Eltham’s senior men’s premiership drought came to an end in the MC Labour Division 2 Grand Final after they claimed a strong 41-point victory over Diamond Creek in the 2023 decider.

The Panthers were goalless in the opening term but turned into a powerful outfit from quarter time onwards, kicking 12 goals to five in the final three terms of the match to prevail 12.13 (85) to 6.8 (44).

It’s their 15th NFNL senior men’s premiership but their first since 2002, and after falling short in their last two deciders (2018 & 2022) Eltham looked like a side determined to not be on the wrong end of a Grand Final result this time around.

It was the second term that broke the game open in the Panthers favour. Not only did they keep Diamond Creek scoreless, but they piled on five unanswered goals of their own to give themselves and advantage that would never headed by the minor premiers.

It was almost the parallel performance to their second quarter against the Creekers in the second semi-final, and as it proved to be, today’s effort garnered the same impact on the game as that term did two weeks prior.

Three of those five majors came from Finnbar Maley. He finished with six goals for the afternoon, a career-high, and was a scintillating presence inside forward 50. His high-flying traits and forward craft always kept the usually resolute Creekers defence on their toes, and he would go on to win a deserving best on ground medallion.

Challenging him for that title was Tom Goodwin who was an exceptional force in the ruck and often gave his midfielders first-use in stoppages. While Diamond Creek switched between Nicholas Barro and Jai Norman in the role, Goodwin did a lot of the rucking himself, with his consistent second efforts and hard tackling having a major influence on the contest.

Declan Ayres, Joshua Merkel and Jackson Weatherald all had positive contributions in the defensive half while the work rate of Jesse Donaldson and Daniel Horsfield were rewarded with appearances in their side’s best.

Ewan MacPherson was arguably the best player on the ground at quarter time. Returning from VFL duties at Footscray, he was energetic in midfield, and was able to kick a brilliant opening goal of the match.

Teammate Nathan Searl was Diamond Creek’s most consistent performer for the afternoon, with his run and dash off half back always a highlight, while Mitch Tobin had positive moments in what was his first appearance at Preston City Oval since his 2019 premiership win with West Preston-Lakeside.

An almost perfect day weather wise greeted the two sides, however the first quarter was anything but, with 1.7 kicked between both teams in the term.

It was a heavily contested quarter, and while they had the wind to their advantage throughout the term, the Creekers could only manage one goal for their efforts, thanks to MacPherson.

Eltham would pounce on their opportunity with the wind in quarter two, kicking five straight majors.

Maley’s impressive marking ability was on show in the term and could’ve had more than three majors to the half had it not been for inaccuracy.

Darcy Vallance produced one of the goals of the game with his brilliant running goal from 45-metres out, capping off a dominant term for Tim Bongetti’s side.

After a scoreless quarter, Diamond Creek were desperate to use the wind to their advantage and get back into the game.

But Maley would kick the first goal of the second half to really put the scoreboard pressure on the Creekers. They would end up winning the term two goals to one but trailing by 23 points at three quarter time and going against the breeze in the final stanza, the minor premiers would need a miracle to finish the match as premiers.

It didn’t come, as after a slow start to the final quarter, Eltham slotted three consecutive goals to seal the premiership triumph. Maley would find goals five and six throughout the term while Jesse Donaldson produced the highlight of the match, winning the ball back for his side before kicking a wonder goal with the outside of the boot from right on the boundary line.

Consolation goals from Diamond Creek didn’t ruin the mood of the Panthers who finished with six majors for the term and claim a deserving premiership.