Two different races are set to shape the final three weeks of the AFL Central West men's season - the race for first and the scramble for fourth.
Orange Tigers and Bathurst Bushranger Rebels are locked on points in the hunt for the top spot and a home final, while three sides - Dubbo Demons, Bathurst Giants and the Bushrangers Outlaws - are fighting for the remaining two finals spots.
Run home: Giants (A), Demons (H), Bushrangers Outlaws (A)
The Tigers are neck-and-neck for first place and the home semi-final with the Bushrangers Rebels, but have a tougher run home than their rivals for the top of the table.
The reining premiers face the Giants in a danger game before playing the Demons and Outlaws, with all three pf those sides trying to fit into two finals spots.
If they drop one of them - which is absolutely possible - they're almost certain to lose their position on top of the ladder and face an away final in Bathurst.
Run home: Panthers (A), Blues (A), bye
The Rebels will gain four points automatically for their final-round bye and then face the two bottom sides - albeit on the road - in their final two games.
Playing Parkes and Cowra will give them a chance to boost their percentage, but jumping the Tigers on that factor alone won't happen, meaning they need their foes in yellow and black to drop a match on the run home.
Will the side have wanted a tougher run home to prepare for the cauldron that is finals? Probably, but we can't imagine it will cost them any momentum.
How things stand with three rounds to go ...
- Orange Tigers: 9 played, 7 wins, 38pts, 234%
- Bushrangers Rebels: 10 played, 7 wins, 38pts, 155%
- Bathurst Giants: 9 played, 5 wins, 28pts, 151%
- Dubbo Demons: 9 played, 5 wins, 28pts, 139%
- Bushrangers Outlaws: 10 played, 5 wins, 24pts, 113%
- Parkes Panthers: 9 played, 2 wins, 16pts, 39%
- Cowra Blues: 10 played 1 win, 8pts, 31%
Run home: Tigers (H), Panthers (H), Blues (A)
In the box seat to claim a home elimination final despite being hot and cold in the past few weeks, and Giants' coach Mark Kennedy has said his side's been missing key cogs in several matches in the past month.
If the side comes together at the right time, there's no-one they can't beat - the side beat the Tigers in Orange earlier this year. Games against Parkes and Cowra could be crucial percentage buffers to keep them on top of the logjam.
Run home: Outlaws (H), Tigers (A), Panthers (A)
This week's game against the Outlaws is a mini-final for the Demons. With both sides set to line up as underdogs against Orange Tigers in the final three weeks, this game is likely to be the one which decides who comes fourth.
The Demons are still annoyed about being pipped in the final round by the Outlaws in the race to last year's finals series and will be out for revenge, especially on home deck. They'd go in favourites this week, but expect sparks to fly.
If they lose, they need to defeat the Tigers and Panthers and hope the Outlaws lose to Orange at home, and that their percentage is still higher than the Outlaws. It's just a bit too much maths.
Run home: Demons (A), bye, Tigers (H)
See above - this weekend's match is absolutely crucial to determine the makeup of the AFLCW finals series.
If the Outlaws drop this game, they're toast. While their bye grants them four points automatically, if they drop the Demons game they're still behind on percentage - meaning the only ticket to the finals would come courtesy of beating the reining premiers in the final round.
Run home: Rebels (H), Giants (A), Demons (H)
Having pipped the Giants in Parkes already this year, the Panthers still have the chance to shape the finals race, even though the side's not in contention for a spot.
If they defeat the Rebels, it likely consigns the Bushrangers to second on the table, while in the western derby between Parkes and Dubbo in the final round the Panthers can spoil the Demons' finals aspirations.
Run home: bye, Rebels (H), Giants (H)
The final two games at home will be a chance for Cowra to pull together a full squad and play consistent football to prepare for 2020. Anything else is a bonus.
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