Eltham senior men’s playing coach Tim Bongetti is hopeful the recent consistency his side has had both on and off field will give them the best chance of breaking their premiership drought ahead of Saturday’s MC Labour Division 2 Grand Final.
After defeating them in the second semi-final a fortnight ago, the Panthers will face Diamond Creek in this year’s decider, which will be their third Grand Final in six years.
Triumph would see Eltham win their first senior men’s premiership since 2002, while their reserves will hope to claim their third flag in the last four Grand Finals this weekend.
Coach Tim Bongetti didn’t downplay the accomplishments his side have achieved in the last year, particularly with the amount of change that’s occurred at the club in that time.
“We’re pointing in a new direction in that it’s a new playing group, a new coaching group and we’re playing a different brand of footy,” he said.
“Twelve months is a long time in football and being able to have a fair bit of change hopefully brings a different result this time around.”
Whilst there has been plenty of change, there’s also lots of familiar names from last year’s Grand Final, with 15 players from the 2022 side playing in their most recent win.
For those players, Bongetti believed there was a sense of unfinished business to achieve. He also explained how the consistency of the last few weeks can be beneficial for his side this time around.
“Banyule got two good looks at them last year and I’ve been mentioning to them that we’re in the roles reversed,” he said.
“They were stringing some good games together with a consistent list whereas we probably weren’t. Now the roles are reversed, we’ve probably got a steady list where they’re probably going to have a few players in and out.”
Their second semi-final performance was arguably the best game Eltham has produced this season to date and while Bongetti is hoping his side can replicate that effort come Saturday, he is weary of what the Creekers can do at their best, having defeated the Panthers twice in the home and away campaign.
“We’ve seen them a few times now and we think we’re more than capable of being able to play the same brand of footy a couple of weeks ago and being able to stop their defence from having such an impact by making them play one-on-one,” he said.
Eltham have used 45 players this year, and if they were to make no changes from their side two weeks prior, it would be the first time across the entire 2023 season that the team goes into a game unchanged.
However, with players in strong form in the reserves such as Matthew Byron, Ben Smith, Luke Sirianni & Liam Waldron, Bongetti didn’t rule out the potential of some new inclusions this weekend.
“It would be a relief heading into a Grand Final not making a change, but we’ve got to talk and cover all areas,” he said.
Bongetti is aiming for his second NFNL senior men’s premiership, after winning the Division 1 flag with Greensborough in 2014.
While it’s another opportunity to claim premiership success for himself, Bongetti reflected on what it would mean for the club if they were to go one step better in 2023.
“It would mean a lot to the footy club, and we want as many spectators down there as we can to get behind us and support us because it will be a big day,” he said.
“But as we know in finals footy, there can be only one person to hold up the cup, so we’ll be doing everything in our power to try and get that.”