The top-four sides lock horns once again in Northern Football Netball League Division 2 football, with the final two places in the finals still up for grabs entering Round 16. Ben Pascuzzi reports.
The last time these two sides faced was back in Round 10, and it was the Panthers who prevailed by a solitary point, courtesy of a goal on the siren to Tom Rogers. The loss seems to have sparked the Bears, who have convincingly won four of their past five matches since.
With Tim Currie, Josh Merkel and Gavan Connelly all returning, Eltham scored its biggest win of the season last weekend against the Fitzroy Stars. The Panthers piled on 17 goals to one after half time in the 149-point victory.
Such was Eltham’s dominance, three players kicked in excess of five goals. Tim Currie was best afield with ten majors, while Brandon Freeman (7) and Daniel Jarvis (6) also had big days in front of goal.
Banyule produced a similarly dominant display in its 105-point win over old foe Epping at R.J. Brockwell Oval. The Bears were in awesome touch in what loomed as a danger game and improved their percentage from 125.95 to 134.87 with the big win.
The strong percentage means Banyule could potentially win just one of its final three matches to feature in the finals. Its final three opponents are Eltham, Fitzroy Stars and Lower Plenty.
James Kroussoratis and Bailey Jordan were unstoppable last week, with the forwards kicking five goals apiece, while the latter also dished off a number of others in close range. Mannon Johnston, Michael Italia and Riley Hogarth also excelled.
These two sides haven’t faced off since Round 1, where Lower kept the visitors goalless after half time in a 28-point win. Both sides come into this week’s encounter with plenty of momentum behind them.
Thomastown scored its third win from its past four matches with a runaway 59-point triumph over Watsonia last weekend. Leading by just 17-points at three quarter-time, Thomastown blew the game open in the last term with seven goals to one.
Ever reliable co-captains Matthew Vasilevski and Josh Beare led the way in their side’s ninth win of the year, with support from David Folino and Lukas Fellows. Anthony Capeci and Jacob Osei-Duro each kicked three goals.
Ben Chapman’s side sits a win and eight percent above fifth-placed Diamond Creek, ahead of a massive three games against Lower Plenty, Epping and the Creekers. Two wins in those matches would likely give the club its first finals berth since 2014.
Lower Plenty needs just one win from its final three matches to secure a double chance in the finals after scoring a 32-point win over Diamond Creek at Coventry Oval in Round 14.
Lower held the lead all day but hadn’t completely shaken their host heading into the last quarter – when leading by 17 points. But they held firm in the final term to outscore the Creekers by a further two goals.
Jack Wilkinson had a debut to remember and finished with a game-high four goals. He and Ben Paterson combined for seven of their side’s 13 goals, while Jordan Sacco and Corey Sleep also featured in Lower’s best players in its third win on the trot.
Watsonia hosts Epping at A.K. Lines Reserve. While the result won’t impact the finals race, both sides would love nothing more than to secure a win late in the season.
The Saints remain winless after losing to Thomastown last week. Once again, they were able to put together three good quarters, but were let down by a lapse in one term – which proved to be the last.
Spencer Briggs, Gary Ring and Cooper Gunn gave their all in last week’s defeat, while Allan Young was the sole multiple goal kicker for the Saints with his bag of three goals, two of which came in the first quarter.
A week after scoring its biggest win of the season, Epping was on the receiving end of its heaviest defeat of the campaign – smashed by Banyule in the club’s worst performance since returning to second division.
The Blues trailed by 36 points at quarter time and never recovered, as they could only muster the five goals in a disappointing outing. The performances of Leigh Judd, Reed Jepson, and Joel Carter were the only positive from the day.
The final match of the round sees the Fitzroy Stars play their final home game of the season when they host Diamond Creek at Sir Douglas Nicholls Oval.
Diamond Creek again finds itself outside the top-four after suffering its seventh loss of the season to Lower Plenty last week. Eleven wins could be required to play finals this year, meaning last year’s runners-up may have to win each of their final three games to play finals.
Following this week’s trip to Fitzroy, the Creekers host Eltham and then travel to Thomastown. They hold a 0-4 record against the Panthers and Bears this season.
Hugh Kavanagh was Diamond Creek’s best in last week’s loss to Lower Plenty, whilst Ryan Pingree and Jacob Booth, both capped strong performances with two goals apiece.
Fitzroy enters this week’s match off the back of consecutive triple-digit figure defeats. Last week’s loss to Eltham was not only their biggest losing margin of the year, it was also the biggest tally conceded this season (202).
Steven Stallion, Allan Norris and Jye Karpany never gave in, but the ladder-leader proved far too strong for their injury-depleted side.