STRATHFIELDSAYE jumped out of the blocks strongly, but had to withstand a surging Eaglehawk late to win Saturday's BFNL grand final by 14 points at the QEO.
In the third consecutive grand final meeting between the two clubs, chapter three of the trilogy was the closest and an enthralling contest that ended in a 14.10 (94) to 10.20 (80) victory for the Storm, who captured their fourth senior premiership in just their 11th season.
While the Hawks spent the entire game trailing after Storm coach Troy Coates kicked the opening goal of the match, much like 2017 when they blew a 20-point three quarter-time lead, Eaglehawk will be left to ponder what could have been.
The Hawks had six more scoring shots (30-24) and 10 more inside 50s (60-50) against a Storm side that was a rotation down from early in the match after gun on-baller Sam Heavyside suffered an injury to his AC joint.
But the Hawks were made to pay for their missed chances - their 4.9 with the wind during the second quarter particularly costly - as the Storm put the finishing touch to a 19-1 season of dominance.
The two best-on-ground medals were won by the Storm duo of Bryce Curnow and captain Kallen Geary.
Nalder medallist Curnow showed why he's one of the most valuable swingmen in the competition playing roles both forward and back.
Curnow started the game forward and would later kick a third-quarter goal with a soccer kick off the ground, but it was at the defensive end where he was a thorn in the side of the Hawks with his intercept marking.
Skipper Geary was electric through the middle for the Storm with an inspirational leader's game - he was a running machine and the sight of him burning off an Eaglehawk opponent with his pace and using the ball with his trademark class was regular throughout.
Geary - in a dream swansong given he has announced his retirement - was rewarded for his stellar game with the AFL Victoria Medal to go along with the Nalder Medal he earned against the Hawks in 2017.
While Curnow and Geary were both outstanding for the Storm, it was Harry Conway who nailed the goal that knocked the wind out of the Hawks' sails in the final quarter.
Having started the last quarter 35 points in arrears, the Hawks refused to wilt and with momentum on their side, closed to within 10 points after a fine crumbing goal from Ben McPhee.
At that stage the Hawks had kicked 4.2 to 0.1 over the first 15 minutes of the final quarter and the Storm defence was under the pump, while the passionate Borough faithful down the Barnard Street end were in full voice, willing their side on.
What had been an 86-51 lead for the Storm at three quarter-time had now been whittled back to 87-77 by the surging Hawks, the season's best fourth-quarter team.
However, with the game threatening to slip away from the Storm, Conway delivered.
Having taken a strong contested mark from a Josh Formosa pass 40m out on the swimming pool flank, Conway went back and kicked the most important of his 15 career goals for the Storm.
Conways's set-shot pushed the Storm's advantage to 16 points at the 17-minute mark and would be the final goal of the match.
Earlier, the Storm had the aid of a strong breeze to the city end and used it to kick the first four goals of the game through Coates (two), Hunter Lawrence and Hugh Robertson.
Having started on the interchange, Coates was lively inside forward 50 in the first term with three shots at goal for a return of 2.1.
Coates could have had a five-goal grand final haul, but finished with 3.3.
The Hawks' defence had been under immense pressure in the first term, but given Strathfieldsaye's 18 inside-50s they had done well to keep the Storm's damage to just four goals.
Facing a 25-point deficit at quarter-time as the Storm led 4.4 to 0.3, it's the second quarter that the Hawks will look back on as an opportunity blown.
With the majority of play in the Hawks' front half during the second quarter, they failed to capitalise on their chances with a return of 4.9.
Of those nine behinds, four were rushed, while the strength of the breeze to the city end was highlighted when Riley McIvor launched a kick from the defensive side of the centre circle that rolled through for a behind.
At one stage the Hawks had 4.5 on the board after the hard-working Jesse Collins broke through a pack and goaled, but Eaglehawk's last seven scores of the second term were all behinds.
The Hawks had been within three points at the 21-minute mark and like they would later do in the last quarter were pressing hard, but a pair of late goals to the Storm halted their momentum.
