The ninth round of the new McMahon Shield will shed some definitive light on the composition of the final.
Echuca is a near impossibility to miss the finals, with a three-game lead in first place; Rochester is one game down, while Moama and BLU will be looking to create a buffer.
Nondies Cohuna knocks on the door of all four, while a traffic jam from sixth to eighth – Kyabram, Cooma and Leitchville-Gunbower – looks set to be shaken up.
Echuca (first) against BLU (third)
Echuca remains undefeated after six games, with no one coming close to knocking out leader McMahon Shield.
Posting a mammoth 359 runs courtesy of a record-breaking Curtis Townrow kick, confidence will no doubt be high at Victoria Park with finals all but assured.
But Echuca’s opposition this weekend hopes to bleed him.
Bamawm Lockington United will make a swing at the in-form Echuca in the ninth round, and with young opener Liam Hamilton and experienced potential ins Greg Pearse they could do it with a strengthened batting line-up.
BLU has been in good touch, narrowly missing out on victory over Rochester while putting firefighters to the sword this past weekend.
It looks like a close contest, but Echuca’s sheer strength makes it hard to look past the tabletop.
Moama (fourth) vs Kyabram Firefighters (seventh)
Moama and Kyabram Firefighters meet at the Northern Oval on Saturday, with the Flames desperate for a win to stay in touch with the top four.
They now have two games adrift, and it won’t necessarily be easy to face Moama’s in-form batting roster.
The Mowers have beaten more than 200 consecutive scores in their last two white-ball cricket games with Jack Russell (313 runs at 78.3) and Fraser Buchanan (222 runs at 37) topping the order.
But the Flames have a few bowling tricks up their sleeve.
Jack Donnell has been a revelation since joining the Grade A side, claiming nine wickets at an average of just 7.2 and will have his tail after coming back 6-29 against BLU.
Opening pitcher Jackson Barnett was also the bowlers’ choice with eight wickets at 7.1.
With the home field advantage and an almost insurmountable deficit to overcome if they are defeated, the Flames will surely be on their feet.
Rochester (second) vs. Nondies Cohuna (fifth)
Rochester hosts Nondies Cohuna at Windridge Oval, with a lot at stake for the visiting team.
Nondies are just one game behind Moama, with a 3-3 record, but struggled to take a scalp against a top four team.
He snatched victory from teams currently occupying the bottom three spots in the McMahon Shield, including Echuca South, Cooma and Leitchville-Gunbower.
Meanwhile, Rochester navigated two close encounters against BLU and Moama while adding another string to their bow.
The addition of Richard Tibbett to Rochester’s bowling offense paid off, with his fate in the latter stages of the game against Moama being a crucial factor in the win.
Rochester will face bowling from Peter Moore and young pacer Xavier Wishart, but they have one of the best batting formations in the competition with Sean Williams and Dylan Cuttriss continuing to play well.
Echuca South (ninth) vs. Leitchville-Gunbower (eighth)
For Echuca South, the only way is to recover from a big loss to intercity rivals Echuca last week.
Swans captain Shaun Haffenden has been one of their best, but with a cloud of injuries hanging over Haffenden after last Saturday’s game, it could be tough to face Leitchville-Gunbower at South Reserve.
But this will probably be South’s last chance to win against the team just above it on the ladder.
LG are yet another team aiming to stay in touch with the top four, and will be advised to do so in their current form.