WITH the elimination final only a fortnight away, the race is on to see who will contest the North Gippsland football knockout round.
Four sides remain in contention after Traralgon Tyers United conceded the one-game buffer it had over Churchill, which sits one rung below the Bombers.
Just as close, Heyfield and Yarram appear poised to seal their 11th wins ahead of the concluding round 18, which will decide exactly who makes finals with four of the top six sides going into battle.
Before then, an attractive contest awaits this weekend between Churchill and Rosedale.
A solid final term by Churhill handed the Cougars a much-needed victory against fancied opposition last week as the reigning premier looked to firm its hold on a finals berth.
After breaking the shackles to jump the Demons in the early stages of the final term, the Cougars will need to draw on that same intensity when they play host to ladder leaders Rosedale.
The Blues come into the contest on the back of a comfortable victory and will be confident of their chances against the Cougars given the result in their earlier encounter.
On that occasion the Blues held the Cougars to their lowest score of the season, 33 points, on the way to romping home by 88.
Fresh off the back of a 29-goal thumping of Glengarry, the Blues have hummed along in the second half of the season, bouncing back from their loss to Sale City to extend their winning streak to six, reclaiming top spot in the process.
Sitting level with the Bombers on points the match is not only a must-win for Churchill.
The stakes are just as high for the ladder leaders who boast a mere two-point buffer over Sale City in second position.
Cowwarr v Yarram
COWWARR faded away against Gormandale last week after a strong start, which was the same scenario last time the Saints met Yarram.
On that day little separated the sides, the margin was four points at the first change, before the Demons booted 10.9 (69) to 1.4 (10) on their way to registering a fourth straight victory at home.
Plenty has changed since round eight.
The Demons sat comfortably in second position at the conclusion of the round, but seven weeks later they have been relegated outside the five equal on points with Heyfield.
Finals remain very much in the equation for the Demons but Saturday is a must-win for Yarram ahead of a final round showdown against Sale City.
Heyfield v Glengarry
HEYFIELD flexed their muscles last round to move back into the top five with a percentage boosting victory over Woodside.
With their position in the five not yet confirmed, the Kangaroos must win this week to ensure that they remain in the hunt.
Feeling the effects of the competition front runners Rosedale last round, Glengarry coach Robbie Cahill will need to refocus the young Magpies.
Like many sides Glengarry has been hurt by injury and unavailability, causing constant changes at the selection table. It will be a tough task for the visitors against a quality opponent.
Boasting a stronger, more experienced list with a hard working backline, tall timber forward structure and a damaging engine room the Kangaroos will have too many winners around the ground and should have no trouble securing the points.
Sale City v Gormandale
PUSHED by the third-placed Bombers last week, Sale City will be mindful of Gormandale after the lesser ranked Tigers won last time the Dogs travelled over the hills.
Both sides come into the contest on the back of victory.
The Tigers were superb after a goalless opening stanza against Cowwarr last week.
Having demonstrated they can match it with the competition front runners, the Tigers’ inability to string a solid four-quarter effort together has hindered them all year.
Troubling Churchill a fortnight ago, the Tigers are in form and know that the Dogs have plenty on the line.
With top of the table Rosedale set to do battle with Churchill, the opening is there for City to snatch first position.
Woodside v TTU
WOODSIDE will play out its final home game of the season and for the second week running hosts a top five opponent.
Boasting a healthy percentage, TTU will be confident it can snatch a top five berth and prized double chance leading into the first week of finals.
The quartet of Brian Graham, Stephen Hawkins, Chase Saunders and Leigh White made the forward line their own back when the sides met in May.
The trio took strong marks, booted goals from impossible angles and showed off their soccer skills, booting 19 goals in the side’s 27.19 (181) to 8.11 (59) scoreline.
If the Wildcats’ defence allows the small danger forwards the same amount of room a similar result is likely.