WFL - The title of the Wimmera Football League's biggest improver is on the line tomorrow according to Ararat joint-coach David Hosking, with the Rats to host a talented Minyip/Murtoa outfit.
Touted as the potential surprise packet of season 2014, the Burras have hardly put a foot wrong defeating the Horsham Saints and Dimboola before falling short by four points to the Horsham Demons last week.
Meanwhile Ararat has claimed the first three matches of the year by an average winning margin of 40 points, but tomorrow's clash against a fellow emerging team will give an indication of just how far the Rats have come.
"It is probably up for grabs this weekend isn't it?" Hosking said.
"They have definitely improved from the information I have received and they would look at us and say the same.
"I think it is really good for the competition how even things are looking this year."
The Rats have plenty to smile about after defeating the Horsham Saints last Saturday by 10 points the first time the team has tasted victory over last season's runners-up since 2011.
Hosking said after two weeks on the road he was looking forward to returning to Alexandra Oval and expected Minyip/Murtoa to throw everything it has at the Rats.
"They are a physical side, we know that from previous years, but I don't actually think they particularly enjoy playing down here," he said.
"What we need to do is look to move the ball quickly, which is the obvious thing to do against a bigger bodied side.
"Last week I really liked our attack on them, so I think we might actually surprise Minyip a bit with our physicality too, because we are certainly intense at the ball carrier when we don't have it."
Hosking said he was also pleased with the way the Rats ran the game out against the Saints with minimal rotations on the bench in the fourth quarter.
"The areas we put the ball in and our general use of it was good," he said.
"I was really pleased we took the game on and had them chasing us. A lot of people at the ground last Saturday expected them to run away with it in the last quarter because they were kicking with the strong breeze.
"Instead we were able to move the ball into our attack really well and that gave the backline a break and put them under pressure."
Hosking said the Rats' causality list from the Saints' match isn't as bad as first thought.
While James Laidlaw is likely to miss the next fortnight with a hamstring strain, James Hosking and Daniel Mendes will both be fit to face the Burras.
James Hosking was put through a fitness test last night at training to test out his calf muscle, while Mendes was cleared of any concussion by doctors during the week after a heavy collision in the fourth quarter.
Will Bell, who was a late omission in round three, is Laidlaw's likely replacement.
Ararat's top tier performers in Aaron Searle, Alan Batchelor, Beau Cosson, Jake Williamson and Jack Ganley haven't missed a beat in the opening rounds, but the outcome of tomorrow's match may come down to the effort of Hosking and Andrew Louder's younger charges.
"Scruff and I always say, even though I don't really like to use the term bottom six, but if our most inexperienced players step up and do all the right things it can mean the difference between winning or losing," Hosking said.
"You know each week what you are going to get from your best players, but last week for example we had a first gamer in Chris Jerram and about a three senior gamer in Lucas Cocking both play the majority of that last quarter and both stood up in the clutch moments.
"I'd like to see them go into this week's match with plenty of confidence that they can perform at senior level."
Ararat's gritty win over the Saints has set a precedence for the remaining 13 rounds.
"Last week's game was our best and most consistent performance to date this season," Hosking said.
"Was it a four quarter effort? Well, it probably wasn't too far off it and if I can see the same effort put in again on Saturday I will be very happy."