WIND the clock back three weeks and a clash between Bacchus Marsh and Lake Wendouree could easily have flown under the radar.
But not any more.
Two sides that have been thereabouts in recent years without looking like a genuine chance of making Ballarat Football League finals are now staking a claim as the big improvers for 2014.
In what is shaping up as the most intriguing match of the week, the Cobras and Lakers will meet in Bacchus Marsh in a battle of the genuine challengers.
Both sides have raised eyebrows for all the right reasons so far this year, but in extremely different fashions.
The Lakers have done it with absolute ease in both games, smashing East Point and Sebastopol in its opening two matches.
In contrast, Bacchus Marsh has taken it to reigning premiers North Ballarat City and also beaten arch-rivals Darley, showing true grit and class in both encounters.
But in sending out a warning to the BFL world, coach Cam Richardson said he envisaged far more improvement from within his side.
“There are a lot of areas where we can be so much better,” the first-year coach said.
“We’re so much off where we can be, we still have a lot of improvement in us, which is a good thing obviously.”
Matt Sullivan will be on the sidelines for the Cobras this week after injuring his hamstring, while Alex Schwarzenberg gets called up.
For Lake Wendouree, coach Gavin Webb is preparing his side for a physical battle, more intense than what they have experienced so far this season.
Lincoln Barnes will miss with a minor hamstring injury, with Clay Kelson and Eamonn McCuskey to also miss due to unavailability.
Lane Buckwell, Brett Cook and Chace Struth come into the side.
“Bacchus Marsh are clearly in pretty good form and playing some really good footy,” Webb said.
“We haven’t beaten them for a couple of years so it’s a big game for us. We can’t get too far ahead of ourselves though; it’s only round three and there is a long way ahead.”
Regardless of the result, we should know by 5pm Saturday which team (and there is no reason it can’t be both) will be a genuine finals contender for 2014.
PREDICTION: Bacchus Marsh to keep improving.