Eltham ended the Meadows Greyhounds Division 1 season with a 32-point victory over Whittlesea, although it wasn’t enough to prevent the Panthers from being relegated.
The 11.12 (78) to 6.10 (46) win at Eltham Central Reserve meant all three Panthers sides won on the one day for the first time in 2017.
But despite the senior side scoring its fifth win of the year, Eltham finished the year at the bottom of the ladder and was condemned to Division 2 football in 2018 – ending the club’s 15-year reign in the Northern Football League’s top-flight.
Paul Currie starred up forward for the home side and kicked a match-high four goals, with a host of others slotting singles – including Lewis Glasgow and Anton Woods who were dominant in the midfield.
Brenton Briffa, Jai Robinson and Jaron Murphy all fought hard in a losing effort for Whittlesea, although their side couldn’t match the performance it produced in Round 17 when it stunned Bundoora at the Whittlesea Showgrounds.
Clancy Bland impressed in his role between the ruck and forward line and was the only multiple goal scorer for the Eagles, kicking two majors.
In need of a win of greater than 15 goals to avoid relegation, Eltham burst out of the blocks and kicked the only four majors of the opening quarter to go into the first change 25 points ahead.
Belief was suddenly spreading throughout the home crowd that the Panthers could perhaps pull off the massive win required to stay in Division 1 next season.
Whittlesea again had no answer to Eltham’s onslaught early in the second term, as the home side kicked another four goals to stretch the margin out to 50 points late in the half.
With tension building, two goals in the final few minutes of the quarter courtesy of Jaron Murphy and Bland, after the half-time siren, helped settle the Eagles and eased some doubt among the Whittlesea faithful.
Bland put through his second goal early in the third term, before Briffa followed with another major to cut the margin to 22 points midway through the third term.
Eltham was able to reassume control of the contest with a reply from Tom Evans, however while the game looked in the home side’s keeping, the margin was nowhere near what was required to jump atop Whittlesea on the ladder.
The Eagles looked like they would run over the top of the Panthers early in the last quarter after Janan Daniel and Andrew Fairchild both converted to bring the away side within 16 points.
However, Currie proved to be the match-winner and put through two majors late in the match to take his tally to four and put the result beyond doubt.
The result meant the bottom-three sides on the Meadows Greyhounds Division 1 ladder all finished the season with 5-13 records.
Eltham finished bottom with a percentage of 67.89, behind ninth-placed Whittlesea (73.37) and Hurstbridge in eighth (87.52)
The Panthers will join A Plus Labour Solutions Division 2 in 2018 for the first time since winning the 2002 premiership.
Whittlesea will compete in the top-flight for a club-record third-successive season and will look to build on five-win season in both 2016 and 2015.
Final score: Eltham 11.12 (78) def Whittlesea 6.10 (46)