Eyeing the prize

KIRK PENTON -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 11:44 AM ET

Anthony Malbrough has survived five seasons in the CFL.

Considering the life expectancy of your average CFL defensive back, that makes him a grizzled veteran.

It's also what makes the following fact somewhat surprising: When the Winnipeg Blue Bombers take on the Toronto Argonauts tomorrow in the East Division semifinal at Rogers Centre, Malbrough will be making his playoff debut.

"Sometimes it happens like that," Malbrough said. "I've been on some bad teams, man."

PLAYOFF ROOKIES

Malbrough's not alone, as there are 19 players on Winnipeg's 42-man roster who will be playing under the bright playoff lights for the first time.

Backup safety and special teams guru Shawn Gallant, who is in his seventh season, is the longest-suffering member of that group. Defensive end Tom Canada is going to the post-season dance in his third campaign.

"We're pumped for this," Canada said. "It's my first run at the playoffs. It's a lot of these guys' first run at the playoffs.

"We're just excited to be there and ready to go have some fun and get after Toronto."

And therein lies the rub. The team leaders are doing all they can to make sure the playoff newbies aren't "just excited to be there." If that happens, they'll end up wondering if anybody caught the plate number of that Mack truck.

"This game is definitely going to be at a higher speed," middle linebacker Barrin Simpson said. "In the playoffs, it's not the same game."

Simpson has suited up for six playoff matches, including the 2004 Grey Cup, which makes him a relative playoff veteran in the Bomber locker-room.

Kicker/punter Troy Westwood's 17 post-season appearances make him the runaway leader in the experience department.

Defensive back Kelly Malveaux, and slotbacks Milt Stegall and Jamie Stoddard, are tied for second with only seven playoff games under their belts.

Not every player gets motivated the same way, so Simpson has been speaking a language lately that everyone understands: money.

Each CFL player gets $3,000 for making the playoffs, but he gets another $3,200 if his team wins the division semifinal. Each member of the Grey Cup-winning squad gets $14,000, while the runners-up take home $7,000.

The Bomber defence has been breaking its huddle for the past two weeks by saying "Make that money!"

"Everybody wants to make some money to feed their family. Plain and simple," Simpson said. "... So guys understand what's at stake. If we lose, there's no more cheques for the rest of the '06 season."

Money, after all, does make the world go 'round, but Canada has his eye on something even more near and dear to his heart.

"(Money) is definitely a motivator, but we were talking about it today after practice: The biggest motivation is getting a ring," he said. "We want a championship."

Simpson also tries to tug at the heart strings of his inexperienced teammates.

"For the guys who haven't been there, I told them there's nothing like getting to the Grey Cup game," he said. "I never won it, but just imagine the feeling you have of winning it by the feeling you have when you're in it.

"You almost tear up because of how big the game is."

---

EXPERIENCE WANTED

The Bombers with the most playoff experience. Grey Cup appearances, which are included in the total, are in parentheses:

- Troy Westwood 17 (3)

- Kelly Malveaux 7 (2)

- Milt Stegall 7 (1)

- Jamie Stoddard 7 (1)

- Chris Brazzell 6 (2)

- Barrin Simpson 6 (1)

- Val St. Germain 6 (1)

- Doug Brown 5 (1)

- Charles Roberts 5 (1)


Videos

Photos