Hawks Claw out Seagulls in Epic Preliminary Final

By Aaron Pereira : Photo Jenny Owens
Box Hill have battled their way into their second successive Grand Final after a tightly contested seven-point victory over Williamstown.

North Port Oval saw a crowd in excess of 5,000 flock to see the do-or-die contest in perfect conditions on Sunday Afternoon.

But despite the games constant momentum changes, it was Box Hill who ran out winners 15.10 (100) to 14.9 (93)

It was a sloppy opening term for Box Hill who conceded the first five inside 50’s and made some skill errors that gifted the Seagulls scoring opportunities.

The Hawks were rattled early, looking for the long bomb clearance kick that seemed to come back with interest.

The young defenders also seemed overawed, opting not to rush behind and being run down, giving Williamstown their first goal from point blank range.

Ayden Kennedy was brilliant early, marshalling the defence with David Mirra playing higher up the ground than usual.

The Hawks needed someone to stand up and recently crowned J.J Liston Medallist Alex Woodward was just the man to do it, gathering 12-disposals, having two score assists and kicking a goal.

But the Seagulls weren’t going away, kicking two miraculous goals to edge in front by the slightest of margins at the first break.

Box Hill Coach Marco Bello was full of praise for his charges early citing that statistics were in their favour despite the scoreboard.

“We were up in contested footy, up in the clearances and they just needed to want to win the footy,” Bello said.

Box Hill came out all guns blazing but Williamstown matched every Hawks goal with one of their own.

Luke Lowden loomed large and took contested marks to settle the flow and ease the pressure on Sam Grimley and Ben McEvoy.

Last year’s Best and Fairest Kyle Cheney also found himself in unfamiliar territory, kicking a goal from a 50-metre set shot on a slight angle to push the half time lead to 13-points.

The main break was soured with what seemed to be a serious foot injury to Billy Hartung, who didn’t return to the field until midway through the final term.

The Hawks started the second half slowly, electing to handball rather than kick which the Seagulls pressured quickly.

Williamstown gained the ascendancy throughout the quarter and kicked four in a row to take the lead once again, despite a 24-point Hawks lead.

Coach Marco Bello demanded for pride in skill execution and noted that the clearances were good but the tempo had to be controlled if they were to progress.

The last quarter was set up to be one for the ages, Box Hill holding a 5-point lead and finishing with a two-goal breeze behind them.

It was Williamstown who dominated the clearances early but were unable to capitalise, hurt by a Dallas Wilsmore goal from 55-metres out, ending in a double-fist pump to the crowd.

At the 19-minute mark of the final term, the Seagulls levelled the scores and were peppering the Hawks defence rapidly.

But it was once again Ayden Kennedy who stood tall and took what would be a saving mark for Box Hill – in the process landing heavily on his knee, ending his campaign.

Box Hill were down to three rotations, with Derrick Wanganeen also having his ankle iced, with the inside 50 count 15 to five in favour of the Seagulls.

Two quick goals to Xavier Murphy and Luke Lowden meant that there was a two-goal buffer with only minutes remaining.

But an undisciplined act by James Sicily gifted Williamstown a goal reducing the margin to only six-points with two minutes remaining.

With the Seagulls surging, it fell to Ben McEvoy to stop the run with a huge contested mark in the centre square with the siren going in an epic match.

Box Hill Coach Marco Bello was elated at the win and looked forward to the Grand Final next week.

“We were never going to give it up easy,” Bello said.

“[Williamstown] weren’t giving it up either, shown last week when they kicked nine in the last quarter against Werribee to get here.

“We were a couple down at the end and it showed good character, good resolve and good resilience.”

Bello also cited some individual efforts, especially in the last quarter.

“Lowden and McEvoy really stood up and took some great grabs and if you can do that then great.

“Xavier Murphy was also good, he has a habit of standing up in the big games and he isn’t the fittest bloke but he played the small role really well and battled.”

Unfortunately it all wasn’t positive for Bello with the news on Ayden Kennedy seemingly bleak.

“[The injury] doesn’t look great for him but that telling mark got us into the Grand Final.

“It’s not a consolation prize but I think the other 22 [players] can take a bit out of that.”

Box Hill Hawks 15.10 100 defeat Williamstown 14.9 93

Goal Kickers: L. Lowden 4, X. Murphy 3, S. Grimley 2, J. Sicily 2, K. Cheney , D. Willsmore , A. Woodward , N. Papadopoulos
Best Players: B. McEvoy , A. Woodward , M. Hallahan , X. Murphy , A. Kennedy , L. Lowden

Box Hill will take on Footscray in the Peter Jackson VFL Grand Final on Sunday September 21 at Etihad Stadium commencing at 2.15pm.


Adults: $20 / Concession: $15 / Kids 12 & under: Free


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