GISBORNE has passed its double test over the past fortnight against the BFNL's reigning premier and last year's preliminary finalist with flying colours.
But there's no respite from the challenges on Saturday as another crucial game awaits the Bulldogs with a trip up the Calder to take on Golden Square in a clash of 2nd v 3rd at Wade Street.
The match against their fellow Bulldogs is the third leg of a testing three weeks approaching the halfway mark that has already yielded two results that signify Gisborne's growth.
Firstly was the round seven win over reigning premier Eaglehawk by 30 points when the Bulldogs snapped the Hawks' 21-game home winning streak at Canterbury Park.
And last week the Bulldogs handled a gallant challenge from 2018 preliminary finalist Sandhurst to win by 26 points - Gisborne's first over the Dragons since 2014.
The Bulldogs also broke Sandhurst's streak of 67 games without conceding a score of more than 100 after kicking 14.20 (104).
"We set a target of this three-week block and I've been really proud of the way the boys have responded to the challenges," Gisborne skipper Jarrad Lynch said.
"In previous years when teams have kicked a couple of quick goals against us, that's when we've gone back into our shell, but this year we've been able to overcome that, find another gear and push through it.
"Ideally, we'd like to capitalise better on the scoreboard earlier and put teams away, but we've been able to get through tough periods."
The Bulldogs, who are 7-1, converted poorly in their pair of wins over the Hawks (17.23) and Dragons (14.20), squandering early opportunities in both games to apply scoreboard heat.
Gisborne was 8.14 at half-time against Eaglehawk and 6.11 at the main break against Sandhurst - the yips in front of goal not dis-similar to their opponents this week.
READ MORE - BENDIGO ADDY FOOTY CHALLENGE - week nine scores
Inaccuracy aside, testament to the Bulldogs' firepower this season and weight of entries inside 50, Gisborne has generated the competition's most scoring shots with 297.
The forward line is being spearheaded superbly by the duo of Pat McKenna (41 goals) and Jack Scanlon (22), who are both among the seven Bendigo league players selected in the Victoria Country training squad.
In his first season back at Gardiner Reserve after four years in the AFL system at GWS Giants and Melbourne, McKenna's 41 goals features five hauls of at least five, including eight last week against Sandhurst and seven against Eaglehawk.
"Patty and Scanners taking big contested marks has made a big difference for us," said Lynch, who missed last week with a glute strain.
"Over the past few years we've worked hard to get the ball forward, but just haven't had the strength to keep it in there and it would often come straight back out.
"As a backline and midfield group it has been very pleasing to see the ball staying down there and some reward for effort.
"You can see what Patty is doing in the way he's hitting the scoreboard, but Scanners has improved out of sight this year and is playing with great confidence."
Have you signed up to the Bendigo Advertiser's daily newsletter and breaking news emails? You can register below and make sure you are up to date with everything that's happening in central Victoria.