The battle for the minor premiership of the 2022 Bendigo Bank Western Border Football League season will heat up this Saturday as the two class teams lock horns.
With both the ladder and head to head win-loss ratios identical, there is everything to gain for Millicent and South Gambier.
Both teams have proven to be a cut above the rest throughout the year and with September coming fast, this already looms as a finals preview.
The previous battles suggest there is little between the teams with accuracy helping the Demons steal the opening round matchup at McLaughlin Park, but the Saints hit back big time in the rematch where a young side applied maximum pressure to register a fine 32-point win.
Neither side has been able to field its best 18 lately, but the Demons have been making major progress in that department with Josh Woodall and Brett O’Neil big name inclusions last week against West.
However, Scott Enderl could not complete the fixture after reigniting a knee injury and is in doubt for this weekend.
South Gambier coach Brayden Kain said there is lots of excitement around the group about first bounce.
“We are looking forward to the challenge to see where we are at as a group because it is shaping up to be between us two again,” he said.
“We want to be the benchmark and these are the games we need to get on top of when it counts.
“We want the ledger to be on our side again which could put a bit more pressure on them ahead of finals.”
Despite its coach and big-name recruit being restricted to the sidelines in recent weeks, the Saints have still found ways to continue marching.
A crop of young guns such as Eli Redman, Zac McGuinness, Frazer Bradley and Callen McGrath have all continued to show their worth, while Dylan Bromley has taken a lot of responsibility on his shoulders.
Bromley has proven deadly in one-on-one contests and is in prolific form kicking at least three goals in all-but three games this year.
Millicent coach Clint Gallio said every game has been a challenge, but the stakes will be raised this time.
“Every game has been tough this year, but this one in particular will be a great test,” he said.
“Last time we played both teams had some good players out and now most of them are back playing.
“We need to make sure we are playing four quarters of football because it will be a cracking contest.”
The battle for third position on the ladder is heating up and Saturday’s West Gambier v Casterton Sandford fixture could have a big say on a three-way fight which may not be decided until the final siren of the home and away season.
The Cats threw a curveball last week by pulling off a stunning comeback against North Gambier.
The Victorians conceded the first four goals in as many minutes but through the tenacity of Adam McKinnon, Diarmid Cleary and Billy Galpin they managed to secure a confidence-boosting win.
Despite going down to South Gambier by 10 goals, the Roos are bouncing in with some momentum having given the ladder leaders a small scare plus knocking off East.
The likes of Jordan Williams and will aim to hurt the Cats on the scoreboard with the Victorians being the only team to score concede more than 800 points this year.
In what shapes up to be an important game for both teams East Gambier and North Gambier face off in what is always a spirited affair at the “Kennel”.
But before the famous rivalry flares up again all the attention will be on one of East’s most loved players.
Longtime club servant and current playing co-coach Jayden Eldridge will wear the Bulldogs jumper for the 200th time in the A Grade arena.
The impactful player can be damaging all over the ground, especially across the halfback line and was an integral part of East’s 2017 premiership.
For many years Eldridge was a spiritual leader around McDonald Park and last year he was finally elevated to the senior coaching staff and his teammates will do their best to make one of their favourite’s proud.