BY NATHAN DOLE
AN Eaglehawk victory in Saturday’s grand final of the Harmac Homes-backed reserves competition would cap a near-perfect run in this season’s Bendigo Bank Bendigo FNL action.
The Darcy Richards-coached Hawks roll into the season decider on an 18-1 record for the clash at Queen Elizabeth Oval from 11.50am.
Only team to beat Eaglehawk in the home-and-away series was grand final opponent, Sandhurst.
The Jake McLean-coached Dragons did so when these clubs met in the 18th round at the QEO.
On that day it was the maroon and blue which marked a 44-24 victory.
It’s a massive grand final day for McLean as he will coach Sandhurst ‘twos’ and then play in the senior match.
A closely-fought reserves contest in the ninth round ended in a 57-50 result for Eaglehawk on its turf at Canterbury Park.
Stung by the round 18 loss, Eaglehawk had a week off courtesy of finishing the home-and-away series on top of the ladder.
The Hawks dominated the second half of the second semi clash with Sandhurst to win 74-22.
A 13-point lead at the start of the final quarter became 52 by the end as the Hawks slammed on 6.3 to nil in the last term.
Best for the Two Blues in that match were Zack Bulger, Aydan Hanley, Jack Daley and Blake McGregor.
The Dragons earned another shot at Eaglehawk by winning a thrilling preliminary final against Strathfieldsaye by five points.
Best for Sandhurst in a 50-45 win against Storm were Harrison Free, Isaac Carracher, Brodie Montague and Joel Wharton.
Since a reserves premiership in 2004, Eaglehawk has contested another four grand finals and been runner-up each time.
It was back-to-back reserves titles for the Borough in 2003 and ’04 as Luke Button and Devin Brown earned the R.F. Turner Medal as best on ground.
Another Turner medallist in Brodie Montague will be in action in this Saturday’s clash.
Montague starred as Sandhurst won the 2018 grand final.
Whether it be at the contest or roaming across half-back, Montague is a crucial cog in the Sandhurst line-up.
Key players for Eaglehawk include Ryan Wellington at full-forward, the experienced Jack Daley and Jacob Greenwood, and skilful Bailey Ilsley.
The Hawks’ line-up was also bolstered by the inclusion of key defender Oscar Madden.
Other players to watch for the Two Blues are Andrew Bennett, captain Rhys Foster, Tyler Eliades and Sam O’Shannessy.
The O’Farrell family links to Sandhurst FNC are long and strong.
In Saturday’s match the Dragons have Conor, Patrick and Sean O’Farrell chasing a premiership win.
The experience and skill of Joel Wharton is a huge plus for Sandhurst.
Sandhurst will also look for big games from the likes of Will Moran, Tom Calvert and Harrison Monk.
The surnames of Sexton and Walsh have featured in many Sandhurst teams.
On Saturday it will be Connor Sexton and Xavier Walsh in action for the maroon and blue.
Andrew Bennett, Harley Bourke, Zack Bulger, Jack Daley, Sam Dean, Liam Drummond (vice-captain), Tyler Eliades, Rhys Foster (captain), Jacob Greenwood, Aydan Hanley, Ethan Hanley, Jordy Holland, Bailey Ilsley, Jack Lawton, Oscar Madden, Sam O’Shannessy, Izak O’Sullivan, Corey Roberts, Mitchell Ronchieri, Mark Storey, Corey Webb, Ryan Wellington.
Coach: Darcy Richards.
Max Allgood, Tom Calvert, Isaac Carracher, Luke Crawford, Harrison Free, Hayden Gillingham, Jack Keating, Martin Leyden, Tim Long, Brodie Montague, Harrison Monk, Will Moran, Jacob Nihill, Conor O’Farrell, Patrick O’Farrell, Sean O’Farrell, Charlie Robinson, Campbell Rowland, Connor Sexton, Joel Wharton, Xavier Walsh, Jake Wilkinson, Jed Zimmer, Lachlan Zimmer.
Coach: Jake McLean.