NOTHING is certain in the Ballarat Football League in 2014, but if we have learnt anything, the loser of the clash between East Point and Bacchus Marsh will find it extremely difficult to reach finals this year.
The equation is simple for the biggest game of the season for each club: win and you have one foot in the door towards finals, lose and you will need a miracle in the final two rounds.
Both sides sit equal on the ladder on premiership points, with less than six percentage points (not to mention Lake Wendouree and Sunbury) separating them.
It makes for an intriguing last three weeks in the season, with Saturday’s match to all but decide who remains in the hunt for the final two spots in the finals.
For East Point however, finals still have not been mentioned despite the Kangaroos making a late charge towards the top six.
Dominant wins in the past two weeks over Sunbury and Melton mean they are flying, but they are yet to win three in a row this year.
Coach Glenn Wilkins said the club had not even mentioned the prospect of playing finals, but the players were still aware of the gravity of the situation.
“The boys aren’t stupid. They know where we are at,” he said.
“The last two weeks have been really pleasing in terms of playing the sort of footy we want to play. That’s what it is about at the moment; playing the right sort of footy and if we do that then we will find ourselves in finals.”
Jordan Staley returns to the North Ballarat Roosters after kicking eight goals last week (although he has been named on the bench), while Liam Rigby and Jordan Taylor are unavailable.
Brad Dreher’s return counters the loss of Rigby, while Andrew Stevenson and Drew Murphy come into the side.
For Bacchus Marsh, coach Cam Richardson said there was a tremendous energy around the club given there was a genuine opportunity to play finals.
After this week’s game the Cobras will go in favourites to beat Melton before facing top side North Ballarat City in the final round.
Two wins would almost certainly see them qualify, while one would make it an unlikely proposition.
Richardson said he used finals as a motivation for his side to hit the training track last Saturday when it faced the bye, which drew a big response from his side.
The Cobras have a full-strength list to choose from this week, with barely any injuries.
“The boys are pretty excited about it, you can tell,” Richardson said.
“I can still see areas that aren’t going to be quick fixes that we need to improve on long term, but there is still a lot of good to focus on at the moment.”
PREDICTION: East Point on its home deck.