Hawks brave in defeat as Bulldogs seize premiership’ Alysia Thomas-Sam

Box Hill and Footscray produced a display of brilliance at Etihad Stadium and defined themselves as the best in the competition in the 2014 VFL Grand Final.

But, only one team in the Bulldogs could stick it out until the final siren to assert victory, 16.13 (109) to 13.9 (87).

Notwithstanding the 22-point win, the Hawks emitted resilience in their defeat.

They tried to withstand only one rotation after Luke Andrews (knee) and Billy Hartung (groin) sustained injuries and managed to develop an 18-point lead at the beginning of the final term.

Their lack of fresh legs showed in the play as the Bulldogs capitalised by kicking the next six consecutive goals to secure the premiership.

“If it wasn’t for injuries, I thought maybe we were a chance and it showed up until ten minutes into the last quarter,” Box Hill coach Marco Bello said.

Alex Woodward starred early for the Hawks, taking contested possession with relentless enthusiasm. The J.J Liston Trophy medalist slotted the first major of the Grand Final and went on to procure seven disposals inside the first term.

The tight contest was visible on the scoreboard as the scores equalised when the players marched off for the first break, 4.2 (26) to 4.2 (26).

Mitch Hallahan began to pick up the pace of the match in the second quarter.

He managed ten disposals just minutes in and built momentum into his performance as he proved to be an influential aspect in the Hawks’ efforts by kicking their first major 20 minutes into the term.

Although the Hawks’ surge to cut the Bulldog’s dominance was late in the term, it was better late than never.

Hallahan went on to a kick a second major seven minutes after his last with Sam Grimley finishing up the term with one of his own to put the Hawks a single point behind the Bulldogs.

There must be something going on with the Lockett end of the ground because the Hawks looked formidable at the beginning of the third quarter, generating the same intensity Bulldogs’ displayed at the start of the second.

Luke Lowden got his name on the score sheet with the first goal of the term just minutes in. This was quickly overshadowed as Cyril Rioli made his first scoreboard impact with a behind.

Ben Ross added to the goal streak after Rioli’s miss, cultivating five answered goals for the Hawks since the end of the second term.

Despite Footscray going on to kick the next three goals to put the pressure on the Hawks, both teams may have witnessed goal of the year.

Billy Hartung ran a marathon from one end of Etihad Stadium to the other. It seemed to last minutes and he completed the gallop with a goal from 40 metres out.

The Hawks carried a six point going into the final quarter of the Grand Final.

Bello had comprehended the strength of the Bulldogs before the first bounce and knew they’d produce something special on the final day of the football calendar.

“They are a great side and they move the ball really quickly. They’ve got good depth across the whole line and I though we did too,” he said.

“For our guys I thought of the never give up attitude. They were brave the whole way through and just weren’t able to do it. But, conversely the Bulldogs were able to and moved the ball really quickly into their forward line.”

For Bello to conclude his inaugural year at the helm with a Grand Final appearance is an inspiring feat from the former Box Hill player and assistant coach.

“Obviously I’ve inherited a great side and a great team off the field, but look, I think I was able to hopefully bring something that they could use throughout the year. I thought I built good relationships and hopefully that keeps us in good stead for next year and years to come,” he explained.

In spite of Footscray shattering the hopes of back-to-back premierships, it’s next year they should be prepared for because the Hawks will be playing with vengeance.

Goal Kickers: J. Sicily 3, B. Ross 2, M. Hallahan 2, S. Grimley, A. Woodward, W. Hartung, D. Willsmore, L. Lowden, S. Collins
Best Players: M. Hallahan, J. Sicily, W. Hartung, A. Litherland, B. Ross, S. Iles

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