Daylesford v Dunnstown
at Daylesford, Saturday, 2.30pm
Last time: Dunnstown 15.12 (102) d Daylesford 8.6 (54), round 17, 2017
Dunnstown simply needs to win on Saturday for the club’s finals dream to be a reality.
The club has been chasing a return to the Central Highlands Football League playoffs since 2011 and moved into the top eight on the back of last weekend’s emotionally-charged triumph over Newlyn.
Dunnstown paid tribute to the late Lachlan Poulter in that game against the Cats and farewelled him at a funeral service in Ballarat on Thursday.
As it stands, the Towners are eighth. They are two points clear of Bungaree and four ahead of Learmonth heading into round 17. If the team is beaten by Daylesford on Saturday, it must hope the Demons and Lakies both lose, otherwise a spot in finals is gone.
While the Bulldogs are well down the ladder and can’t play finals, Saturday is still a big occasion for the club with Rob Rodgers to play his 300th open age game.
Rodgers is a three-time senior premiership player for the Bulldogs and served as captain in the breakthrough flag of 2007.
He is a life member of the club, team of the decade skipper (2006-2015), Bulldogs best and fairest winner and CHFL interleague representative.
Both Daylesford and Dunnstown named unchanged sides to those that competed in round 16 last weekend.
Bungaree v Ballan
at Bungaree, Saturday, 2.30pm
Last time: Bungaree 11.13 (79) d Ballan 4.10 (34), round 17, 2017
Bungaree coach Heath Pyke knows his team needs some luck in the last round of the Central Highlands Football League season if the side is to play finals in 2018.
The Demons slipped out of the top eight following their loss to Buninyong last weekend and must beat Ballan on Saturday and hope Dunnstown is unsuccessful in Daylesford to reclaim eighth position on the table.
Pyke has recalled two-time Geoff Taylor Medal winner David Benson from a hand injury, as well as Leigh Billington, who missed the battle with the Bombers due to a hamstring strain. Assistant coach Ryan Waight will be absent this weekend due to his own injury concerns.
Saturday’s clash will be Jason McNamara’s last in charge of Ballan, with news he will not seek reappointment for a third campaign at the helm.
And there’s no doubt he will be looking to finish on a high and claim a seventh win from the last nine matches.
Ash Mullane (concussion) and Sam Hitchings (shoulder) were both hurt in last weekend’s victory against Daylesford and have been left out for the battle with Bungaree.
Among the inclusions is ruckman Trent Laurie and youngster Corey Pascoe, who has been granted his senior debut for the club. Pascoe is a small player that is likely to spend most of his game time in attack.
Gordon v Buninyong
at Gordon, Saturday, 2.30pm
Last time: Buninyong 16.18 (114) d Gordon 6.7 (43), round 17, 2017
Gordon and Buninyong are set to lock horns for the right to meet Beaufort in the opening weekend of finals.
The winner of this Saturday's clash will then take on the Crows, which are destined to finish second or third on the ladder depending on what happens in round 17.
Buninyong is currently third, percentage ahead of the Eagles, which locked away a top four spot with victory over rivals Springbank last Saturday.
There were discussions about the clash between the Bombers and the Eagles being moved to Buninyong, which has clearly a better surface than Gordon. However, the Eagles are keen to keep the fixture at home and have decided against a shift.
Buninyong named midfielders Tim Brayshaw and Ned Gilbert to return to the team that beat Bungaree last weekend, with Sam Van Meel and Derrick Micallef making way. Micallef, the boom early-season recruit for the Bombers, hurt his ankle against the Demons, but isn’t expected to miss the team’s first final.
At Gordon, ruckman Zac Ryan and onballer James Maher are out of the line-up that beat the Tigers.
Eagles coach Ron Watt said Ryan was unwell and Maher had some hamstring concerns.
Michael Anderson and Reece Williams have been selected as their replacements.
Clunes v Rokewood-Corindhap
at Clunes, Saturday, 2.30pm
Last time: Rokewood-Corindhap 10.22 (82) d Clunes 8.5 (53), round 17, 2017
Clunes: The Magpies will be treating this clash as their grand final, with the round 17 fixture the last chance to break the duck for season 2018.
With backman Aidan Thompson out because of a knee issue, young Luke Saligari will be given his senior debut on Saturday.
Rokewood-Corindhap: The Grasshoppers will give key defender Jono Willey the last round off after he suffered concussion in the win over Carngham-Linton last Saturday.
Rokewood-Corindhap is looking to finish the campaign on a high with a third win from the last four matches.
Creswick v Springbank
at Creswick, Saturday, 2.30pm
Last time: Springbank 15.13 (103) d Creswick 3.4 (22), round 17, 2017
Creswick: The important Aaron Hepworth is set to return after a couple of weeks away as Creswick looks to upset finals-bound Springbank.
The Wickers were beaten by Skipton last round and can better their 2017 win-loss record by beating the Tigers on Saturday.
Springbank: Injuries have hit Tigerland at the wrong time and a string of top players will miss this clash with Creswick.
Michael Searl (shoulder), Paul O'Shea (hamstring) and Justin Simpson (soreness) are among the omissions from the side that lost to Gordon - and lost a shot at the top four - last weekend.
Learmonth v Hepburn
at Learmonth, Saturday, 2.30pm
Last time: Hepburn 17.15 (117) d Learmonth 11.8 (74), round 17, 2017
Learmonth: Defender Nick Martin is among those that will miss the last home and away round of the year after breaking his thumb in the loss to Beaufort on Saturday.
That defeat has left Learmonth 10th, with the side needing to beat Hepburn and requiring both Dunnstown and Bungaree to lose to make finals.
Hepburn: The Burras look destined for an elimination final against Newlyn regardless of how they go in the battle at Learmonth.
Jimmy Rodgers will be out for this weekend's match with a knee injury, but Mitch McKay has been named after recovering from a rolled ankle.
Newlyn v Beaufort
at Newlyn, Saturday, 2.30pm
Last time: Beaufort 9.14 (68) d Newlyn 5.1 (31), round 17, 2017
Newlyn: The Cats will welcome back Northern Territory-based Michael Bowden for the battle with Beaufort.
Key forward Declan Lourey also returns from a finger injury, while defender Daniel Hammond will play despite an ongoing groin problem.
Beaufort: Lachlan Murray has been selected for his first senior game since the 2017 grand final.
Murray, a classy forward, injured his anterior cruciate ligament in that loss to Hepburn and is back to give the Crows a huge boost on the eve of finals.
Carngham-Linton v Skipton
at Snake Valley, Saturday, 2.30pm
Last time: Carngham-Linton 15.10 (100) d Skipton 4.13 (37), round 17, 2017
Carngham-Linton: The Saints will be without Josh Benfield as they go in search of just their second win of the year on Saturday.
This weekend, the side will wear special jumpers to mark the 50th anniversary of the amalgamation of Carngham and Linton football clubs.
Skipton: Emus coach Greg Middleton has flagged a host of forced changes as the team looks to land a sixth win of 2018.
Young winger James Welsh suffered a bad head knock last weekend that resulted in multiple fractures to his face and will miss alongside captain Adam Romey (unavailable), winger Lakota Stranks (hamstring) and defender Josh Draffin (unavailable).