Brought to you by Whanganui Rugby
It hangs out there like a carrot for the bottom three teams of Tasman Tanning Premier, although that carrot is metaphorically behind lines of barbed wire and machine gun nests.
But the question remains which of them, if any, will be the first to break the drought of two seasons by beating one of the top three teams in Premier, with Dave Hoskin Carriers Marist taking their next shot on Saturday when they make their second long trip in a week to face Byford's Readimix Taihape.
There have been signs of improvements from 2020 – Marist, McCarthy's Transport Ruapehu and Settlers Honey Ngamatapouri have all out-pointed Waverley Harvesting Border, Taihape and Wanganui Car Centre Kaierau respectively for one half of the matches so far this campaign.
Marist have come closer than anyone, after a conversion beside the posts shaved the outside of the nearest upright in the last three minutes of a 19-18 loss at Spriggens Park last year.
Coach Travers Hopkins puts the imbalance down to playing in a six-team competition.
"They really are strong, that there is a bit of a gap.
"But these lower placed teams are putting up scores reflecting how hard all teams are working, from the preseason."
His squad paid a heavy price from their previous road trip to Ohakune, as Hemi Metekingi went over on his knee during his first run, needing surgery for the break this week, and Te Rokena Matthews came out of another contact with a fractured wrist.
"We're counting big [injuries] early, it seems to be a thing that hovers over our team.
"We won't have all available players, but we'll put out a strong team. We're looking forward to it.
"For these pretty important positions, first-five and outside back, we're being tested.
"These guys are trying so hard to get on the pitch."
Marist needs to start finding some points on the table, after they just couldn't pull Ruapehu back in the 29-22 loss.
"It was actually a really, really good game.
"We are disappointed because we played good rugby and deserved to win. Ruapehu played to their strengths."
With backs at a premium, Hopkins joked he might try Steelform Wanganui hooker Jack Yarrall out wide, although one should not discount the rake's genuine pace, as his two tries over Taihape in that Spriggens game can attest.
Outside backs like Jamie Robertson, a try scorer against Ruapehu, and Daniel Kauika can expect to be tested by Taihape's probing kicks.
The hosts are stinging after coach Tom Wells' bar tab went unclaimed following the 39-22 loss to Border in Waverley, the one place his team hasn't won since the South Taranaki club came back to the WRFU in 2011.
"It's hard going over there, but Border were exceptional, and we played below par.
"That, and Rush [Vereniki Tikoisolomone] scoring three tries from 50m out."
The coach estimated it was a 70 per cent effort from his squad, so he will be looking for 90 per cent on Saturday.
"If we played like we did last weekend, anyone can beat us. The [Premier] standard's quite high.
"We'll just go for a really strong performance this week.
"It's more about ourselves; we've had some close games with Marist."
With a couple of players out injured this week, Wells will stay with the regular starters, but look to tinker a little with their positions.
The likes of Jaye Flaws, Tyler Rogers-Holden, and the Whale's – Luke and Dane – can cover multiple backline spots with aplomb.
"We're still trying things out - we want to hit our straps in the second round, not now."
The Memorial Park games will hopefully attract another good crowd for Taihape's Old Timers Day, dodgy weather notwithstanding.
Elsewhere, Ruapehu will try to get the other crucial win in the "fight for fourth" when they make the very long trip up the Waitotara Valley to meet Ngamatapouri.
Kaierau will take their turn to try and storm the Waverley breach, when they challenge Border for the Grand Hotel Challenge Shield, while also trying to snap their 12-game winning streak at home.
Kickoff is at 2.30pm.