With Dubbo FC having wrapped up the minor premiership in the Dubbo and District Football Association first grade competition, interest has turned to the enthralling battle for second spot.
Macquarie United and South Dubbo Wanderers have battled for that position almost all season and the former took control on Sunday when scoring victory in the clash between the two.
With just three rounds of the regular season remaining, Macquarie has a two-point buffer between itself and the Wanderers.
Second spot is crucial as the top two sides meet in the first week of the finals, with the winner advancing to the decider while the loser gets a second crack the following week.
“It’s massive,” Macquarie first grade coach Alan Auld said of a top-two finish.
“If you finish first or second you’ve got the potential to get into the grand final so it’s a massive incentive.”
Macquarie United faces a massive test to retain its hold on second this weekend when it meets the undefeated Bulls while Wanderers has a golden chance to move up when it takes on the winless Orana Spurs.
Those matches may not be as straightforward as they seem though, as Spurs held the Bulls to a shock 2-all draw on Sunday.
United is also set to face the Bulls at an ideal time, with recent wins over Spurs and Sunday’s 3-1 defeat of the Wanderers making the first time this season the side in sky blue has featured the same 11 players two weeks in a row.
“We’ve had some injuries and suspensions but guys from second grade have played up and taken hold of those spots,” Auld said.
“So competition within the group is good and players are taking their opportunities.”
With players now approaching a return to the fold, Auld said his side is set to have a squad of roughly 18 players all jostling for a starting place.
“All in all, we’re starting to show a bit of consistency which is good leading into the semis,” he added.
“But we’ve got a tough game this weekend.”
The Bulls, who defeated Macquarie United in last season’s decider, have been dominant all season.
The Dubbo FC side is yet to taste defeat, Sunday’s result was one of three draws this season, and the men in orange are 11 points clear of the second-placed United.
The two sides meet from 3pm on Sunday at Lady Cutler 3 while the Wanderers and Spurs meet at the same time at Lady Cutler 2.