Hawks leap above Bulldogs with gutsy victory

By Alysia Thomas-Sam | Photo by Jenny Owens

Box Hill has shut down Footscray’s seven-game winning streak with a formidable performance to secure a 7-point victory.

Despite their command across the field at Whitten Oval, the Hawks didn’t enter the match favourites as the Bulldogs were sitting on top of the ladder.

It was a hard slog early for both squads, as the rain started to fall in Melbourne’s west and the ball became heavy while the pitch was saturated, both factors made successful shots on goal hard to come by.

Brandon Wood managed to create the first scoreboard impression for the day, but the Bulldogs quickly responded at the other end of the ground.

Coach Marco Bello knew the Bulldogs were going to be persistent and had predicted the tight encounter before the first bounce.

“We haven’t been winning those close games and we knew this one was going to be a close one, we don’t shy away from the challenge but we can’t also go into our shells – we’ve got to make sure we continue to do the good things that we’ve been doing right,” he admitted.

The Bulldogs had the upper hand early as they lifted in the second half of the first quarter, dominating play and converting their control of the ball into a 14-point lead at the first break.

It was the second term where the Hawks played their best.

Attackingly, they were able to overcome the Bulldogs’ lead with a vital goal from Marc Lock influencing a 12-point gap. Defensively, they rejected Footscray from applying any major pressure keeping them goalless going into the half time break.

Although their second quarter performance lifted them into a positive position, it was the passage of play in the third quarter through consecutive goals by Billy Hartung, Dallas Willsmore and Sam Grimley, which was most impressive.

The Bulldogs never went away though; they managed to cut the Hawks’ 19-point lead to 4 points just before three quarter time with successive goals of their own.

The final 30 minutes of the match was thrilling, with the scores drawing level for much of the quarter. The last time the Western Bulldogs and Hawthorn played at Whitten Oval was in 1996 in which the match ended in a draw, history was almost retold last Saturday.

Xavier Murphy didn’t want a draw though. He kicked brilliantly in the final term and found a way to kick goals in crucial moments to claim the winning lead over the home side.

The Hawks walked triumphantly away with the 7-point win and despite trailing the Bulldogs by 46 disposals (Box Hill – 325, Footscray – 371) by the final siren, it was their efficient ball use and effective work rate that defined their victory.

Bello was proud of his squads fight for a win and the Hawks’ impactful ball use was evident in his acknowledgement that they “kicked straighter today than [they] had all year”.

“In the end it’s making sure that we stick to that compliance and structures, everything else that we know if we’re doing well – there’s not too many sides that’ll be able to compete,” he said.

Video Highlights

Final Score: Box Hill 15.6 96 defeated Footscray 13.11 89

Goal Kickers:  M. Lock 3, X. Murphy 3, S. Grimley 2, B. Wood, S. Iles, D. Hale, J. Sicily, W. Hartung, L. Andrews, D. Willsmore

Best Players:
M. Lock, A. Woodward, K. Cheney, S. Iles, K. Brand, L. Andrews

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