GISBORNE coach Rod Sharp is expecting another “epic” encounter when his side tackles Golden Square at MyJet Oval on Saturday.
The BFNL’s Bulldogs have won 10 premierships between them since 2001 and they’ve developed a fierce rivalry.
This Saturday’s clash has plenty riding on it, with a victory for third-placed Gisborne to all but end fourth-placed Golden Square’s prospects of earning the double chance for the finals.
“There’s no club I respect more than Golden Square,’’ Sharp said.
“They just know what it takes to win. Just like they have done the past two years, they’re building momentum at the right time and anyone who thinks that Golden Square is not going to play a big role in the finals is kidding themselves.
“We’ve played some good footy in the past three weeks and Golden Square is building towards its best footy… there’s no reason why this Saturday’s game is not going to be another epic encounter.”
Gisborne holds a two-game and percentage advantage over Golden Square in the race for third place.
Gisborne has a tougher run home than Golden Square making this Saturday’s game ultra-important.
The last team to win the grand final from outside the top three was Golden Square in 2001.
“A win would go a long way to sealing the (top three) deal for us, but there’s still a long way to go,’’ Sharp said.
“The most important thing for us is that we continue to play the way we have in the past three games.
“In the past three weeks the players have started to implement the things that we’ve been drilling into them.
“Now we need to see how well they can implement these things under the pressure of a quality opponent like Golden Square.”
Sharp said star midfielder Ollie Messaoudi was only a 30 per cent chance to return to action this season.
Messaoudi has been battling a serious back injury.
“Ollie has tried to do a couple of running sessions,’’ Sharp said.
“His back is not that bad. The problem is now that the nerves in his back shoot down to his calf and his calf muscles are tightening up when he runs.
“We’ve got six games to go and we’d probably want Ollie to play at least the final two games to be ready for the finals.”