SOUTH Bendigo will be aiming to buck the trend by claiming an elusive top-three scalp against Sandhurst at the QEO on Saturday.
The Bloods have shown massive improvement since coming under the tutelage of coach Jannelle Hobbs in 2018, highlighted by a drought-breaking finals appearance in 2018 and a fourth-placed finish in last year's shortened season.
But while they have made strong progress, the Bloods have struggled for wins against the likes of Sandhurst, Kangaroo Flat and Gisborne, which have largely occupied the top-three spots in that time.
Following another strong off-season on the recruiting front, there is genuine optimism the Bloods can start matching it with the league's powerhouses, starting with the Dragons this weekend.
South Bendigo has impressively moved to 2-0 following wins over Golden Square and Eaglehawk and looks well prepared for a tough test.
Hobbs said her side was looking forward to the challenge that a clash against Sandhurst presented.
"They are the benchmark, obviously, but I'm confident we can push them." she said.
"It will need a four-quarter effort, but we are looking forward to it.
"It's a tough couple of weeks actually with Castlemaine and Gisborne coming up not long after Sandhurst," she said.
"We are going to find out pretty quickly just where we sit and what we need to do.
"We'll just keep working hard and hopefully at least get one of those (wins) if not a couple."
The Bloods certainly have more depth and versatility than in recent seasons, with Hobbs showing she is not afraid to mix things up by utilising 10 players in both games so far this season.
Of the recruits, Chloe Gray has impressed at wing attack, while Olivia Mason has solidified the shooting circle in unison with Chloe Langley and Jamie-Lee Clohesy.
In defence, six-time A-grade premiership player Alicia McGlashan has slotted in nicely alongside Steph Goode and Amy Morrissey.
Sandhurst, likewise, has not missed a beat in convincing wins over Gisborne and Strathfieldsaye and has already showed it will be a force to be reckoned with in its bid for a fourth-straight premiership.
On the back of a 44-goal win over the Storm, Dragons coach Tamara Gilchrist predicted a tough tussle between two of the early-season's most in-form teams.
"They have recruited well, which is really good for them and their club," she said.
"They are always a strong game; they will be physically tough, but we will be ready for that.
"It's always important to win the early games, you never know what the end of the season might look like.
"South is always is a challenge and then we've got (Kangaroo) Flat the week after, so it's good to come off two great wins and see where we are at."
In a team with everyone in good form and no obvious weak links, midcourter Meg Williams and defender Sophie Shoebridge have been standouts early in the season.
The Dragons will regain gun goal shooter Bec Smith, who missed last week's win due to work commitments.
In other games, Castlemaine (2-0) is set for its biggest test to date since its return to A-grade against the Bulldogs (1-1) at Gisborne.
The Bulldogs rebounded from a disappointing loss to Sandhurst to start the season against Kyneton last week and have added Melbourne Vixens squad member Jordan Cransberg to their already strong line-up.
Cransberg will, however, miss Saturday's game after being elevated into the Vixens' match-day squad for Saturday night's clash against the Adelaide Thunderbirds.
Gisborne coach Tarryn Rymer said the Bulldogs were still up for the challenge.
"It's kind of nice getting to play these top teams early in the season, especially after how disappointed we were against Sandhurst," she said.
"We're eager to have another crack at another top team. We're expecting Castlemaine to be very tough."
Maryborough coach Alicia Cassidy has labelled her side's clash at Golden Square as 'a must-win' for the Magpies, with both teams at 0-2.
Kangaroo Flat (2-0), which has averaged 77 goals in the first two rounds, hosts Eaglehawk (0-2), while Strathfieldsaye will be aiming for its second win of the season against Kyneton, which is still looking for its first.
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