STRATHFIELDSAYE Storm coach Darryl Wilson and his selectors will have to make some tough calls in the lead-up to Saturday night’s Bendigo Football League preliminary final against Gisborne.
After eliminating South Bendigo and Sandhurst from the race for the Bendigo Advertiser premiership cup, Storm will now aim to do the same to Gisborne and in the process earn the club’s first grand final appearance.
Stom has several key players striving to prove their fitness and be selected for the preliminary final.
Key forward Sam Mildren has not played since breaking his arm in the round 17 loss at Maryborough.
“Sam was having another scan on his arm today (Tuesday). At this stage he is 50-50 to play in the preliminary final,” Wilson said.
“Sam has the plaster off his arm and has done a fair amount of running at training the past few weeks.
“He has just not been able to do ball work.”
Despite being limited to just 11 games because of a back injury and then arm fracture, Mildren had kicked 57 goals, including eight when Storm beat Gisborne by 69 points in round three.
“For Mildren to play on Saturday would be a massive plus,” Wilson said.
Wilson said defender Clint Whitsed, hamstring tightness; Sam Heavyside, foot; and Leighton Dullard, broken leg; were in contention to play.
A foot injury sustained in the Bendigo Bank Pioneers clash with Queensland at Collingwood’s Victoria Park in late May derailed Sam Heavyside’s season, not just TAC Cup, but representing Victoria Country in the national under-18 championships.
The only definite “out” is Jacob Heavyside, who broke his wrist in Sunday’s first semi-final.
“It’s going to be busy at selection,” Wilson said.
Storm shrugged off underdog status to win the elimination final against South Bendigo by 43 points.
The winning run rolled on as Strathfieldsaye beat Sandhurst by 39 points in the first semi.
Kris Lea kicked six goals in a best afield performance, while No.1 ruckman Michael Pilcher, and onballers Matt and Nick Smith were superb as Storm ended the Dragons hopes of a senior premiership in the club’s 150th year.
“The forward line has really clicked in the finals,” Wilson said.
“Leigh Prior’s and Kris Lea’s contested marking was excellent.
“Tom Barthlomew is winning a lot of the footy, but just has to kick straighter (1.7 v Sandhurst).
“Although Tom’s conversion against Sandhurst was not great he is working really hard inside 50 and taking a lot of marks.”
Storm has Lachlan Sharp, 65 goals; captain Shannon Geary, Jake Hall, Lachlan Bonney and Vin Flood to swoop on the loose ball near goal.
Wilson said Storm’s midfielders would have to be on their game against Gisborne.
When these clubs last met, Gisborne won by 90 points on home turf at Gardiner Reserve.
“Ollie Messaoudi, Scott Walsh, Casey Summerfield and Shaun Comerford are experienced finals campaigners and capable of winning a lot of contests.”