Bungaree v Newlyn
at Bungaree, Saturday, 2.30pm
Last time: Bungaree 14.8 (92) d Newlyn 3.5 (23), round 12, 2017
Bungaree coach Heath Pyke is looking forward rather than at those nipping at the Demons’ heels for a spot inside the Central Highlands Football League top eight.
Pyke’s charges are eighth on the ladder, just a game clear of reigning premiers Hepburn in ninth.
And the Demons have a difficult run to the finals which sees them pitted against four top eight rivals in the remaining six rounds of the home and away campaign.
Pyke said he was confident of making finals and believed there was still a chance his side could figure in the top four.
Bungaree called in top players Shaun Finlayson and Ryan Waight from long-term injuries for last week’s loss to Learmonth, but lost the latter to a hamstring problem at training ahead of this weekend’s battle with Newlyn.
Utility Jason Linke (unavailable), forward Luke Mirtschin (finger), two-time Geoff Taylor Medal winner David Benson (finger), half back Steven Ryan (hamstring) and onballer Jackson Murphy (knee) are among the other key players missing.
The Cats bounced back to form with victory at Daylesford last week and have named gun onballer Steve Clifton and Northern Territory-based duo Michael Bowden and Dylan McLachlan among the list of inclusions.
Hepburn v Skipton
at Hepburn, Saturday, 2.30pm
Last time: Hepburn 38.17 (245) d Skipton 4.4 (28), round 12, 2017
Hepburn coach Segifili Asa Leausa has decided to take at least another week of rest following a sickening concussion late last month.
The star defender landed heavily and knocked himself out after flying for a mark in the Burras’ round 10 clash with Waubra.
He coached from the sidelines when Hepburn thrashed Rokewood-Corinhap last weekend and has opted against a return on Saturday against Skipton.
He said the decision was precautionary.
“I’m feeling fine, just giving my old body a chance to get over a few other little niggles,” he said.
The club had hoped onballer Dan O’Halloran would make his long-awaited comeback from an ankle injury and forward Jackson Hogan would come up from muscle tightness in his legs, but both were ruled out on Thursday night. Izaac Grant kicked 13 goals against the Grasshoppers, but won’t be available for the Burras this weekend due to TAC Cup duties.
But the good news for Hepburn fans is that interleague representative Rhys Jenkins is back from overseas travel and slots back into the side.
Skipton will be without key midfielder Kal Dubbeldam after he received a one-match suspension at the tribunal during the week.
The Emus are fronting from a 50-point loss to Beaufort in round 11.
Gordon v Learmonth
at Gordon, Saturday, 2.30pm
Last time: Gordon 22.11 (143) d Learmonth 8.7 (55), round 12, 2017
Gordon has recalled dynamic small forward/midfielder Mick Nolan for his first game since mid-May.
Nolan has missed the Eagles’ last four games with a knee injury, but makes his return following the club’s bye last weekend.
The dangerous small player hurt his knee after representing the Central Highlands Football League in the AFL Victoria Community Championships.
During his period of absence, Gordon has not dropped a match and climbed its way to sixth on the ladder, just a game outside the top four.
Murphy brothers Tye and James and forward Steven Nicholson are other important inclusions for the Eagles this weekend, but utility Jordan Clampit (unavailable) is among those missing.
Nicholson has played the past few weeks in the reserves and slides back into the Gordon senior side for this important fixture.
Learmonth has named an unchanged line-up to the one that beat Bungaree last round. That result leaves the Lakies fifth and equal on points with the Eagles.
And while Saturday’s rivals are two games clear inside the top eight, both have difficult roads towards the finals. Gordon must take on five sides that are currently in that bracket, while the Lakies have to meet three as well as the dangerous Dunnstown and reigning premiers Hepburn.
Ballan v Clunes
at Ballan, Saturday, 2.30pm
Last time: Clunes 11.7 (73) d Ballan 9.9 (63), round 12, 2017
Ballan: The father of Bongart brothers Harley, Austin and Ryan has been given a call-up to play a special game alongside his sons on Saturday.
Jason Bongart has been named to come into the side, which will be without onballer Sam Sher, who has a groin issue.
Clunes: The Magpies will see Ballan as one of their last realistic chances to secure a maiden win in season 2018.
Coach Johno Leoncini said forward Nick Hogan had a hamstring injury and would miss this game along with winger Blake Welsh, who has sore ribs.
Beaufort v Creswick
at Beaufort, Saturday, 2.30pm
Last time: Beaufort 11.14 (80) d Creswick 4.6 (30), round 17, 2017
Beaufort: The Crows will be without ruckman Josh McDermott, who is again required to work this weekend.
Beaufort defeated Skipton last Saturday to sit third on the ladder, a game behind top side Waubra.
Creswick: The Wickers let slip a golden opportunity to beat Dunnstown last weekend and are still 12 points adrift of the top eight as a result.
Coach Ryan Knowles let fly at the standard of umpiring in that match, which he felt played a part in his team's narrow defeat.
Dunnstown v Carngham-Linton
at Dunnstown, Saturday, 2.30pm
Last time: Dunnstown 13.12 (90) d Carngham-Linton 11.9 (75), round 12, 2017
Dunnstown: Towners star Sam Jenkins is the big omission this weekend.
After playing in last round's narrow two-point win over Creswick - which leaves the team 10th and two games outside the top eight - Jenkins is unavailable due to a wedding.
Carngham-Linton: The Saints are out to break a losing sequence that spans back to round three.
The team put up a good showing against Ballan last Saturday, but couldn't go with the Blues in the last term.
Springbank v Daylesford
at Wallace, Saturday, 2.30pm
Last time: Springbank 8.8 (56) d Daylesford 6.11 (47), round 12, 2017
Springbank: After suffering a heavy defeat at the hands of Waubra last Saturday, the GJ Gardner Tigers will be missing some key figures for the game against Daylesford.
Michael Searl (unavailable), Mitch Keighrey (unavailable) and Tom Henry (knee) are among those that won't start against the Bulldogs.
Daylesford: The Bulldogs played one short on the bench during last Saturday's loss to Newlyn, but welcome back Seb Eyles for the trip to Wallace.
Eyles, who was recruited to the club this year, was unwell and missed the clash with the Cats.
Waubra v Rokewood-Corindhap
at Waubra, Saturday, 2.30pm
Last time: Waubra 23.16 (154) d Rokewood-Corindhap 8.5 (53), round 12, 2017
Waubra: The Roos are flying along at the top of the ladder, but have lost in-form defender James Petrie to a medial strain.
Petrie played in Saturday's super win over Springbank, which has left the Waubra boys a game clear at the summit.
Rokewood-Corindhap: The Grasshoppers have lost the versatile Marcus Rainsford to a foot injury following last weekend's heavy loss to Hepburn.
That 131-point defeat was Rokewood-Corindhap's seventh in succession and leaves the side second last on the table.