JOSH Bowe says the experience of making last year’s grand final will prove invaluable as Eaglehawk heads into the Bendigo Football Netball League’s 2018 finals series.
The Hawks head into the finals in second place with six straight wins under their belts and had the luxury to rest several stars last week, including Bowe, the team’s second-year coach.
Eaglehawk has been bolstered heading into finals with the return of captain Tim Hill from injury and could yet regain star forward Matt Gretgrix, who has not played since round 11.
“We’re getting pretty close to our best side. Gretgrix is still a bit of a work in progress but we should get a few back this week that missed last week, so we’re getting pretty close,” Bowe said.
“It’s hard to say (when Gretgrix will be available). We’re taking it week by week with him. If he can hit some targets on the track he’ll certainly be a chance at some stage.”
The Hawks play Kyneton in Saturday’s qualifying final at the QEO after the Tigers booked their first double chance since 1999 with a win over Golden Square last week.
Simultaneously Kyneton ensured Square would not play finals for the first time since 2004, opening the door for Gisborne to play Sandhurst in Sunday’s elimination final.
Bowe knows just how dangerous the Tigers can be after they rolled the Hawks in round four.
“Kyneton are a quality side and I think they’ve proven a lot of people wrong this year. They’re coming in with a full head of steam so it will be really a tough battle on Saturday,” he said.
While loaded with key defenders, the Tigers have had trouble preventing opposing small forwards and midfielders from hitting the scoreboard this season and own the worst defensive statistics of the sides that finished first to sixth.
Bowe hopes that is something his side may be able to exploit.
“It’s a real strength of our side that we have such a spread of goalkickers and we can rely on our midfielders and our smalls to his the scoreboard,” he said.
“It’s definitely an area where we might be able to edge out on top and we hope that it pans out that way.”
Win on Sunday and the Hawks face Strathfieldsaye, the team that broke Eaglehawk hearts as Kallen Geary and Lachlan Sharp turned the 2017 grand final on its head in the final quarter to hand Storm the cup.
Bowe says his side has learnt plenty from its finals foray and could even be better placed this year.
“It’s a bit hard to compare to last year but I think just the development of the list and being able to add a couple of guys, I think we’re in just as good a spot, if not better, than last year,” he said.
The qualifying final between Eaglehawk and Kyneton on Saturday and Sunday’s elimination final between Sandhurst and Gisborne both start at 2.20pm.
– Joel Peterson