CDHBU midfielder Joel Rippingale admits his team will be forced to walk the finals tightrope for the remainder of the season if it is to contest consecutive finals series’.
The Power made finals for the first time last year since joining the Hume league in 2008 and is precariously placed in eighth spot with a 7-7 record with five rounds remaining.
While Brock-Burrum, Rand-Walbundrie, Henty and Osborne are assured of playing finals — Jindera, Lockhart, Howlong and CDHBU find themselves jostling for the remaining two spots inside the top six.
Rippingale said the Power’s fate could be sealed by 5pm on Saturday, with their home encounter against Howlong a virtual elimination final.
“It’s do or die for both clubs,” Rippingale said.
“We’re approaching the match like it’s a final and it’s got to the stage now that if we lose there is no tomorrow.”
The Power looked destined to once again play finals after nine rounds when they sat fifth with a 5-3 record.
But upset losses against Lockhart, Culcairn and Murray Magpies has threatened to derail their season.
Their mid-season form slump can be mainly attributed to the absence of key personnel — with centre half-forward Luke Cowan (shoulder), full-forward Doug Lavis (hamstring) and ruckman Matt Ross (overseas) missing for the past month.
Coach Brad Talbot suffered a broken hand two weeks ago and is not expected back unless the Power can pinch a finals berth.
The inspirational leader is one match short of his 250-game milestone.
“Cowan is crucial to our structures and I don’t think there are many sides in the league that have the depth to cover the loss of both their key forwards and their ruckman,” Rippingale said.
“I don’t think we have had our best 21 on the park since round eight and that day we beat Henty.”
Lavis returned last week while Ross is set to be rushed into the line-up this week to help combat Spider talls Peter Hancock and Josh Dicketts.
Rippingale is also a 50-50 chance to play after missing last week with a groin complaint.
The 24-year-old said the Power saw Saturday’s cut-throat encounter as a springboard for their finals campaign.
“We know on our day if we are up and about, we are good enough to beat anyone,” he said.
“There were really some positive signs against Billabong Crows last week.
“Howlong beat us last time but I don’t think we could have played any worse, and they also had Jason Gram play a one-off match for them.”