TWO of the most anticipated matches during the opening third of the Golden Rivers Football Netball League will occur tomorrow, with a top-two clash and bottom-two battle highlighting round six action.
Reigning premiers, Wandella will travel to Nullawil to take on the Maroons, with the Mallee-based team aiming to end the Bombers' six-match winning streak.
Meanwhile, Macorna and Wakool will aim to snap long-standing losing runs when the sides meet at the competition's southernmost venue.
The match at Nullawil shapes up to be a finals preview, with the two sides – as well as Hay, Murrabit and Ultima – setting the pace so far this season.
The Bombers showed their premiership credentials last weekend thanks to a 45-point win, whilst the Maroons go into the match 14 days after defeating Moulamein by 117 points.
The hosts' win against the Swans was the first time this season the club's triple forward threats – Kal Heslop, Andrew Oberdorfer and Phillip Lobb – booted less than half of the team's goals in a victory, and the Bombers will need for this to happen again if the side is to win a second consecutive game at the Nullawil Recreation Reserve.
For this to happen, the likes of Lachie Allison, Ryan Lancaster and Tim Robinson will need to win at least two of their match-ups against the trio, with the agile Allison best suited to take on Heslop and Robinson and Oberdorfer to resume of the competition's much anticipated duels.
Down the other end of the ground, Jarrod Kemp and his fellow Maroons defenders will need to stop Paul Grayling, Darren Kirby and Jay McDonald from dominating.
However, this match will be won in the middle of the ground, with both sides boasting some of the competition's top talent.
Grant Ford, Scott Mathiske and Daniel Watts will lead the on-ball brigade for the hosts, whilst Dillan Treacy, Jason Iannucci and Justin Robinson will be just as dangerous for the visitors.
The Maroons hold a 3-2 advantage in meetings between both sides since the start of the 2016 season, but expect the Bombers to square the ledger tomorrow.
PREDICTION: Wandella will win by 20 points.
One on the board
IN the weekend's other anticipated clash, either Macorna or Wakool will record their first win of season 2018 tomorrow.
Both sides have struggled so far this season, with the ability to score and prevent goals being kicked against them a key factor in the nine games the teams have been involved in since the start of April.
Although the Hawks have scored 15 more points than the Tigers this year, Macorna – who has played one less game – has conceded 507 less points than tomorrow's opponents.
Macorna has also shown patches of being competitive in its three games following a round one goalless effort against Hay, which will give Wayne Wishart's side confidence of snapping a nine-match losing streak.
If the Tigers are to record their first win since last July's 183-point win against the Hawks, expect Jordan Simpson and some of the club's new recruits - Guy Duncan, Shaun Haffenden and Brad Short – to control play.
However, if Reagan Hamilton and Craig Loomes can prevent the Tigers from capitalising on their forward 50 entries and Joe Thompson can get the ball in the visitors' forward 50, Wakool will be on track to record its first win since the club's 13-point win against Macorna, which occurred back in April 2017.
PREDICTION: Macorna will inflict a 19th consecutive loss on Wakool, thanks to a 40-point win.
Dwyer's return meeting
JOSH Dwyer's return to the club where he won a Golden Rivers Football Netball League senior premiership highlights a key match between 2017 grand finalists, Ultima and Murrabit.
Dywer's new club and the Blues are both locked on 12 points so far this season, but the 'Roos have a game in hand thanks to the opening round bye.
Murrabit lost its second match of the season six days' ago following a 45-point defeat against Wandella, whilst the 'Roos ended Hay's run of three consecutive wins.
Dwyer has kicked three goals in his four matches for the 'Roos this year, with his battle against Andrew Spitty when relieving Arnold Kirby of ruck duties to be a highlight.
Former E.G. Hunt Medallists, Bryden Morison (Murrabit) and Luke O'Toole (Ultima) will be prolific for their respective sides, whilst the likes of Ultima coach, Jack O'Rourke and Kirby – when he heads for a spell in the forward line – will be too strong for Dylan Morison in the visitors' forward 50.
Meanwhile, Nathan Henry and Justin McConnell will be the hosts' focal point in front of goal, and if Luke Kelson and Lachlan Paull cannot contain the pair, a shootout will occur.
Ultima recorded a 43-point win when it last visited the Murrabit Recreation Reserve more than 12 months ago, with the Blues holding on for a 10-point win when the teams last met 10 months ago.
PREDICTION: Ultima will win by 30 points.
History against Swans
MOULAMEIN will need to break a four-year run of losses against fellow New South Wales-based side, Hay if the Swans are to stay in touch with the top four.
Sitting sixth on the ladder, Tony Mudge's team could be level with at least the fourth-placed side on the ladder if the Swans produce an upset win against the former competition leaders.
Moulamein was too strong for Macorna last weekend, producing a 157-point win, whilst the Lions recorded a 21-point loss to Ultima.
This match will see some of the competition's top forwards go head-to-head.
Josh Gadsden and Patrick Caldwell will lead the hosts' hopes inside their forward 50, whilst Simon Bunyan – who was held to two goals last weekend – will aim for another matchwinning performance for the Lions.
Up to last weekend the former Lions coach averaged nine goals per game and if he kicks at least six goals, Hay will remain in the top four heading into next weekend's AFL Victoria Community Championship break.
It will be up to Matthew Battenally to stop Bunyan, whilst Jackson Ferguson may head to the back line to stop the Swans' leading goalkickers from dominating.
Meanwhile, the midfield battle between Tom Isma and Hay playmaker, Hayden Polglase will be another highlight, with Ben Booth to be a valuable option for Mudge across the ground.
Moulamein has not defeated Hay since round 17, 2013, with the Lions winning last season's two encounters by an average margin of 53 points.
PREDICTION: Hay will win by 40 points.
• QUAMBATOOK has the bye this weekend, with the seventh-placed Saints to take on Wandella on May 26.