WHEN it gets to this time of the year in the Bendigo Football League, recent history shows Golden Square is usually fine-tuning itself for a tilt at the flag.
The Bulldogs have won the past five premierships, but are facing a whole new challenge this season - simply qualifying for the finals.
With three rounds remaining in the home and away season, the Bulldogs are locked in a three-way battle with Kangaroo Flat and Eaglehawk for the last two finals positions.
So, with room for only two of those clubs come the finals, how do their run homes compare?
4th - Golden Square (8-7, 124.6%).
Round 16: v Eaglehawk at Canterbury Park.
Round 17: v Sandhurst at MyJet Oval.
Round 18: v Castlemaine at Camp Reserve.
While the Bulldogs’ finals berth isn’t secured yet, they can all but lock it up this Saturday with a win over Eaglehawk.
A victory on Saturday at Canterbury Park against a side they beat by 69 points in round seven would move the Bulldogs two games, plus a large chunk of percentage, ahead of sixth-placed Eaglehawk with only two games to follow.
A tricky assignment in round 17 follows at home against Sandhurst, before the Bulldogs - who have played in every finals series since 2005 - finish with a trip to Castlemaine
If the Bulldogs drop their next two to the Hawks and Dragons, there could be plenty riding on that last game against Castlemaine, which might have a bit of incentive itself in fighting to avoid the wooden spoon.
Prediction: wins over Eaglehawk and Castlemaine to finish on 40 points.
5th - Kangaroo Flat (8-7, 88.0%).
Round 16: v Strathfieldsaye at Beck Legal Oval.
Round 17: v Kyneton at Kyneton Showgrounds.
Round 18: v Gisborne at Gardiner Reserve.
What a change it is for Kangaroo Flat to be in finals contention this deep into the season.
Since 2001, the Roos have played in just one finals series - 2009 when they made the preliminary final.
But with three rounds remaining, they are sitting in the top five.
However, they have a difficult run home with games to come against top side Strathfieldsaye and third-placed Gisborne at Gardiner Reserve. Although, they did beat the Bulldogs by a point in round nine.
Sandwiched in between those clashes with the Storm and Bulldogs is a trip to Kyneton in round 17, which appears their best chance of adding to their eight wins.
The Roos’ cause isn’t helped by their ordinary percentage of 88.0, but their finals destiny is in their own hands.
Prediction: win over Kyneton to finish on 36 points.
6th - Eaglehawk (7-8, 103.9%).
Round 16: v Golden Square at Canterbury Park.
Round 17: v Maryborough at Barkers Oval Princes Park.
Round 18: v Sandhurst at QEO.
No gimmes on the run home for the Hawks, with two top-five sides to play in Golden Square and Sandhurst, plus a trip to Maryborough to take on the rejuvenated Magpies.
Interesting scenario for the Hawks in that they could win all three games and still miss, or they could get in to the finals on the back of just one more victory if Kangaroo Flat loses its last three.
Prediction: win over Maryborough to finish on 32 points.