Waubra v Buninyong
at Waubra, Saturday, 2.30pm
Last time: Buninyong 10.10 (70) d Waubra 7.9 (51), round 6, 2016
Buninyong’s horror start to the Central Highlands Football League season will reach a critical level if it cannot beat a red-hot Waubra this weekend.
The Bombers have dropped three of their opening five games this campaign, with last year’s grand finalists battling extensive injuries and poor form.
Buninyong coach Jarrod Morgan said had the team been forced to play Waubra last weekend and not had the break for the AFL Victoria Community Championships, up to 15 senior players would have been missing from the first-choice team.
However, the week off has allowed the likes of Fraser Russell, who was knocked out in last round’s loss to Hepburn, and defenders Morgan Turner and Nick Shell – both have battled ankle issues – to get themselves right for the clash with the Roos.
One player not so lucky is the versatile Adam Scott, who has gone down with another calf issue.
Morgan said a top four spot was basically beyond his side should it lose on Saturday.
And the Bombers will start underdogs against a Waubra outfit that produced a top class performance against Gordon to continue its unbeaten run before the interleague bye.
Roos coach Grant Luscombe said his assistant Malcom Niblett has overcome a groin issue and will play this weekend.
Skipton v Bungaree
at Skipton, Saturday, 2.30pm
Last time: Bungaree 21.16 (142) d Skipton 5.1 (31), round 8, 2016
Greg Middleton reached legend status at Bungaree when he delivered the club a long-awaited Central Highlands league premiership in 2014.
As senior coach of the Demons, Middleton worked long and hard to steer the senior side to its first flag since the triumph in 1991.
Fast forward to 2017 and Middleton is now in charge of a battling Skipton outfit that is preparing to come up against his old team.
Middleton said it is a much different looking Demons outfit to the one he controlled, and while he isn’t too fazed by the fixture, admits it will be good to see some old faces from his time at Bungaree.
The Skipton boys will be without forward Jarred Crabtree for the fixture, but get back the important Adam Romey and Sam Lehmann.
Heath Pyke was Middleton’s successor at Bungaree and is planning to hang around at Skipton for the post-match festivities with his old coach on Saturday night.
Pyke said defender Chris Cowan is unavailable for selection this weekend, while premiership-winning captain Joel Mahar has moved back to Western Australia after two senior games in 2017.
Mahar left Bungaree after the flag in 2014, but returned for a brief stint early this year.
Pyke said the onballer had left the door open for a comeback later this season.
Hepburn v Ballan
at Hepburn, Saturday, 2.30pm
Last time: Hepburn 23.11 (149) d Ballan 6.11 (47), round 17, 2016
What a difference a couple of weeks can make in football.
After the opening three rounds, the Burras had a win-loss ratio of 1-2 and were already facing an uphill battle to secure a top four spot at season’s end.
But important wins over Gordon and Buninyong have lifted Hepburn from 11th to fifth on the ladder moving into this Saturday’s clash with Ballan.
Burras coach Jason Olver, a big believer of needing a top four spot and double chance in finals to contend for a premiership, admitted the season was on the line after round three.
“We used up two chances against two of last year’s finalists, so we had to beat what I thought are two very, very big premiership threats,” Olver told The Courier.
“We were just good enough to get over the line on both occasions.”
According to Olver, there won’t be any significant changes to the Burras’ side that beat Buninyong before the interleague break.
Hepburn will host a Ballan side that has endured a tough start to 2017, with Saturday’s clash to be its fifth against a finalist from last year.
Blues coach Jason McNamara is pleased to get back key forward Brad Barnes for this match, but has revealed he will be without fellow goal-kicker Michael Snaith for the next three weeks.
Beaufort v Dunnstown
at Beaufort, Saturday, 2.30pm
Last time: Dunnstown 10.5 (65) d Beaufort 9.8 (62), round 9, 2016
Beaufort: The Crows reached the interleague break unbeaten and look strong favourites to continue the winning streak this weekend.
Ruckman Scott Howard is unavailable for this clash, while key backman Jarrod Trigg returns after being unavailable for last round's win over Ballan.
Dunnstown: The Towners' super tough start to season 2017 continues on Saturday with a clash against the rampaging Crows.
Onballer Aaron Sawers is a big in for the team after missing last round's loss to Springbank.
Clunes v Learmonth
at Clunes, Saturday, 2.30pm
Last time: Learmonth 16.20 (116) d Clunes 7.8 (50), round 6, 2016
Clunes: The Magpies will host the annual White Ribbon Shield fixture against Learmonth, which is held in honour of murdered Ballarat mother Sharon Siermans.
And Clunes will be looking to return to winning ways without influential ruckman Mark Paramonov, who has been sidelined for the year after badly injuring his knee in round three.
Learmonth: The Lakies are set to be without centre half back Tom Martin for an extended period of time due to a knee injury.
Martin suffered the injury during the team's big win over Carngham-Linton before the interleague break.
Creswick v Daylesford
at Creswick, Saturday, 2.30pm
Last time: Daylesford 17.11 (113) d Creswick 9.10 (64), round 4, 2016
Creswick: The Wickers have had a promising, yet frustrating start to 2017 and enter round six with just one win to their name.
Coach Ryan Knowles is disappointed his side has not been able to capitalise on winning positions in a number of fixtures this year.
Daylesford: Experienced Bulldogs defender James Evans is back after missing the round five game due to the arrival of his third child.
Evans is joined on the list of inclusions by the versatile Patrick Rowe, who returns from a hip injury.
Carngham-Linton v Newlyn
at Linton, Saturday, 2.30pm
Last time: Newlyn 20.25 (145) d Carngham-Linton 2.6 (18), round 16, 2016
Carngham-Linton: The Saints can finally start to get some continuity into their game after a stop-start beginning to the campaign.
Competition-wide breaks and the bye in round four has meant the Carngham-Linton boys have only played on back-to-back weekends once in 2017.
Newlyn: Northern Territory recruits Liam McGregor and Henry Armour are unavailable for this encounter, as is midfielder/forward Jason Gray.
Gray dislocated his shoulder in the team's hard-fought win over Creswick before the interleague break - the team's second success of 2017.
Rokewood-Corindhap v Gordon
at Corindhap, Saturday, 2.30pm
Last time: Gordon 23.19 (157) d Rokewood-Corindhap 6.12 (48), round 4, 2016
Rokewood-Corindhap: Assistant coach Jason Hutchins returns to the Grasshoppers side for the clash with Gordon.
Hutchins, who comes in alongside Alastair Johnson this week, has overcome a hamstring issue and is set to play his first match since round two.
Gordon: Forward Daniel James’ season appears over with news he ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament in last round’s loss to Waubra.
While James is sidelined, the news is better for Brendan Sutcliffe, who has been named to play despite concerns surrounding a leg issue.