WINNIPEG - There’s nothing like some hard, cold cash to add incentive for reaching a goal.
The Winnipeg Blue Bombers have $6,800 dangling in front of them to finish first in the East Division and get a bye to the conference final. They can take a big step towards achieving that by defeating the Toronto Argonauts (4-12) on Friday.
“Anytime money is involved, it can't help but perk you up a little bit,” fourth-year Bombers receiver Aaron Hargreaves said after the team’s walkthrough Thursday. “But along with that, just having the bye to rest the bodies and everything would be definitely nice.
"But all that being said, we've got this one game ahead to focus on and we can't really look past that.”
Winnipeg (10-6) is tied for first with the Montreal Alouettes, who host Calgary on Sunday. If the Bombers win and the Als lose, Winnipeg will clinch top spot by virtue of winning the season series with Montreal 2-1.
The Bombers finish the regular season in Calgary while Montreal will visit the B.C. Lions.
Players get $3,300 for finishing first and an automatic $3,500 for playing in a division final. Competitors in a semifinal get $3,300.
Down the road is $16,000 for the Grey Cup victors and $8,000 for the losers.
Winnipeg has clinched a playoff berth for the first time since 2008 after going 7-11 in 2009 and 4-14 last year. That means Bombers players are guaranteed of at least one post-season payday.
Defensive back Brandon Stewart joined Winnipeg in 2009 and is looking forward to some playoff coin.
“I don't know what it tastes like to have that extra cheque so that will be nice to know I'll at least get one and potentially two,” Stewart said.
Stewart's priority, though, is taking care of business against what he predicts will be a high-flying Toronto squad.
“Everybody loves to play spoiler,” Stewart said. “They feel they should be where we are so it’s going to be a dogfight like it always is when the two teams get together.”
This will be the fourth meeting this season between the clubs. Winnipeg won the first two but Toronto squeaked out a 25-24 home victory Sept. 24.
Seven Bombers were hurt in that game, including quarterbacks Buck Pierce and backup Alex Brink, starting running back Fred Reid and his backup, Carl Volny. Reid and Volny suffered season-ending knee injuries.
Toronto quarterback Steven Jyles, traded by Winnipeg to Toronto after last season, is excited to take on his former club and expects a good effort from his teammates who are playing for pride and jobs.
“I think the biggest part is pride,” said Jyles. “We believe that we're a better team than what our record shows and we have two more games to prove it.”
Jyles wouldn’t mind putting a bump in Winnipeg’s road to first place.
“That's basically what we're here for,” Jyles said. “We came to win a ball game.
“Those guys are probably chalking it up as a victory because right after we beat them in Toronto, they felt they should have won that game.”
Toronto head coach/GM Jim Barker said the first priority is getting a win. However, he’s also going to use the game to take a look at players, including new receivers Demario Ballard and veteran Maurice Mann, who was acquired Oct. 11 from Hamilton.
“(We’re going to) kind of see if we have some guys that can make plays and be those guys that we need going into the future,” Barker said.
Bomber offensive lineman Glenn January said it will be a challenge to get a victory.
“They're a tough defence,” he said. “Every time we played against those guys this year, you definitely come away a little bit more sore than other games.”
January is in his fifth CFL season and third with the Bombers, which means he didn't pick up any playoff cash the first two years.
“Whenever I start playing this game because of money, it’s time that I need to retire,” said January, who has also played with Toronto and Saskatchewan. “It’s nice, but it's not where my motivation is.
"For some of these younger guys maybe it is.”
What motivates January more is having the chance to get to a Grey Cup.
“It doesn’t come along that often and you definitely have to appreciate it whenever it does," he said.
NOTES: Argos linebacker Jeremy Unertl won't play because of a mild concussion suffered last week against Edmonton . . . The Bombers will set a single-season attendance record Friday.