MACLEOD won through to its first Division 1 grand final since 1971 after overrunning Eltham by 39 points in a fierce preliminary final at Preston City Oval.
The Roos trailed by 33 points midway through the opening term after a Matthew Williamson-led Panther blitz.
However, Macleod gradually chipped away at the deficit before slamming through nine of the last ten goals to skip away to a 17.12 (114) to 11.9 (75) victory.
Macleod’s returning quartet all played crucial roles in its win, particularly small forward Nick Lynch.
Lynch kicked two goals against the breeze in the shadows of three quarter time to give Macleod momentum leading into the last quarter, of which Reid Brandt (four last-quarter goals) and Lucas Hobbs (two) took full advantage.
Brandt and Hobbs finished with five and four goals respectively, with Hobbs continuing his stunning form through midfield.
Jack Bianchin’s run and drive off the half-back line proved critical in Macleod’s comeback effort, whilst Hayden Seivers and Justin White were also influential across the back half.
Billy Glasgow was a vital cog in Eltham’s midfield, whilst Williamson (four goals) and Eamon Gilbert – who held Cathal Corr goalless – also impressed.
During the pivotal third term, Eltham was left short on the bench after Lewis Glasgow did not return to the field after injuring his knee following a Liam Brandt tackle.
Glasgow was added to an injury list that already contained co-captain Josh Merkel and Brendan Ryan – who both succumbed to hamstring injuries.
Five Panther goals in the opening 15 minutes of the game left Macleod’s premiership dreams in tatters.
Eltham’s spread into space was too much for the Roos, with Anthony Di Paolo’s presence in the ruck allowing Eltham to dominate stoppages and get the ball in quick to the likes of Williamson and James Kroussoratis.
Macleod was fumbly and struggled to retain possession of the ball, with its first goal not coming until the 27th minute mark of the term – where Reid Brandt converted after an off the ball free kick.
Tensions ran high after the quarter time siren, with a fracas developing which left both sides down rotations after five players saw yellow cards.
The scuffle sparked Macleod into action, with two goals in the opening two minutes of the second quarter to Patrick Martin and Matthew Yarwood cutting the margin to 11 points.
After a blistering start to the match, the game stagnated thereafter before a goal to Bianchin on the stroke of half time left Macleod nine points in arrears.
The third term was crucial for Macleod, as it defended stoutly against the breeze to hold Eltham to just three goals, whilst kicking five of its own.
Eltham’s run slowed significantly, whilst it shot itself in the foot with its inaccuracy – leaving the door ajar for Macleod.
With Jack Langford thrown into the ruck to combat Di Paolo, Williamson and Jamie Smith, the Roos traded goals with the Panthers before Lynch’s late-quarter cameo set Macleod up for its last-quarter procession and its ticket to the grand final.
Best Players: B. Glasgow, E. Gilbert, M. Williamson, J. Lorey, J. Kroussoratis, A. Di Paolo
We simply did not take advantage of the wind when we had it. Nothcote Park kicking 9 goals with the assistance to our 5 told in the end.
Best Players: A. Burns, B. O”Sullivan, K. O”Sullivan, J. Lorey, J. Dell, L. Findlay