Lower Plenty progressed to its first grand final since 2011 with a 20-point win over Banyule in the Northern Football Netball League (NFNL) Division 2 preliminary final.
After trailing by two points at half time, Lower Plenty put the clamps on in the second half, keeping Banyule to just one goal in the final two quarters to run away 10.10 (70) to 7.8 (50) victors at Epping Recreation Reserve.
Despite kicking against a stiff wind in the final term, Lower were able to put through two goals to one to set up a grand final match-up against Eltham.
Lower Plenty coach Ben Turner applauded his side’s feats in turning their form around after losing three of their past four games heading into the preliminary final.
“It was all about effort,” Turner said.
“Last quarter of the game, grand final on the line, we just had to give it all.”
Turner said the club was looking forward to the opportunity that presented in the grand final.
“It’s a great opportunity. We’re just excited to be in it and hopefully we can get it done,” Turner said.
“We can’t read too much into the last game (against Eltham), but I think just 22 blokes contributing will be our aim.”
Turner believed his better players stood up when it counted in the preliminary final. He heralded Thomas Blake’s performance, which included a move to defence in the final term.
Not only did Lower finish the game well, but they started it the better, outscoring Banyule by three goals to one, to open an early 11-point buffer.
Banyule coach Pete Davey rallied his troops at the quarter time break and encouraged them to not drop their heads as he felt they could have had an early lead had they converted some of their opportunities heading inside 50.
His side was inspired into action at the start of the second term, as two goals from Scott Gumbleton and another from Bailey Jordan saw Banyule take the lead for the first time.
A couple of goal exchanges saw out the remainder of the first half, before two late behinds ensured Banyule headed into the second half with a two-point cushion.
Despite Banyule having the lead, the game still felt like it was still being played in Lower’s favour, with the likes of Tom Keys and Darcy Barden continually stepping up in big contests.
This was reflected in the third term, as Lower kicked the only two goals through Nick Mackay and Bailey Rodd to regain the lead and head into the final term with an 11-point advantage.
Banyule started to get on top in the midfield early in the last term, but Blake stood tall for Lower Plenty in defence with a handful of intercept marks – ensuring his side was able to thwart off many Banyule attacks.
Matthew Yarwood eventually got the breakthrough goal for Banyule in the sixth minute, but it was responded to two minutes later when Patrick Flynn put through a major.
Brent Stanton then made a rare error coming out of defence, with Fabian Dorbolo able to intercept his kick and nail a set shot to put the game to bed.
Blake’s efforts throughout the day, and particularly in the final term, saw him named as Lower Plenty’s best, along with Keys and Barden. Banyule’s best included Gumbleton, Riley Loton and Jake Truefeldt.
The result ended a promising season by Banyule – who became the first reigning third division premier to reach the second division finals.
Lower Plenty 10.10 (70) def Banyule 7.8 (50)