Eltham claimed the Division 2 premiership with a hard-fought 16-point victory over Diamond Creek in the grand final at Preston City Oval.
The Panthers led for the entirety of the game and came away with a 7.12 (54) to 5.8 (38) victory over the Creekers.
Thomas Burns was awarded best on ground for his three goals and match-sealing performance in the final term.
Luke Russell and Matthew Lillie were also standout for the Panthers, while Todd Owen, Luke Campitelli and Kevin O’Regan were the best players for Diamond Creek.
Blustery conditions proved difficult for the players in the opening term, which resulted in only one goal kicked in the quarter.
Eltham kicked with the wind in the first term but could only manage four behinds, until Burns kicked a goal on the siren to give his side a nine-point lead at quarter time.
Diamond Creek found it difficult to get the ball into its forward line in the opening term and could only manage to kick one point.
Worryingly for the Creekers, Josh Barnes was forced off the field in the hands of the trainers. Barnes kicked five goals in last weekend’s preliminary final victory but would not play any further part in the grand final after a collision with a teammate.
The second term provided Diamond Creek with the opportunity to capitalise on the wind. The Creekers began the term as the better side but could not hit the scoreboard and were made to pay with Eltham capitalising at the other end.
The Panthers increased their lead to 21 points, courtesy of goals to James Doukas and Jye Lorey. Doukas’ goal was a stunner from the boundary, not too dissimilar to Dustin Martin’s goal in Richmond’s qualifying final against Hawthorn.
It may have taken 19 minutes into the second term, but Diamond Creek finally opened its goal tally when Daniel Padget converted brilliantly from the boundary to reduce the margin to 15 points at half time.
The third term was a goal for goal battle. Todd Owen kicked the opening goal for the Creekers to reduce the margin to nine points.
Doukas kicked his second goal of the game to extend Eltham’s lead, before Campitelli snapped truly from a stoppage to reduce the margin to a single goal.
Kyle O’Sullivan then kicked a late goal to give the Panthers a 13-point lead at three-quarter time.
Eltham fans will long remember the final term performance of Thomas Burns. The forward had looked dangerous all day but was finally able to stamp his mark on the game.
Burns missed his first two shots on goal in the term, which included a miss from within 15m. But instead of lowering his head, Buns continued to persist and converted a goal from 35 metres out.
Diamond Creek made the game interesting by kicking the next two goals to reduce the margin to eight points with five minutes remaining.
But Burns again found the ball and kicked the goal that sealed the premiership for Eltham.
Final scores: Eltham 7.12 (54) def Diamond Creek 5.8 (38)