of the coin" and Warrnambool's focus would be recovery after a gruelling contest at Leura Oval on Sunday.
He believes the Blues' much-vaunted forward line will need to fire to overcome the Eagles.
"(Darren) Ewing and (Sam) Cowling, if North contains those two key forwards it will go a long way to winning it," Swayn said.
Courtney is also wary of the Blues' shorter recovery period.
"It was a brutal contest on Sunday and they had to spend a fair bit of energy to get the win," he said.
"North Warrnambool's work rate will be important to try and work Warrnambool over, especially late in quarters, the last eight minutes North needs to put the foot down."
But Courtney has been a fan of the Matt O'Brien-led Blues in 2019.
"North Warrnambool like to hit the free man so it's about Warrnambool playing close attention to their men and making them kick down the line so they (the Blues) can compete in the air," he said.
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