THEY are not playing for sheep stations, but you would be forgiven for thinking tomorrow’s Western Border football clash between Casterton Sandford and South Gambier at Island Park is a finals match.
It is simple really, win the game and secure fourth place on the ladder, lose and it is back to the drawing board for the 2020 season.
The Demons carry momentum into the final minor round of the year, after an energising 48-point win over East Gambier last week, while the Cats fell short against ladder leader North Gambier.
However, hand the Victorians the home-turf advantage and they can never be ruled out, with an impressive record across the border.
Last time the sides met was at Blue Lake Sports Park and South claimed the bragging rights, but at Island Park back in round six the
Cats were too strong and held off a second-half surge from the Demons.
Tomorrow’s meeting will settle the debate once and for all and with a place in finals on the line, the stakes could not be any higher.
The young Demons currently sit a win clear of their rival in the standings, but Casterton Sandford has the percentage to jump them if they emerge victorious.
Both teams have been the most-improved of the season and have found solid form at the right end of the year.
For South the mix of youth and experience has gelled together to create a well-balanced line-up.
The likes of veterans Bronson Saffin and Brett O’Neil carry red-hot form into the clash and will patrol the midfield, while Brayden Kain looms large in the forward line.
Kain bagged four goals against the Bulldogs last week, while playing coach Brett Exelby also popped up in front of the big sticks to equal that tally.
Rising stars Todd Reid, Kaleb Bowd and Mason Hein – just to name a few – have progressed in leaps and bounds this season and will lead the young brigade to provide pace and reliable hands in all areas of the ground.
If the Demons can replicate their performance from last round they will be in with a solid chance of a finals appearance.
Casterton Sandford on the other hand will want to avoid a repeat of last week, which saw it kick a single major in the opening half against the Tigers.
To their credit, the Cats lifted after the long break and reined in the margin to a more credible 26-point deficit, but they will need to improve on the result if they are to be in with a chance tomorrow.
Will Macdonald was a beacon of light for the Cats and his contested marking ability is unmatched in the competition.
He will need to play another big role this week, while the services of Dylan Ayton in the forward line will be looked to for reliability in front of goal.
Down the other end, Mark Cowland has impressed in the Cats’ defence and may match up on Kain.
However, it was Luke Kelson who received the job of North coach Justin McConnell last week, so he may be handed a similar role again.
Kyle Carlin was a big loss last round, but if he returns tomorrow he will add pace to the roster, alongside the likes of Tom Sullivan and Daniel Richardson.
It all adds up to a thrilling contest and spectators are sure to witness a blockbuster game before one of the teams suits up for its finals campaign the following week.