By Jackson Russell
Whittlesea narrowly missed out on booking their ticket to the Northern Football Netball League grand final after a seven-point semi-final loss to Banyule at Epping Recreation Reserve on Saturday.
The Eagles were in front until the 17-minute mark of the final term when Banyule struck twice to take the win.
Whittlesea coach Blair Harvey said while the loss was disappointing, he couldn’t fault anyone’s effort.
“They all had a crack but we just weren’t able to get on the right side of it basically,” he said.
“Our best footy is more than good enough. It’s just getting that consistency. We didn’t start great, we missed some shots early but it was a windy day and you’ve got to take your chances.
“Our clearance work in the middle can improve but the boys were really good all day. Both teams went at it, it was very defensive at all and it could’ve gone either way really.”
Banyule started strong, kicking the first two goals of the game before Clancy Bland kicked the first of his two in late in the first term as Whittlesea trailed by 10 points at quarter time.
The Bears extended their lead to 17 points before goals to Eagles Xavier Dimasi and Jaron Murphy closed the margin to a goal midway through the second term.
Banyule responded in-kind until Murphy’s second for the day with less than a minute left in the first half brought the margin back to seven points at half-time.
Whittlesea levelled the scores seven minutes into the third term before back-to-back Banyule goals opened the lead back up to 13 points.
Three goals in five minutes saw Whittlesea take their first lead of the match. It only lasted two minutes as Banyule responded with two more before Whittlesea’s Riley Dyson goaled at the 37-minute mark as the Eagles trailed by two points at three-quarter time.
Whittlesea opened the scoring in a tight final term at the 16-minute mark with Blake Watson’s second goal of the day and lead by four points before Banyule struck 30 seconds later to retake the lead.
The Bears held onto the lead with a late goal sealing the win.
Whittlesea will now take on Eltham in a preliminary final at Epping on Saturday after the Panthers’ 18-point win over Thomastown with the winner facing Banyule in the decided on September 14.
Harvey said Eagles key forward Sam Indian will return from a hamstring injury while Curtis Taplin should be right to play after dislocating his knee.
“Curtis dislocated his knee but he got it straight back in and it should be fine. Sam’s a massive inclusion for us. He was close last week but we knew we had the double chance so we erred on the side of caution to get him right for either the grand final or preliminary final,” he said.
“We’re just concentrating on getting our skill level right and working hard. Not much changes from last week to this week, it’s just about fine-tuning and making sure everyone’s bodies are right, basically.”
Banyule 11.9 (75) d Whittlesea 10.8 (68)
Goals: J. Kroussoratis 4, A. Barclay, M. Johnston, R. Loton, S. Gumbleton, R. Blackmore-Moore, A. Cabdi, L. Giles, Best: D. Kelly, T. Martin, J. Kroussoratis, R. Blackmore-Moore,
J. Langford, A. Barclay.
Goals: J. Murphy 2, B. Watson 2, C. Bland 2, M. Andrews, R. Dyson, X. Dimasi, M. Atta. Best: J. Murphy, B. Bell, P. Higgins, R. Carter, N. Stefanile, X. Dimasi.
By Jackson Russell