ELMORE and White Hills have guaranteed themselves a spot in this year's HDFNL finals series, but for six other teams the race is on in earnest to fill positions three through five.
Here's how your team shapes up with five rounds to play.
Current position: Third
Win/loss record: (7-5)
Run home: v Huntly (H); v Lockington-Bamawm-United (A); bye; v North Bendigo (H); v Colbinabbin (A).
First round results against remaining opponents: 3-1 (d Huntly 58-41; d LBU 61-40; bye; lt North Bendigo 37-42; d Colbinabbin 47-28).
The verdict: While nothing can be taken for granted this season, if matches run to form, Mount Pleasant should hang on to the coveted double chance. Of their remaining opponents, the Blues defeated three of them earlier in the season, while their round eight loss to North Bendigo was an upset they should be able to rectify this time around. By adding three or even two wins ahead of their round 18 showdown against Colbinabbin, the Blues can ensure a top-three finish. It would be a just reward for the talent-laden Blues, who have occupied third spot on the ladder behind White Hills and Elmore for the bulk of the season.
Win/loss record: (5-6)
Run home: v Heathcote (H); v Leitchville-Gunbower (A); v Huntly (H); v LBU (A); v Mount Pleasant (H).
First round results against remaining opponents: 3-2 (d Heathcote 38-36; d Leitchville-Gunbower 40-36; d Huntly 55-39; lt LBU 38-50; lt Mount Pleasant 28-47).
The verdict: While a fourth-place finish at the end of the home and away season is the most likely scenario, the Grasshoppers have a few things in their favour in a bid to snatch third place from Mount Pleasant. First, they have a game in hand on the Blues. Second, their next four matches are against teams ranked lower than them on the ladder, including three they have beaten. And third, should the Blues falter somewhere along the way, the Grasshoppers will have the chance to knock them over in the final round of the season. Either way, the Grasshoppers will certainly shape the finals with all five of their remaining games against teams already in the five, or fighting to get in.
Win/loss record: (5-6)
Run home: v Mount Pleasant (A); v North Bendigo (H); v Colbinabbin (A); v Elmore (H); v White Hills (A).
First round results against remaining opponents: 1-4 (lt Mount Pleasant 41-58; d North Bendigo 59-43; lt Colbinabbin 39-55; lt Elmore 36-73; lt White Hills 25-68).
The verdict: Attempting to qualify for a fifth straight finals series, the Hawks will endure plenty of anxious moments over the next five weeks. The remaining schedule includes all four teams above them on the ladder as well as bottom side North Bendigo. On the plus side, the Hawks enter round 14 one game ahead of nearest rivals LBU and Heathcote and two games ahead of Leitchville-Gunbower. If they can conjure a win against either Mount Pleasant this week or Colbinabbin in round 16 and prevail as they would be expected to do against North Bendigo in round 15, the Hawks should be able to extend their proud finals streak. Working further in their favour is tough runs home for the Cats and Saints.
Win/loss record: (4-8)
Run home: bye; v Mount Pleasant (H); v North Bendigo (A); v Colbinabbin (H); v Elmore (A).
First round results against remaining opponents: 2-2 (lt Mount Pleasant 40-61; d North Bendigo 52-25; d Colbinabbin 50-38; lt Elmore 38-74).
The verdict: The Cats did themselves no favours with last week's loss to Huntly, their second this season against the Hawks. The margins - three goals in round four and five goals last week - suggest there is very little between the two teams. With a 2-2 record against its remaining four opponents, the Cats would be confident of getting to at least six wins, their best return since a seven-win season in 2015. Albeit, toppling Colbinabbin for a second time would be a major ask, even on the Cats' home court. Expect the Cats, who have a bye this weekend, to be going all out against Mount Pleasant in round 15. A win would not only enhance their own chances, but apply some serious pressure to Huntly and Colbinabbin above.
Win/loss record: (4-8)
Run home: v Colbinabbin (A); v Elmore (H); v White Hills (A); bye; v Leitchville-Gunbower (H).
First round results against remaining opponents: 0-4 (lt Colbinabbin 36-38; lt Elmore 34-64; lt White Hills 58-34; bye; lt Leitchville-Gunbower 31-47.
The verdict: If the Saints are to find a way past Colbinabbin, Huntly and Lockington-Bamawm United above them, they are going to have to do something they were unable to do earlier in the season and do it more than once. The Saints' four remaining games are against teams they failed to beat in the first round of matches. On the bright side, two of those losses (against Colbinabbin and Leitchville-Gunbower) were by four goals or less, so the Saints would give themselves a chance of turning those results around. With Elmore and White Hills to come in rounds 15 and 16, it's fair to say the Saints are playing for their season this weekend against Colbinabbin.
Win/loss record: (3-8)
Run home: v North Bendigo (A); v Colbinabbin (H); v Elmore (A); v White Hills (H); v Heathcote (A).
First round results against remaining opponents: 1-4 (lt North Bendigo 37-40; lt Colbinabbin 36-40; lt Elmore 42-70; lt White Hills 33-54; d Heathcote 47-31).
The verdict: Narrow losses in the first half of the season against North Bendigo (three goals) and Colbinabbin (four goals) and a home loss against Huntly on June 18 have severely hampered the Bombers' hopes of a first finals campaign since 2016. Could conceivably win three more games (ruling out Elmore and White Hills), but with the poorest percentage of teams ranked five through eight, six wins is not going to be enough to force their way into fifth spot.
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can access our trusted content:
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.