The finals race remains wide open with two rounds remaining in A Plus Labour Solutions Division 2.
Ladder-leader Banyule took another tumble in a six-point loss to Whittlesea in Round 16, with the result handing the Bears their third defeat from their past six starts.
The win for the second-placed Eagles sees them move equal on points with Banyule, remaining behind on percentage alone. Should the Bears falter once more in the 2019 regular season, they could relinquish their season-long stranglehold on top spot.
Eltham secured its place in the finals with a dominant performance over St Mary’s in its first game under the guidance of Brent Macaffer and Michael Still. The third-placed Panthers have a bye this week before travelling to Epping in the final round.
The battle for fourth spot is left to Thomastown and Diamond Creek and could go down to the final round of the season, depending on results this weekend. The Creekers moved within two points of the top-four last weekend, with their win over Watsonia coupled with a bye to the Bears.
A must-win clash looms for both Whittlesea and Thomastown when they lock horns at Whittlesea Showgrounds in a much-anticipated Round 17 clash.
One side has the chance to continue its push for top spot, whilst the other is needing a win to confirm its spot in the finals. Those scenarios ensure this match will be a ripper.
After a somewhat inconsistent start in their return to A Plus Labour Solutions Division 2, the Eagles have since gone on a seven-game winning streak – which includes victories over each of Banyule, Eltham, Thomastown and Diamond Creek.
Last week’s win in heavy conditions at Beverley Rd Oval once again confirmed that the Eagles are the form side of the competition heading into the most important stage of the season, as they attempt a tilt at a swift return to Meadows Greyhounds Division 1.
On a heavy deck, the Eagles led at every stage last week – breaking the game open with two goals early in the final term, before holding off a late charge from Banyule.
The conditions ensured it was low-scoring affair, with the Eagles getting their five goals from five different sources. The performances of Brody Bell, Nathan Stefanile and Matthew Coen were of note, while skipper Riley Dyson returned in the twos as he comes back from a long-term injury.
Thomastown had the bye last weekend, but prior to that recorded a crucial 30-point win over Diamond Creek at Coventry Oval, which handed the Bears their fourth-consecutive win under caretaker coach Scott Plant.
It was a closely fought battle throughout the first three quarters, with the Creekers holding a one-point advantage at the final break.
However, Thomastown piled on seven goals to two in the final term to give itself every opportunity of securing a finals finish for the second-consecutive year. Shannon Ball booted five majors, while James Rizzolio and Nicholas Klooster starred.
After tackling the Eagles this weekend, Thomastown will face another stern test in Banyule – meaning it takes on the top-two sides in the final two rounds. The Bears need just one win to secure fourth place and if they can score it, they will take great confidence into the finals.
Diamond Creek travels to Whatmough Park to take on St Mary’s in a must-win encounter in its final match of the regular season.
The Creekers know exactly what is at stake, with a loss to end their season and Craig Hayes’ tenure as coach after he announced last week that he would not continue in the senior coaching role in 2020.
Diamond Creek kept its finals hopes alive with a comfortable 48-point win over Watsonia in its final home game of the season at Coventry Oval last week. The Creekers got off to a flyer and kicked five unanswered goals in the first term to ensure they led from start to finish.
Nathan Searl and Jacob Booth combined for seven goals between them, while Lachlan Coe and Lochlan Brannelly both produced their best performances of the season to steer their side to victory.
St Mary’s won’t be an easy task this week and the Burra will be looking to bounce back in a big way after last week suffering a convincing 80-point loss to Eltham at Whatmough Park.
The Burra had been in good form going into the match but were completely outclassed by the finals-bound Panthers – failing to kick a goal in the opening three quarters, before booting three in consolation in the last term.
Myles Guldon and Jackson Wolczko were the shining lights on a difficult afternoon, while Rory Hanlon who was the Burra’s only multiple goal kicker and finished with two majors.
It was a close battle when the sides met earlier in the season, where Diamond Creek scraped to an eight-point win at Coventry Oval. Scores were level at three-quarter time, however the Creekers booted the only goal of the final term to secure a hard-fought win.
Banyule will be looking to sure-up first place when it hosts Epping at Beverley Rd Oval.
The ladder-leader is experiencing its most difficult patch of the 2019 season and has won just three of its past six games after starting the campaign with eight-consecutive wins.
It’s far from panic stations just yet, with plenty of talent to come back into the side. Brent Stanton, James Kroussoratis, Ricky Dyson, Riley Hogarth and Riley Keath were all missing from the side that lost to Whittlesea last week.
Trailing throughout the day in trying conditions, the Bears conceded three goals in the opening term and were never able to get their noses in front as they fell to their third loss of the year.
Daniel Kelly and Tim Martin were notable performers, while Jack Langford continued his outstanding campaign since returning to his junior club after a successful stint at Macleod.
Last week’s loss means Banyule still needs one more win to absolutely confirm a double chance in the finals and it will be the shortest of favourites to do that this week against the competition’s bottom-placed team.
Epping suffered its 13th loss of the season when it fell away in the second half in a 29-point defeat to the Fitzroy Stars at Sir Douglas Nicholls Oval in Round 16.
Trailing by just four points at half time, the Blues were made to pay for a 4.2 to 1.1 third term in favour of the home side. Callan Wilson, Leigh Judd and Joel Carter led the way for the Blues.
While the season finishes with tough matches against Banyule and Eltham, there has been good news for the club in recent weeks after an injury-riddled campaign.
Aaron Johnson is already locked away to coach the club again in 2020, while the majority of the list has also recommitted for next season – where the Blues will hope to work their way back up the Division 2 ranks.
Watsonia and Fitzroy Stars will both be hungry for a win when they go head-to-head at A.K. Lines Reserve.
Both sides were early season finals fancies but after a strong start to their seasons, both have fallen away with inconsistent performances hampering their respective campaigns.
After opening the season with two-consecutive wins, a long injury list has halted the Saints from regaining that early season form.
Last week’s loss at Diamond Creek was the club’s sixth in succession, with the Saints only managing to win one quarter on the day in a 48-point loss. Kobe Van Zwienen and Hayden Mitchell each kicked two goals and were named as the Saints’ best.
Fitzroy Stars broke a long run of outs when they managed their fifth win of the season in a 29-point triumph over Epping. The Stars kicked clear in the second half to open the game up and secure the victory.
It was an historic day, with club legend Lionel Proctor playing alongside his four sons Kain, Jaxon, Jordan and Taj and his nephew Jai Burns. Lionel led the way in a standout performance, while Burns and Hedley Smith were also instrumental in the win.
After coach Hayden Heta announced earlier in the week that he won’t be continuing in the role next season, the Stars will be eager finish his tenure on a positive note over the final two rounds.
Watsonia produced arguably its best performance of the season when the sides met at Sir Douglas Nicholls Oval in Round 9. Adrian Alfonsi booted five goals, while Hayden Mitchell was dominant as the Saints piled on eight goals to two in the second half to win by 38 points.