EAGLEHAWK has received a timely injection of confidence on the eve of the Bendigo Football League finals after smashing South Bendigo by 103 points at Canterbury Park.
Having lost their previous three games, the Hawks blew the bitterly disappointing Bloods away 22.17 (149) to 7.4 (46) on Saturday in what was a game where the winner would finish in the top three.
However, the Bloods didn’t turn up with the fierce intensity that such a high stakes game demanded and paid the hefty price of the loss ending their season as they slid from fourth to sixth to miss the finals
While it’s season over for the Bloods, the Hawks will now set their sights on this Sunday’s qualifying final against Golden Square with their confidence restored on the back of Saturday’s clinical performance.
“It was really pleasing today that all the things we spoke about during the week fell into place,” Eaglehawk coach Luke Monaghan said.
“With what was on the line today, we treated it as a final, and if we didn’t come to play there was a chance our season could have been over.
“We’ve now finished second on the ladder after people may have started to write us off, and they were probably justified in our performances over the past three weeks.
“In saying that, we’ve had many opportunities over the past three weeks to be in games, but we didn’t take them.”
For the second time this season, South Bendigo was uncompetitive against Eaglehawk, with Saturday’s 103-point result following the Hawks’ 82-point belting of the Bloods at the QEO in round nine.
The Hawks put the Bloods to the sword early as they picked up from where they left off in the last quarter against Gisborne the previous week.
The Hawks raced to a 33-point lead at quarter-time, and by half-time had held the Bloods to just one goal as they increased their advantage to 65 points, 11.8 to 1.3.
Lively half-forward Luke Milroy and Kain Robins kicked five goals each for the Hawks, while Matt Gretgrix slotted four and Linton Jacobs relished his return to the forward line with three, including a beauty from the boundary during the third term.
The Hawks’ defence was back to its stingy best, while the midfield, led superbly by veteran Lucas Matthews and another impressive performance from youngster Kevin Archbold, provided constant forward 50 supply.
The only injury concern out of the game for the Hawks was a corkie to full-back Tim Hill.
South Bendigo full-forward Justin Maddern kicked four of the Bloods’ seven goals to end the season as the BFL’s leading goalkicker with 67.
Maddern is the first player since Kangaroo Flat’s David Lancaster in 1997 to win the Ron Best Medal in a side that missed the finals.
South Bendigo dropping out of the top five caps a dramatic slide for the Bloods, who were on top of the ladder at the halfway mark of the season.
The lacklustre Bloods, whose inability to hit targets was again a glaring downfall on Saturday, will miss the finals for the first time since 2004, while Rick Coburn’s seven-year tenure as coach has ended.
“We were embarrassed today... Eaglehawk was very good and we were very ordinary,” said Coburn, who coached the Bloods to 94 wins in his 136 games at the helm.
“They had taken control of the game after 10 minutes and from there kept on piling on the goals.
“We didn’t have any answers and in the end, don’t deserve to play finals.”
The Bloods’ best on Saturday included captain Brady Childs through the midfield, ruckman Daniel Nalder, youngster Wil Chalmers and Joel Swatton, who worked hard to contain the influence of Hawks’ star Brodie Filo when moved on to him.
● Match statistics:
Centre clearances: Eaglehawk 21; South Bendigo 13.
Inside 50s: Eaglehawk 58; South Bendigo 33.
Stoppages: Eaglehawk 28; South Bendigo 27.