STRATHFIELDSAYE v KANGAROO FLAT
2.20pm Saturday at Strathfieldsaye.
After playing the ladder-leading Gisborne last week, the Roos again meet one of the fancied flag contenders when they take on the Storm at Tannery Lane.
Roos' midfielder Liam Collins with 201 is one of the seven players in the competition with 200-plus disposals through seven rounds in what has been a strong return season to Dower Park.
Strathfieldsaye was pushed all the way by South Bendigo last week in a hard-fought one-point win and nursing a heavy injury toll out of the clash with captain Lachlan Sharp (groin), former skipper Kallen Geary (hamstring) and Daniel Clohesy (AC joint) to be sidelined, but fortunately for the Storm one of club's great assets is its depth.
Last time: Strathfieldsaye 19.19 (133) def Kangaroo Flat 4.2 (26).
Since 2010: Strathfieldsaye 20; Kangaroo Flat 1.
SOUTH BENDIGO v MARYBOROUGH
2.20pm Saturday at QEO.
Better signs for Maryborough last week in kicking eight goals against Sandhurst.
To put that into context, the Magpies had managed just seven goals in their previous four games, so as predicted by coach Rick Andrews, his side came out of the bye in much better shape than it had gone into.
Still hunting their first win since mid-April of last year, the Magpies get a crack on the QEO against the Bloods, who served it right up to the Storm last week.
Although they didn't beat the Storm, the one-point defeat was a performance that showed the Bloods are more than capable of mixing it with the best and last week's encouraging signs should translate into a strong win on Saturday.
Last time: South Bendigo 24.13 (157) def Maryborough 3.5 (23).
Since 2010: South Bendigo 19; Maryborough 3.
GISBORNE v GOLDEN SQUARE
2.20pm Saturday at Gisborne.
The battle of the Bulldogs has seen some ripping contests over the past two decades and this has the makings of another beauty.
A dive into the Premier Data stats this week showed Golden Square and Gisborne to be No.1 and No.2 when it came to breaking down 13 "blue collar" pressure-related categories, so expect a red-hot contest.
It's an old cliche, but given the calibre of forward power in both sides - including Square's Joel Brett and Gisborne's Pat McKenna, who kicked 25 goals between them last week - the midfield battle and which team can generate more clean entry into attack is going to be pivotal in determining how this big clash plays out.
Last time: Golden Square 12.12 (84) def Gisborne 10.12 (72).
Since 2010: Golden Square 16; Gisborne 8; Drawn 1.
CASTLEMAINE v EAGLEHAWK
2.20pm Saturday at Castlemaine.
Expect Eaglehawk to bounce back hard from last week's loss to Kyneton - albeit the Hawks would want to get their kicking boots back on after a wayward 7.17 against the Tigers.
The Hawks have kicked poorly in all three of their losses so far, converting at just 36.5 per cent in defeats compared to 58.7 per cent in their four wins.
The midfield battle will feature two of the competition's top seven ranked players locking horns in the Hawks' Noah Wheeler (No.5) and Magpies' Tommy Horne (No.7).
Last time: Eaglehawk 27.12 (174) def Castlemaine 6.2 (38).
Since 2010: Eaglehawk 21; Castlemaine 1.
KYNETON v SANDHURST
2.20pm Saturday at Kyneton.
Can already picture just what the atmosphere is going to be like at the Showgrounds on Saturday as the resurgent Tigers look to continue their momentum.
Back-to-back wins over Golden Square and Eaglehawk has announced the Tigers as a genuine finals-calibre side and another victory on Saturday would be huge in their September push.
It's very-much an old fashioned "eight point game" for both sides who sit fifth (Kyneton) and sixth (Sandhurst) on the ladder.
A Kyneton win would not only continue its momentum, but would open a two-game buffer on the chasing Dragons, and also keep it in touch with the top three.
But should the Dragons salute it would propel Sandhurst back into the top five at the expense of Kyneton, so plenty on the line.
Last time: Sandhurst 14.16 (100) def Kyneton 7.12 (54).
Since 2010: Sandhurst 18; Kyneton 3; Drawn 1.
Luke West (29) - Strathfieldsaye, South Bendigo, Gisborne, Eaglehawk, Kyneton.
Adam Bourke (28) - Strathfieldsaye, South Bendigo, Gisborne, Eaglehawk, Kyneton.
Richard Jones (27) - Strathfieldsaye, South Bendigo, Gisborne, Eaglehawk, Kyneton.
INGLEWOOD v PYRAMID HILL
2.15pm Saturday at Inglewood.
Massive test for the resolve of the new-look Inglewood at home.
After such a positive start when they were 3-1 the Blues have since lost three in a row and now confront one of their long-time nemesis sides in the red-hot Pyramid Hill, which is undefeated and playing a strong brand of two-way football.
Got to go way back to 2007 (round five) for the last time the Blues upset the Bulldogs.
Last time: Pyramid Hill 27.19 (181) def Inglewood 2.2 (14).
