Eltham’s dominance in the NFNL Division 2 reserves competition continued in this year’s Grand Final, defeating Thomastown by 77 points at Preston City Oval to claim their third premiership in the last four seasons.
The Panthers ended the first term with an 11-point deficit but were faultless in the following three quarters, going to triumph 18.11 (119) to 6.6 (42).
Luke Sirianni won the best on ground medallion for his dominant midfield display, which was capped off by two goals in a standout performance.
Both Liam Waldron and Matthew Byron could have shared this accolade, as the forward duo combined for nine majors to cause a potent threat to the Bears defensive unit.
Nathan Perrone, Lorne Waldron and Bradyn Taglieri all moved the ball well through the centre of the ground, whilst the Panthers looked to David Evans to lead their defence against plenty of early pressure.
Thomastown looked at their best when the ball was in the hands of Todd Hughes, who kicked four of his teams six goals for the afternoon, which included an inspiring opener.
Leading outside the 50-metre arc, Hughes anticipated the ball spilling out the back of the contest and composedly ran into the empty space where he sailed home the goal.
Liam Waldron answered back with a set-shot from 40 metres, but it was the Bears who looked the better side initially.
With the wind at their backs, Salvatore Mammone and Todd Hughes capitalised to make it a three-goal term, delighting the large contingent of Thomastown fans on the hill as their team entered the first break with an 11-point advantage.
However, now armed with the wind, the Panthers would reclaim control in the second term.
As their stars such as Benjamin Smith began to find their form, the Eltham attack began to ask continual questions of the Thomastown defence.
Matthew Byron’s work rate up forward caused headaches while teammate Bradyn Taglieri piled on the misery, with the Panthers producing a four goal to one quarter.
After trailing by nine points at the main break, Thomastown knew they would need a big term with the favourable wind advantage.
Todd Hughes would again be the man the Bears relied on in front of goals, with his third and fourth major coming in the term, but it was Eltham who continued with their ascendency.
Luke Sirriani, Matthew Byron and Liam Waldron hit the scoreboard again, whilst Jye Lorey converted his first goal of the afternoon with a nice finish.
Shannon Ball looked dangerous at times for the Bears when he was thrown into the centre of the ground, but the Panthers’ strong stamina in the warm conditions helped them control the clearance battle.
Leading by 21 points heading into the penultimate quarter, Eltham would never look back.
Just like they did in 12 months ago in the 2022 decider, the unrelenting Panthers outfit would pile on nine goals in the final term.
By now a large Eltham contingent had formed behind the goals and were treated to spectacular finishes.
Capping off a sensational performance, Benjamin Smith shrugged off a tackle to kick one of the best goals of the afternoon, a fitting highlight for another dominant season from the Panthers.