PRIDE will be on the line when Wimmera Football League takes on neighbour North Central Football League at Lord Nelson Park, St Arnaud, on Saturday.
The Big W will look for its first country championships win since 2009, while North Central will eye three wins on the trot.
Wimmera coach Louie Dalziel said it was a must-win game for the visitors.
“We’ve just got to go and win a game of footy for our pride and self-respect,” he said.
“We’ve picked guys this year who have met the criteria and are going into the game with some really good form.”
Dalziel said the commitment from Big W players – a team designed to win the contested footy – had been extremely pleasing.
“We’re definitely strong on paper and on the track it’s been even better,” he said.
“We need strong bodies and we’ve certainly picked them, but we can also move the ball pretty quickly.
“We’re going to go in with a physical approach – winning the contested ball will be paramount.
“We’ve picked guys who do that week-in, week-out for their clubs.”
The squad features just eight players from last year’s 26-player squad.
Wimmera will look for reigning Toohey Medallist Justin Chilver to provide first use of the ball to an in-form midfield brigade including Horsham Saint Pat Knott, Horsham’s Nick Pekin and Ararat recruit Dan Mendes.
Mendes will be joined in the side by fellow Rats recruit and high-flying forward Beau Cosson.
“They really complement each other well,” Dalziel said.
“They’ve fitted into country footy and have put their hands up and have done everything they can to play.”
Dalziel said Demon Sean Christopher had been pencilled in for a role on star North Central forward Sam Barnes.
“Sean was always a lock-in at full-back – it’s a position you can’t just walk into and he certainly knows the role,” he said.
“If he can keep Barnes to five, that’s a pass mark – if we keep the pressure on their midfield hopefully we can shut him down.”
Christopher will be joined in defence by Demons team-mate and senior interleague debutant Rhona Conboy, who has made the jump from last year’s under-18s team alongside Warrack Eagle Jake Peters.
North Central coach James Coatsworth – who won’t play because of a jaw injury – said the response to the interleague match within the league had been pleasing.
“Everyone’s put their hand up to play, which makes my job a bit easier,” he said.
“We’re missing maybe five or six of the better players in the league, but the people in the squad I’m pretty sure can do the job.
“We’re a pretty strong side with a lot of big bodies – so contested footy and our key position players will hopefully do the job for us.”
Key Wedderburn forwards Barnes and Brady Herdman – with 53 goals between them this season – will spearhead the host’s forward line.
The Redbacks have 12 players in the extended North Central squad.
St Arnaud playing coach James McNamee has been named at half-forward, with Saints team-mates Nick Coghlan in a forward pocket and Nick Baldwin on an extended bench.