BALLARAT has not beaten Sunbury at Clarke Oval. Not once.
It is now 15 years since Sunbury joined the Red Onion Ballarat Football League and yet “fortress Sunbury” remains unconquered from a Simonds Swans point of view. That alone indicates the challenge facing the Swans tomorrow.
Ballarat playing coach Shane Hutchinson says it is a tough ask to defeat the eastern Lions at home, and that Sunbury’s loss last weekend against East Point won’t make that task any easier.
“I know records like that are there to be broken,” Hutchinson says. “I reckon it might be a tough week to do it. They will be pretty fired up after last week.”
Both teams will be below full strength due to suspension and injury in what amounts to a clash between two of the top three teams in the league.
Sunbury will be without Ross Sleight and Tim Hill, suspended for one match apiece.
The eastern Lions have also lost forward Cameron McCabe, who has broken ribs, while goal kicking midfielder Jamie Lobb has been named but will face a fitness test tomorrow morning.
Matthew Parker and Jake Box, promoted from the reserves, will play their first senior game for the Lions. Under-18.5 interleague player Greg Hay has also been promoted for the match.
Ballarat has lost James Quayle for 6-8 weeks with a broken leg while Matt Dawson has been suspended for one week for a high bump.
The major inclusion for the Swans is ruckman Chris Howgate, who returns after two games’ absence with a calf injury.
Shane Moore and Damien Larkin are the other inclusions at Simonds Oval.
Hutchinson says Howgate’s inclusion may prove pivotal if the Swans are to break their duck at Clarke Oval.
“This the first year we have had a ruckman who gives us first use of the ball,” Hutchinson says.
“Hopefully it evens up the ruck contest with Pat Cariss because he has dominated against us in the past.”
The Swans trained out of the weather at Ballarat High School last night.
The Lions, meanwhile, are determined to hit back after their first defeat of the season.
“We will be a far more committed Sunbury side than last week,” Sunbury coach Rick Horwood said.
PREDICTION: Sunbury by three points