Depleted Diggers set to face test against buoyant Bingera

ARCHEM Premier League champions Diggers have been struck by an injury crisis on the eve of their preliminary final clash with Bingera at Martens Oval tomorrow.

On top of the loss of star midfield Mitch Hodgkinson who had leg surgery last week, after 12 straight victories, coach Lynn Hodgkinson said they were hit hard in more ways than one in their 4-2 qualifying final loss to a fired up Across The Waves last Saturday.

In that match they suffered five serious injuries.

"We couldn't train on Tuesday because we had only four fit players - along with illness we couldn't even muster a session,'' Hodgkinson said.

"We've got four in serious doubt for the game - Craig Dewar with concussion, and Daniel Christensen, Damon Giles and Talat (Hakbilar) with ankle injuries - John Bullard also received a knee injury but he should be right.

"Craig Dewar is probably the one most in doubt and I'm also concerned about Daniel but hopefully if they have managed and treated the injuries well this week, the others should come through okay.''

Hodgkinson named Jamie Essam, Michael Sharp and Tim Auguston as possible replacements, but while he has confidence in their abilities, he acknowledged they were now in danger of an early season exit.

"I won't be able to finalise the team probably until Saturday morning and obviously Bingera would have to be favourites to win now, given the injury toll we've got.

"But I'm confident we certainly won't hand it up to them, no matter what we have on the field. It's a bad time to cop all these injuries - we've been very lucky all year and maybe it was our turn.''

With so many likely absentees, Hodgkinson will look to the likes of Michael White to continue his outstanding form and for captain and their most experienced player Paul Barlow to lead from the front.

On the other side of the coin, Bingera will welcome back one of their best players from injury - Brett Kitching - and coach Troy Hews, a former Diggers premiership winning player, coach and club president, said their preparation had been "good so far''.

They will be at full strength apart from Rod Cooper who is unavailable, and Hews is certain they will improve on their 4-2 extra-time elimination final victory against North Bundaberg.

"The confidence is good but we've got to do it on the day. Everyone knows that,'' Hews said.

"Last week, it was one of those games when Waves stepped up and it was their night and that's what this weekend will come down to - who wants it more than the other.''

The same clubs will meet in the Second Division preliminary final but Bingera will be hot favourites despite their shock loss to Brothers-Aston Villa in the qualifying final.

Bingera also will meet East Corinthians in the Bath Cosmetics Ladies League First Division preliminary final tonight, while in second division it is Burnett Heads against Moore Park.

Diggers and Waves will do battle in the under-19 division.

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