NORTH BALLARAT CITY v LAKE WENDOUREE
at Eureka Stadium, Saturday, 2.15pm
LAST TIME: Lake Wendouree 13.10 (88) d North Ballarat City 7.20 (62), round 5
THE time has come for North Ballarat City to put it all on the line in the Ballarat Football League.
City will play finals, but just falling into the top six will not be satisfactory.
Like everyone at the top end North Ballarat wants a top two finish – third at worst. The latter is well within City’s reach, but it is going to have to be at its best in a testing run home.
And this means starting against a fragile premiership favourite in Lake Wendouree at Eureka Stadium on Saturday.
Neither City nor the Lakers are at full strength, but the depth of talent remains. Lake Wendouree has reinforced this with a will to win getting it over the line against Melton and East Point in what could easily have been losses.
North Ballarat also had its day out when it stormed over the top of Sunbury.
The biggest factor for City will be the absence of the on-field leadership of coach Jordyn Burke, who begins a two-match suspension. Burke said he was disappointed with himself and had expressed this to his players.
He said despite this and other setbacks through injury North Ballarat would take a positive attitude into the game.
While City has freshened up with a bye, the Lakers have had a testing run of games.
Burke said there was no doubting Lake Wendouree had shown itself to be the best team in the competition with an outstanding midfield featuring Steve Clifton and Nick Peters, and a dangerous goalkicker in Andrew Pitson.
But Burke believes that with a strong start as they had against Lakers last time, they might stretch the ladder leader.
With the ruck division one of the potential chinks in the Lake Wendouree armour, North Ballarat has recalled Lou Campana. He made a strong start to the year, but struggled after suffering a leg injury against the Lakers in round five. Campana has worked his way back into form and will be crucial in the midfield contest.
Keenan George is also a big return for City after injury, while Matt Johnston and important midfielder Dan Kilpatrick are other important additions against an unchanged Lake Wendouree, which is still without Tom Carey, who was a late withdrawal last week.
MELTON v SUNBURY
at McPherson Park, Saturday, 2.15pm
LAST TIME: Sunbury 9.16 (70) d Melton 8.8 (56), round 2
MELTON (7th): Sitting just percentage outside the top six, the loss of players back to the VFL and TAC Cup could not have come at a worse time. Lachlan Hickey and Dyson Stevens have returned to the Northern Blues, and Billy Crofts and Connor Griffiths to the Western Jets. This will take the edge off and make it difficult to get the bonus win it needs to become the wildcard in the finals race.
SUNBURY (3rd): Coach Rick Horwood believes his players are only now starting to gel as they will need to be in the finals. He said an injection of nine new players this year had not surprisingly taken a while to settle and the win over Redan has shown it was starting to come together. The Lions' only change is the loss of Tim Hills. who is unavailable for a team close to full strength.
BACCHUS MARSH v EAST POINT
at Maddingley Park, Sunday, 2.15pm
LAST TIME: East Point 17.14 (116) d Bacchus Marsh 11.12 (78) , round 3
BACCHUS MARSH (2nd): Match-winner Cam Richardson has been selected, but will he play after hamstring soreness last round? The Cobras will not take any risk if there is any doubt on match day - that's for sure. They are keen to avenge an early season loss to the Kangaroos and with Jarrah Maksymow in full flight, and the Cobras certainly much more confident, they start at hot favourite at home.
EAST POINT (8th): The Kangaroos desperately need a win and on their effort against Lakers they are a chance - especially with the pacy Nick Hind back after a long-term ankle injury, along with the addition dangerous Jesse Murphy, Jono Lanyon and Brodie Murphy for his debut. Ben Lusby (Roosters) and Keegan Mellington (foot) are big losses, but East Point is capable on its day and this has to be one of those days.
PREDICTION: Bacchus Marsh
SEBASTOPOL v MELTON SOUTH
at Marty Busch Reserve, Saturday, 2.15pm
LAST TIME: Sebastopol 23.11 (149) d Melton South 16.12 (108), round 2
SEBASTOPOL (10th): The Burra is going to be upbeat on the back of coach Shane Snibson's reappointment for another year. While Sebastopol sees this as a great opportunity to bring up a third win, Snibson is wary - expecting the Panthers to treat this as their grand final. He says his players will also have to handle the fact that they go into this game expected to win rather the underdog chasing an upset.
MELTON SOUTH (11th): Can the Panthers open their account? They will go into the game firmly believing they can. Had this been on firm ground their chances would have been much better, but the Marty Busch Reserve number one ground has run its race and in racing terms is heavier than a heavy10 and this will suit the home side. After all, it is these boggy conditions that Sebastopol brought down Darley.
DARLEY v REDAN
at Darley, Park, Saturday, 2.15pm
LAST TIME: Redan 15.16 (106) d Darley 7.12 (54), round 5
DARLEY (6th): What a bumpy ride the reigning premier is having. A win over the top team one week and a thrashing to the second side the next. Darley has rolled out the changes with Darren Leonard and coach Jarrod Edwards match-defining losses. Leigh Spiteri and Ryan Closter are welcome returns, but one has to wonder whether it will be anywhere enough to get the Devils back on their feet. REDAN (5th): North Ballarat Roosters-listed Josh Webster will get a key defensive role in his first appearance for the Lions, which will be determined to hit back after the loss against Sunbury. It is never easy at Darley and Redan will be cautious, but if the Lions have aspirations of another flag - and naturally they do - this is a must win if it is to move back toward the top three.
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