Learmonth v Buninyong
at Learmonth, Saturday, 2.30pm
Last time: Buninyong 24.22 (166) d Learmonth 7.5 (47), round 13, 2017
Learmonth coach Nick Willox appears unlikely to play again this season after sustaining a torn AC joint in last weekend’s painful loss to Gordon.
Willox told The Courier on Thursday that he would be sidelined for the rest of the home and away campaign and likely couldn’t return until the preliminary final weekend.
He was one of three key Learmonth players to leave the field before half time on Saturday, with assistant coach Brenton Powell (calf) and captain Kyle Mackay (quadriceps) both injured.
Learmonth led by 37 points at half time, but was overrun by the Eagles, which won by 14 points.
Powell and Mackay were also left out of the side at selection on Thursday night.
Over at Buninyong, star recruit Derrick Micallef was selected to make his senior debut for the club.
The past Redan, North Ballarat Roosters and North Ballarat City premiership player has featured in four reserves games since signing with the Bombers and has been given the call-up for this important encounter at Learmonth.
In a big boost to the forward division, Sam Cooper and Fraser Russell have also been named to return, but coach Jarrod Morgan is among those making way.
Buninyong is second on the ladder, while Learmonth is eighth and just a game clear inside the finals bracket.
Creswick v Hepburn
at Creswick, Saturday, 2.30pm
Last time: Hepburn 12.14 (86) d Creswick 8.8 (56), round 13, 2017
Dan O’Halloran has been selected to make his long-awaited return from a serious ankle injury.
O’Halloran, one of the veterans in the Hepburn midfield, has not played since late April when the Burras lost to Gordon.
The speedy midfielder had been close to returning for last weekend’s win over Skipton, but remained sidelined for an extra week.
Hepburn had little trouble defeating the Emus to keep its spot in ninth, just a game adrift of the top eight.
The Burras are expected to win all of their games in the run to what shapes as a big round 17 encounter against Learmonth, which is currently eighth.
After Creswick, the reigning premiers meet Carngham-Linton and Clunes before the bye and then the Lakies.
In other news, Hepburn coach Segifili Asa Leausa has taken a third week to recover from a heavy concussion in round 10 and some niggling injuries.
Creswick has made four changes to the team that was beaten by Beaufort at the weekend.
Veteran onballer Ricky Cummins is possibly the biggest of the inclusions and is joined in the side by Riley Makrai, Tom Walmsley and Luke Walker.
Makrai, an under-18 player, is set to make his senior debut after featuring in three reserves matches during season 2018.
Carngham-Linton v Beaufort
at Snake Valley, Saturday, 2.30pm
Last time: Beaufort 28.15 (183) d Carngham-Linton 4.7 (31), round 13, 2017
Tim Clarke will break new ground this Saturday when he runs out for senior game 277 with Carngham-Linton.
Clarke will become the new senior football games record holder at the club that has been his life.
He is set to pass Braith Nunn’s record of 276 senior games, which was established in 2007. Both Nunn and Clarke have been loyal one-club players with Carngham-Linton throughout their careers.
Clarke is a four-time senior premiership player with the Saints, winning Lexton Plains Football League flags in 2004, 2006, 2007 and 2008. He was the club’s senior captain between 2009 and 2016, a year that saw him claim the Carngham-Linton best and fairest award.
The reliable defender will need to play one of his best games for the Saints on Saturday if there’s any chance of an upset success against Central Highlands Football League powerhouse Beaufort.
The Saints are chasing just their second win this season and face the Crows on the back of a loss to Dunnstown last weekend.
Beaufort, meanwhile, is cruising along in third spot on the ladder and easily handled Creswick last round.
Saturday’s games at Snake Valley will decide which club takes home the Jack Harney Cup, which is decided by results across all grades of football and netball.
Clunes v Dunnstown
at Clunes, Saturday, 2.30pm
Last time: Dunnstown 24.13 (157) d Clunes 3.2 (20), round 13, 2017
Clunes: The Magpies will be without onballer Aaron Pickering this weekend after he was knocked unconscious during Saturday's narrow loss to Ballan.
That seven-point defeat leaves the side winless after 12 rounds.
Dunnstown: The Towners are still in the finals picture, but can't afford any slip-ups in the run home.
Top onballer Sam Jenkins is back from a week away as the side looks to close the eight-point gap on the top eight.
Daylesford v Bungaree
at Daylesford, Saturday, 2.30pm
Last time: Bungaree 14.11 (95) d Daylesford 9.15 (69), round 12, 2017
Daylesford: The Bulldogs welcome back important pair Toby Hughes and Tom Powell from overseas travel, as well as winger Will Austin for the clash with Bungaree.
But the absence of Max Risstrom is a blow, with the key back unavailable after being one of the side's best during last Saturday's loss to Springbank.
Bungaree: The Demons landed an important win for their finals chances in the wet last weekend.
Bungaree's hard-fought triumph against Newlyn leaves the team a game inside the top eight with five matches left in the home and away season.
Newlyn v Gordon
at Newlyn, Saturday, 2.30pm
Last time: Gordon 22.15 (147) d Newlyn 6.14 (50), round 13, 2017
Newlyn: The Cats remain inside the top four by the skin of their teeth.
A disappointing display in the wet against Bungaree has seen Newlyn lose its one-game break on fifth-placed Eagles, which it now holds only by percentage.
Gordon: Big utility Luke Gunnell is set to return from a troublesome ankle injury for the big clash with Newlyn.
Also on the list of ins is onballer Ethan Crackel and utility Jordan Clampit, who both missed last Saturday's come-from-behind victory against Learmonth.
Rokewood-Corindhap v Springbank
at Rokewood, Saturday, 2.30pm
Last time: Springbank 11.15 (81) d Rokewood-Corindhap 9.5 (59), round 13, 2017
Rokewood-Corindhap: Gun onballer Sam Chapman and coach Damon Delaney are the big outs for the Grasshoppers.
Chapman is away this weekend, while Delaney hurt his hamstring during last Saturday's loss to Waubra.
Springbank: The GJ Gardner Tigers will be without last weekend's star Chris Graham (unavailable), but get back ruckman Brock Freeman from a broken ankle.
Freeman has not played since May 26 and will come in alongside Micah Darby, who gets the call-up from the under-18s for his senior debut.
Skipton v Waubra
at Skipton, Saturday, 2.30pm
Last time: Waubra 43.26 (284) d Skipton 4.1 (25), round 13, 2017
Skipton: The Banongill Aggregation Emus see the return of onballer Kal Dubbeldam from a one-match suspension this weekend.
Key position player Michael Young is back from injury and is another key inclusion into a side that lost to Hepburn on Saturday.
Waubra: Key defender Nick Aringo returns to the Waubra seniors after a short stint with Queenscliff early this year.
Aringo has played the past month in the Roos' reserves and comes in at the expense of star midfielder James Lukich, who suffered concussion in last weekend's win over Rokewood-Corindhap.