ALLANSFORD coach Josh Parkinson believes Panmure is the team to beat at the halfway mark of the Warrnambool and District league season.
But the second-year mentor is confident there is much untapped potential within his side, which looms as the biggest threat to a third-consecutive Bulldogs flag.
The Cats have an 8-1 record after nine rounds. Their only defeat came at the hands of Panmure when Alex White slotted an after-the-siren goal in round two.
They own the best offensive record and second-best defensive record in the competition and are still to welcome back a host of key players.
But their claims to a first premiership in 27 years will have to stand up to a season-defining six weeks, starting with Dennington on Saturday.
Matches against Kolora-Noorat, Dennington for a second time, Panmure, Merrivale and Old Collegians — all top-six sides — follow in the next five rounds.
“I certainly think Panmure is the team to beat, no doubt about that,” Parkinson said.
“It was the same at the start of the year, you go into round one, your eyes are open and you don’t know what’s going to happen.
“We’re pleased with the performances we’ve put in at the start of the year and it’s up to us to back that up. We’ll know more in a few weeks.”
Parkinson said football fans had yet to see the best of Allansford, which has been unable to name its best 22 in any match.
Kye Bunworth is still to return from a long injury lay-off while Ben Lenehan, Travis Membrey and Joel Cornelissen have missed chunks of the season.
But despite the omissions, the coach was upbeat about how his side was positioned starting the run towards finals.
He pinpointed improvements in the “points scored” and “points conceded” statistics as signs it had made progress.
“I was having a look at some of the figures over the break. In 2012 Allansford was the number one or two ranked defensive side but found it hard to score,” he said.
“And then last year we probably had a bit more focus on attack and the defence was lacking. The focus was to even up that balance and we’ve been able to do that. Compared with the same point of the season in each of the last three years, we’ve had less points against us and we’ve scored a hell of a lot more as well.”
The recruits — Lenehan, Cornelissen, Rory Neeson, Justin Nowell, Brad Williams — had also been a factor, as has the form of the returned Sam Holloway.
“Structurally they’ve helped a lot — a full-forward and a centre half-forward and we’ve been able to manipulate the back line and shore that up,” Parkinson said.