Author : James Strebinos
Eltham coach Paul King says his side is ready to produce its best football ahead of the A Plus Labour Solutions Division 2 second semi final against Lower Plenty.
The Panthers finished the home and away season in first place on the ladder, with a 16-2 record. That included a 15-game winning streak to start the campaign.
Despite a form slump which resulted in losses in Round 16 and 17, Eltham was a convincing winner in the final home and away game against Epping and is now full of confidence heading into the finals.
“We had a couple of rough weeks where we didn’t play particularly well but I thought we played well on the weekend and I think the boys are ready for the finals,” King told NFNL.org.au.
“We are fairly fit and ready to go so I’m sure the boys are taking some confidence.
“You don’t win 16 games throughout the year and not be ready for the finals, so we will be ready to go come Saturday.”
Eltham is set to regain co-captain Bradyn Taglieri from injury, while Michael Still is also in the frame to return.
Taglieri was in great form early in the year but hasn’t played since Round 10, while Still has booted 29 goals in just seven appearances.
“We will get captain Brayden Taglieri back and Michael Still is a chance, so we will see how he progresses before we make a decision,” King confirmed.
Eltham has won both matches against Lower Plenty this year, although the most recent clash in Round 12 was decided by just eight points.
King said Lower Plenty could not be taken lightly.
“I think their top end, as in their ruckman and on-ballers and also guys like Darcy Barden who plays up forward, are very strong,” he said.
“They have a pretty good mix and we will have to watch out for Tom Keys and Patty Flynn, who we will have to try and match up on well.
“They have a good mix of small forwards who know how to kick goals.
“We just need to make sure we play our style of footy and move the ball quickly, hit our targets and hopefully the bigger ground will suit us.”
Preparations have been ramped up this week by adding an extra skills session to make sure players are switched on from the first bounce.
“We have an extra session on Wednesday to sharpen on some skills and some set plays and all that sort of stuff,” King said.
“We already started with a recovery on Sunday and we will also be training as usual on Tuesday and Thursday.”
Having won the minor premiership, King said he is not surprised his side is the hunted heading into this year’s finals series.
“It was noticeable in the second half of the year that sides were really trying to hunt us down,” he said.
“Obviously finishing on top of the ladder means everyone’s coming for us.
“The premiership is wide open and we know every other side has different strengths but we will back ourselves.”
King said he was pleased with the output of a number of the club’s recruits, but also believed many younger guys who have stepped up at the right time of the year.
“Obviously Brent Macaffer has been very impressive all year, but Bronson Glasgow has turned it on the last couple of weeks, having just come out of under-19s,” he said.
“Getting Tim Currie back from overseas has helped us structurally and young Ben Montanaro has also been excellent lately.”