Ballan v Learmonth
at Ballan, Saturday, 2.30pm
Last time: Learmonth 9.12 (66) d Ballan 8.12 (60), round 14, 2017
Learmonth has rolled the dice with key players Brenton Powell and Kyle Mackay as it looks to keep its finals dream alive.
The two players are major inclusions for the crunch clash with Ballan this weekend.
Powell missed last Saturday’s heavy loss to Buninyong through a calf injury, while Mackay was sidelined with a quadriceps strain. Both sustained injury the week before against Gordon.
Onballer Scott Whiting is another big in for the Lakies after he missed against the Bombers because of illness.
Learmonth is eighth on the ladder and now just percentage clear of ninth-placed Hepburn heading into round 14.
In other news, the Lakies are planning for the return of key forward James Pratt, who has recently been cleared back to home club Kalangadoo.
Lakies coach Nick Willox said Pratt was forced to head home for family reasons, but had committed to Learmonth for 2019.
Ballan has recalled midfielder Sam Sher from groin soreness for this fixture, but will be without the clever Sam Hitchings because of a shoulder injury. Ruckman Trent Laurie is also among the outs as the Blues get set to tackle Learmonth on the back of the bye.
The side has won four of its last five games to now be 11th on the Central Highlands Football League ladder.
Springbank v Bungaree
at Wallace, Saturday, 2.30pm
Last time: Springbank 7.8 (50) d Bungaree 4.9 (33), round 14, 2017
No matter where the two sides are on the ladder, the battle between old rivals Bungaree and Springbank is a big one.
But when the teams are jostling for finals positions, the clash goes to a new level.
Springbank is fifth on the table, just percentage behind fourth-placed Gordon and a game ahead of Bungaree, which is seventh.
The GJ Gardner Tigers have won their past two games and welcome back a host of key players for the battle with the Demons. Former coach Michael Searl and top onballer Chris Graham are back from unavailability, while veteran defender Simon Quinlan returns after a broken nose.
This is Springbank coach Troy Beamond’s first battle with Bungaree, but he already knows its significance as one of the biggest rivalries in the Central Highlands Football League.
“As well as the obvious neighbourhood rivalry, we are also two clubs in contention for that top four spot, so there’s a lot to play for,” he said.
Bungaree has won its last two games, but is set to be without star forward Luke Mirtschin for the rest of the home and away season. Mirtschin has had a pin placed in a finger he hurt earlier this year.
After being away for the win over Daylesford last round, defender Chris Cowan is one of the major inclusions for the visitors this weekend.
Rokewood-Corindhap v Skipton
at Rokewood, Saturday, 2.30pm
Last time: Rokewood-Corindhap 19.8 (122) d Skipton 5.12 (42), round 14, 2017
One of Skipton’s big guns has been dealt a massive blow at the tribunal this week.
Star onballer Andrew Pitson had his number taken for carelessly striking Waubra’s Jarred Crabtree in last weekend’s defeat and unsuccessfully challenged the report on Tuesday night.
That means Pitson will miss the upcoming battles with Rokewood-Corindhap and Springbank before being eligible for selection for the round 16 clash with Creswick.
Pitson is currently a joint leader with Ballan coach Jason McNamara in The Courier footballer of the year award. He has enjoyed a top campaign in his first year with the club, which he joined from Monash Blues in the VAFA.
Skipton will travel to take on Rokewood-Corindhap after a hard-fought loss to ladder-leaders Waubra. Although a loss, that 34-point defeat was a dramatic improvement on the 259-point thrashing the Emus received 12 months earlier.
The Grasshoppers have claimed just one victory in 2018 and sit 16th on the Central Highlands Football League ladder.
Gun onballer Sam Chapman was absent for last weekend’s loss to Springbank, but has been named to return for this match.
The team will be looking to finish the year strongly with a number of winnable fixtures in the run home to finals.
Beaufort v Clunes
at Beaufort, Saturday, 2.30pm
Last time: Beaufort 23.18 (156) d Clunes 7.4 (46), round 14, 2017
Beaufort: Among the inclusions for the Crows this weekend are versatile onballer Alex Petrie and ruckman Josh McDermott.
Petrie was rested and McDermott had work commitments as Beaufort cruised to an easy win over Carngham-Linton last weekend.
Clunes: The Magpies were narrowly beaten by Dunnstown last weekend and have lost wingers Conor Hatfield and Jordan Thomas to shoulder injuries from that clash.
This has paved the way for under-18 player Thomas Muir to make his senior debut for the club.
Buninyong v Newlyn
at Buninyong, Saturday, 2.30pm
Last time: Buninyong 17.18 (120) d Newlyn 3.5 (23), round 14, 2017
Buninyong: Coach Jarrod Morgan has been named to make his return to the side this weekend.
Morgan rested himself on Saturday due to some hamstring tightness and watched on as the Bombers landed a big win over Learmonth.
Newlyn: Northern Territory-based duo Michael Bowden and Dylan McLachlan won't fly down for the clash with Buninyong, while veteran Chris Eastwell is set to miss because of a shoulder injury sustained in the loss to Gordon on Saturday.
Luke Prendergast shapes as the big inclusion to a side that has slipped to sixth spot on the ladder.
Gordon v Daylesford
at Gordon, Saturday, 2.30pm
Last time: Gordon 12.12 (84) d Daylesford 7.5 (47), round 14, 2017
Gordon: The Eagles will be without key defender Angus Watts for the battle with Daylesford, while there remains question marks around the fitness of onballer Tye Murphy.
Murphy was a star in the Eagles' win over Newlyn on Saturday, which propelled the side into the top four.
Daylesford: The Bulldogs will welcome back important defender Max Risstrom to the team that went down to Bungaree on Saturday.
Risstrom was unavailable for the clash that saw gun onballer/forward Seb Walsh make his long-awaited comeback from an ankle injury.
Hepburn v Carngham-Linton
at Hepburn, Saturday, 2.30pm
Last time: Hepburn 19.20 (134) d Carngham-Linton 4.9 (33), round 14, 2017
Hepburn: The Burras are closing in on a spot inside the top eight and can gain some all important percentage with a big win on Saturday.
The reigning premiers have won their last three games to be ninth and equal on points with eighth-placed Learmonth.
Carngham-Linton: The Saints face a difficult road trip to Hepburn this week and will have to do it without important backman Brodie Doolan, who is unavailable.
Carngham-Linton is chasing just its second win of the year following a 45-point loss to premiership contenders Beaufort on Saturday.
Waubra v Creswick
at Waubra, Saturday, 2.30pm
Last time: Waubra 15.15 (105) d Creswick 5.3 (33), round 14, 2017
Waubra: Forward Dean Robertson is poised to make his comeback from a knee injury in the game against Creswick.
However, the Roos will be without midfielder Matt Dawson (ankle), key position player Jonathon Neville (overseas) and forward Austin Murphy (finger).
Creswick: Onballer Aaron Hepworth is unavailable for the Wickers, which are looking to end a long winning drought.
Coach Ryan Knowles and his charges haven't won since way back in round six when they beat Daylesford.