Eltham have made their second consecutive MC Labour Division 2 grand final after producing a resounding 25-point victory over Diamond Creek in the second semi-final at Epping Recreation Reserve.
It was a triumphant day for the Panthers, who delivered Andrew Tranquilli’s men their first loss since Round 5 and became the first team to score 10-goals against the Creekers this season.
Eltham had two bursts throughout the game that proved to be the difference in the match, first kicking six straight goals between the end of the first and the start of the second quarter before producing four unanswered majors in the last term to finish 10.11 (71) to 7.4 (46) victors.
Jason McCormick led the charge with five goals, including three in the final term to ensure victory for his team. His presence inside 50 was electric, ending the day with nine scoring shots.
Finnbar Maley also continued his stellar form, kicking two majors and forming a damaging ruck partnership alongside Thomas Goodwin.
The clearance work of Tarwan Rennie and Jacob Booth sparked passages of dominance for the Creekers, but the composed Eltham defensive line of Harvey Furlong, Declan Ayres and Lane Sinclair helped keep Diamond Creek goalless for two quarters.
Tackling pressure and big hits were the tale of the first term, and it took 14-minutes before Jacob Booth delivered the game with its first major.
Another goal moments later from Robby Noble alluded to another unstoppable Creekers performance, but Eltham determinedly fought their way back.
Tim Bongetti’s physicality and Jason McCormick’s flair created headaches for the usually resolute Diamond Creek defence.
Their two goals locked the game at 15-points apiece at the quarter-time break.
With the match appearing to be a gruelling arm wrestle between two evenly matched opponents, Bongetti inspired his men to play their most scintillating quarter of football this year.
Their ferocious tackling game style placed mental and physical pressure on Diamond Creek, forcing them to make uncharacteristic errors that have rarely been sighted this season.
McCormick goaled within the opening minute and Finnbar Maley soon followed suit with his own two majors. In identical fashion, he twice took contested marks between lunging Diamond Creek defenders.
The relentless attacking onslaught produced 10-scoring shots for the Panthers, whilst keeping the Creekers scoreless.
However, as Eltham’s dominance only translated to four goals, the door was left ajar for a comeback, despite a 30-point margin at half time.
Andrew Tranquilli’s men sensed this and appeared to be a new team throughout the third quarter.
Jacob Booth ignited this belief for the minor premiers, with his momentum changing snap proving to be a pivotal moment in the game.
Tyler Barnes was one of those who had an extra spring in his step. He managed to convert a shot from outside 50, despite falling short from a similar range in the first term.
Ryan Pingree then delivered the same result from an equally difficult opportunity, and moments later Daniel Jarvis reduced the margin back to just one kick within 11-minutes of the term.
The Creekers threatened to regain the lead, but as Eltham weathered the storm, the Panthers clung on to a solitary one-point lead at the final interval.
With a grand final spot up for grabs, the opening minutes prompted caution from both teams and the game begged for a player to stand up.
Jason McCormick did just that.
Three clutch goals, including a frenetic snap and a composed set shot were a part of his fourth quarter arsenal.
The 19-year old’s effort inspired Eltham to outwork a tiring Diamond Creek outfit, again taking control of the clearances which had shifted all match.
Jubilant scenes ensued when James Minahan goaled in time-on, quashing any conversation of a late comeback.
The Panthers are now just a win away from their first senior men’s premiership since 2002, and will need to beat either South Morang, St Mary’s or Diamond Creek in two-weeks’ time to gain promotion to Division 1.