Gordon v Beaufort
at Gordon, Saturday, 2.30pm
Last time: Gordon 13.14 (92) d Beaufort 14.6 (90), round 10, 2016
Beaufort star Jack Duke will play his long-awaited first game of the season in the Crows’ blockbuster against Gordon this Saturday.
Duke has missed the team’s opening two wins in 2017 after serving a carryover suspension from last year.
Crows coach Rohan Brown said Duke’s inclusion is “massive” for the side.
“Obviously he’s a quality player. He was picked in the interleague squad and he just creates (an) x-factor and run and carry,” Brown said.
Duke is likely to be joined in the starting line-up by veteran utility Chris Drew and recruit Sam Howard, who missed last round’s victory over Bungaree.
Brown said his team is excited by the challenge of meeting a Gordon side that is widely expected to contend strongly for the Central Highlands Football League premiership.
Like the Crows, the Eagles are fresh off two strong wins to start the campaign and are set to make two changes to the side that beat Dunnstown before the Easter break.
Jye Cousins is back, while Jaymes Gorman has been picked to play his first game since the 2015 grand final.
Matt Raworth and Jack Toohey are unavailable.
Gordon coach Gary Learmonth said Beaufort is one of the sides to beat this season and has already shown that with its early performances.
Bungaree v Hepburn
at Bungaree, Saturday, 2.30pm
Last time: Hepburn 16.8 (104) d Bungaree 11.9 (75), semi-final, 2016
Dual Hepburn premiership player Jimmy Rodgers will make his comeback from an anterior cruciate ligament injury in Saturday’s clash with Bungaree.
Rodgers sustained the knee injury in the round two battle with Learmonth last year and will line-up for the Burras a fraction over 12 months on from when he went down hurt.
The return of the 2010 and 2013 flag winner is a big boost to the forward line, according to Hepburn coach Jason Olver.
“I honestly think he could have played round one or played in the practice matches, but the surgeon advised not to so we have got to abide by their rules,” he said.
Rodgers, one of three vice-captains of the senior team, has been named as an inclusion alongside important players Brad McKay and Michael Watt. Recruit Luke Stanton was set to debut for the club in the round two showdown with Daylesford – which the Burras lost – but is set to finally do so this weekend. Olver said Stanton missed against the Bulldogs through illness.
Meanwhile, Bungaree coach Heath Pyke will play his first senior game of the campaign this weekend, as will key defender Chris Cowan.
The Demons are coming off a disappointing loss to Beaufort before the Easter break, which saw the Crows win by 53 points.
Daylesford v Waubra
at Daylesford, Saturday, 2.30pm
Last time: Daylesford 11.12 (78) d Waubra 6.9 (45), elimination final, 2016
While there will be plenty of fire on the field, Daylesford and Waubra come together on Saturday to pay tribute to a dear friend of both clubs.
Former Bulldogs president Bernie Jurcan died suddenly in January, sending shock throughout his local community and around the Central Highlands Football League.
A cup has been struck in his honour and will be played for each year in senior fixtures between Daylesford and Waubra.
Saturday’s game is an important one for both clubs, with the Bulldogs fresh off a thrilling two-point win over arch-rivals Hepburn and Waubra remaining unbeaten after a comfortable victory against Newlyn before the Easter break.
Daylesford will be without versatile onballer Ken Cummings after he copped a two-week suspension for headbutting in the battle with Hepburn.
“(Cummings) is a loss, but we get to bring in Jake Nicholson and Jake is probably one of the better backmen in the league when he gets up and running,” Bulldogs coach Marcus Goonan said.
Meanwhile, the Roos have made a few changes to their side, with the big inclusion being that of North Ballarat Roosters-listed player James Lukich.
Lukich made his debut for the Roosters in their heavy loss to Richmond last Sunday.
Buninyong v Dunnstown
at Buninyong, Saturday, 2.30pm
Last time: Buninyong 13.4 (82) d Dunnstown 1.4 (10), round 10, 2016
Buninyong: Gun onballer Sam Turner will play his first game of the season on Saturday.
Ongoing concussion concerns have seen Turner miss the Bombers' opening two matches, which have resulted in a loss to Springbank and a win over Ballan.
Dunnstown: The Towners have said goodbye to versatile tall Karl Begbie, who has been cleared to Rokewood-Corindhap.
But the Towners get back key forward Andrew Toan and classy onballer Aaron Sawers in their bid to break the 2017 duck on Saturday.
Newlyn v Rokewood-Corindhap
at Newlyn, Saturday, 2.30pm
Last time: Newlyn 17.12 (114) d Rokewood-Corindhap 12.6 (78), round 17, 2016
Newlyn: The Cats welcome back captain Matt Cosgrave, vice-captain Wes Carter and ruckman Stuart Robinson to the team that lost to Waubra last outing.
However, the side will feel the loss of Springbank recruit Dan Curran, who is now sidelined with a broken foot.
Rokewood-Corindhap: Karl Begbie has been cleared to the Grasshoppers from Dunnstown in time for their round three clash with the Cats.
Begbie is one of the key ins for the winless Rokewood-Corindhap alongside key recruit Sam Chapman, who will make his debut for the club on Saturday.
Learmonth v Skipton
at Learmonth, Saturday, 2.30pm
Last time: Learmonth 24.6 (150) d Skipton 8.11 (59), round 11, 2016
Learmonth: Lakies onballer/defender Nick Bone has been sidelined with a broken hand and slides out of the team that will meet Skipton on Saturday.
Coach Steve Biggin and his boys beat Rokewood-Corindhap before the break for his first win since returning to the helm.
Skipton: The Emus have had plenty of time to freshen-up from their round one defeat ahead of the clash against Learmonth.
The Skipton side lost to Clunes, with the bye and then the Easter break coming before this Saturday's encounter.
Clunes v Carngham-Linton
at Clunes, Saturday, 2.30pm
Last time: Clunes 14.17 (101) d Carngham-Linton 8.7 (55), round 12, 2016
Clunes: The Magpies have started season 2017 with a bang and will fancy their chances of making it three wins on the trot here.
The club will honour Anzac Day with a specially designed jumper, medal presentations and ceremonies on Saturday.
Carngham-Linton: The Saints are yet to taste success under new coach Matt Beaston, but there has been some encouraging signs.
Carngham-Linton was well beaten by Creswick and Springbank, but produced much closer scorelines than in the 2016 fixtures against those sides.
Ballan v Springbank
at Ballan, Saturday, 2.30pm
Last time: Springbank 16.8 (104) d Ballan 10.5 (65), round 7, 2016
Ballan: The Blues have faced a tough start to the new campaign and it doesn't get any easier this Saturday.
Ballan, which has lost to Gordon and Buninyong in the opening two rounds, is likely to welcome in onballer Luke Souter for his first game of 2017 this weekend.
Springbank: Tigers coach Michael Searl has ruled himself available, despite a nagging groin issue threatening to keep him out of the clash with Ballan.
A host of key players are back for the reigning premiers, including defender Justin Simpson, who returns from a heavy blow to the head in round one.