Box Hill Hawks v Footscray Bulldogs Grand Final Preview

The opportunity of back-to-back premierships hangs in the balance as Box Hill Hawks take on Footscray Bulldogs in the VFL Grand Final this Sunday at Etihad Stadium.

The Bulldogs have been a dominant force in their comeback year.

Despite superiority on the ladder and through their 14 wins for the year, the Hawks overcame them by 7 points in Round 14 at Victoria University Whitten Oval.

It was a rainy day in Melbourne’s west and the win was far from straightforward. The home side carried a lead for majority of the first half and held the upper hand in possession and consequently, the flow of the match.

Uncharacteristically of Box Hill, they turned up their intensity in the second half. Normally a painful downfall of the Hawks games, their third quarter was their best for the day.

The Bulldogs completely dominated the disposals (Box Hill – 325, Footscray – 371) but couldn’t overcome the Hawks’ effective use of the ball.

Intelligent play and decision-making won the day for Box Hill, letting them grab the victory in both clubs’ most recent meeting.

The Bulldogs and Hawks have been commanding in their respective finals campaigns, both sides remaining undefeated throughout their qualifying finals and preliminary finals.

Box Hill defeated Port Melbourne in their qualifying final by 24 points at North Port Oval. The next day, Footscray took care of an intimidating Williamstown outfit by 20 points at Victoria University Whitten Oval.

The top four sides were being put to the test in the first round, only to meet again in a fortnight. This time, Footscray took on former Box Hill opponents in Port Melbourne and snatched the Grand Final ticket away from home comfortably by 32 points.

The Hawks had it more difficult in their preliminary final to earn entry in the Grand Final with a late surge from Williamstown almost influencing a Box Hill finals exit. But, the Hawks clutched onto their lead in the dying minutes of the match to force a 7-point triumph.

This weekend’s Grand Final is a contest between the two most determined clubs. Both clubs have flown under the radar for the later stages of the year through their losses with the Boroughs eclipsing them from above at their top spot on the ladder.

Recently praised with the J.J Liston Trophy, Alex Woodward stood up early in the Hawks’ victory over Williamstown and will want to do the same against the Bulldogs. Luke Lowden played an essential role in the victory, filling out his performance with four goals.

Ayden Kennedy produced a bittersweet match in the end. He was rock solid down the back with Kyle Cheney, taking the defining mark of the match to secure the Hawks’ place in the Grand Final. Kennedy landed painfully on his knee to inflict an injury in an area he’s experienced troubles with before.

“It didn’t look great on video and he’s done a knee before. It’s something he knew when he came off the ground that it wasn’t something that would normally happen, so he felt some pain there and it’s probably not looking favourable for him,” Box Hill coach Marco Bello said of Kennedy’s injury.

Box Hill will need to capitalise on the fact that Footscray is attempting to conquer their first premiership in their opening year of the VFL. The Hawks can boast seven Grand Final appearances through their 78-year history compared with Footscray’s last victory in the VFA dating back to 1924.

While half of the Hawks line-up will be preparing for their second Grand Final in 12 months, the other half will be making their first appearance on the big stage.

This fusion of new and old is what Bello thinks will do the trick against the Bulldogs for the biggest day of the year this Sunday.

Grand Final Team

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