The Winnipeg Blue Bombers are going to have an open kicking competition during training camp after the departure of Sergio Castillo.
Castillo made all five of his field goal attempts in the 108th Grey Cup to help the blue and gold win a second consecutive CFL championship. He signed with the Edmonton Elks in March and leaves a major role for the Bombers to fill for the 2022 season.
“We’re working on it,” head coach Mike O’Shea said with a laugh. “Marc Liegghio is a very good kicker. Ali Mourtada is a good kicker. As with most of the positions on any football team, there’s competition. We’d like them to come in, be confident, work and show us their best stuff. As with other positions you observe, take notes, and try and make the best decision possible.”
“Like most positions players going into their second year you would expect to see some improvement from their first year and the kicking position is no different. They’re naturally talented guys and I think we’re going to see some improvement this year. But as Mike said we’ll certainly have some competition heading into training camp at that position,” general manager Kyle Walters added.
Liegghio was selected in the fifth round, 45th overall during the 2020 CFL Draft. He dressed for all 14 regular season games last year along with the West Final and Grey Cup, punting in every outing while finishing with a 43.7-yard average, placing seven punts inside the opponents’ 10-yard line.
The Western University graduate kicked field goals for three games, including a four-for-four effort in Week 4 during an 18-16 win against the Calgary Stampeders. The next week in the Labour Day Classic Liegghio went one-for-three failing on three-point tries from 47 and 56 yards. In the Banjo Bowl, he missed his lone kick from 48 yards.
The 31-year-old Mourtada signed with Winnipeg in late August and took over field goal duties from Liegghio in Week 7. Despite going oh-for-three in his CFL debut, the Blue Bombers stayed with him for four more games until Castillo was brought in. He made eight-of-15 three-point kicks and 17-of-18 converts.
“We’re not hoping, we’ve seen these guys work and we know the effort they’re putting in during the off-season to be better. They left our team with specific instructions and a great idea, a good handle on what they needed to do to improve for their teammates. We have no doubt in our mind that they’re doing that. Hope we can take that out of it, I know they’re working hard,” O’Shea said.
The Bombers bench boss would not name a front-runner for the opening day job because he doesn’t think that would be fair to any player. Walters added the team has been exploring options and he’s talked at length to “a lot of kickers.”