It's a stretch of games with massive implications.
With only one win separating second-placed Darley from Bacchus Marsh in seventh, each week brings a little more urgency as the season's midway point fast approaches.
Five clubs share 12 points - enough for a finals spot but also threateningly close to lower-table irrelevancy.
Two of the group, East Point and Bacchus Marsh, meet this weekend, acutely aware of the match's importance.
Not only will a win guarantee a buffer in the finals race, but it eases the pressure of a tough three-week run.
Bacchus Marsh needs to win to quash any doubts from an upset loss to Melton South last weekend, putting it on the edge of a downward slope.
Saturday's game is the first of two trips up the highway for the Cobras in a row.
The visitors have only won once at Eastern Oval in the past decade.
Next weekend, North Ballarat waits at Mars Stadium, where the Cobras haven't won in five years.
Bacchus Marsh gets some reprieve in round nine when its returns home, but there is every chance Tom German's side may be looking to end a three-game losing streak by the time Sunbury comes to visit.
East Point enters in a different headspace, having won its past two matches, but is wary of the importance of a positive result with a tough run on the horizon.
The Roos travel down the highway to play benchmark side Melton next weekend before returning to Eastern Oval to host Darley, who sits second now but could be pulled back into the pack.
The Devils welcome Ballarat, who is returning to full strength after a COVID-19 outbreak and injury run that saw it slip from second to fight.
Grant Baldwin is the only loss for the Swans this weekend with a hamstring injury, while coach Joe Carmody was waiting on Angus Bade's availability after the small forward was re-called to Footscray's VFL side last week.
Andrew Hooper and Josh Gibson are expected to play, combating the influence of Darley's stars.
After a brief shift forward, Gibson returned the Swans' back six last week and will likely be deployed there again, either to challenge Nick Rodda directly or to float across the half-back line to limit Brett Bewley's forays forward.
A loss would see Darley de-throned from second due to its low percentage.
at Darley Park, Saturday, 2:15pm
LAST TIME THEY MET: rd 5, 2021 - Ballarat 15.14 (104) d Darley 11.6 (72)
DEVILS (2nd, 4-2): The Devils enjoy recent supremacy, winning seven of the past eight meetings against the Swans. The visitors' solid midfield and threatening pace on the wings will test Darley's preference for outside run.
SWANS (6th, 3-3): An undersized Ballarat defence has a tough task trying to keep Darley spearhead Nick Rodda quiet. Luke Wynd is still a notable omission in the back six through injury, so one of the young Swans will need to stand up.
at Eastern Oval Saturday, 2:15pm
LAST TIME THEY MET: rd 4, 2021 - Bacchus Marsh 13.9 (87) d East Point 8.8 (56)
ROOS (4th, 3-2): A firing forward line, led by Jordan Johnston, meets one of the competition's best defensive units this weekend. The Cobras have conceded the second-least amount of points so far. Expect Jason Robinson to have the task of keeping Johnston quiet.
COBRAS (7th, 3-2): After last weekend's shock loss to Melton South, this shapes a must-win game for the Cobras in a run of tough fixtures. A meeting with North Ballarat at Mars Stadium waits next weekend, placing added importance on Saturday's trip.
PREDICTION: Bacchus Marsh
at C.E Brown Reserve, Saturday, 2:15pm
LAST TIME THEY MET: rd 10, Melton 14.13 (97) d Lake Wendouree 6.5 (41)
LAKERS (11th, 1-4): It could be a long day for Jack Fitzpatrick's side. The Bloods' forward line will prove tough to handle for a young defence. A developing group will only be better for the experience of playing a benchmark side.
BLOODS (1st, 6-0): The Bloods travel up the highway heavy favourites but will need to avoid complacency. There is enough talent in the Lakers' midfield to keep the visitors' honest and Mark Orr's injury will demand more from Melton's talls.
at Melton Rec Reserve, Saturday, 2:15pm
LAST TIME THEY MET: rd 11, 2021 - Sebastopol 24.21 (165) d Melton South 8.6 (54)
PANTHERS (9th, 1-4): Port Melbourne's bye should see star small forward Anthony Anastasio return for the Panthers on the back of a two-goal performance in the VFL. Dylan Conway is also expected back after illness.
BURRA (3rd, 3-2): The bye came at an interesting time for the Burra, potentially draining the momentum from a big win against North Ballarat a fortnight ago. The Burra will make the trip with happy memories of a 90-point half-time lead in last season's reverse fixture.
at Clarke Oval, Saturday, 2:15pm
LAST TIME THEY MET: rd 9, Redan 5.8 (38) d Sunbury 2.5 (17)
SUNBURY (9th, 1-4): With the monkey off the back, Sunbury now has the chance to start a winning run when a young Redan comes to town. Redan has not won at Clarke Oval in the past five years.
REDAN (10th, 1-4): Declan Phillips played an impressive tagging role on Brett Bewley last weekend and will be called upon again to limit the hosts' ball-magnets; either as a selfless forward role on Tyson Lever or in the guts on Daniel Toman.
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