Ararat will face one of, if not the toughest task in the Wimmera Football League this weekend, taking on Horsham away from home.
Victory would mean a lot for both teams’ standings on the ladder with just three rounds remaining.
Both the Demons and Rats have guaranteed four points in the coming weeks with byes, leaving them just two remaining matches.
A win for the Demons would put them eight points clear (including points for the bye) of Southern Mallee Giants, all but securing the minor premiership and a week off in the first round of finals.
The Rats have on opportunity to book themselves a spot in the top three and an opportunity at a double chance final.
Ararat coach Shane Fisher said his young side looks up to the Demons and their successful attitude, trying to emulate that in their game.
“As a club we strive to be as good as the Demons,” he said.
“Every time we face them we try to earn their respect by putting in a good performance. It is going to be a huge challenge.”
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The Rats will be far from full strength, with “six of the best 18” players missing.
Dan Mendes is likely to be out until the first week of finals but in some good news for the Rats, Jack Ganley will return sooner than expected from a broken ankle.
“Jack is a chance to play next week,” Fisher said.
“Providing we have no other injuries from now until the end of the home-and-away season we should have a full list come finals.
“Our trainers and physios have been doing a great job.”
Demons coach Deek Roberts said his side is excited for the challenge Ararat presents.
“The group is really looking forward to this week,” he said.
“With the bye after this week we can put two weeks worth of effort into one game against a quick and fit side.”
Roberts said his side will have to be wary of Ararat’s running game that has worked against some to quality teams this season.
“The biggest thing is we will look to is defend on turnover. If we give them a couple of metres they will use the chip and run from there,” he said.
“We can’t let them run over the top of us. Offensively we usually spread pretty well so we will look to keep that going.”
It was a competitive game when the two sides last met, with a dominant third-quarter helping Horsham across the line.
“We had one down quarter and we couldn’t peg them back after that,” Fisher said.
“We need to step up accountability and hardness wise. They are good at taking the footy from stoppages so we will have to be with them there all day.”
The match will be played at Horsham City Oval.