The Ararat Eagles will host the reigning premiers Tatyoon in the first match back after the midseason bye on Saturday.
The Eagles have struggled this season for wins but have shown consistent improvement to reduce losing margins, compared to previous years.
The Hawks have started to string some wins together in the middle of the season after and up and down start and will go into the round 12 match as heavy favourites at Ararat’s Alexandra Oval.
Eagles coach Brian Jenkins said the bye came at a good time for his team.
“I certainly think they needed the week off, our training on Wednesday was good and we had good numbers there and everyone was looking good,” he said.
The Eagles matched Tatyoon for a quarter in the round one clash, something that is not lost on the coach.
“I think we have played some pretty good footy over the year, just not for long enough,” he said.
“We certainly have to play four quarters against Tatyoon, our accountability has been poor at times, so just have to do the good things we do for longer in games to be a chance.
“We also have to make sure we play a bit more man on man and ensure we do not allow them to play loose and have lots of space to work with.”
Both teams have a distinct style with the Hawks being a big bodied, contested style while the Eagles use their run and speed across the ground.
Jenkins said it should be an intriguing match.
“We are two different sides, I think we have to try and exploit their weaknesses and work to our strengths,” he said.
“Their strengths are their height and run and knowing where to be, so we need to get the ball to ground and take them on at times to get some distance while maintaining possession.
“It is important to ensure we have some self-belief, sometimes they just do not believe, so to know we can match it with for some parts of the round one match will help with that.”
Ned Hutchison is likely to miss with a shoulder injury.
Tatyoon coach Adrian Pilgrim said despite the Eagles sitting near the bottom of the ladder, the team will not be underestimating the home team.
“Throughout the season, they have managed to be much more competitive and stay in games for longer,” he said.
“Our focus will be to get off to a better start than the last time and take control of the game by putting some scoreboard pressure on because the longer they stay in the contest, the more confident they are likely to become.”
The Hawks had just started to build into some winning form when the bye came alone, winning the previous three matches.
Tatyoon said he had mixed feelings about the timing of it from the club’s perspective.
“We used the week off to freshen up, but fired it up at training this week,” he said.
“But I think the bye came at a bad time for us, we had strung three really good performances together, so hopefully we do not lose that momentum after the week off.”
The reigning premiers are sitting in fourth position on the ladder but Pilgrim said finals have not been mentioned as a team.
“We are not really looking too far ahead,” he said.
“We are just trying to make sure we prepare as best we can for each game and just making sure we do all the little things right.”