The Murray Bushrangers face a crucial test against the Oakleigh Chargers in Wangaratta this weekend.
A standalone TAC Cup game over the long weekend, the third-placed Bushies hold a two-point advantage over the fifth-placed Chargers heading into the match.
Both sides will be looking to return to the winner’s list after losing to the Dandenong Stingrays and Western Jets respectively
The match coincides with the first round of the National Championships, meaning both sides will be without key players for the important face-off.
The Bushies will be without their two most important forward weapons in TAC Cup leading goalkicker Hudson Garoni and centre half-forward Jacob Koschitzke, who will be at opposing ends as Vic Country take on the Allies.
Shepparton’s Zane Barzen and Lachlan Ash, as well as Mooroopna’s Laitham Vandermeer will suit up for Vic Country as well.
Ash was selected to the side as a bottom age player.
Bushies assistant coach Justin McMahon said he was confident the quintet would acquit themselves well at the national level.
“All the boys played well in trials leading into this match and know to expect a rise in standard compared to TAC Cup football,” he said.
“They all have the capacity to play well at this level.”
In their place, Wodonga’s Rory Quinn and Corowa-Rutherglen’s Will Chandler come back to the side, while Wangaratta’s Rhys Goodley and Euroa’s Robert Paradzayi are set to make their debuts.
The Bushies will be buoyed by strong performances from ruckman Ben Kelly and key defender Nick Murray in their last outing against the ladder leading Stingrays.
Yarrawonga’s Ely Smith should also come into the match with a head full of steam, having racked up 31 possessions and booting a goal in a best-on performance in the Pigeons’ three point win over Lavington in the Ovens and Murray last weekend.
The bounce will be at 1pm at Norm Minns Oval on Saturday.