HEPBURN’S number one defender Daniel Smith is almost certain to make his long-awaited return in Sunday’s Central Highlands Football League semi-final against Springbank.
Burras coach Clive Raak said the key back, who has not played since the middle of July after sustaining a shoulder injury in an overseas mountain biking accident, was a “70 to 80 per cent” chance of regaining his place in the team this weekend.
Raak said Smith had been training for the past three weeks – including ball work – and was an important part of the team’s structure.
“We rate him really highly,” Raak said.
Smith, a premiership player with the Burras last year, is expected to get the marking job on dangerous Tigers forward Tom Eltringham, just as he did when the teams last met in round six.
Hepburn was a convincing winner on that occasion and will be looking for a return to form after losing to Gordon in last weekend’s qualifying final. Springbank, on the other hand, greets this clash with winning form, having ended Learmonth’s season with an elimination final victory on Sunday.
Meanwhile, Redan will welcome back at least three premiership players ahead of its Ballarat Football League qualifying final against North Ballarat City.
Six-time premiership player Ash Barker comes into the side and captain Jarrett Giampaolo returns, as does key defender Pat Britt.
All missed last week’s match against Melton with minor injuries, but could arguably have been played had it been a final.
Their opponent, in North City, has named veteran Marc Greig for his first game since round 16.
Greig had been battling a calf injury but was named in Thursday night’s side at centre-half forward.
In other games, Ballarat can earn a double chance if it beats Sunbury at Eastern Oval while Darley will host Lake Wendouree in the other elimination final, with both matches to be played on Sunday.