A new season starts now.
Box Hill is set to play Werribee in the first Elimination Final of the VFL Finals Series.
Having defeated both the Northern Blues and Collingwood in do-or-die matches to keep their finals hopes alive, the Hawks will hold no fears of Sunday’s pressure test against Werribee.
And after finishing in sixth position at the end of the home and away season last year – and going on to win a famous premiership – Box Hill will no doubt be taking the same inspiration and genuine belief into the 2019 Finals Series.
Box Hill propelled themselves into a third-straight finals campaign, after securing an inspired 19-point comeback triumph over Collingwood last Saturday. Despite trailing by 18 points at three-quarter-time, the Hawks stormed to victory, slamming home seven goals to one in front of a crowd of thousands at Box Hill City Oval.
Werribee will enter its VFL finals campaign with momentum, holding off a fast-finishing Williamstown by eight points for its eleventh win of the season, in a low scoring scrap.
The ‘Big W’ has been a thorn in Box Hill’s side in recent times.
Werribee holds a three-game winning streak against Box Hill, dating back to Round 9, 2018. In the two teams’ last meeting in Round 19, Werribee steadily extended its lead at every change until the final siren, asserting their dominance as the game wore on. Despite Box Hill reducing the margin to two goals early in the fourth quarter, Werribee steadied the ship to win by a comfortable 25 points at home.
Box Hill will be buoyed this week by the inclusions of Changkuoth Jiath and Ollie Hanrahan, after the pairs impressive VFL form was rewarded with AFL selection this season.
Andrew Moore v Michael Barlow.
Andrew Moore was born for September.
Box Hill’s ‘Captain Courageous’ led the Hawks from sixth-position underdogs to its third VFL Premiership last season, and there has been no coincidence the club is entering its third-consecutive finals campaign since Moore’s signing to the club.
A ruthless competitor, Moore played an instrumental role in his side’s resurgence after three-quarter-time against Collingwood. The inspirational premiership Skipper took the game by the scruff of its neck to boot two clutch final quarter goals, on his way to recording 21 disposals, seven tackles and seven clearances for the day – ultimately lifting his side to victory.
With a significant portion of the club’s 2018 premiership heroes moving on, the leadership and finals experience from former-skipper David Mirra (entering his 8th VFL finals series) and Moore will be an invaluable asset to an otherwise youthful line-up.
Who else but Michael Barlow?
The former Fremantle and Gold Coast Midfielder has destroyed all opponents on his way to dominating the VFL competition this season – averaging 32 disposals per game.
Barlow is in red hot form, coming off a best-on-ground display against Williamstown last week, where he racked up another 28 possessions, 11 tackles and eight clearances.
The ball-magnet has formed a lethal midfield combination with Tom Gribble, who is the VFL’s equal leader in disposals (541) and inside 50s this season.
Both Barlow (43 disposals, 23 contested, 14 clearances, seven tackles) and Gribble (32 disposals, ten clearances, seven tackles) ran riot in Werribee’s Round 19 victory over Box Hill and loom as influential to their teams’ fortunes once again this week.
It was the last- gasp goal in the dying seconds to send the match to extra-time against Port Melbourne that sealed Ollie Hanrahan’s hero status in the Hawks memorable 2018 finals campaign.
Hanrahan proceeded to star in finals against Geelong (three goals) and Williamstown (two goals) on his way to a break-out September.
Having entrenched himself in Hawthorn’s coveted attack, Hanrahan will be aiming to slot straight back into Box Hill’s formidable forward line fleet, already hosting the likes of Jackson Ross (35 goals – second in the VFL) and Mat Walker (12 goals between Rounds 18-20).
Werribee’s biggest trump card may be sitting in the coach’s box.
Mark ‘Choco’ Williams is a legend of the AFL, leading Port Adelaide to the 2004 flag, spending two years at GWS as Kevin Sheedy’s right-hand man, followed by a four-year stint at Richmond as a development coach.
Known for building strong relationships and mentoring young talent, Williams has played a crucial role in the development of Werribee’s young stars this season – leading them to fifth-position in his debut season at the helm.
With over 40 years of AFL experience, Williams tactical influence from the coach’s box cannot be underestimated.
Werribee had a set plan in its victory over Box Hill only three rounds ago. Although the Hawks won the counts for contested possession (by four) and clearances (12), Werribee often won the ball back through its pressure (99 tackles to 72) and punished the Hawks quickly through the corridor into attack. In that clash, the Tigers recorded 66 more uncontested possession and 31 more uncontested marks than Box Hill, completely restricting the Hawks ball movement and avenue to goal.
Box Hill Assistant Coach Torin Baker believes the side will take confidence from its high stakes preparation leading into its finals campaign.
“The pleasing thing about the last couple of weeks it that we’ve had two finals-like games, and if we didn’t win, we wouldn’t be in the position that we are,” Baker said.
“Those cut-throat experiences have been good for us leading into Sunday’s Elimination Final.”
“We know Werribee move the ball really directly and fast out of the back half.”
“We got a good look at them in Round 19; we’ll need to make sure we are at best to make sure they don’t get the easy footy they got.”
“We’ll be focusing on a few tweaks we’ve worked on since that match, that can potentially help us throughout the whole finals series – should we get past Werribee this week.”
Box Hill will play Werribee in the first VFL Elimination Final on Sunday September 1, 2.10pm at Adcon Stadium.