YOU hear it every year in the AFL: you need to finish inside the top four to have a realistic shot at taking home the premiership.
But it is also the case in the Central Highlands Football League.
No team has lifted the cup from outside the top four since Carngham-Linton, Rokewood-Corindhap, Skipton and Smythesdale joined from the defunct Lexton Plains competition in 2011.
A double chance is the obvious benefit, but a week off should you win a qualifying final is an added bonus at such a demanding period of the season.
Winning games against fellow top four contenders throughout the home and away rounds is vital in this quest.
In 2012, just four defeats in 17 rounds cost Waubra a double chance when it finished fifth.
Buninyong coach Jarrod Morgan knows just how important last Saturday’s win over Daylesford was for his side.
It leaves the Bombers, which have lost the past two grand finals, third heading into the country championships break, with their only defeat coming against Springbank on Anzac Day.
“Losing any game is bad, but against the other similar sides you have to win those because it’s almost a double game, almost an eight-pointer,” Morgan said after Saturday’s match.
“We didn’t make a big deal of it, but everyone knew. I think last week (against Carngham-Linton) was probably more of a mindset thing and you just knew before the start of (last Saturday) that everyone was switched on.”
The same can be said for Hepburn, which had already dropped two early games before the weekend’s impressive win over fellow contenders Springbank.
Now shapes as an important period in the season, with the entire top eight separated by only two games.