A LADDER logjam is stressing the importance of early victories for weekend pennant teams dreaming of premiership success.
Just eight points is separating second from eighth after three rounds and only City Gold remains unbeaten.
Five teams are locked on two wins and one loss - including powerhouse Warrnambool Gold, Mortlake Blue and Timboon Gold - while perennial finalist City Red already has two defeats to its name.
Dennington Jets and Port Fairy Red are the only winless teams.
City Red skipper Bryan Sheehan said the 14-round season meant clearing the pack early was vital.
"Early wins are so important," he said.
Nobody unless you're a top, power club, wants to see the one side dominating the competition.Darren Grant
"You need to pencil some in early as it's going to be a pretty even competition across the board.
"We saw last season, going back to three rinks really evened the competition out."
Sheehan said while Red was still determined to clock up as many wins as possible, it had revitalised its top side with youth.
"We've changed things around a little bit. We've been really keen to promote some younger players," he said.
"All of the thirds in our team are younger bowlers and w're hoping they'll hold us in good stead. We're hoping we can stay strong."
Mortlake Blue selector and third Darren Grant said the spread of talent through the division meant "anyone can beat anyone".
He too felt early results would be season-defining.
"Nobody unless you're a top, power club, wants to see the one side dominating the competition," Grant said.
"We believe we're a chance to beat anyone on the day."
Grant said it was vital to beat teams involved in the mid-ladder logjam to maintain ascendancy in second place.
He said Mortlake had a simple goal when tackling the power clubs.
"We're playing City Red at home this weekend and our goal will be the same as it always is, and that's just to take one rink from them," Grant said.
"If you do that, you never know what might happen. Their new facility plays a bit slower than their old green used to and they're probably pretty well suited to a slow green like ours is.
"But we'll still be out there to beat them."
Grant said Mortlake was well-oiled due to consistency in its personnel over the past three seasons.
"We're happy with how the people are playing their roles in their rinks. We've had a couple of new players in this season and it's helped us," he said.
"It might not seem like a lot but it's really helped to strengthen things a little bit."
Have you signed up to The Standard's daily newsletter and breaking news emails? You can register below and make sure you are up to date with everything that's happening in the south-west.