The biggest show of the BFNL season so far has lost some of its star power.
Gisborne skipper Pat McKenna, arguably the best player in the BFNL, will miss Saturday's clash between unbeaten teams Strathfieldsaye versus Gisborne at Tannery Lane because of injury.
"Pat was crook with the flu the week before and then he got a knock to his leg the other day and he hasn't come up great,'' Gisborne coach Rob Waters said.
"We thought about it (playing him), but it's just not worth it at this stage of the year.
"If he was to play and injure it further then he could miss four weeks.
"Pat is a superstar of our team and we'd love for him to be out there in one of our biggest games of the year, but that's the way it goes."
Read more: Top-ranked player at every BFNL club
McKenna averaged more than five goals per game in 2019 and 2021. His absence leaves a giant hole in a Gisborne forward line that comes up against one of the best defences in the competition.
"We've always said that we can't be Pat McKenna reliant,'' Waters said.
"Pat is such a star player that he gets two opponents every week and still beats them.
"We need to share the load in the forward line and we have plenty of options up there in Harry Thomas, Matt Merrett, Jack Scanlon, Josh Kemp and Ben Eales.
"We've trained for situations like this all year. That's why Pat was playing up on the wing and in the midfield during the practice matches, so that we had some different looks.
"We hope that it adds to our versatility."
In the corresponding game at Tannery Lane last year, Gisborne made the trip north with high expectations and were handed a seven-goal thumping by the Storm.
It was a result that still haunts the Bulldogs.
"The boys are very excited about the opportunity to play Strathfieldsaye on their home ground after they hurt us there last year,'' Waters said.
"It's 22 players against 22 players, it doesn't matter who we've got or we haven't got. I'm sure Strathfieldsaye will be in the same boat with some players missing.
"It's going to give us a great gauge as to where we sit. We're looking forward to a great game of footy."
Strathfieldsaye co-coach Darryl Wilson also won't have all of his troops at his disposal on Saturday, but the Storm welcome back key inside midfielders Caleb Sheahan and Daniel Clohesy and co-coach Shannon Geary.
However, premiership defender Fergus Payne is out after entering COVID health and safety protocols.
"We haven't finalised our team yet because we're waiting on the fitness of a few,'' Wilson said.
"We'll go with what we've got. Sheahan and Clohesy are two big ins for us through the midfield and having Shannon back is a bg bonus.
"In their absence we've given some exposure to others like Riley (Wilson) and Jye (Formosa), who have done a really good job for us."
While the round five clash has created plenty of interest and hype, Wilson said the Storm were treating the match as just another home and away game.
"We haven't over-emphasised it,'' Wilson said.
"The boys know who we've got and the competition is strong no matter who you play.
"We've had competitive games against Eaglehawk, Sandhurst and Kyneton where we've had to put our foot on the gas.
"This will be no different. We rate Gisborne highly and we know we'll be in for a tough game."
One of the highlights of the day will be the midfield battle between the BFNL's two leading ball winners - Storm's Jake Moorhead and Gisborne's Brad Bernacki.
Wilson and Waters said they would back their midfielders in rather than start the day with a tagger on Moorhead or Bernacki respectively.
"I'm sure at some point they'll be playing on each other,'' Wilson said.
"They play similar games and they're both very good players."
STRATHFIELDSAYE v GISBORNE
2.20pm Saturday at Strathfieldsaye.
B: J. Neylon, P. Blandford, B. Lester
HB: L. Ratcliffe, T. Bennett, D. Clohesy
C: B. Slater, R. Wilson, K. Geary
HF: C. Ernst, J. Schischka, J. Formosa
F: S. Geary, L. Sharp, J. Hall
R: T. Hosking, L. Gill, J. Moorhead
Int: C. Sheahan, B. Stevens, J. Mayes, S. Murphy, M. Wakefield, M. Hallinan
B: S. Graham, J. Reaper, L. Rodgers
HB: L. Spear, F. Schipano, J. Owen
C: M. Lord, S. Bell-Bartels, N. Doolan
HF: M. Merrett, J. Scanlon, E. Foreman
F: M. Panuccio, H. Thomas, J. Kemp
R: B. Blake, B. Bernacki, F. Lakey
Int: L. Ellings, S. Walsh, J. Normington, B. Eales
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