Box Hill’s build towards round one continued on Saturday morning, with Sam Mitchell’s developing Hawks defeating Essendon by 48-points.
The brown and gold fielded an extended 27-man squad for the contest, 14 of whom are VFL-listed – the majority of which make up the Club’s younger brigade.
Played in still and warm conditions at The Hangar, it was the Bombers who had the better of the early exchanges, with AFL premiership player Jake Stringer a headache.
The hosts piled on five of the first six goals of the match, the exception a timely and important six-pointer from ruckman Ned Reeves. It wasn’t quite panic stations, but the Hawks required a response.
Having been on the back foot throughout a challenging first 15 minutes the young Hawks found their footing in time on.
The defence righted itself and the midfield group began getting their hands on the ball, as a result the contest evened out and Mitchell’s men began creating repeat inside 50s and opportunities to attack.
Josh Morris, who would kick three goals for the day, was the last link in an encouraging chain of possession that resulted in a steadying goal, before Emerson Jeka and Jesse Cucinotta waxed well to give the visitors back-to-back majors for the first time.
By quarters end the Hawks had registered more scoring shots and not only arrested Essendon’s momentum, but taken it for themselves.
That the Bombers kicked the first goal of the second quarter was largely incidental. Their sixth goal of the match would be their final six-pointer of the half and preceded the defining and match-winning period of the contest.
Sharper ball movement straightened the Hawks up, allowing for deeper and more direct inside 50s and the chances flowed.
James Cousins was becoming more prominent, Jack Scrimshaw’s distribution off half-back propelled his team forward, the defensive unit of Hartley, Blanck and Grainger-Barrass better organized and the tall brigade of Lewis, Nash, Bowman and Jeka – all in excess of 195cm tall – difficult to curtail.
A Jack Saunders’ goal reduced the margin to 10-points, before Conor Nash – maybe the quarter’s most impressive performer – unselfishly teed up Morris for his second.
A sweeping move off half-back ended in the hands of Riley Bowman minutes later and when he kicked truly the Hawks had their first lead of the morning.
Another to Cousins consolidated Box Hill’s good run, before a quickfire double to the dangerous Nash ensured the Hawks had turned an early four-goal deficit into a four-goal lead at the long break.
Sam Mitchell used his half-time address recognize the response of his team, while also warning against complacency in the second half.
Though any breeze was negligible, it seemed the goals Essendon would kick to in the third quarter was the scoring end. They started the second half strongly but failed to transfer this period of possession and territory onto the scoreboard.
After an early arm wrestle Mitch Lewis would provide the first goals of the new half, kicking two in quick succession. It was fitting reward for the Hawks tall, who’d presented and competed well throughout the game.
The lively Morris had the opportunity to kick his third late on but opted instead to make a certainty of it by squaring a pass to Lachie Walker.
A tighter term than the second, Box Hill would register three goals to the Bombers two to extend their 22-point half-time lead to a 27-point advantage with half-an-hour to play.
Lachie Munroe’s early goal was both the perfect start and ultimately killed the contest off. Though there were spells when goals were hard to come by, the Hawks always looked dangerous.
Jesse Cucinotta kicked his second and third goals of the day, while Josh Morris added a third of his own after Mitch Lewis required treatment for a head knock following a strong contested mark.
In the end the Hawks would kick 5.1 to the Bombers’ 1.4 in the last and win pulling away from their old rivals.
BOX HILL 3.4 9.7 12.8 17.9 111
ESSENDON 5.1 6.3 8.5 9.9 63
GOALS: Morris, Cucinotta 3 Nash, Lewis, Munroe 2, Saunders, Bowman, Cousins, Reeves, Walker