From the TAC Cup grand final to Hawthorn’s intraclub

“I had to be a part of it.”

This was the sentiment of new recruit James Ross after experiencing the culture down at City Oval.

The 18-year-old put pen to paper at the beginning of the pre-season, having spent just two training sessions with the Hawks.

“I signed so quickly because I was made feel so welcome,” he said.

“Plus, a few of my Eastern Ranges teammates, who were already training with Box Hill, had developed so much and spoke so highly of the club.

 “I would’ve been stupid if I hadn’t joined them.”

Ross, a promising key defender, comes to the Hawks after an impressive 2019 captaining the Eastern Ranges to the TAC Cup grand final.

“It was a really good year at Eastern.

“We came into the season with everyone doubting us, but the whole team just put their heads down and blocked out the negativity.

“We took it week by week and it was a really good experience going through finals and then making it to the grand final.”

The backman is just one of many new recruits for Box Hill – a group that includes ex-AFL stars Brett Deledio and Andy Otten who will also be a part of Box Hill’s coaching line-up.

With 109 AFL games under his belt, most of which were played in defence, Otten has already had an enormous impact on Ross’ development.

“Andy’s a great coach and to have him as a player out on the ground is even better,” Ross said.

“He’s really vocal, which is good because he’s been able to talk us through everything.

“Now I feel like I have his voice in the back of my head when I’m out on the ground, telling me what I should be doing.”

The Hawks have also recruited midfielder Josh Deluca, who has spent time at both Fremantle and Carlton, and who Ross says has been a valuable mentor during pre-season. 

“Josh’s training standards are so high having been on two AFL lists.

“It really shows the hard work he’s obviously put in over time.

“He’s taught me a lot and I think he’s really having a positive impact on everyone else around him.”

Ross is enjoying his time at Box Hill and is grabbing hold of any opportunity thrown his way.

His biggest learning curve came two weeks ago, when he had the opportunity to play in Hawthorn’s intraclub match.

“It was a really good experience.

“A couple of days before the game I was really nervous, but on the day of the game, it hit me that even though I wanted to do really well, it was more about putting in the best I could.

“So, I went out there and put in my best and I was happy with how I went.

“I got the opportunity to play in positions I’d never played before and to play alongside AFL listed players, I learnt a lot.”

With just over four weeks until the VFL 2020 season kicks off, Ross is focusing on developing as much as possible.

“Coming from a junior program into a senior program, I just want to learn as much as I can.  

“Then I’ll see how many games I can get and if I do get the opportunity to play, I want to make sure I have an influence on the game and help the team as much as I can.”

Box Hill’s next hit out will be against Casey on Saturday 7 March, 12pm at Casey Fields.

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