Ben Higgins, Diamond Valley Leader
August 25, 2019
Eltham warmed up for NFL Division 2 finals with a 44-point win over Epping on Saturday.
After finishing third the Panthers and will face Thomastown in a sudden-death elimination final this Sunday
The day was also a celebration of star forward Michael Still, who booted three goals to wrap up the league goalkicking award with 44 majors. It’s been a tumultuous month for Eltham after coach Paul King was removed on August 7 but the club has settled well behind interim co-coaches Brent Macaffer and Still.
Macaffer said the club was shaping up nicely and could regain a huge name for their finals campaign.
“We’re looking pretty good, I think half-way through the year we had 12-13 of our best players out,” he said. “We’ve been fortunate over the past month to start getting a couple back every week. We’re pretty much at full strength.
“We’re hoping Adam Oxley will be back, which would be great for us, but it makes selection that much tougher.”
In a quirk of the draw, the Panthers haven’t faced Thomastown since Round 8, when it claimed a 44-point win.
After a 47-point triumph in Round 1, Macaffer knows the Bears will be out for revenge at Whittlesea Showgrounds.
“They’ve played Whittlesea and Banyule, they’ve had a nice tune up, the last two weeks have pretty much been finals footy already,” he said
“They’re a big bodied, contested side with an elite midfield, elite ruckman and some very talented players at both ends of the ground.
“I think we’ve beaten them four times in a row now, so we know they’ll be coming for us.”
Macaffer was named best on ground against the Pingers, while brothers Brendan and Kyle O’Sullivan and Josh Merkel also impressed.
Daniel Jarvis matched Still’s three goals up front.
Macaffer hailed Still’s presence in the forward line after an injury-interrupted season.
“He’s a fantastic player and it’s unfortunate throughout his career he’s never been able to get his body right,” he said.
“He’s played 12 games this year but every time he’s out there he’s just a powerhouse and every week clubs are dropping two or three behind the ball to stop him.”