THE pending return of several stars has Eltham primed to build on its flying start to the Northern Football League season.
The Panthers boast a 7-0 record despite being without Michael Still (ankle), Gavan Connelly (calf) and Brendan O’Sullivan (hamstring) for most of the opening two months of 2018.
Co-captain Josh Merkel has been limited to three games due to an ankle injury, while Luke Wachinger was eased back after suffering a corkie.
Blessed with a deep playing list, Eltham coach Paul King knows he will encounter a few selection headaches in coming weeks.
“We have got about four or five we can squeeze in,” he said.
“I don’t know how we are going to do it, but we have got a bit of a luxury at the moment.”
Paul and Tim Currie both have travel plans pencilled in during the second half of the campaign, offering King some respite at the selection table.
While pending holidays for two key players would have most coaches worried, King has good reason to be confident the Panthers will have ready-made replacements.
Eltham took on grand finalist Diamond Creek for the second time this season on Saturday and recorded a 35-point win, 10.13 (73) to 5.8 (38).
Former VFL forward Still played his first match of the year in the victory, booting three majors as Eltham logged six goals to one after halftime.
Anton Woods, Ben Montanaro and Thomas Carafa were also influential for the victors, while Jedd McQueen was Diamond Creek’s best.
King said he understood why the Panthers’ rivals may view them as the team to beat for this year’s Division 2 flag.
“I don’t take anything for granted, but I assume people are looking at us,” he said.
“Most sides we are coming up against are seeming to have a real crack at us.
“I think they are quite prepared when they come in against us.”
The Panthers face Thomastown away this week before a keenly-anticipated clash against fellow unbeaten side Lower Plenty on June 16.
“We have got a big block of 4-5 weeks coming up and we are really looking forward to it and seeing where we stand.”