Eltham’s recent dominance continued into the 2023 MC Labour Division 2 Qualifying Final, as they eased their way to a 78-point victory over St Mary’s at Epping Recreation Reserve.
The Panthers kept the Burra goalless in the opening term and despite the margin getting back to 20 points at half time, they never looked threatened to lose their lead, going on to win 18.18 (126) to 6.12 (48).
It’s now Eltham’s fourth consecutive victory by 60 points, the perfect lead in ahead of what looks to be a mouthwatering second semi-final against minor premiers Diamond Creek.
The return of Jesse Donaldson helped the Panthers lead the way in clearances as well as an ability to gain possession from every stoppage, while Finnbar Maley excelled once again around the ground.
Playing coach Tim Bongetti was enormous up forward and produced a season high of five majors, including two goals in the opening quarter. Teammate Daniel Owen also impressed inside 50, kicking all three of his goals in the third term.
The Burra couldn’t keep up with Eltham in what was their first Division 2 final in club history, but it didn’t stop the likes of Ty Kitchell and Huon MacGibbon, who worked hard all afternoon.
St Mary’s had five individual goal kickers, with Zane Costello being the multiple goalkicker for the side with two majors.
However, while the Burra have prided themselves on finding multiple avenues to goal this season, the loss of their leading goalkicker Jeremiah Antypas before the match proved to have a significant impact on their goalscoring ability.
The opening term saw the Panthers all over the footy, applying lots of pressure against the Burra who on the flipside, were shaky and hesitant with ball in hand.
Jameson Wood kicked the opening goal for the Panthers at the seven minute mark which sparked a superb term from last year Grand Finalists.
Bongetti kicked two of the next three majors himself to help his side lead by 28 at the first change.
After going goalless in the first term for just the second time in 2023, the Burra were desperate to settle into the game and were able to produce a better showing in the second quarter.
St Mary’s wasted no time getting on the scoreboard, with Jack Cicitta finding the big sticks five minutes in.
The Panthers were able to match the intensity brought by the Burra, but unlike the first term, they were incredibly inaccurate, allowing their opponents to creep their way back into the contest after kicking just 1.7 for the quarter.
St Mary’s slowly chewed away at the deficit, with a Zane Costello goal on the siren making it three goals for his side for the term but more importantly, a 20-point game at the main break.
However, as the second half commenced, it was clear that Eltham weren’t going to have another inaccurate quarter.
Daniel Owen was prolific in the front half, and helped the Panthers produce a seven-goal to one third term, blowing the margin right out to 53 points.
Eltham were outrunning the Burra and looked as if they were more determined to win the ball, allowing them to have all the momentum at three quarter time.
Despite facing a heavy deficit, Fabian Carelli’s men found the opening two goals of the final term, courtesy of Lachlan Read and Zane Costello, in what looked to be the start of a hopeful late surge.
But the Panthers remained focused on the task ahead, going on a burst of their own, kicking six unanswered goals to finish 78-point victors in a terrific display.