New favourites emerge

KIRK PENTON -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 2:18 PM ET

And down the stretch the Winnipeg Blue Bombers come!

The first round of interviews for their vacant head coaching position will conclude this weekend, which means it won't be long before the man faced with rebuilding -- yes, rebuilding -- the reeling Bombers is introduced.

"When I opened my big trap and said the 15th (which is Wednesday), I'm still semi-optimistic we can reach that," GM Brendan Taman said last night.

"But we're not going to rush it just because I said that.

"By Christmas I'd be shocked if we don't have a head coach."

But who is that head coach going to be?

The competition remains wide open, with no fewer than six candidates believed to still be in the running.

That list includes Calgary Stampeders associate head coach-defensive co-ordinator Denny Creehan, whom Taman will interview this weekend.

"He runs a hell of a defence over there, so he's probably worth talking to," Taman said. "And running a good defence is quite appealing to us."

Toronto Argonauts offensive co-ordinator Kent Austin was considered the front-runner at one point, but he is now believed to be on the bubble of making the short list along with Saskatchewan Roughriders defensive co-ordinator Richie Hall.

That would leave former Ottawa Renegades head coach Joe Paopao, former Renegades defensive co-ordinator Greg Marshall, Montreal Alouettes co-offensive co-ordinator Doug Berry and Creehan (if he interviews well) as the new race leaders.

Taman hopes to re-interview his "three or four" finalists by Tuesday, which means the new boss could be unveiled Wednesday.

He said he has only a handful of questions to ask the candidates in the second round.

"We need to ask them probably five questions pertaining to what they've already told us," Taman said.

That will include naming names for their potential coaching staff.

NULL AND VOID: The Edmonton Eskimos and Hamilton Tiger-Cats agreed yesterday to void part of last week's blockbuster trade involving Jason Maas.

Defensive back Imokhai Atogwe, who was supposed to go from Hamilton to Edmonton, informed the Eskimos that he wouldn't pass his physical due to recent shoulder surgery.

That means the Tiger-Cats will keep Atogwe and the Eskimos will retain their sixth-round draft pick.

ATTENTION ALL SHOPPERS: The Bomber Store at Canad Inns Stadium is extending its holiday hours during the week.

Beginning Monday, the store will be open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays.


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