The first came when forward Lachlan Sharp used smart body work to mark a Kallen Geary kick and slot his first goal, which he followed up with a fist pump celebration in front of the large contingent of Eaglehawk supporters at the Barnard Street end.
And when Robertson was held without the ball and awarded a free-kick, his goal gave the Storm an 18-point advantage at half-time - albeit having had two less scoring shots than the Hawks, 8.6 to 4.12.
Robertson, matched up by the Hawks' Richard Tibbett, kicked three of the Storm's eight first-half goals, one of which in the first quarter was launched from inside the centre square.
The Hawks pressed hard early in the third quarter and having kicked two of the first three goals of the term through Shaun Knott and Riley Saunders were back within 12 points.
But then came one of the game's most defining periods that began when the Hawks' Gedd Hommelhoff marked a Jack Fallon pass 40m out.
Hommelhoff had the chance to bring the Hawks back within six points, but his set-shot skewed off the side of his boot and went out on the full.
After Bailey Henderson cleared the ball from the defensive 50 the Storm worked it to the wing, Hunter Lawrence pounced, handballed to a running Geary who from 25m out slotted the open goal.
It was a 12-point swing - instead of being back within six points, the Hawks again trailed by their half-time margin of 18 points and by the final change the Storm's lead was out to 35 points.
It was 21 scoring shots apiece at the final change, but the Storm led 13.8 to 6.15 and the Hawks were well and truly up against it given they had kicked just six goals to that stage and needed at least six in the final term against the best defence in the competition to be a chance.
They kicked the first four through Cam McGlashan, Knott (who finished with four), Sean Williams and McPhee to give themselves a massive chance given their momentum, before Conway put an end to their gallant charge.
Strathfieldsaye 4.4, 8.6, 13.8, 14.10 (94)
Eaglehawk 0.3, 4.12, 6.15, 10.20 (80)
GOALS - Strathfieldsaye: Hugh Robertson 3, Troy Coates 3, Lachlan Sharp 2, Harry Conway 1, Kallen Geary 1, Hunter Lawrence 1, William Wallace 1, Bryce Curnow 1, Bailey Henderson 1. Eaglehawk: Shaun Knott 4, Jesse Collins 1, Brodie Filo 1, Cameron McGlashan 1, Riley Saunders 1, Sean Williams 1,Ben McPhee 1.
BEST - Strathfieldsaye: Bryce Curnow, Kallen Geary, Joshua Formosa, Troy Coates, Kellan Smith, Bailey Henderson. Eaglehawk: Brodie Filo, Oscar Madden, Jesse Collins, Shaun Knott, Jack Fallon, Clayton Holmes.
GRAND FINAL IN A NUTSHELL
Just as they had done in their previous three meetings this year, the Storm jumped the Hawks. Strathfieldsaye kicked the only four goals of the first term with the breeze to the city end.
Inside 50s - Storm 18; Hawks 12.
Quarter-time - Storm leads 4.4 (28) to 0.3 (3).
Was a tale of missed opportunities for the Hawks. They kicked 4.9 from their 18 inside 50s; the Storm added 4.2 from their 11, including the last two goals of the quarter through Lachlan Sharp and Hugh Robertson to regain some breathing space after the Hawks had cut a 29-point deficit at the six-minute mark back to just three 12 minutes later.
Inside 50s - Storm 11; Hawks 18.
Half-time - Storm leads 8.6 (54) to 4.12 (36).
A five-goal to two term for the Storm, with four of their goals coming in the last 16 minutes of the quarter. That strong finish turned what had been a 12-point lead midway through the term into a 35-point buffer at the final change.
Inside 50s - Storm 13; Hawks 16.
Three quarter-time - Storm leads 13.8 (86) to 6.15 (51).
The Hawks booted four goals in the first 15 minutes and closed to within 10 points. But that would be as close as they got after a Harry Conway goal for the Storm snuffed out the Hawks' challenge.
Inside 50s - Storm 8; Hawks 14.
Final siren - Storm wins 14.10 (94) to 10.20 (80).
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