Hawks Topple Reigning Premier

Box Hill have outlasted reigning premier Footscray to secure a winning start to season 2017.

In a tight and contested encounter at Whitten Oval, both teams enjoyed periods of of dominance that threatened to break the game open, only for their opponent to reign them in.

Three last quarter goals in ten minutes proved decisive for the visitors, who survived a late rally to win the first premiership points of the year.

The early exchanges indicated a willing game was in the offing, with both sides playing a rebounding, hard-running style from defence. In a strong first quarter, goals from Switkowski and Cousins gave the Hawks the jump, but the Dogs produced a pair of six-pointers themselves to take a slender lead.

Jack Fitzpatrick, roaming the forward line, produced the first moment of genuine quality when he gathered inside fifty, took a bounce, played a give-and-go with Will Hams close to the boundary and snapped beautifully. Shortly after, Chris Jones kicked his first of the afternoon from a set shot.

With James Cousins and Jonathan O’Rourke winning plenty of ball in tight, big men Marc Pittonet and Fitzpatrick working well in tandem and skipper David Mirra producing a string of outstanding defensive efforts, the Hawks took a deserved 10-point lead into the first break.

Despite the Dogs drawing first blood, Mirra picked up where he left off early in the second, winning a pair of vital one-on-ones as the last man to preserve the Hawks lead. At the other end the work rate of debutant Vincent Adduci was a highlight, as he applied manic pressure to deny the hosts clean exits out of defensive fifty.

In amongst a tight arm wrestle, all of a sudden the Hawks seized a measure of control. O’Rourke grew in influence forward of centre, Cousins snapped his second, then Anthony Brolic his first after a brilliant forward press pushed the Bulldog defence back towards goal. Almost immediately, Will Hams added another with a smart finish to extend the lead to 17-points.

In a portent of things to come just over an hour later, a time-on blitz late in the quarter handed the Hawks the initiative into the main break.

When play resumed Nick Evans steered through the first of the third term inside the first minute, before the Bulldogs showed just why they’re the reigning premier.

They punished a pair of costly turnovers and had three goals in five minutes to draw within a kick.

The Hawks answered when O’Rourke showed class with ball in hand to burst through the arc and find the leading Jones, but after a ten-minute stalemate Footscray produced another three-in-five minute burst to take the lead.

Mirra, playing a genuine captain’s game across half-back, kept the Doggies at bay with a strong contested mark, and Jones kicked a much needed goal in the shadows of three quarter time to get the Hawks back to within a goal with half an hour to play.

The final quarter started well for the hosts, who extended their lead to ten points with an early goal. The Hawks found a reply shortly after to again draw to within a goal before making their move.

Kade Stewart anticipated a Bulldogs kick-in the quickest, intercepting the ball and nailing his set shot to put Box Hill back in front.

Will Hams executed a desperate rundown in the middle of the ground, looked up and delivered to Fitzpatrick on the lead. The big man made no mistake from his set shot.

When Dallas Willsmore found his range and lofted through a magnificent kick from just outside fifty the lead was 14-points and the match looked won, but the hosts made it a nervy finish with two quick-fire goals.

In the closing moments every contest was enormous and every moment potentially match-winning. Luke Surmon pulled down the mark of the day in-between two opponents, Conor Glass showed great courage and anticipation to win a vitally important contest in defensive fifty and David Mirra kept his cool to repel a final attack.

When the siren sounded the midfield and forward units had the ball locked deep inside attacking fifty. Nerves frayed, hearts pounding and, finally, arms held aloft in victory.

Box Hill 4.1 8.4 11.4 15.5. 95
Footscray 2.3 5.5 11.8 14.9. 93

Goals: Jones 3, Cousins 2, Switkowski 2, Fitzpatrick 2, Brolic, Hams, Evans, Lewis, Willsmore, Stewart

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