Home sweet home.
After an enormous amount of travel, Shepparton Gators start a run of four home games in the Big V division one competition tonight.
First up at the Shepparton Sports Stadium is Western Port Steelers, starting a testing string of matches where the Gators will try and draw on the home crowd as much as possible.
‘‘This month will be a big test for us each week, we’ve got three teams in the next three weeks that we reckon will finish top four and that’s Western Port, Chelsea and Warrnambool,’’ Shepparton coach Leigh Bathman said.
The Gators are likely to be the team to complement that quartet at the end of the season with the team sitting atop the table with a to-date record of 12-1.
With a league wide bye following the weekend, Bathman is hoping his side will enter the break with a 13-1 record.
The main man at the Steelers who could block the way is Dylan Travis.
The side’s American import has a impressive resume, which most recently includes winning the 2017 Championship in Germany.
Bathman holds Travis in high regard but said his charges could cover the man who has averages of 30 points a game.
‘‘The Big V, the rest of the league and the media around the league reckon he’s pretty special but we’ve got guys that can combat him,’’ Bathman said.
‘‘But we’ll be under the pump with availabilities so we’ll see how we go.’’
Nick Dodd is a valuable late addition after being an out earlier in the week but the Gators have chosen not to risk the return of Jake Cowling ahead of the bye.
As a result it will be another night of heavy minutes undertaken by Cameron Vines, Spencer Coleman, Matt Bartlett and Dodd.
Given the load the players have shouldered across the entire season, Bathman was thrilled the side’s record was as impressive as it was.
‘‘I’m rapt with what they’ve been able to achieve with their performances,’’ he said.
‘‘I’d expect it might catch up to us, but we’ll try and keep holding them (opposition sides) off.
‘‘Guys have played huge minutes and through fatigue and injury but we’ll keep fighting away.’’
While Shepparton’s shooting accuracy in last week’s win against Latrobe City Energy was better, it remained a focus for Bathman but that does not mean he will be distracted from analysing his side’s defence.
Coleman and Vines rank one and two in average rebounds taken across the league, with Coleman topping the offensive rebounds tally while Vines has secured the most defensive rebounds in the league.
Tip off for Shepparton Gators match against Western Port Steelers is at 7.30pm at the Shepparton Sports Stadium.