Hurstbridge have put themselves in the box seat to avoid relegation from Melbourne Greyhounds Division 1 after an impressive 53-point win over Northcote Park at Ben Frilay Oval.
Kicking 12 goals to two in the first half, the Bridges never looked backed to triumph 17.7 (109) to 7.14 (56) and as a result, sit one game and percentage clear of the bottom placed Cougars.
Hurstbridge still have Whittlesea to play in the final round of the season after a trip to West Preston-Lakeside next week. Unfortunately for Northcote Park, games against Bundoora and Heidelberg to finish the season mean it would take a miracle for the Cougars to avoid Division 2 football for the first time since 1994.
In a remarkable goalkicking display, Joel Naylor was the man of the moment for the Bridges, kicking a career-high 10 majors, eight of which came in the first half, as well as taking some incredible contested marks around the ground.
Captain Lachlan East continued his stellar season in defence whilst Bryce East and Sunny Brazier also had key roles in midfield.
Ricky Fandrich was a shining light up forward for Northcote Park with two goals, with his work on the wing one of the few sources of attacks for the visitors. Matthew D’Angelo, Ben McNiece and captain Matthew Perry all displayed a four-quarter effort.
A blistering first term from Hurstbridge put the Cougars on the back foot immediately.
The Bridges kicked eight majors in the opening quarter with a goal from Cougars skipper Matthew Perry coming in between two four goal runs from the home side which included five majors from Naylor.
Relentless again to start the second term, Naylor looked unstoppable as within the first five minutes of the quarter, kicked another three goals to make it eight major in just over a quarter of football. His eighth was also his sixth consecutive goal in the game.
The scoring became a touch stagnant in the backend of the term as a major from Ricky Fandrich was the Cougars’ first goal for almost a whole term. Bailey Jordan then rounded out a scintillating first half with his second goal of the afternoon to give the Bridges a 60-point half time lead
With their hopes of a fourth win for the season all but vanished, Northcote Park’s task was to gain some respectability on the scoreboard for the remainder of the match.
In the third term, both sides scored four majors each, with the Cougars raising their pressure around the ground and creating more opportunities inside 50
The visitors had five more scoring shots for the term, but an accurate Hurstbridge were able to turn their chances into goals, as Naylor slotted home goals nine and ten for the afternoon by three quarter time.
With the result all but sealed up, the final quarter had less scoring but was still just as frantic. A major from 23rd player Zac Manser put the cherry on top of a very strong performance from the Bridges.