FIVE teams are grappling for the security of a November top-four spot while their rivals fight to stay afloat.
Brierly-Christ Church, Russells Creek, West Warrnambool, Woodford and Allansford have capitalised on fast starts and banked early one-day fixture victories.
Woodford - who are fifth on percentage - are already 15 points ahead of Nestles in sixth.
Wesley-CBC, Port Fairy, Dennington and Merrivale are yet to record wins.
New Warrnambool and District Cricket Association rules stipulate all fixtures - regardless of format - award six points to the winner.
The way the competition is set up this season has put a massive onus on getting those early wins.Nick Butters
In previous seasons, one-day fixtures were four, while Twenty20 matches were worth just two.
It means short-form cricket has never been more important for teams chasing premiership success.
Woodford skipper Nick Butters was pleased his side - who were traditionally "slow starters" - had barely missed a beat.
"The way the competition is set up this season has put a massive onus on getting those early wins," he said.
"To be three and one at the moment is good. There's certainly improvement in our game, we're not firing on all cylinders, but it's been hard to train with the weather.
"We want to play the better sides and we're looking forward to the challenge of that in the next few weeks."
Allansford co-captain Brad Sheen said his side wanted to "stick it to the big boys" after a blistering start.
Sheen heaped praise on his bowling unit for their role in the Gators' fast start.
"We definitely have the confidence we can restrict teams," he said.
"The early wins have been absolutely massive for us. We're looking forward to testing ourselves against the top three or four.
"We just missed out on playing West Warrnambool due to rain and I think they're in a similar bracket to us.
"We want to test ourselves so we can get an idea of how we're going."
Nestles leader Geoff Williams described Factory's triumph over Wesley-CBC on Saturday as a "12-point game".
"It was that, the old footy adage," Williams said.
"We couldn't afford to fall because there has been those five teams breakaway on the ladder.
"We've obviously had a few wash outs and it was good to get that win to get the ball rolling for us."
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