Whittlesea claimed its fourth premiership from its past four campaigns in A Plus Labour Solutions Division 2 after outlasting Banyule in the 2019 grand final.
Played out on a picturesque Saturday afternoon at Preston City Oval, the Eagles got the jump early and then finished stronger to run away with the 10.14 (74) to 6.11 (47) win.
The triumph adds to the Eagles’ 2015, 2013 and 2010 premierships in second division and earned them promotion straight back to Meadows Greyhounds Division 1 – where they spent the previous three seasons.
The grand final win saw Blair Harvey add another premiership medallion to his illustrious collection – winning a flag in his first season as coach at Whittlesea after one of the most decorated playing careers in the league’s history.
Banyule had a red-hot start to the season and went unbeaten through its first eight matches to hold top spot in the competition from early in the season.
But Whittlesea ended the season as the in-form team, winning 11 of its 12 matches – with the only loss coming in the second semi final when beaten by the Bears by just seven points
However, the Eagles made up for that loss with a superb grand final performance, with the result meaning that six of the past seven Division 2 premiers have come via the preliminary final.
Xavier Dimasi capped off his stellar season by being awarded the best-on-ground medal after an outstanding four-quarter performance through the middle of the ground.
The Eagles were also guided by standout performances by four-goal hero Jaron Murphy and Mitchell Andrews, whose run off the back line was vital. 17-year-old Zach Molloy also did an outstanding blanketing job on Banyule star James Kroussoratis.
Devin McDonald, Reuben Blackmore-Moore and Riley Loton were Banyule’s best and gave their all to will their side over the line, however it was the Eagles who had more winners on the ground.
Whittlesea appeared to be more switched on from the outset, with the Eagles’ manic pressure and cleaner ball movement seeing them kick the only two goals of the opening quarter through Clancy Bland and Max Dyson.
Banyule did have its opportunities in the first quarter, however the Bears missed several gettable chances and went into the quarter time trailing by 13 points.
Dimasi hit the scoreboard early in the second term after nailing a set shot to extend the Eagles’ lead to 19 points, before Blackmore-Moore finally kicked Banyule’s first major of the game.
The tide appeared to be shifting Banyule’s way, however Murphy managed to settle the Eagles with his first goal, before Kroussoratis answered for the Bears with a much needed checkside goal from close range to cut the difference to 14 points at half time.
Banyule missed some chances early in the third quarter, before Mannon Johnston nailed a set shot to give the minor premiers consecutive goals for the first time.
But their momentum was taken away when Murphy kicked one of goals of the season – taking possession at half back, before rounding Tim Martin on the boundary line and taking three bounces before slotting a remarkable goal from 50 metres out.
Both sides continued to create chances in the ten minutes that followed but weren’t able to convert their chances.
That was until Banyule defender Ben Embleton finally broke the goal drought after converting from long range on the three quarter time siren to cut his side’s deficit to just 10 points.
The momentum continued for Banyule early in the final term as Michael Italia cut the margin to four points with a goal inside the opening five minutes.
Murphy found Max Dyson who converted which helped Whittlesea get the fast response, however Italia again hit the scoreboard to cut the difference to three points midway through the quarter – setting up a grandstand finish.
With the premiership hanging in the balance it was Whittlesea lifted – with the Eagles finding another gear to kick the final four goals to run away with the cup.
Murphy slotted a set shot from close range to provide some breathing space, before Bland took a towering mark in the goal square and kicked his second goal.
It was party time when Murphy slotted his fourth, before Riley Dyson put the icing on the cake with another in the final minute. After working his way back from a long injury layoff, it was fitting the skipper kicked the final goal of the game as his side ran out 27-point victors.
Final score: Banyule 6.11 (47) def by Whittlesea 10.14 (74)
Goal Kickers: M. Italia 2, M. Johnston, B. Embleton , R. Blackmore-Moore, J. Kroussoratis
Best Players: D. McDonald, R. Blackmore-Moore, R. Loton, J. Mitchell, B. Embleton , B. Stanton
Goal Kickers: J. Murphy 4, M. Dyson 2, C. Bland 2, R. Dyson, X. Dimasi
Best Players: X. Dimasi, J. Murphy, B. Bell, M. Andrews, Z. Molloy, N. Stefanile