SANDHURST coach Brett Fitzpatrick won’t let the battle for top spot distract him from Saturday’s clash with Eaglehawk at the QEO.
The Dragons hold a slender 1.94 per cent lead over the Storm heading into the final round.
With the Storm hosting bottom side South Bendigo, the expectations are the Dragons will slip to second on the ladder on percentage by the end of the round.
“We’ve put ourselves in a position that probably exceeded our expectations at the start of the season,’’ Fitzpatrick said.
“The fact we have an opportunity to finish on top is pleasing.
“I’d love for us to finish on top because I think having a week off somewhere in the finals is a big advantage.
“It’s going to be difficult for us to hold on to top spot because Strathfieldsaye plays South Bendigo.
“We can’t control what happens in that game. All we ‘re concerned about is how we play against an Eaglehawk side that has everything to play for.”
For the Hawks to pinch fifth spot they must defeat the Dragons and hope that Gisborne beats Kangaroo Flat.
While the clash makes life tough for Sandhurst as far as building its percentage is concerned, the battle with the Hawks does represent a perfect warm-up for what they’re likely to endure in September – a hungry opponent, fine weather and a firm ground.
“Eaglehawk has made finals consistently over the past few years, so they know what this situation is all about,’’ Fitzpatrick said.
“When we looked at the draw at the start of the year we knew our final three games (Gisborne, Golden Square and Eaglehawk) would give us a very good lead in to what was to come.”
The Dragons defence has been strengthened by the return of Pat Jennings and Andy O’Connor from injury.
Skipper Blair Holmes and defender Tom Hartney will miss the game because of minor injuries.
Eaglehawk, which is coming off an impressive win over Maryborough last week, will be without veterans Josh Ketterer and Damien Lock.
Under-18 Lachie Atherton will make his senior debut for the Hawks.
"It's going to be a tough ask for us, but we go into the game with the attitude of giving it a good crack,'' Eaglehawk coach Luke Monaghan said.
"We'll need a four-quarter effort because if you lapse for 15 minutes Sandhurst will open you up - that's what they did to us last time we played."