FAR less turnovers will be crucial for Eaglehawk’s chances of beating Strathfieldsaye Storm in the Bendigo Bank Bendigo Football Netball League’s senior footy grand final on Saturday.
For the third year running it’s the Hawks and Storm vying for the Bendigo Advertiser premiership cup at Queen Elizabeth Oval.
The ledger is at one-all as Eaglehawk chases back-to-back premierships, a feat it most recently achieved in 2007 and ’08.
Just two weeks ago, Eaglehawk was on the end of a 12-goal thumping from Strathfieldsaye in the second semi-final played under the QEO lights.
Hawks’ coach Travis Matheson said it was a tough lesson, but he is confident the team can win the match which matters most.
“We have to be a lot cleaner when we have the footy,” Matheson said.
“In the semi we won a fair amount of stoppages, plenty of the footy and almost as many inside 50 metres, but just butchered the ball.
“We have to be clean by foot and hand.”
Matheson said being able to win such a hard-fought preliminary final against Gisborne was a huge lift for the Borough’s confidence and momentum.
“We were thrashed by Storm in the semi, but had played really well for 16 or 17 games.”
A great run by Eaglehawk in the home and away series included a three-goal victory at home against Strathfieldsaye at Canterbury Park in the 10th round.
“There’s been a lot of focus on our last encounter with them, but we are the only team to have beaten Storm this season.”
Any doubts about a desire to compete after the second semi were quashed in a dramatic finish to the preliminary final which the Hawks won by four points.
Eaglehawk’s team which tackled Storm in the second semi included 15 players from last season’s grand final-winning line-up.
Those who did not play Strathfieldsaye on that one day in September in 2018, but did so two weeks ago were Justin Bateson, Brodie Filo, Ryan Gillingham, Clayton Holmes, Jarryd Pertzel, Ben Thompson and Richard Tibbett.
The Hawks’ match committee also faced some difficult calls on whether to make changes for this grand final.
An arm injury has kept Sam Harper on the sidelines the past two matches.
Key defender Tim Hill injured a quad in the second semi and did not play Gisborne last Saturday.
Oscar Madden starred in defence in the 10th round and was back in action last week after missing the semi because of injury.
The Hawks also brought in experienced defender Tyler Miles for the preliminary final.
“At this stage every player has put their hand up to play,” said Matheson.
“Sam and Tim will face some strenuous tests at training.”
Being the underdog is a tag that Matheson, the players and Eaglehawk fans are not concerned about.
The Hawks have the experience of Brodie Collins, Jesse Collins and Ben McPhee to take on Storm’s onballers, the marking power of Shaun Knott, Sean Williams and Cameron McGlashan in attack.
There are many talented youngsters lining up for the Two Blues who have been in hot form all season.
Players to watch include Gedd Hommelhoff from a wing or in attack, Riley Saunders near goal, and the versatile Joel Mullen.
“They are not fazed by much,” said the coach.
Among the many challenges for Eaglehawk will be limiting the supply to Storm’s star-studded forward line.
“The pressure we put on Storm has to be really high for all of the match.
“Allow them plenty of time and space and they can score really quickly.”
As a player or coach, Matheson has racked up many grand final appearances, mostly with Kerang.
In his first year coaching at Eaglehawk, Matheson said the club had worked extremely hard for another crack at a premiership.
“Every grand final is nerve-racking, and special, no matter how many you have been in.”