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LaBatte, Willis ready for boos

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Brendon LaBatte and Odell Willis say they’ve both prepared themselves for hostile receptions when the two former Winnipeg Blue Bombers players take the field at Canad Inns Stadium for the Banjo Bowl Sunday afternoon wearing the green uniforms of the hated Saskatchewan Roughriders.

LaBatte said he has no doubt he will be targetted for abuse — right alongside his teammates on the Riders sideline — by the notorious East Side fans on Sunday afternoon. And he’s not concerned about it.

"That’s fine — that’s water off a duck’s back." LaBatte told reporters in Winnipeg Saturday afternoon shortly after his team’s arrival. "That’s such a small part of the game. When people want to make the personal attacks and all that — it doesn’t hold a lot of credibility. You definitely don’t get wrapped up in too much of that.

"You ignore it, block it out and know that’s it’s only for a couple hours you will be taking that kind of abuse. You turn the other cheek and hopefully execute well on the field and hopefully that will take some wind out of them."

Willis, in contrast, said he’s looking forward to sharing in a colourful afternoon of banter. "I expect to hear everything. I enjoy it," said Willis. "I hope someone gives me a good one to give me something to laugh about.

"So like I said, I expect the worst. But I like it."

LaBatte signed with the Riders as a free agent in the off-season after a four-year career with the Bombers, while Willis was traded to Saskatchewan over the winter after spending the last two seasons in Blue and Gold.

Sunday’s big game marks the first time the two men have returned to Canad Inns Stadium.

LaBatte was a CFL all-star last season and his off-season departure has often been cited this season as a factor in Winnipeg’s disastrous 2-7 start.

LaBatte says he has nothing "but fond memories" of his time in Winnipeg, but suspects not all Bombers fans will remember him as fondly as he does them. "I’ve got nothing bad to say. I’m sure there are people out there who have bad things to say about me.

"But like I said earlier... it’s definitely something I’m not too worried about."

Willis said he’s wistful about his time in Winnipeg, but also happy to be where he is. "It’s bittersweet," said Willis. "I miss the surroundings outside the football. But other than that, it is what it is. It’s a business, I’m a Rider now, I enjoy it and I love it.

"But like I said, I just miss my friends. Other than that, I’m happy where I’m at right now."

LaBatte thinks the backdrop for Sunday’s game, coming just a week after a 52-0 Riders defeat of the Bombers in Regina, couldn’t be simpler.

"They’ve obviously got redemption on their mind," said LaBatte, "and we have repeat on ours."

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