MERRIVALE last week inflicted Timboon Demons’ first loss of the season.
Tomorrow the Tigers will endeavour to do the same against Warrnambool and District league benchmark Panmure.
Sitting fourth on the ladder with three wins and two losses, one rung ahead of reigning premier Kolora-Noorat on percentage, Merrivale has arguably the toughest assignment this weekend as it tries to conquer the unbeaten ladder leader in foreign territory.
Playing coach Todd McLean has worked his teammates hard at training this week, moving the ball with pace down the field.
Whatever the outcome at Panmure Recreation Reserve, McLean said the result would give his group the best indication of where it’s at, a third of the way through the home- and-away season.
“It’s a huge game for us,” he said.
Nathan McInerney has been placed on the long-term injury list after suffering a four-to-six week hamstring injury against the Demons last weekend.
He will be replaced by assistant playing coach Luke McInerney, who will roam the ruck and forward line.
Panmure has not made any changes after shrugging of Kolora-Noorat last weekend.
Coach Simon O’Keefe said tomorrow’s game was the third instalment of a bumper four weeks for the Bulldogs, which started with telling games against Old Collegians and the Power and continues with the Tigers and Timboon Demons next week.
Nirranda would have to rate itself a chance against Kolora-Noorat after knocking off Old Collegians on the road.
The Blues have made one change, including small forward Leigh McKenzie.
Nirranda coach Brad Wiggins said the Blues held the Power in high regard and hoped to earn the same respect tomorrow.
Kolora-Noorat welcomes in half-forward Luke Kenna and Jonathon Gleeson to the centre.
Unbeaten Allansford starts favourite against Old Collegians as the Cats try to extend their winning streak to six.
The Cats have made two changes, with Joe McCosh and Leatham Robe returning.
Allansford coach James Byrne said his group was feeling no pressure to maintain its perfect form, despite being an obvious target of lower-ranked sides.
Old Collegians has made four changes, among them the outgoing Troy Richardson (unavailable) and Ben Clark (broken finger). Russells Creek will have to make the most of its home-ground advantage to rattle South Rovers. The Kangaroos are unchanged after defeating Deakin University last week.
South Rovers duo Will Paulin and Ben Morrison will make their senior debuts, while Shane Hart slots into the backline.
“It’s probably been the best week we’ve had on the training track for a while,” Rovers coach Brett Evans said.
“(Paulin and Morrison) will be fast and enthusiastic. They will give everyone a lift.”
Dennington has bolstered its side with new ruckman Nick Alexandrou and utility Matt Van Kempen for tomorrow’s match against East Warrnambool.
“Nick hasn’t played in a few years,” Dogs coach Darcy Lewis said. “But he’s played a couple of games in reserves and we look forward to giving him a go.”
East Warrnambool has ushered in centre half-back Tour Miar from suspension, forward Marcus Clarke and midfielder Younis Dau.
Ashley Sumner, who has been best-on-ground in reserves for the past two weeks, earned promotion to the top side. “We’ve got one of our strongest sides in for the year,” East coach Paul Butters said yesterday.
Timboon Demons remains unchanged for its match against Deakin University.
Demons coach Michael Clements said his group would have to shut down “superstar” Sharks forward Dylan Chaplin-Burch and negotiate their first-class half-back line to be eligible for a win.
Deakin University has shuffled a handful of Sharks in and out of the side which went down to Creek.