EAGLEHAWK has ended its run of Bendigo Amateur Soccer League men's division one grand final bad luck with a 2-1 victory over Strathdale at Beischer Park on Sunday.
The fearless Hawks, brilliantly led by player of the match Nathan Hamblin, downed a determined Blues on their home pitch, denying them a championship-grand final double.
A scintillating goal from a free-kick by Keegan Smyth midway through the second half put the Hawks ahead 2-1 and they were able to defend stoutly for the rest of the contest to claim a stirring and hard-fought victory.
Despite winning a three-peat of championships from 2016-18, Eaglehawk had lost the previous three grand finals.
Skipper Brent Hamblin praised his team-mates resilience after being fiercely challenged throughout a physical contest.
"We've been known around the competition for the last couple of years for being chokers. We get to finals after winning the championship .... three years in a row ... but we can't quite get the job done," he said.
"To have a full squad today really showed.
"We played really well in that first 15 minutes, we knew they'd come out strong and they are fit and quick.
"We got the early goal, which was a bonus, and then probably took out foot off the pedal a bit and let them back in the game. They really dominated that last 20 minutes of the first half.
"Obviously playing with the breeze in the second half we were able to play the ball to feed a bit more."
Hamblin said a grand final atoned for a controversial finish to the championship season for the Hawks, who finished two points behind the Blues in the title race.
A second-half goal for Smyth, which broke a 1-all deadlock, was the silver lining on a frustrating season for the Hawks star, who was playing just his third match of the season due to injuries.
"It was nice to score from a free-kick, I don't think I had much play for the rest of the game, but a winner is always nice," Smyth said.
"I was keen to test the keeper - we were a bit under the pump at the time.
"We knew it was going to be a tough game against Strath. In fairness to them, anyone watching the game could see they had a lot more of the ball, and the way they were passing the ball they were on top for a majority of the game.
"But we knew if we just kept pressing them that we were going to get our chances and we needed to take them.
"To get into this grand final we had a few boys come in and do a job and today again everybody just played their role."
Smyth said he was indebted to his team-mates for allowing him to play after his minimal role throughout the season.
The win was the Hawks' first this season against the Blues, after losing their round 12 meeting 3-2 and drawing their round 19 contest nil-all.
That loss was their only one for the season, indicating just how tight things were at the top of the table throughout the season.
Strathdale skipper Dean Vlaeminck said he was proud of his players' grand final effort and felt a loss took no gloss of a championship-winning season for the Blues.
"The championship is what we play for and want and that was our goal for the season," he said
"We gave it our best shot, credit to our boys they put up a great fight.
"We created chances right up to the last minute, but full credit to Eaglehawk they played better today. We'll bounce back.
"We should have put a few chances away but we didn't."
The Blues were able to bounce back from an early deficit through a goal to Ethan Hunter, to level the scores at 1-1 before half time.
Young goalkeeper Thomas Morrison won praise from his skipper for a polished performance in only his second senior match, while the ever-reliable Stephen Barrett was at his creative best throughout a tough battle.
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