2.20pm Saturday at Castlemaine.
Can't have been easy for either Castlemaine or Kangaroo Flat to re-start their seasons after a month off last week with no incentive to play for in terms of a finals series to build towards.
At least, though, players from both teams can head into Saturday with an opportunity to finish the season on a high and get some reward for the work they put in during the lockdown break.
For Castlemaine, it presents a chance to snap what is now a 47-game losing streak on their home deck against a fellow developing youth-laden team.
It has been a mighty tough slog again for the Magpies and - unless you're a Kangaroo Flat supporter - it would be great for the young players who have fronted up week after week and copped belting after belting to finally have cause for celebration.
However, the same can be said for the Roos, who have also done it tough. Although, they've at least had the nourishment of two wins.
Last time: Kangaroo Flat 13.19 (97) def Castlemaine 7.4 (46).
Since 1995: Kangaroo Flat 30; Castlemaine 23; Drawn 1.
2.20pm Saturday at Gisborne.
Very much a guessing game of what could happen in this contest given the build-up Sandhurst has endured coupled with Gisborne to again be impacted by the absence of its large contingent of Melbourne players.
For the third-placed Dragons, Saturday will be their first game in 42 days after their return to the field had to wait an extra week last Saturday with Kyneton forfeiting against them.
The Dragons last played on July 10 when beaten by Golden Square by 36 points and how they return after such a lay-off will be intriguing in terms of the balance between frest and rust.
While Gisborne will be far from full strength, at least the Bulldogs - who can move from fourth to as high as second with a win at home - have a game under their belt having beaten Maryborough by 95 points last week and, as the saying goes, should be better for the run.
Last time: Gisborne 17.10 (112) def Sandhurst 6.10 (46).
Head to Head: Gisborne 25; Sandhurst 23.
The game won't be played, with Kyneton again forfeiting for the second week in a row with the unavailability of their Melbourne players leaving the Tigers with a numbers shortfall.
Having just endured four weeks off before last week's emphatic 77-point win over Eaglehawk, it will be another frustrating break for the Storm on the eve of the finals.
However, with a guaranteed four points, it does mean the Storm will finish on top of the ladder for the sixth time in the past eight seasons and carry the No.1 seed into the finals.
2.20pm Saturday at QEO.
The curtain comes down on a tough season for Maryborough, which has had to battle with minimal numbers throughout, but the Magpies have fought a challenging year out to the end and finish with a trip to the QEO where they last won in 2013.
While the Magpies will be done and dusted for 2021 after Saturday, the Bloods have their first finals series since 2012 to look forward to and should do so on a six-game winning streak given it would be a major boilover if they were to lose.
Banking the four points and playing a good brand of football will be the main focus for Bloods' coach Nathan Horbury, but there's also an opportunity for star forward Kaiden Antonowicz to win the Ron Best Medal.
Antonowicz's 63 goals are five behind Strathfieldsaye's Lachlan Sharp, who leads with 68, but won't get the chance to add to his tally with the Storm not playing.
Given Antontowicz has kicked hauls of eight, 10, six and 11 (against Maryborough) in his past four games, his formline suggests he could be headed for a second Ron Best Medal.
Last time: South Bendigo 24.13 (157) def Maryborough 3.5 (23).
Since 1995: South Bendigo 39; Maryborough 15.
2.20pm Saturday at Eaglehawk.
No respite for Eaglehawk, which after copping a 77-point belting off top side Strathfieldsaye in its return game last week now fronts up against the second-placed Golden Square.
The Hawks got a first-hand look at the competition benchmark last week and as coach Travis Matheson said after the game in trying to find the positives: "Today gives us a clear look at the level we've got to get ourselves to over the coming weeks."
At least this week the Hawks - who have been given a reprieve with the finals format changing from a top-five to a top-six - are back on their home deck at Canterbury Park, but they won't have their vocal Borough faithful cheering them on with spectators again banned.
Golden Square, which hasn't won at Canterbury Park since 2016, has the form of eight-consecutive wins behind it and Jayden Burke, who has arguably the best set of hands in the competition, coming off a 10-goal haul against Castlemaine last week.
Last time: Golden Square 15.10 (100) def Eaglehawk 10.12 (72).
Since 1995: Golden Square 36; Eaglehawk 24.
Luke West (51) - Kangaroo Flat, Gisborne, South Bendigo, Golden Square.
Adam Bourke (50) - Kangaroo Flat, Gisborne, South Bendigo, Golden Square.
