Hawks See Off Swans In Season Opener

Box Hill have kicked off their 2023 campaign with a stirring win behind enemy lines, accounting for Sydney on Sunday morning thanks to a string of outstanding individual performances and a rollicking five-goal-to-one final quarter.

The Hawks boasted seven VFL debutants all told, blooding 2022 Hawks draftees Josh Weddle, Bailey MacDonald, Josh Bennetts, Jack O’Sullivan and Henry Huswaite, while handing debuts to VFL-listed talents Jed Rule and Ethan Stanley.

Additionally, Cooper Stephens, recruited by Hawthorn via a trade with Geelong last October, and Cal Brown, who was signed to Box Hill following his departure from Collingwood’s AFL program, donned the brown and gold for the first time.

In a contest which ebbed and flowed all afternoon, it was the hard work of midfielders Cal Porter (28 touches, a game-high 12 clearances and an equal game-high six tackles), Ed Phillips (19 disposals, seven marks) Cooper Stephens (22 touches) and Ned Long (28 touches, seven marks, four inside 50s) which set the tone around the ball.

The Hawks’ midfield was excellent on the day, equalising or outright winning most contests between the arcs to finish +6 in total clearances and +4 in contested ball. Further, as if to underline the team’s work rate, run and overall control of the match-up Box Hill finished +108 in uncontested ball and +54 in marks.

Behind the midfield group the likes of Denver Grainger-Barrass (10 marks) kept the dangerous Swans forwards at bay, while the class of Harry Morrison, who played a touch under three quarters on managed minutes, and Jack Scrimshaw, who was injected into the game after half time, mopped up across half-back to tally 12 and 14 disposals respectively. 

Judged his side’s best by Box Hill’s coaches, Cal Brown made a superb first impression in his new colours. Starting the day across half-back the hard-running ex-Pie moved into the midfield after half time, winning 30 disposals all told, taking five marks and driving his team inside 50 on three occasions. 

Another to impress was Seamus Mitchell. Like Brown, Mitchell was a constant and composed link between defence and attack all afternoon, consolidating a strong performance in the Hawks’ final practice match against Essendon with another encouraging display. He would finish the day with 26 touches and seven marks.

The ever-reliable Stu Horner was given the job of curtailing the lively Charlie Haley, keeping the former Balwyn star to six touches and one goal.

In the front 50 the trio of Jed Rule, Tyler Brockman and Jaylon Thorpe combined for 10 majors, while Jack O’Sullivan – another first gamer – bobbed up with two of his own, with both coming at crucial stages of the third and fourth quarters.

The visiting Hawks lead at every change, but never by more than a single kick. Having traded goals throughout a tight and hotly contested third quarter, there was little between the sides at the final change of ends.

Once play resumed it was two youngsters who set the Hawks on their way, as the excellent Max Hall, who was deployed as a pressure forward, found himself on the end of an excellent chain of possession to kick his goal. When Jack O’Sullivan split the middle from an improbable angle not five minutes later Box Hill had skipped to a game-high 14-point lead. 

The Swans rallied to pull a goal back to renew their interest in a hard fought four points, but there was to be no comeback. Jaylon Thorpe kicked back-to-back goals to give his side a 21-point lead, before Brockman found the mark with a set shot of his own to ice the game.

The Hawks had claimed the fourth quarter 5.3 to 1.2, securing an excellent first-up victory in the process.

Box Hill




14.13 97





10.10 70

Best: Brown, Long, Hall, Brockman, Horner, Phillips

Goals: Rule 4, Thorpe, Brockman 3, O’Sullivan 2, Bennetts, Hall

Disposals: Brown 30, Long 28, Porter 28, Mitchell 26, Stephens 22

With Box Hill fixtured for a bye next weekend your next chance to support the team will be on Easter Monday at the MCG, with the Club to play a curtain raiser against old foes Geelong.

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