Echuca and Shepparton clash at Victoria Park in what could prove a defining match later on in the season.
The Murray Bombers and the Bears each have a record of 5-3 this year and are in the middle of a string of highly touted opposition.
Two games separates third place to eighth and as a result Echuca coach Simon Maddox said a win could mean more in the context of the year.
‘‘It’s our biggest test since the interleague bye, we’ve had a couple of easier wins, but we’ll get a few guys back from injury and prepare for Shepparton in one of those eight point games where we’re playing for the four points, but the buffer is important,’’ Maddox said.
‘‘It’s a real opportunity for us over the next month, we’ve got Rochester, Mansfield and Tatura and that’s a big month of footy against sides gunning for a spot in the finals, so it’s exciting to test ourselves.’’
Shepparton will have to contend with Andrew Walker, Tim Allan and Shaun Gannon who all return to the side, while Simon Buckley’s availability was conditional on training last night.
The Bears will be without key forward John Bradaric after he went down with a hamstring injury in the second quarter last week.
While Echuca vastly outsizes Shepparton for height, and this has been compounded by the loss of Bradaric, it is nothing new for the Bears.
Last year’s player of the finals series did not take the field this year until round six as he recovered from a knee injury.
‘‘JB is gone with a hammy, so that’s just really testing our depth, but that’s the way that we’ve had to play for the majority of the year, so that probably doesn’t change much,’’ Bears coach Sean Harrap said.
‘‘It’d be great to have a couple of talls, but we’re working with what we’ve got and we just need the boys to have a crack.’’
Jordan McGregor returns from an ankle injury to be an option and Harrap was excited to have him back.
‘‘He’s really important and he’ll be a big asset, so barring (issues at training last night) he’ll come back in and we’ll have a few others to make up the rest,’’ he said.
‘‘It’s been a big couple of last weeks (playing Euroa and Benalla), but we’re looking forward to the challenge and that’s the reason you play footy at the end of the day to go out for another challenge.’’