2.15pm Saturday at Serpentine.
Marong will carry the momentum of seven-straight wins by an average of 111 points as the Panthers make their return to the Loddon Valley league finals for the first time since 2016.
The Panthers have promised plenty this year and are delivering under first-year coach Linton Jacobs.
While they have generated plenty of headlines for their much-vaunted forward line spearheaded by the trio of Kain Robins, Brandyn Grenfell and Adrian Pappin, and has been further boosted by the return of Simon Weekley from a long injury lay-off, they have been a strong defensive unit that three times this season has kept their opposition to single figures.
After a two-season absence from the finals following its run of eight grand finals in a row, Bridgewater is back at the business end.
The Mean Machine boasts the competition's leading goalkicker in Josh Martyn (57), while Jarrod Fitzpatrick and Boden Alexander have been driving forces in the engine room and Caillum Brady has had a strong year rebounding off half-back.
The two sides have only met once this season, with Bridgewater overcoming a heavy injury toll to beat the Panthers by 20 points in round six.
Rd 6 - Bridgewater 14.13 (97) def Marong 11.11 (77).
Since 1995: Bridgewater 33; Marong 21.
2.15pm Sunday at Marong.
These teams will be no strangers to each other given they met only last Saturday in what was a dead rubber with their elimination final showdown already having been locked in beforehand.
The form of the two teams against each other this year gives the edge to Pyramid Hill, with the Bulldogs having won their two encounters by 14 and 45 points.
Both teams had injury concerns out of their contest last week, with Pyramid Hill full-forward Braidy Dickens coming off late with a hamstring and Bears' midfielder Justin Laird hurting an ankle.
One potential boost for the Bears for the cut-throat final could be the return of ruckman Nathan Twigg, who has had an outstanding season, from injury.
Rd 9 - Pyramid Hill 14.10 (94) def BL-Serpentine 6.13 (49).
Rd 18 - Pyramid Hill 12.10 (82) def BL-Serpentine 10.8 (68).
Head to Head: Pyramid Hill 32; BL-Serpentine 28.
Luke West (49) - Marong, Pyramid Hill.
Adam Bourke (48) - Marong, Pyramid Hill.
2.15pm Saturday at North Bendigo.
In years gone by this would have been a marquee clash that garnered enormous hype during the four-year rivalry between the Bulldogs and Bombers when they met in the 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 grand finals for two flags apiece.
While both clubs have endured significant turnover since their four-year run of flag battles, the Bulldogs remain a premiership threat, while the Bombers have dropped away dramatically and barring a major upset are headed for a winless 2021.
Last time: North Bendigo 13.14 (92) def Leitchville-Gunbower 9.13 (67).
Head to Head: North Bendigo 18; Leitchville-Gunbower 10.
2.15pm Saturday at Colbinabbin.
On paper this is an absolute cracker of a contest between first and second on the ladder.
The reality, though, is there are no stakes of any significance hinging on the result given the undefeated Cats have top spot sewn up and the Grasshoppers are locked into the qualifying final next week.
Still, it provides both teams with a chance to audit their game against quality opposition a week out from the finals.
And while the result won't have anything riding on it in terms of finals ramifications, you'd rather be taking winning form into the business end than not.
Last time: LBU 19.9 (123) def Colbinabbin 4.4 (28).
Head to Head: Colbinabbin 26; LBU 20.
2.15pm Saturday at Heathcote.
Last game of the season for both teams, which between them have about 18 Melbourne-based players unavailable.
Tough ask for Heathcote to bounce back from their goal-less game against LBU last week, while Huntly would be disappointed if it can't finish a season of strong improvement with a sixth win.
Last time: Huntly 13.7 (85) def Heathcote 9.11 (65).
Since 1995: Huntly 27; Heathcote 26.
2.15pm Saturday at Toolleen.
Been a disjointed end to the season for Mount Pleasant, which having had a bye last week has played just one game since July 10.
While the fifth-placed Blues haven't had continuity, their past three games have been three wins by a combined 291 points, which should become four wins in a row to take into the finals against the Bloods, who will end the year seventh win, lose or draw on Saturday.
Last time: Mount Pleasant 18.15 (123) def Elmore 12.9 (81).
Since 1995: Mount Pleasant 34; Elmore 22; Drawn 2.
Adam Bourke (51) - North Bendigo, Lockington-Bamawm United, Huntly, Mount Pleasant.
Luke West (50) - North Bendigo, Lockington-Bamawm United, Huntly, Mount Pleasant.
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