Footy returned from lockdown once again but the weekend's results had a lot more riding on them than other weeks, sides fighting for the highest possible seeding inside the top eight they can get.
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No crowds were allowed in to the grounds, making for an interesting experience, completely different to the usual atmosphere of a Central Highlands game.
It didn't stop teams from creating their own energy, however, with so much riding on the results and much still to play out before the end of the season.
The favourites got the results they needed across the competition, making for some interesting storylines ladder-wise with two rounds to play.
The top eight received a big reshuffle.
Skipton dropped from fifth to eighth, Buninyong jumped from seventh to sixth and Springbank continued its stellar second-half of the season and rose to seventh.
Newlyn made life hard for itself, a loss to Waubra dropping it to 10th with two wins needed in the last two rounds and other results to fall its way.
Springbank claim vital win
Sitting eighth on the ladder entering round 15 with a bye to come in round 17, Springbank was in a position where it couldn't afford to lose.
That task wasn't made any easier by having to play fifth-placed Skipton, but the Tigers did what they needed to do, holding off every Skipton attack to win by 28 points.
They led at every break, Stephen Staunton the leading goalkicker with four, helping Springbank to a 13.11 (89) to 9.7 (61) win.
Tigers coach Joe Otto was pleased with his side's performance post-game.
A four goal to one opening term got Springbank going, skill errors from Skipton handing the Tigers immediate goals throughout the term.
The Emus rectified their skills as the game wore on, able to even the game up more in the following three quarters, kicking eight goals to Springbank's nine.
Skipton co-coach Sam Willian told The Courier the opening term put the Emus on the back foot.
"We just started a bit slow, I think there were four skill errors that cost us goals and they kicked four goals against the wind," he said.
The result evens the two sides on percentage of games won at 63.64, making the final two rounds very interesting as the top eight starts to take shape.
Springbank 4.2, 8.5, 10.8, 13.11 (89)
Skipton 1.1, 3.3, 6.6, 9.7 (61)
GOALS, Springbank: S. Staunton 4, J. Maher 3, Z. Bozanich 2, W. Driscoll 2, T. Finco, A. Challis
Skipton: A. Fay 2, B. Mckimmie 2, A. Pitson 2, J. Peters, J. Peeters, L. Cullinan
BEST, Springbank: J. Maher, K. Kennedy, T. Finco, I. Pertzel, M. Otto, B. Maher
Skipton: B. Thompson, J. Peters, N. Fenby, X. Lourey, T. Huglin, E. Boyer
Waubra bounce back
It was a win that Waubra needed to have to keep its top four hopes alive and the Roos did it in style with a second quarter onslaught on the scoreboard.
Four goals to zero in that term blew the game open for the home side as they ran away 37-point winners.
Samuel Youngman kicked four goals while Bailey Colligan kicked three as Waubra claimed an 11.14 (80) to 6.7 (43) victory.
Roos coach Matt James told The Courier it was his side's best game so far this season.
"Clearly our best performance for the year. We have been transitioning in how we intend to play offence and started to get some reward and see what we are capable of," he said.
Waubra went in with a different looking side than was named on Thursday night.
Ruckman Geordie Lukich (hip) had another setback on Friday and didn't feature.
Lincoln Barnes (hamstring tightness) and Hayden Hughes (illness) also missed despite being named.
Nick Sullivan copped a knock to his knee in the second term and was rested for the remainder of the game.
"Boys were stoked with clientele that didn't get up for the game. We had four changes from Thursday night through to Saturday," James said.
With Skipton going down to Springbank and Buninyong gaining a percentage boost over Carngham-Linton, Waubra remain in sixth spot with 70 per cent of games won.
Third and fourth-placed Rokewood-Corindhap and Dunnstown sit just ahead on 72.73 per cent of games won, the barest of margins making for some entertaining viewing in the final two rounds.
Newlyn 2.3, 2.4, 5.7, 6.7 (43)
Waubra 2.4, 6.8, 8.11, 11.14 (80)
GOALS, Newlyn: D. Wehrung 2, M. Sewell, M. Tilley, S. Willmott, T. Carey
Waubra: S. Youngman 4, B. Colligan 3, J. Hallett, A. Murphy, D. Jenkins, W. Corbett
BEST, Newlyn: P. Labbett, A. Sewell, J. Fryar, T. Carey, J. Labbett
Waubra: J. King, B. Colligan, W. Green, J. Hallett, C. McGrath, M. Miller
Beaufort runaway from Clunes for second win
It's been a down year for Beaufort in the win-loss column, but it returned from the break in style, edging further and further away from Clunes at every break to claim a 24-point win.
