A PLACE in the Wimmera league finals will be on the line when the Stawell Warriors travel to Anzac Park to tackle the Warrack Eagles on Saturday.
The two sides are both battling to secure the final place in the top five with Warrack Eagles holding a four-point ascendancy with three rounds to play.
If the home side can secure another four points it will open up a nearly insurmountable eight-point differential.
If the result favours the Warriors it will be all to play for as the sides draw level.
Warriors co-coach Damian Joiner said the game was his side’s biggest of the season.
“If we do win it puts that pressure on the two clubs above us,” he said.
“It really is an eight point game.
“We have been looking forward to this game because we knew this would define the season.”
Warrack Eagles coach Ryan McKenzie said the close nature of the ladder meant his side would approach it as a game it needed to win.
“It will be a good challenge,” he said.
“Finals have been mentioned nearly every game since the halfway point of the season because we are in such a tight race.”
An efficient Stawell side won by five points when the sides met in round seven on the back of seven goals to David Andrivon.
McKenzie said his side was beaten at the contest by the Warriors in that encounter.
“Tom Taurau was pretty good to help them get on top in the middle so we need to try to slow them down in there,” he said.
“It takes a whole team effort.
“Through the second half of the season we’ve been pretty happy with that spread of contributors – we haven’t been relying on particular players.”
The Warriors withstood a lot of pressure in defence against the Southern Mallee Giants in round 15 before an eventual defeat.
The absence of Naish McRoberts was notable as the side was not able to rebound as effectively in order to turn that defence into attack.
McRoberts and Ben Davis will be given every opportunity to play at the weekend but will not be risked if not fully fit.
“Naish creates real drive with his pace and he also has some beautiful skills,” Joiner said.
“We don’t want to rush him back because he is still very young, it is just a waiting game at the moment.”
Joiner said his side would need to apply pressure at all times in order to upset the home side again.
“We matched them with the contested footy but whenever they got on top in that area is when they started kicking goals,” he said.
“If we can get in top in the middle it frees up our running game which will help us get closer to winning the match.”