By Liam Vertigan
These two sides started this year’s SFNL Division One season on Good Friday down at Livingstone Reserve and it’s only fitting that they get to perform the final curtain call on the 2023 season at RSEA Park here today.
It’s the second meeting in back-to-back years in grand finals between Cranbourne & Cheltenham and one thing is assured when these two sides come together it will be a contest to the very last second.
The Eagles have been outstanding since their arrival into the SFNL at the start of the 2022 season and to this date out of the 42 games they have contested they have won 32 of them including that fabled grand final last season against today’s opponents. In the seven meetings these two sides have had since the start of the 2022 season the Rosella’s have the slight advantage in the head-to-head leading 4-3.
While in season 2023, the Eagles have the wood over their rival after their impressive wins on Good Friday and in the semi-final to reach today’s grand finale, the Rosella’s defeated the Eagles at home back in round 13
For the Eagles, who finished the home and away season in second position with a record of 13-5, they always looked to be the major threat once again to this Cheltenham side. With talent oozing through this side from the likes of captain Brandon Osborne & with brother Glenn down back, Roscoe & Barker in the middle down to the double act that is Marc Holt & Kirk Dickson in the forward line, it’s so exciting to watch this side operate.
Going into this season & finals series, they took on Dingley first in a tough qualifying final that was only decided by two points. With a 15-point lead in the last on that day, the Eagles had to dig deep and hold off a fast-finishing Dingley side and with a clutch piece of play from the aforementioned Brandon Osborne, smothering the ball on the goal line with seconds to spare they went through to play their opponent today in Cheltenham for a spot in the grand final which they took in strides.
Unlike that final the week before the Eagles found themselves three goals down at the last change and charged home over the top with a massive five goal to nothing final term to get to where they are today.
Their opponents today in the Rosellas have again been in the top echelon of SFNL Division 1, finishing the home and away season with a record of 17-1, finishing well clear on top with that sole blemish coming on Good Friday to today’s opponents. They then went on a streak of 17 straight games until their semi-final loss two weeks ago to Cranbourne.
With an ultra-talented list led from the front by captain Jack Worrell, who has his very reliable troops all over the ground to lean upon. From the likes of Waterstone & Blitsas down back. Luke Verma, Alex McComb & recently crowned Ellis Medallist Dylan Weickhardt in the middle, all the way down to Division 1 Super-boot Winner Josh Fox with sidekick Finn Ryan, these sides just match up well on one another.
Their finals journey started against Cranbourne which we’ve already mentioned ended up being a loss for the Rosella’s. They then had to come across the plucky Colts of Port Melbourne who had already taken the likes of Springvale Districts & Dingley before them and were looking for another upset.
Led from the front with a six-goal effort combined by duo Myke Cook & Nick Burke, the
Rosella’s won their way through to today’s big dance to the tune of 52 points.
For the final battle expect the midfields of both sides to give it a hard shake right from the first contest. Zak Roscoe, Jarryd Barker & Jake Cowburn when he gets a run in there will look to feed the likes of Holt, Dickson & Keenan.The same for the Rosella’s dynamic duo in Weickhardt & Verma, who will be in and under looking to serve their forwards of Fox, Burke & Ryan, who have over 100 between them in season 2023. The nerves will be there early given it’s a grand final, but you feel like they won’t last long as these two sides are very accustomed to one another in the last couple of seasons.
In terms of a tip to win, it’s hard to go past the Rosella’s season given where Des Ryan has been able to take them but maybe playing the last couple of weeks have the tank a little lighter than it should be? Or will the Eagles after having the week off be able to get back-to-back flags and finish the season magnificently.
Tip: Cheltenham by 10 points