It was a low-scoring affair but an impressive defensive display from the Crows, going on to win 7.6 (48) to 3.6 (24).
Clunes held the barest of margins at quarter-time, just three points the better.
Beaufort hit the front by five points at the main break after a three goal to one second term.
The second-half is where the defense turned up by Beaufort, keeping Clunes to just two behinds in the third and fourth quarters.
Crows co-coach Brendan Howard said the commitment to defence and contested ball by his side was impressive.
"It was really good. All the boys played really well, played really good, contested footy," he said.
"It was good just to get the win, it was just an all-round good team performance in the end which was great."
Not only does the win give the young Crows some confidence going into the run home and season 2022, it puts Clunes out of the finals race and helps Beaufort climb above Creswick on the ladder.
Star ruckman Jacob Garvey played his 150th game for Beaufort, the win a great reward for his commitment to the club.
"He's a club legend so it was good to get the win for him on the big game," Howard said.
Clunes coach Johno Leoncini praised Beaufort's defence but highlighted his side's long injury list.
"They were very good defensively, we have a lot of young kids in our forward line and having some long-term injuries up forward, we struggled with that," he said.
"Around the ball we contested well, but they were just more hungry for it."
Beaufort 1.3, 4.3, 5.6, 7.6 (48)
Clunes 2.0, 3.4, 3.5, 3.6 (24)
GOALS, Beaufort: Goal Kickers: B. Howard 3, J. Orr 2, Z. Leckie, C. Mahony
Clunes: T. Nunn, D. Fazio, M. Paramonov
BEST, Beaufort: S. Brown, C. Mahony, L. Cox, N. Hucker, R. Zelencich
Clunes: T. Nunn, C. Newton, M. Paramonov, A. Bowd, J. Thompson , D. Fazio
Dunnstown one step closer to cementing top four spot
If there was ever a danger game for Dunnstown, this was it.
Playing at Learmonth, who have been competitive all season, after two weeks off with the pressure of knowing the game presents a chance to push further away from the chasing pack and secure a top four spot.
The Towners squashed any doubt and went one step closer to securing their double chance with a 57-point win.
Five goals to one in the second term blew the game open, helping Dunnstown to a 14.11 (95) to 6.2 (38) win.
Towners coach Glenn Wilkins said it took a quarter for his side to break the game open, reflective of the two weeks off.
"It took a while for both teams to get started which I'm sure that would be the common message from a lot of the other coaches," he said.
"You have two weeks off, it's bloody hard, you have one training session then bang you're into it.
"We just ground out a good four quarter performance ... come away with a nice win, that's all we had to do, so we've just got to front up again this week and do it again."
With Skipton dropping a game to Springbank, the Towners, alongside Rokewood-Corindhap, gained some breathing room from those sides, but still have Buninyong and Waubra nipping at their heels.
Wilkins said his side's fortunes are in their own hands.
"The thing is the way it's set up at the moment, we're in control, we're not relying on any other teams," he said.
"If we keep winning, we'll get top four, so it's a good position to be in.
"You don't want to have to rely on other results to go your way."
The fixture was also headlined by Lachie's Legacy, in honour of former Dunnstown player Lachie Poulter.
Learmonth 2.0, 3.0, 4.1, 6.2 (38)
Dunnstown 4.2, 9.5, 11.7, 14.11 (95)
GOALS, Learmonth: J. Schaper 2, J. Pratt 2, N. Willox, J. Walters
Dunnstown: M. Bulluss 6, T. Parsons 4, F. Stevenson 2, K. Forde, C. Ronan
BEST, Learmonth: J. Rae, M. Willox, B. Powell, M. Harbour, J. Rich, J. Schaper
Dunnstown: M. Bulluss, B. Cracknell, T. Botter, B. Leonard, T. Parsons, K. Forde
Buninyong continue winning streak
It's been a season of streaks for Buninyong, winners of three straight to start the season, who then lost the next three and have now won the last four.
Like many of the games throughout the day, it was a second quarter of dominance that decided the game, eight goals to two helping the Bombers to a 16.8 (104) to 7.5 (47) win.
The even spread of goalkickers was impressive to see, Caius Barrenger, Luke Cullen and Liam Rigby each bagging three majors, another seven hitting the scoreboard with singles.
