On a very wet Friday, the Panther Vets arrived at Bayswater Oval to find it in pristine condition. With its bright lights and lush green surface – and ignoring the fact there were cheap snags, no crowd and no tv cameras – it felt like the big time.
At one win a piece from the opening two rounds, it promised to be a good contest. But the Panther Vets had other ideas. The midfield of Mouse, Riddles, Lora and Stricko won every clearance, peppering the forward line with opportunities all night. The only thing keeping Bayswater in the game was Eltham’s woeful kicking at goal.
Big Burnsy is the pivotal factor behind Eltham’s midfield dominance. He’s a ginger-bearded, laconic, modest version of Max Gawn. SR, the oldest man in the side, studies Burnsy to unravel the mystery of how he covers so much ground at snail speed. Figures that could be a useful trick.
The backline was impenetrable all night, keeping the opposition goalless, despite missing regulars Seddo, Cocker, Browny, Fitzy and Nicko, who was masquerading as a forward. Killa was the general, mopping-up everything and providing great structure. As the game wore on, the fight went out of Bayswater and the Panther backline went on light duties.
Roaming around up forward causing problems for Bayswater all night was Brett Maylin. He resembles Doc Wheildon, with his combination of skill, power, aggression and maverick character. He’s a beautiful kick and enjoys dishing off Dusty Martin “don’t argues” long after he’s disposed of the ball.
Cruising around beside him is the smooth-moving, stealth-like Coathy. He glides silently in straight lines and then emerges like a submarine to cause maximum damage with minimum effort, then submerges again without a ripple.
At half time, Shark was at his best. He has a unique way of combining educational, constructive personal feedback with team rules. Such as, “Paddy, don’t kick it. … because you haven’t learnt how to kick it yet. So, don’t!” “Belch, know your limits .. don’t get the ball, lay a shepherd”. “Clangers … ffs”. Even the great Lora wasn’t spared.
Irish Paddy took the sledge with good grace, responding earnestly, “right then lads, I’ll fookin take ‘em down, and you can all do the fooking kicking”. Belch responded politely and respectfully (“yes Coach, yep, no worries Coach, fair enough Coach”), then proceeded to amass a swag of contested possessions in the second half and duly take out BOG with the six can award.
Overall, it was a great team effort by all and a convincing and enjoyable win by an undermanned Eltham, played in great spirit by both teams.