FOR so long the hunted in the Bendigo Football League, on Saturday it will be Golden Square on the hunt when it faces undefeated arch-rival Sandhurst at the Queen Elizabeth Oval.
The Bulldogs are beginning to build momentum, with back-to-back wins over Maryborough and Eaglehawk propelling them into the top five for the first time this season.
But there's proving to be no bigger test in the BFL this year than Sandhurst, with the high-flying Dragons having won all seven games by an average of 82 points.
"It's a really big game for the boys. We were very aggressive with our training this week in terms of the preparation and we're under no illusion as to how big a task it's going to be," Golden Square coach Nick Carter said on Friday.
"Sandhurst is in really good form, but we think we've been working towards an improved performance and we're up for the challenge."
After winning just two of their first five games, the Bulldogs have shown with their wins over Maryborough (51 points) and Eaglehawk (69) the past two rounds they are far from a spent force.
The third quarter, in particular, against Eaglehawk last round when they piled on 10 goals to two gave the rest of the competition a timely reminder of the quality of football the five-time defending champions are still capable of.
"We've improved significantly over the past three weeks, but in saying that, we were coming off a fairly low base," Carter said.
"We've still got enormous upside, but it's going to take a lot of work to get there... probably four to six weeks from where we were coming from.
"We're midway through that process and provided we can continue to build momentum and put in strong performances, we'll get to where we want to get to, which ultimately, is to be a contender at the end of the year."
The Bulldogs have been strengthened by the inclusion of two goalkicking options in Harry Donegan and Hamish Morcom, but have erred on the side of caution and will give Simon Rosa (broken hand) another week off.
Meanwhile, Saturday will be the Bulldogs' first game of the year at the QEO - a ground they have won 19 of 22 games at since 2009, including by one point against the Dragons last year.
"I just see it as another football ground, but the boys are always really excited about playing on the QEO," Carter said.
"The boys enjoy playing on the bigger ground, and playing on the ground where the finals are played, you want to get as much exposure to it as you can."
The Dragons and Bulldogs will both wear indigenous guernseys and compete for the Wirama Shield as part of the BFL's indigenous round.
Saturday's clash at the QEO starts at 2.20pm.