Springbank v Gordon
at Wallace, Saturday, 2.30pm
Last time: Springbank 13.9 (87) d Gordon 12.9 (81), semi final, 2017
Bitter rivals Springbank and Gordon both get the chance to massively boost their top four prospects with victory this Saturday afternoon.
As it stands, the Eagles are fourth and Tigers fifth, but both are level on points and only separated by percentage.
After getting over the line against Skipton with a severely undermanned side, Springbank has welcomed back a host of important names for the blockbuster encounter at Wallace.
Brock Freeman, Billy Driscoll and Michael Searl were all unavailable for the clash with the Emus, but slot back into the senior team among six changes. Another of the big ins is key forward Paul O'Shea, who has overcome a hamstring injury.
“The winner can pencil in a top four spot, which is what we all aim for. To have that on the line, and between two genuine rivals, makes it a big game of footy,” GJ Gardner Tigers coach Troy Beamond said.
Over at Gordon and the Eagles have made one change to the team that beat Bungaree last time out.
Utility Steven Nicholson is back from a one-match suspension and comes in for midfielder Jordan Clampit, who is reported to have an arm injury.
After Saturday’s clash, the Tigers have a battle with Creswick in round 17, while the Eagles prepare for a huge home fixture against Buninyong.
Dunnstown v Newlyn
at Dunnstown, Saturday, 2.30pm
Last time: Dunnstown 8.12 (60) d Newlyn 2.4 (16), round 16, 2017
Dunnstown coach Justin Abrams said the late Lachlan Poulter would have wanted the club to play on this weekend and strive for a spot in finals.
The Towners’ clash with Newlyn is set to go ahead this weekend despite the shock death of the much-loved Poulter, who collapsed and died after playing in the club’s reserves team last Saturday.
While admitting football now seemed insignificant, Abrams said it was important to achieve what the senior group – which included Poulter – set out for at the start of the year.
Dunnstown is on the verge of making the Central Highlands Football League finals series and sits in 10th spot, two points behind the eighth-placed Bungaree.
“We’d be really doing an injustice to Poults, the footy club and ourselves if we really didn't turn up to play,” he said.
Abrams said young Will Henderson would be left out of the senior side this Saturday simply due to the enormity of the occasion.
Meanwhile, Newlyn has revealed former Hawthorn footballer Brad Sewell won’t play for the Cats again this year due to a busy work schedule.
Sewell returned to feature for his junior club in round two and had been expected to qualify for finals.
Star onballer Steve Clifton is the key inclusion for the Cats this weekend.
Buninyong v Bungaree
at Buninyong, Saturday, 2.30pm
Last time: Buninyong 8.15 (63) d Bungaree 6.9 (45), round 16, 2017
Buninyong has recalled Liam Rigby for his first senior game since mid-June.
Rigby has been battling an ankle injury in recent weeks, but played reserves last weekend and has now been given the green light to return to the first 22.
The mobile ruckman is a crucial player for the Bombers, which are still not yet guaranteed a spot inside the Central Highlands Football League top four.
Coach Jarrod Morgan and his men are third, but only percentage clear of the fifth-placed Springbank.
A tough clash with Bungaree is on the cards this weekend before another difficult task at Gordon in round 17.
While Rigby is the big inclusion, the Bombers are set to miss onballer Ned Gilbert, who can’t play this Saturday due to other commitments.
While Buninyong has its top four battles, the Demons are trying their best to stay inside the finals bracket.
Currently eighth, Bungaree has only a two-point lead on both Learmonth and Dunnstown.
Demons coach Heath Pyke has ruled out dual Geoff Taylor Medal winner David Benson with an ongoing hand injury and said defender Chris Cowan was also unavailable to take on the Bombers.
Among the returning players for the visiting side is Ryan Waight, who missed last weekend’s loss to Gordon with a hamstring injury.
Ballan v Daylesford
at Ballan, Saturday, 2.30pm
Last time: Daylesford 7.9 (51) d Ballan 4.5 (29), round 16, 2017
Ballan: Coach Jason McNamara is back from a week away and ready to take back control of his side.
McNamara's team, which pushed finals-bound Newlyn last Saturday, will be without ruckman Pat Graham for the rest of the season as he pursues top-level Frisbee interests.
Daylesford: The Bulldogs welcome back Shane Black from a one-week suspension for the trip to Ballan.
Black missed the loss to Buninyong last weekend, with the Bombers booting well clear to win the game by more than 100 points.
Beaufort v Learmonth
at Beaufort, Saturday, 2.30pm
Last time: Beaufort 11.13 (79) d Learmonth 1.11 (17), round 16, 2017
Beaufort: Guns Michael Foster, Daniel Venditti and Nick Sullivan are all back for the Crows' home clash with Learmonth this Saturday.
But in some bad news, coach Rohan Brown has confirmed the season is over for onballer Joe Mason, who has recently had surgery on an injured finger.
Learmonth: Star onballer Brenton Powell was a late withdrawal ahead of last Saturday's abandoned fixture against Dunnstown with a calf issue, but will be right for the side's important clash with Beaufort.
The Lakies are ninth on the ladder, just two points behind the eighth-placed Bungaree with two rounds to play before finals.
Rokewood-Corindhap v Carngham-Linton
at Rokewood, Saturday, 2.30pm
Last time: Rokewood-Corindhap 16.11 (107) d Carngham-Linton 4.10 (34), round 16, 2017
Rokewood-Corindhap: The Grasshoppers just fell short of back-to-back wins last weekend, but look well placed in this clash with Carngham-Linton.
Coach Damon Delaney said onballer Troy McLaughlin was set to return to the team this weekend after missing the battle with Creswick.
Carngham-Linton: The Saints have only managed one victory this year, but get a couple of good chances to better their win-loss record in the last two games of the season.
Coach Matt Beaston and his boys will fancy their chances against the Grasshoppers and then Skipton back home at Snake Valley the following week.
Skipton v Creswick
at Skipton, Saturday, 2.30pm
Last time: Creswick 13.12 (90) d Skipton 7.4 (46), round 16, 2017
Skipton: The Emus' influential onballer Andrew Pitson is the major inclusion for the side's game against Creswick.
Pitson has been a costly absentee for the losses to Rokewood-Corindhap and Springbank after being handed a two-week suspension at the tribunal.
Creswick: The Wickers broke a run of eight-straight defeats with victory against Rokewood-Corindhap on Saturday.
But the team will be without Rhys Antonio this weekend after he accepted a one-week suspension for striking and Jack Marshman, who appeared to injure his collar bone against the Grasshoppers.
Waubra v Clunes
at Waubra, Saturday, 2.30pm
Last time: Waubra 14.11 (95) d Clunes 4.9 (33), round 16, 2017
Waubra: Roos star James Lukich is set to make his return from concussion this weekend, but brother Geordie is likely to miss after copping his own head knock last round against Carngham-Linton.
The influential Matt Dawson is also among the inclusions after sitting out for a week with an ankle injury.
Clunes: Interleague representative Jesse Baird is back after a week away, but the side will be without ruckman Liam Horniblow and defender Callum Newton for the clash with the ladder-leaders.
Magpies coach Johno Leoncini said Horniblow had a quadriceps issue and Newton a knee injury.