Bears win flag in strong grand final performance

Published on Sunday, September 11, 2022

Banyule outclassed Eltham to claim the 2022 MC Labour Division 2 premiership, leading at every change to prevail by 25 points at Preston City Oval and book their spot in the topflight next season.

A five goal to two first term set the tone for the Bears before a scintillating third term, where they kicked three goals in the final seven minutes of the quarter, sealed the 10.17 (77) to 7.10 (52) triumph.

The club has had an incredible rise since joining the NFNL in 2015, winning promotion to Division 1 in just their sixth full season, a span which has included three grand finals and now two premierships.

Ruck Tim Martin was adjudged best on ground by the field umpires, with his work in the middle and in defence superb; as it had been all year. It’s now the tenth time in 13 games this season that Martin has been named in the club’s best, with Saturday being his eighth successive appearance.

Jack Langford was at his dominant best up forward, kicking five majors, including three consecutive goals in that third quarter, to help win his second NFNL premiership after claiming a flag with Macleod in 2015.

Reuben Blackmore-Moore, Adam Carafa and Riley Loton were also critical in the midfield along with Xavier Mitchell who had a bright start to the decider, meanwhile James Kayrooz had one of the most entertaining 1.4 performances you could imagine, proving to be a dangerous threat inside forward 50 for Banyule.

Eltham leading goalkicker Daniel Owen kicked three majors in the grand final loss while the work of Declan Ayres and Mikael Avramov was also admirable.

Finnbar Maley worked hard all afternoon and although Luke Wachinger had some tough tasks to deal with down back, his effort was brilliant.

Although the Panthers kept up with their opposition throughout the match, the constant pressure from the Bears caused multiple turnovers and fumbles from the minor premiers, ultimately proving to be the difference in the crucial moments of the game.

The loss for Eltham is their second grand final defeat in three completed seasons as despite finishing the year on top of the ladder and with a 17-1 record, the Panthers fell out form at the wrong time, losing two of their three finals.

It also spells an end to Robert Hyde’s coaching career, as the well-respected coach called time with the Panthers earlier this year after joining the club at the start of 2020.

Following some early behinds from Banyule, Eltham forward Joshua Merkel kicked the first major of the match to the joy of the many Panthers fans in attendance at Preston City Oval.

The goal started a chain of six majors in just nine minutes of play from both sides. Although it was high scoring, the Bears had control of the game, kicking five of the next six after Merkel’s opener, including a late goal from Kayrooz, to give Ricky Dyson and Paul Harris’ men a handy 21-point quarter time lead.

Scoring slowed significantly in the second term with only one major kicked. Both sides had their opportunities to kick crucial goals but couldn’t find the big sticks.

Owen’s first goal at the 13-minute mark reduced the minor premiers’ deficit to 16 points at the main break as they hoped to gain some momentum heading into the premiership quarter.

As it was in the second, the third term started slow as both sides were desperate to keep the ball in their attacking halves.

Owen then soon had a second to reduce the margin to nine points, but it would prove to be the closest Robert Hyde’s side got to the Bears for the rest of the game.

Jack Langford delivered for Banyule, kicking the next three majors, with his third being a highlight as he streams through to the open goal to kick goal number four for the game.

The surge blew Eltham out of the park and allowed the Bears to take an impressive 34-point lead at three quarter time.

Eltham would’ve been hoping for a similar run to last week’s preliminary final in which they came from behind to defeat Diamond Creek by nine points.

But those hopes were quashed just over a minute in when Langford slotted his fifth to extend their advantage to a game-high 40 points.

The Panthers would kick the last three goals of the game, but it would be too little too late as Banyule claimed a historic grand final victory.

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