The win lifts the Bombers back into fifth spot on the ladder with a percentage boost taking them over the top of Waubra.
The top four remains a genuine possibility, Rokewood-Corindhap and Dunnstown just ahead on 72.73 per cent of games won. Buninyong sits on 70 per cent.
Waubra and Skipton are to come, both no easy beats, but they are games that considering the Bombers good form, they should go into confident.
Despite the loss, it was a positive performance in the eyes of Carngham-Linton coach Clayton Scoble, one of the small wins his side has been aiming for each week.
"It was the best performance we've had all year," he said.
"I think we had our own little win regardless of the scoreline.
"We got a lot out of (it) and I think we can build some confidence from it."
Carngham-Linton 1.3, 3.4, 6.4, 7.5 (47)
Buninyong 3.1, 11.4, 13.6, 16.8 (104)
GOALS, Carngham-Linton: L. Isbister 2, K. Raven 2, J. Cranny, L. Hayles, C. Whelan
Buninyong: C. Barrenger 3, L. Cullen 3, L. Rigby 3, J. Atkinson, N. Miller, J. Rodgers, G. Lovett, J. Morgan, A. Ebery, M. Warner
BEST, Carngham-Linton: K. Raven, H. Peoples, L. Isbister, C. Whelan, D. O''Brien, J. O''Brien
Buninyong: J. Robertson, J. Rodgers, J. Morgan, T. Ross, A. Ebery, L. Rigby
Gordon still dominant
Any hope from Daylesford that Gordon would come back from the break slightly off its game was squashed early in the contest, seven goals to one in the opening term making it a long road back for the Bulldogs.
A further seven goals to one in the second term put the game out of reach, Gordon going onto win 25.15 (165) to 8.4 (52).
Daylesford answered strongly in the third quarter, kicking six goals to Gordon's four to keep the margin respectable.
Bulldogs coach Hamish Jarrad said he was pleased with the response from his group.
"The first-half was pretty disappointing to be honest, full credit to Gordon, they come out to play and they were cherry ripe from the first bounce really," he said.
"After half-time we got back to doing the things we're meant to do and playing the game our way which was really pleasing.
"Once we did those things we were able to dictate some territory and get some score on the board."
The Eagles defended strongly in the fourth term, holding the Bulldogs scoreless while piling on another seven goals of their own.
Gordon co-coach Ron Watt said it was a pleasing performance despite Daylesford's push in the third term.
"We played well. Our standards are pretty high, which we dropped off a bit in the third quarter," he said.
"To Daylesford's credit they actually moved the ball pretty well and hit up their big forwards, they came out with a bit of spirit after half-time.
"We're just happy to be back playing footy to be honest, it's good for everyone, the whole club atmosphere, just being able to train and play and have functions and all that sort of stuff."
Ashley Munari and Jaymes Gorman continued to build their great partnership up forward with six and five goals respectively.
The range of options in attack is a great asset for the Eagles, especially going into finals.
Watt said he was pleased with how the forward line worked as a unit.
"They're working very well together. Any one of those boys can kick a bag full of goals but they're all prepared to share the load," he said.
With a top two spot all but secured and a run at a premiership to come, it was important for Gordon to return strongly and continue to play good footy and it did just that.
The Eagles will also welcome back Gunnell brothers Mark and Luke, Tye Murphy and Ben Fraser in the coming weeks, which will only strengthen the side.
Gordon 7.5, 14.11, 18.14, 25.15 (165)
Daylesford 1.2, 2.3, 8.4, 8.4 (52)
GOALS, Gordon: A. Munari 6, J. Gorman 5, A. Toohey 3, E. Crackel 2, J. Clampit 2, M. Nolan 2, Z. Ryan, M. Griffiths, B. Horsham, R. Clampit, M. Raworth
Daylesford: S. Hughes 5, S. Winnard 2, T. Hunt
BEST, Gordon: J. Clampit, M. Griffiths, M. Nolan, B. Hallam, A. Munari, B. Horsham
Daylesford: C. Peart, S. Hughes, X. Walsh, T. Sullivan, R. Rodgers, H. Jarrad
Hepburn continues where it left off
Four points was all Hepburn needed and it did just that, dominating Ballan on its way to a 175-point win.
The Burra kept Ballan scoreless through three quarters, a great sign going into finals.
Hepburn co-coach Jason Olver said he was impressed with the back six.
