ALL eyes turn towards this Saturday's Dubbo Demons versus Bathurst Giants senior women's and men's contests, as they will likely play a significant role in shaping the final ladder positions this AFL Central West season.
We've got three weeks of action remaining in the senior tier one competitions and there's plenty of chances for teams to still shape how the final ladders will look before the knockout phase for those sides begins on August 27.
Here's what you need to know ahead of this weekend...
THEY'VE put on triple figure scores twice in the past fortnight, but the Bathurst Giants women are expecting nothing to come easily this Saturday against fierce rivals the Dubbo Demons.
Dubbo is the only side to have beaten the Giants since 2019 and that they've done it twice this season has intensified an already hot rivalry.
Giants skipper Katie Kennedy says the key to avoid suffering a third loss is doing what the Demons do so well - playing hard from the opening bounce to the final siren.
"They play four quarters of hard footy and I feel like we miss a quarter every now and then, like it's not always the same one, sometimes it's the first quarter, sometimes it's the third one, but we just lose something in one quarter," she said.
"That's why against Giants [last Saturday] we wanted to try and go hard for four quarters and I think we did that, so hopefully that will go into our game against Dubbo too and it will all come out orange.
"You can never underestimate Dubbo at all, so we know it's going to be a hard fought game.
"But we know that we can do it, all we have to do is go over there, compete hard for the footy."
The Giants' desire to beat Dubbo stems from more than just wanting to prove a point. It's also about winning the minor premiership.
For the last three seasons it has been the Giants sitting on top of the ladder with a clear margin at the completion of the regular home and away games, but this year things are much closer.
Currently a superior percentage is all that separates the Giants from the Demons, both having 10 wins through 12 rounds.
"We haven't been in this situation for awhile, last year was null and void for finals and the year before that we went undefeated, so unfamiliar territory at the moment. If we want it, we've got to work for it, but we can do it," Kennedy said.
"They've beaten us twice this year and each time we're like we don't want that to happen again. But now they've beaten us twice, it's pedal to the metal, let's not let that happen."
BATHURST Bushrangers have been no strangers to piling on big scores this AFL Central West senior men's season but they've also become accustomed to making things very difficult for opposition offences.
The Bushies' back line and half back line have been as strong as ever over the past few weeks, bringing strength at the right end of the season.
The most testing period for the Bushrangers came during June, where their injury-affected squad gave up 12 and 10 goals to Bathurst Giants and Dubbo Demons respectively, but they still go through that period unbeaten.
Outside of those games the Bushrangers have never given up more than eight goals in a game.
Bushrangers co-coach Matt Archer said the efforts of the team's defence continue to amaze him.
"Alex Davies is always a rock. He doesn't seem to ever give anything up. If he ever gets marked on it's pretty rare, and it's almost a shock when someone takes a contested mark on him," he said.
"Tommy Maher is very much the same. He's undersized and always plays on bigger forwards but always seems to manage to get it to ground.
"When you've got those two as your two deepest backs it gives you so much confidence because you just know that as long as you don't put them under the pump too much then they'll oppositions to a competitive score - one that we'd back our midfield and forwards to be able to keep a better score than.
"We've been playing Bill back there as well. He's been so helpful there. The way they're all playing gives us so much confidence.
IT'S not just the Giants women's side who find themselves in a crucial game against the Demons this Saturday.
The Giants senior men's side and their Demons counterparts might not be fighting for top spot on the table but they are fighting for the next best thing - the chance to possibly host the preliminary final.
They go into the weekend's third-last game of the regular season at Dubbo level on 20 points.
Giants won't be short on confidence following a 24-goal performance against the Orange Tigers, but the Demons go into their game at home having pushed competition leaders Bushrangers all the way in a 20 point loss.
The head-to-head between the Giants and Demons sits at 2-all this season, with two of those games being decided by two points or less.
When both clubs bring their best to the table then very little has separated them this year.
Giants coach Mark Kennedy said the focus for his team this Saturday isn't going to be on the occasion but on stronger execution.
"We've been talking a little about it, but we don't want to focus too much on the importance of it, we just want to execute our game plan," he said.
"As we talked about at training a few times, if you get the little things right then the big things take care of themselves. The big thing for us is winning games and reaching that grand final, but getting there requires getting the little stuff right."
The fight for second spot won't be over for the loser of this Saturday's game.
An upset win over the unbeaten Bathurst Bushrangers could reignite the chance of a runner-up finish on the table.
CENTRAL West juniors are able to get a taste of competitive AFL action a little earlier this year thanks to the introduction of the under 10s competition.
The newest AFLCW competition has brought together Dubbo Junior AFL club, Bathurst Giants and a combined Orange and Forbes squad.
The introduction of the under 10s competition adds to the existing under 12s, 14s, 17s and youth girls pathways already in place for the region's juniors.
Two rounds of the competition have been played so far, with the Orange/Forbes versus Dubbo and Dubbo versus Giants games played over the past fortnight.
Orange-Forbes take on the Giants this Sunday at Waratahs.
All clubs are still accepting players for the competition.
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