By Jackson Russell
Whittlesea will return to the top tier of the Northern Football Netball League in 2020 after winning the division two premiership.
A strong final term gave the Eagles a 27-point win over Banyule in front of a packed crowd at Preston City Oval on Saturday afternoon.
Whittlesea coach Blair Harvey said he couldn’t be prouder of his playing group.
“These boys have worked their butts off all year. We’re a very young side, we’ve got 14 guys under 23 and six still eligible to play under 19s so it’s really exciting going forward to hit division one with a youthful side,” he said.
The Eagles started well in a tight first term, with Clancy Bland kicking the opening goal two minutes into the first term.
Fifteen minutes of intense footy passed with Whittlesea all over Banyule before Max Dyson barely got a bootlace on the ball in the goal square for Whittlesea’s second to give the Eagles a 13-point lead at quarter time.
Best on ground medal winner Xavier Dimasi put his name on the scoresheet less than two minutes into the second term, and was all over the football all day, before Banyule broke its drought two minutes later.
Harvey said Dimasi had been a leader for the club all year.
“Xavier’s been a true leader of the football club for this year. He leads by example so he’s got his reward by getting the best on ground medal,” he said.
Jaron Murphy kicked the first of his four goals at the 10-minute mark of the second as Whittlesea held a 14-point lead at half-time.
Banyule could’ve been closer going into the sheds if it wasn’t for Brody Bell’s smother late in the second term when the Bears had a shot from point-blank range.
Accuracy in front of a goal was a problem for both sides throughout the day as the Eagles and Bears both had opportunities to kick away at different points.
Banyule opened the scoring in the second half, closing the gap to nine points before Jaron Murphy scored an absolute belter, taking three bounces down the wing and slotting a goal from 35 metres.
Harvey said Murphy was one of the Eagles’ best on the day.
“We knew Jaron would get heavily tagged and to his credit, there’s no one in division one, two or three that can run with Jaron so he’s a marvel, and I’m glad he’s playing for us and no one else,” he said.
It took 20 minutes but the Bears replied right on the three-quarter time siren to trail by 10 points at the final change.
As the pace picked up in the final term, Banyule’s Michael Italia closed the gap to four points three minutes in before Whittlesea’s Max Dyson replied just a few minutes later.
Italia kicked his second goal from long range at the 14-minute mark to bring the Bears to within three points.
This was when all the extra kilometres Whittlesea coach Blair Harvey put into his side on the track throughout the year really started to pay off.
Jaron Murphy got things rolling for the Eagles with his third goal after getting his arms chopped.
Bland followed up less than two minutes later as the Whittlesea faithful erupted into “Eagles” chants.
Murphy kicked his fourth on the back of a beautiful, juggling one-handed mark to give the Eagles some room to breathe.
As the Whittlesea players started to enjoy the last quarter, captain Riley Dyson fittingly kicked the sealer on the back of a great goal assist from Murphy.
Xavier Dimasi was named best on ground – he dominated the ball through the middle and set up the Eagles forwards at every opportunity.
Dimasi said it was a huge effort from the Eagles to stand up after some roadblocks earlier in the season.
“Ever since midway through the year when we had our backs up against the wall, we really took a forward step and stood up to the challenge,” he said.
Dimasi said the coach had ran the players hard mid-year, and it had paid off in the grand final.
“There’s nothing better than just enjoying it with everyone from the club and we’re back up where we belong now and it’s just fantastic,” he said.
Banyule 6.11 (47) def by Whittlesea 10.14 (74)
Goals: M. Italia 2, M. Johnston, B. Embleton, R. Blackmore-Moore, J. Kroussoratis. Best: D. McDonald, R. Blackmore-Moore, R. Loton, J. Mitchell, B. Embleton , B. Stanton.
Goals: J. Murphy 4, M. Dyson 2,C. Bland 2, R. Dyson, X. Dimasi. Best: X. Dimasi, J. Murphy, B. Bell, M. Andrews, Z. Molloy, N. Stefanile.