READ MORE - SELECTION NIGHT - weekend football teams
AS impressive as last week's upset win over Pyramid Hill was, Marong co-coach Taylor Beard knows some of the gloss will be taken off it if the Panthers don't back up and beat Newbridge in the Loddon Valley league on Saturday.
It's a high stakes game at Newbridge for both the Maroons (5-6) and Panthers (5-7), who are separated by just percentage in fifth and sixth.
For the winner it will be a major step forward in their quest for a finals berth; the loser will be behind the eight-ball, particularly if it's Marong given the Maroons have a game in hand on the Panthers.
Marong last week gave its season a re-ignition with its first win at Pyramid Hill since 2013, upsetting one of the leading flag contenders in impressive style by 36 points.
"Tomorrow is huge... it's an eight-point game with both teams sitting right on the edge of trying to play finals," Beard said on Friday.
"It's really important that we back up our good win last week because if we don't then it nearly makes last week irrelevant.
"We just need to make sure we bring the same attributes as we did last week and if we do that we're confident we can come away with the points."
Less than a goal separated Newbridge and Marong in their earlier meeting this season when the Panthers knocked over the reigning premiers by five points.
Among the standouts for the Panthers this season has been midfield recruit Adam Ward, who is third on 14 votes in the El-Vee Award behind Bears Lagoon-Serpentine's Matthew Gibbs (17) and Bridgewater's Liam Jacques (16), while Kyle Manley last week made an impressive return from injury to kick four goals and Corbin Fleming has been solid in recent weeks at centre half-back.
After the inclusion of Manley last week the Panthers have another midfield addition on Saturday with Zach Turnbull returning from a hamstring injury.
"With a bit of rain about the past couple of days, it's probably not going to be a clean game, so Zach's bigger body is going to be really important around the footy on Saturday," Beard said.
* Saturday's games - Newbridge v Marong, Bridgewater v BL-Serpentine, Maiden Gully YCW v Calivil United, Inglewood v Pyramid Hill. Mitiamo bye.
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