GOLDEN Square and Eaglehawk won the weekend’s matches in the first round of the Bendigo Football League 2016 finals series.
Square downed Strathfieldsaye in Saturday night’s qualifying final while Eaglehawk turned in a powerful second half to dispose of Kyneton in Sunday’s sudden death elimination final.
Full-forward Matt Gretgrix, 33, showed why he’s one of the leading big occasion players in central Victoria by booting nine goals in Eaglehawk’s convincing 55-point win.
The G-Train fell just one major short of becoming the first BFL player since Gisborne’s Steven Reaper in 2003 to boot a double figure bag in a BFL final.
The knockout final was tight and close in the first half. There were six lead changes in the opening two quarters before Gretgrix closed out the first half with two goals, handing the Hawks a seven point lead at the main break: 9.3 to 8.2.
And even though Kyneton’s Mitch Scholard nailed his fourth goal of the day midway through the third term to reduce the leeway to 21 points, Eaglehawk’s lead ballooned out to 50-plus points as they finished with seven majors to two in the last term.
Significantly Eaglehawk’s inter-league defender Tyler Miles kept Kyneton small forward Ben Weightman goalless while Ben McPhee, centre half-forward Shaun Knott (3 goals) and half-forward Sam Harper (3 goals) were fine players for the Two Blues.
Midfielders Ethan Foreman, Rhys Magin and Jonno Nash were solid performers for the Tigers.
On Saturday night Square’s seven-goal-to-none third quarter led the Bulldogs to the major semi-final this weekend.
They’re one win away from their seventh grand final appearance in nine years and again midfield stars in co-captain Jack Geary, Adam ‘Skinny’ Baird and Simon Rosa stood out.
Jonathan Coe and Travis Baird stifled the Storm’s attack and launched numerous rebounding moves from their defensive 50m arc.
Hamish Morcom laid 12 tackles in an outstanding effort while Matt Compston relished the non-appearance of Storm’s injured No. 1 ruckman Michael Pilcher to control the stoppage tapouts.
Even though regular key forwards Dylan Johnstone and Ryan Herring were held to just one goal between them home-and-away season centre half-back Chris Ryan and Dylan Anderson stepped up and booted three goals apiece.
Storm midfielders Kallen Geary, Sean Johns and Trent Donnan battled hard but were worn down by Square’s relentless tackling pressure.
Not a single Strathfieldsaye player booted more than one goal.
North Bendigo won their second consecutive Heathcote DFL grand final beating Leitchville-Gunbower by 20 points.
It was heartbreak time again for the Bombers who have lost only five times in their past 36 games, but significantly two of those losses have been in the 2015 and 2016 Big Dances against North.
Leitchy got within three points of North midway through the final quarter after erasing a 30-plus point third term deficit.
Then best afield Sam Barnes swung onto his left boot, hemmed up against a Huntly Oval boundary line, to squeeze home his seventh major.
Barnes’ goal iced the HDFL trophy for North and not surprisingly Barnes was named best afield.
Final scores, qualifying final: Golden Square 15.8 (98) def. Strathfieldsaye 6.8 (44). Elimination final: Eaglehawk 20.9 (129) def. Kyneton 11.8 (74).
Heathcote DFL grand final: North Bendigo 14.18 (102) def. Leitchville-Gunbower 13.4 (82).
In the North Central league’s second semi-final Charlton upstaged top-of-the-table Wycheproof-Narraport to win their way straight into the 2016 grand final.
The Navies’ Dean McKay held Wyche’s key forward Corey Jones, the ex-North Melbourne star, to just two goals as Charlton held on to win by 11 points.
Final scores: Charlton 8.13 (61) def. Wycheproof-Narraport 7.8 (50).
This weekend’s central Victorian finals schedule.
BFL, second semi-final, Saturday night: Sandhurst vs. Golden Square. Sunday, first semi-final: Strathfieldsaye vs. Eaglehawk. Both games at the QEO.
Loddon Valley grand final at Serpentine: Bridgewater vs. Mitiamo.
North Central preliminary final at Donald: Wycheproof-Narraport vs. Birchip-Watchem.
Maryborough Castlemaine DFL preliminary finals at Princes Park, Maryborough — Saturday: Carisbrook vs. Natte Bealiba. Sunday: Navarre vs. Royal Park.