Yarrawonga and Lavington’s pursuit of a top three finish will ramp up when the pair meets on Saturday.
Yarrawonga sits fourth, on percentage, but it faces two top five outfits to complete the first round, while third-placed Wangaratta is virtually guaranteed wins against battling Myrtleford and Wangaratta Rovers.
Lavington is fifth on 18 points and it too meets another finals-bound team in Albury to reach the halfway mark.
In short, both the home team and Lavington need a victory in the next fortnight to keep within two wins of the top three.
“The North Albury game hurt us a little bit, we were banking on that as four points (the game was abandoned due to a serious injury and declared a draw),” veteran John Hunt said.
“But also a bit of percentage as well, which it could come down to percentage at the end of the year.”
That draw has put the Panthers in the firing line.
Given it faces the undefeated Albury in round nine, there’s every chance the club’s top three dreams will be realistically over tonight, if it falls to Yarrawonga.
Hunt will miss the clash against the Tigers due to work commitments overseas, so his presence becomes crucial against the Pigeons after playing his best football in years.
“I think, maybe consistency-wise, yes it is,” he said.
At 38 and the league’s oldest senior player this weekend, Hunt has somehow found the fountain of youth after injury destroyed last year.
“(I put it down to a) modified training program,” he said.
“I only train Thursday nights. I did most of pre-season but, once the games come around, your body gets bruised and battered a little bit more, so it takes a little big longer.
“It’s just a matter of monitoring how I’m feeling and not doing too much.”
Hunt sits second on the league’s games record list with 385.
Matt Allen played 416, with 362 at Wangaratta Rovers, along with 54 at Corowa-Rutherglen.
Hunt will need to play basically every game over the next two seasons, and some finals, to have any hope of breaking the record.
He debuted before a number of his team-mates were born.
“They’re (the youngsters) generally quiet and respectful, it’s usually the mid players, guys like ‘Garlo’ (28-year-old captain Luke Garland), he usually tries to give me a bit about my age,” Hunt said.
The visitors have received an enormous boost with the return of midfielder Tom Hargreave, who would also be a best and fairest fancy.