Since 2010: Pyramid Hill 21; Inglewood 0.
MITIAMO v BRIDGEWATER
2.15pm Saturday at Mitiamo.
With Pyramid Hill and Marong the two clear standout teams, it's likely there's only one other position up for grabs in the top three and that's probably going to be fought out between these two sides.
So that makes this a hugely-important mid-season clash between the Superoos (3rd) and Mean Machine (4th).
While Mitiamo may not yet have shown itself to be the force it has been in recent years, the Superoos at 5-2 are banking wins and building a foundation, while the Mean Machine are starting to generate some momentum with four wins from their past five games.
Last time: Mitiamo 16.10 (106) def Bridgewater 9.11 (65).
Since 2010: Bridgewater 19; Mitiamo 6.
NEWBRIDGE v CALIVIL UNITED
2.15pm Saturday at Newbridge.
No doubt both teams at the start of the year would have hoped they'd be getting to round nine in far better shape than 1-6, which is where the Maroons and Demons find themselves heading into Saturday.
Been a tough fortnight for the Demons kicking back-to-back scores of just 1.2 (8) against Marong and Pyramid Hill, while the Maroons have to put a 181-point hiding from Pyramid Hill last week behind them.
Last time: Newbridge 11.15 (81) def Calivil United 7.8 (50).
Since 2010: Newbridge 11; Calivil United 11.
MAIDEN GULLY YCW v BL-SERPENTINE
2.15pm Saturday at Maiden Gully.
Big chance for Bears Lagoon-Serpentine to win two games in a row and push into the top five.
Justin Laird looks to be revelling in his new role as coach having been in the Bears' best players in six of their seven games and leading their goalkicking with 19.
The Eagles will want to find a few more avenues to goal if they are to win their second game after Jason Butty kicked six of their seven goals in last week's 74-point loss to Bridgewater.
Last time: BL-Serpentine 11.11 (77) def Maiden Gully YCW 11.10 (76).
Since 2010: BL-Serpentine 15; Maiden Gully YCW 7.
Luke West (25) - Pyramid Hill, Mitiamo, Newbridge, BL-Serpentine.
Adam Bourke (23) - Pyramid Hill, Bridgewater, Calivil United, BL-Serpentine.
LEITCHVILLE-GUNBOWER v HEATHCOTE
2.15pm Saturday at Leitchville.
Got to go back to the year Heathcote last played finals, 2013, for the last time the Saints won three in a row.
But that's finally on the cards on Saturday with the vastly-improved Saints, coming off back-to-back wins over White Hills and Elmore, a red-hot favourite against Leitchville-Gunbower, which has lost its past six.
The Saints are certainly running games out well having outscored the Demons and Bloods by a combined 97 points in the second halves of their past two wins.
Last time: Heathcote 11.7 (73) def Leitchville-Gunbower 7.8 (50).
Since 2010: Leitchville-Gunbower 14; Heathcote 9.
HUNTLY v WHITE HILLS
2.15pm Saturday at Huntly.
Reckon the Hawks would have to be one of the state's most competitive winless teams to this stage of the season.
The Hawks are 0-7, yet have only been blown off the park twice by Mount Pleasant and North Bendigo, but haven't been able to string together that four quarters of consistent footy needed to get four points on the board.
White Hills will be looking to build on its 75-point win over Leitchville-Gunbower last week and get back-to-back wins on the board before what shapes as an arduous next month for the Demons.
Last time: White Hills 8.5 (53) def Huntly 6.11 (47).
Since 2010: Huntly 12; White Hills 11.
LBU v ELMORE
2.15pm Saturday at Lockington.
Been an enjoyable past fortnight for Elmore with consecutive wins over Huntly and Leitchville-Gunbower in which Kyle Armstrong has been prominent in both victories.
Now, though, the Bloods confront a LBU side that will no doubt be fired up to hit back strongly after losing its first game since 2019 when beaten by Colbinabbin by 47 points last week.
Cats' coach Brodie Collins is available to play after receiving a one-match suspended sentence for a striking report this week.
Last time: LBU 16.13 (109) def Elmore 5.4 (34).
Since 2010: LBU 18; Elmore 7.
MOUNT PLEASANT v COLBINABBIN
2.15pm Saturday at Toolleen.
Long been one of the great rivalries of the HDFNL, but it's that much better when both sides are up and about like they are this year with the Grasshoppers sitting on top and Blues in third position.
A huge result for the Grasshoppers in knocking off LBU last week, but they can't afford to rest on their laurels as they confront a Blues' outfit that after losing its past two games against North Bendigo and LBU will be hungry to get a scalp of note under its belt.
Last time: Colbinabbin 11.9 (75) def Mount Pleasant 10.2 (62).
Since 2010: Mount Pleasant 17; Colbinabbin 4.
Adam Bourke (27) - Heathcote, White Hills, Lockington-Bamawm United, Mount Pleasant.
Luke West (25) - Heathcote, White Hills, Lockington-Bamawm United, Colbinabbin.
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