Box Hill through to the preliminary finals

By Callum Godde Photo By:Jenny Owens

Box Hill stormed into the VFL preliminary finals on Saturday, battling its way to a sensational 24-point win over minor premiers Port Melbourne.

It was the big forwards who did the damage for the Hawks – in front of a packed house at North Port Oval – with Ben McEvoy and Sam Grimley kicking a four goals a piece.

McEvoy and Grimley weren’t the only Hawks firing on all cylinders however, with the likes of Alex Woodward and Mitch Hallahan also putting up their hands for a seniors recall – ahead of Hawthorn’s Friday night qualifying final against the Cats.

The Hawks were looking down the barrel early on, after Port Melbourne raced out of the blocks to lead by 23 points halfway through the second quarter, before Box Hill steadied.

A 60-meter mongrel from Marc Lock bounced at right angles and trickled over the line to ignite the Hawks. The two sides taking a share of the spoils, in the second term booting four goals each. The game hung on a knife-edge.

It was the third term in which the Hawks began to soar, lifting another gear to kick six goals to Port’s lone major.

“Our third quarters and second halves haven’t been great [this year],” said Box Hill senior coach Marko Bello.

“So it was great to kick the first couple. We said to make sure we got them on the back foot early … to make sure they didn’t go further ahead.

Bello believed his midfielders were responsible for his side’s tremendous third quarter.

“… The midfielders probably got the ascendency … they had the bigger bodies, so [we] probably got pushed around a bit early in the game,” Bello said.

“They [Woodward and Hallahan] willed themselves from contest to contest. They played a big part in us being able to come off this ground pretty happy today.”

It was the Big Boy / Little Boy show as the players took there positions at the opening bounce. The Borough back six, prescribed a double-dosage of McEvoy – with both brothers Ben and Peter starting forward.

And by days end the two would combine to kick six majors – Ben (4) and Peter (2) – between them.

“It was great for the two brothers to play together. I think that’s the first time in 11 years that they’ve had a kick around together,” Bello said.

“Pete’s been a great story. He’s come from Tassie footy, last year after studying out there. And this is his first real crack at VFL footy.”

It was Peter’s VFL debut, after a stunning season in the side’s development squad in which he kicked 56 goals. The 23-year old’s patience and fortitude rewarded with a belated call-up to the big show, after Tim O’Brien was sidelined with a hamstring injury against Fremantle last weekend.

Bello said it was a luxury to bring McEvoy in to fill the void.

“… We use the old adage: lose a soldier, replace them with another one. And he just played the role,” he said.

Kyle Cheney was terrific in defence, continually coming over the top with a timely fist. The courageous defender ably supported by fellow backmen Kaiden Brand and Ayden Kennedy.

The win was the clubs biggest step to date in their bid for back-to-back flags. But Bello said Box Hill’s success carried added significance for Hawthorn’s premiership aspirations this September.

“That’s what we’re all about [giving Hawthorn listed players game time],” he said.

“We want to go as long as possible, so guys who are on [Hawthorns] AFL list get the possibility to play at the next level.

“… If we weren’t playing finals, how does Ben [McEvoy] get the chance to show himself? How does Woodward and these sort of guys put their hands up?”

But Bello brushed away claims injury plagued star Cyril Rioli could possibly return through Box Hill.

“I doubt it. I’d love it; I’d love it. Look he’s one of those guys, as they say ‘you don’t drive your Ferraris in the bush’,” he said.

“If we get to see him, I’ll have a smile from here to here. But if we don’t, we’ll get someone else back, which is good.”
Box Hill now has a week to rest up before meeting the winner of Williamstown and Werribee’s semi-final this weekend.

“… For us to be able to turn that around today, I thought it gives the footy club great belief,” Bello said.

“It now gives us extra time to refuel, because that was a tough physical game. And I reckon we need it.

“We’ve played some okay footy of late, but I thought the last two weeks, and today especially … was a good sign.

“We’ve got another big challenge ahead of us in a couple of weeks time.”

Video Highlights

Box Hill 16.6 (102) defeated Port Melbourne 12.6 (78)

Goal Kickers: S. Grimley 4, B. McEvoy 4, P. McEvoy 2, J. Sicily, M. Lock, L. Andrews, L. Lowden, J. Kelly, S. Iles
Best Players: M. Hallahan, A. Woodward, B. McEvoy, J. Kelly, S. Iles, K. Cheney


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