"We didn't try to shuffle things around too much because we just sort of need to get things in place ready for the finals," he said.
"Our back six sort of stayed there all day and they repelled pretty well.
"We were pretty impressed with what we did in the backline."
The Blues kicked two goals in the final term but it mattered little, Hepburn winners 29.20 (194) to 2.7 (19).
Sam Dunstan returned in style, kicking 16 goals.
Olver said Dunstan and the rest of the forward line is gelling well at the right time of the year.
"It's a good thing to have that you know when the ball's going to go deep inside your 50 you've got a bloke like that that's just hungry for the contest and trying to win the footy," he said.
"We've got multiple goalkickers around (Dunstan) as well ... if Sam's not kicking the goals then we've got other blokes bobbing up with two or three."
Remarkably it's his second best tally for the season behind his 20 goals against Carngham-Linton earlier in the year.
Similar to Gordon and the fellow top eight sides, returning from the lockdown in good form was important for Hepburn with just two rounds remaining.
It did just that and should take a lot of confidence into the next two weeks.
Hepburn 8.7, 16.12, 26.15, 29.20 (194)
Ballan 0.3, 0.3, 0.3, 2.7 (19)
GOALS, Hepburn: S. Dunstan 16, R. Ferraro 2, A. McKay 2, K. Yanner 2, S. Smith 2, T. Brown, B. McKay, N. Dunstan, B. Yanner, J. Hogan
Ballan: T. McGregor, A. Graham
BEST, Hepburn: S. Dunstan, A. McKay, S. Smith, D. O''Halloran, N. Dunstan, R. Ferraro
Ballan: H. Bongart, J. Homewood, H. Thompson, R. Bongart, P. Graham, L. Conlan
Creswick no match for Grasshoppers
Rokewood-Corindhap have proved its ability to score throughout the season, which it continued to do against Creswick, but defensively the Grasshoppers were superb in their 115-point win.
The Wickers could only manage two goals for the game, one in each half, helping Rokewood-Corindhap to a 19.17 (131) to 2.4 (16) win.
It's the Grasshoppers best defensive performance so far this season, their previous best against Carngham-Linton way back in round three, where they kept the Saints to 3.13 (31).
With Waubra and Buninyong edging ever closer to the top four and Skipton and Springbank not too far behind them, not only was the win important, but the percentage boost was invaluable.
With teams a chance of finishing on the same percentage of games won, percentage will be an important column on the ladder.
Rokewood-Corindhap 6.6, 9.8, 13.9, 19.17 (131)
Creswick 1.1, 1.2, 2.4, 2.4 (16)
GOALS, Rokewood-Corindhap: Leigh Colledge 4, Luke Philp 3, Mitchell McLaughlin 2, Laityn Withers 2, Jake Carr 2, Sam Carr, Matthew Aikman, Jordan Grant, Ben Harris, Ash Gray, Jack Buttler
Creswick: Nicholas Cochrane 2
BEST, Rokewood-Corindhap: Joel Bragagnolo, Luke Philp, Matthew Aikman, Sam Carr, Ben Harris, Thomas Fagg
Creswick: Max Phillips, Nathan Strugnell, Samuel Gibson, Liam Blake, Joel Antonio, Tyson Randall
Gordon, 10-0, 40 pts, 100 per cent games won
Hepburn, 8-1-1, 34 pts, 85 per cent games won
Rokewood-Corindhap, 8-3, 32 pts, 72.73 per cent games won
Dunnstown, 8-3, 32 pts, 72.73 per cent games won
Buninyong, 7-3, 28 pts, 70 per cent games won
Waubra, 7-3, 28 pts, 70 per cent games won
Springbank, 7-4, 28 pts, 63.64 per cent games won
Skipton, 7-4, 28 pts, 63.64 per cent games won
Bungaree, 5-5, 20 pts, 50 per cent games won
Newlyn, 5-5, 20 pts, 50 per cent games won
Clunes, 5-5, 20 pts, 50 per cent games won
Learmonth, 3-7, 12 pts, 30 per cent games won
Daylesford, 2-8-1, 10 pts, 22.73 per cent games won
Beaufort, 2-8, 8 pts, 20 per cent games won
Creswick, 2-9, 8 pts, 18.18 per cent games won
Ballan, 1-9, 4 pts, 10 per cent games won
Carngham-Linton, 0-10, 0 pts, 0 per cent games won
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