BALWYN booked its spot in this week’s EFL Division 1 grand final with a hard fought win over Norwood on Saturday.
Facing its third straight elimination final and coming up against the minor premiers, Balwyn started slowly but finished strong to win 10.9 (69) to 7.7 (49) at Bayswater Oval.
If not for some wasteful kicking from both teams the margin could have been far greater.
Norwood took a narrow two-point lead into the first break while Balwyn was left goalless despite six scoring shots.
The Tigers broke their drought with two goals in the first 10 minutes of the second quarter and took control of the match with two more goals late in the term to stretch the lead to 20-points at half-time.
Norwood stormed back into the contest with a three goal burst to start the third quarter, but was unable to take the lead as Balwyn held on.
Balwyn’s Ryan McMahon kicked two early goals and Jeff Gobbels bagged another as the Tiger’s stretched out what proved a match-winning lead.
Norwood was unable to keep up.
Balwyn coach Dan Donati lauded the team’s effort to win three consecutive finals to make it to the last game.
“Physically they’re a bit sore but mentally they’re feeling unbelievable,” Donati said.
“We’ve won three finals in a row and it’s a fantastic feeling to be in a group that’s done that so they’ll take a lot of confidence in [to the grand final].”
In next Saturday’s grand final Balwyn will play Vermont, a team it beat in their only meeting this season, but Donati said that counts for nothing now.
“It was round two, a different season. I think we match up well on them but [that last game] was 20-odd weeks ago so it’s irrelevant now,” Donati said.
BALWYN 10.9 (69)
Goals: R. McMahon 2, R. Gilchrist 2, L. Barker 2, L. Frazer 2, N. Smith, J. Gobbels
Best: R. Gilchrist, R. McMahon, M. Hardiman, J. Wright, N. Smith, C. Sanfilippo
NORWOOD 7.7 (49)
Goals: M. McCormack 3, S. Day , B. English , M. Aver , D. Blackie
Best: S. Hill, D. Blackie, S. Clayton, E. Johnson, M. McCormack, J. Gould
The grand final will be at Bayswater Oval on Saturday, at 2.30pm.
JUGGLING ACT: Balwyn’s Cristian Sanfilippo. Picture: Chris Hopkins